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2 Mar 1998 : Column WA125

Written Answers

Monday, 2nd March 1998.

Bahrain: UK Military Training

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have undertaken any police or military training in Bahrain, under the Foreign and Commonwealth military training assistance scheme, or otherwise.[HL732]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Her Majesty's Government have undertaken no police or military training in Bahrain under the Foreign and Commonwealth military training assistance scheme. No police training in Bahrain has been provided under any other scheme. The Ministry of Defence has provided military training in Bahrain. In the last year, the Bahrain defence force has received drill training and the Bahrain national guard has been trained in the protection of key installations.

NHS Charges: Increases

Lord Davies of Coity asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to increase National Health Service charges.[HL718]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): We shall shortly lay before the House regulations to increase National Health Service charges in England and Wales from 1 April 1998. The prescription charge will increase by 15p, from £5.65 to £5.80 for each quantity of a drug or appliance dispensed. This represents a reduction of 0.1 per cent. in real terms. The charges for prescription prepayment certificates will rise to £30.10 for a four month certificate and £82.70 for an annual certificate. These offer savings for those needing more than five items in four months or 14 in one year. The new charge will raise some £336 million for the NHS in 1998-99.

Charges for elastic stockings and tights, wigs and most fabric supports supplied through the hospital service will be increased similarly. The maximum patient charge for a single course of dental treatment begun on or after 1 April 1998 will increase from £330 to £340. Fewer than one in every 1,000 courses of treatment will attract the new maximum charge. Optical voucher values and supplements will increase by 2.8 per cent. This will maintain the purchasing power of the vouchers given to children and those adults eligible for help with the cost of spectacles and contact lenses.

NHS charges are being examined as part of the comprehensive spending review, which is due to report in the summer. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will lay regulations to increase

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charges in Scotland by the same amounts. Similar arrangements will apply in Northern Ireland.

Details of the revised charges have been placed in the Library.

Fluoridation of Water

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers on 5 March 1997 (WA 138) and 12 November 1997 (WA 34), whether they will now cite the major controlled studies relied on to support (a) the effectiveness; and (b) the safety of water fluoridation.[HL673]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The reviews which were listed in my reply of 12 November at columns WA 34-35 include an appropriate list of references.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Baroness Jay of Paddington on 18 December 1997 (WA 103), on what grounds they are prepared to disregard the recommendation contained in the World Health Organisation Technical Report Series 846, Fluorides and oral health (WHO, 1994) to "be aware of the total fluoride exposure in the population before introducing any new fluoride programme", in assuming the extent of this exposure without attempting to measure it.[HL674]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: We understand that this was not a specific recommendation of the report, but we are taking relevant sections of the report into account, in developing our policy on fluoridation.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Jay of Paddington of 18 December 1997 (WA 103), on what basis have they assumed:


    (a) that usage of topical fluoride must be low in areas of high tooth decay, when it is known that dietary and other factors can also account for tooth decay; and


    (b) that exposure to fluoride from other sources referred to in the World Health Organisation Technical Report Series 846, Fluorides and oral health (WHO, 1994) can be safely disregarded.[HL675]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: Studies have shown that the benefits of topical fluoride outweigh negative influences. When planning fluoridation schemes we would expect health authorities to review existing sources of fluoride intended to reduce tooth decay.

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M.40: Additional Service Station

The Earl of Harrowby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, and if so where and when, an additional service station is to be provided at the London end of the M.40 motorway.[HL733]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): A motorway service area at Junction 8 of the M.40, near Oxford, is under construction and is due to open in July. A planning application for an additional service station at Junction 2 near Beaconsfield was due to go to public inquiry last year but deferred at the request of the developer. No new date has yet been requested.

Freight Grants

Lord Stallard asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many rail freight grants have been awarded in the past six months and what plans they have to improve the grant scheme.[HL873]

Baroness Hayman: We are today announcing the award since July 1997 of seven new freight grants worth a total of almost £5 million. The grants include £1.8 million to the Port of Felixstowe to help to finance additional cranes and terminal infrastructure; and three separate grants to Freightliner worth over £1.5 million. We are anxious to make full use of the grant scheme to get more freight on rail and inland waterways. In 1996-97, awards totalled £15 million. This year, the £30 million budget will be substantially taken up. To reinforce this success, the funds available in 1998-99 will be increased to £40 million.

Housing Benefit: Figures

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total amount paid in housing benefit to those occupying rented housing in 1988 and in 1997 in (a) local authority housing, (b) housing associations, (c) the private sector.[HL618]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is set out in the tables.

Housing Benefit Expenditure 1988-89

£ millions
Local Authority Housing2,617
Private Sector (including HAs)1,071


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Housing Benefit Expenditure 1996-97

£ millions
Local Authority Housing5,582
Private Sector5,887
Housing Associations1,960

Sources:

1. Figures underlying table 3 of the Social Security Departmental Report.

2. Housing Benefit Management Information System (HBMIS)

1 per cent. sample, May 1996.

Note:

Data for Housing Associations are not available separately for 1988-89.


Stakeholder Pensions Scheme: Consultations

Baroness Castle of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many local authorities, trade unions and other non-profit making organisations have responded to their consultative document on stakeholders' pensions by submitting outline plans for their participation in the scheme.[HL640]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: One local authority organisation and seven trade union organisations outlined plans for their participation in stakeholder pensions in their responses to the consultation document. The main purpose of the consultation paper was to seek views on a range of detailed, technical issues on the design of the new pensions. Almost 200 responses have been received in total. Of these two are from local authority organisations, 11 from trade union organisations, and 12 from registered charities and voluntary organisations. The status of other organisations cannot in all cases be reliably identified from their responses.

Former Servicemen Living Abroad: State Pensions

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to review the position with regard to state pensions to former British servicemen and their families in those countries with which there are no reciprocal arrangements to raise pensions in line with inflation.[HL707]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The Government have no plans at present to change the policy that state retirement pensions are uprated only within the European economic area and in certain countries with which the United Kingdom has a social security agreement which provides for uprating. There are over 400,000 UK pensioners living abroad whose pensions are not uprated. Many are likely to be former servicemen and their wives. It would cost some £250 million a year fully to unfreeze those pensions--that is, to bring them up to the rate which would be paid if the pensioners were in the UK. There are

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competing demands and constraints on social security spending, and it would be wrong to raise expectations that uprating these pensions would be likely to attract priority under current circumstances.


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