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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, clearly where people do not take advantage of rights that are available to them it gives rise to a prima facie assumption that something is going wrong in the information available. It is important therefore for us to look at the situation, as my noble friend suggests. I am sure the noble Baroness agrees that that is the appropriate role for the Government.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, perhaps I may refer to a case that is well known to the department. A shopkeeper's wife became ill. He advertised for someone to undertake the work that his wife had done in the shop. A lady responded on the telephone to the advertisement. During the course of the telephone call she let the shopkeeper know that she was pregnant. In a civilised way the gentleman in the shop said that the work involved quite heavy lifting and he did not think that it would be suitable for her. Not even having gone further with the application, the lady successfully sued for discrimination. Is that a fair burden on an employer?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, the noble Baroness refers to a hard case of which she has knowledge and I do not. I shall not therefore comment on the specific circumstances. She seems to make the assumption that the whole of the legislation is impaired because of a single case or a minority of cases.

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I think that one will always have difficult situations in relation to the enforcement of the law, whether civil or criminal. I shall look into the case if the noble Baroness will let me have the details. I do not have them. They are not in this voluminous and very useful document that I have before me.

Lord Vinson: My Lords, the Minister wrote to me on this subject a year ago, but perhaps he forgets that he signed the letter. I queried the fact that a £2,000 fine should fall on this small shopkeeper and asked whether somebody should be responsible for the costs of the pregnancy of a third party with whom he has had no biological association. That seemed to me to be wrong. Does the Minister recall my letter?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I recall every single letter I have ever signed.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, what I sometimes forget is the detail.

Earl Russell: My Lords, the Minister is undoubtedly correct that it is the responsibility of the woman to make a complaint. However, does he agree that between the firm and a woman who has recently given birth, lost her job and lost statutory maternity pay there is a real inequality of power? Will he give attention to the doctrine of a level playing field? Will he remind employers that if they take the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, they will lose a large proportion of the workforce in this generation and an even larger one in the next.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I thought that I had dealt with that question. Yes, of course, there is an inequality of power, but this is not the only area in which that occurs. I welcome the fact that we have concentrated on this important issue. No doubt the noble Earl will continue to raise these matters. I do not wish to encourage him too much--he needs little encouragement--but it has been a useful exercise.

Airports: Medical Arrangements

3.21 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the existing arrangements at international airports in Great Britain for treating passengers who arrive suffering from ill-health as a consequence of long-distance flights.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, medical arrangements at British airports for treating long-haul passengers are a matter for the individual airport managements. I understand that they have arrangements

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in place for summoning ambulances to meet aircraft where that is necessary and for assisting passengers who need medical help elsewhere on the airport.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I am grateful for that Answer. Is the noble Baroness aware that following a long journey I suffered a DVT--for the curious, that is a deep vein thrombosis--following which I received a letter from Dr. Dale Egerton? He informed me that when his wife left a flight from Cape Town seriously ill he was told that at Heathrow:

    "they had no medical facilities or medical room for a basic examination".

Will the Minister comment on the situation? Will she reassure the House that it is not general and that there is inter-departmental collaboration, in particular between the Department of Health and her department?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, there are a number of issues of common concern between the Department of Health and my department which we discuss. I became aware of the deep vein thrombosis which my noble friend unfortunately suffered after his journey during our recent debate. I have drawn to the attention of the chairman of the CAA and the secretary-general of the British Air Transport Association the issues which he related in particular in relation to the need for information to be given to passengers about the potential risks of thrombosis after long flights.

As regards on-site facilities at airports, I am surprised to hear of his correspondent's experience because at Heathrow, Gatwick, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham airports there are medical facilities which offer nurse-based treatment. Airport staff should be fully briefed to direct passengers to those as necessary. If my noble friend has further information about what happened on this occasion I should be happy to bring it to the attention of the BAA.

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, has my noble friend seen the disturbing recent reports of an increasing number of people arriving at British airports suffering ill health due to very poor in-flight air quality? Have the Government undertaken any research into that problem? If not, will they do so?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am aware that there is concern about this issue. I am advised that it is unlikely that the spread of infectious diseases on aircraft is caused by the recycling of cabin air by air-conditioning systems. Those systems on modern aircraft have high efficiency particulate air filters which filter out bacteria and almost all viruses. I know that it is a matter of concern, and the consistent and satisfactory performance of the air-conditioning system should be ensured by correct maintenance procedures. The conduct of those maintenance procedures is audited by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that for most people, of any age, before undertaking a long flight it is a sensible precaution to take an aspirin?

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That is particularly relevant to the noble Lord's problem. Will she make that advice more widely known?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, rather than give any medical advice myself, it would be sensible to draw the attention of the House and the public to the fact that the Aerospace Medical Association has produced medical guidelines for air travel which addresses deep vein thrombosis. Most airlines give advice to passengers, particularly those who are at risk of DVT, as to the precautionary measures they could take both before flying and in flight.

Lord Winston: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, sadly, the medical arrangements for emergencies on aircraft are sometimes woefully inadequate, even with carriers which originate from Great Britain? Is she further aware that on one occasion on mid-Atlantic flight I was called as a doctor to attend a collapsed individual with chest pain? The individual being 79, it seemed unlikely that it was a case of contraception or emergency fertility treatment. However, there was no equipment whatever to deal with the patient. Is there a case for having basic provisions such as drip sets and blood pressure equipment on aircraft which are registered in Britain?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am sure that there is such a case, although I know of examples of improvisation in flight where the treatment has been extremely successful without what might be called conventional equipment. I am thinking of the coat hanger and the mineral bottle. Obviously, my noble friend raises an important point which I shall be happy to pass on to carriers and to the CAA.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the useful request made by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, would be better addressed to the International Civil Aviation Organisation rather than the CAA as that would ensure that all planes throughout the world carry such equipment?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I know that the noble Lord has great experience in aviation matters and I will take his advice on this. I am sure that the advice could well be promulgated at a national, European and international level.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, will the Minister take note of the fact that British Airways was kind enough to write to me following our recent debate? I was delighted to learn of the range of issues which are drawn to the attention of the travelling public once they are on board the plane. Does the Minister agree that the problem is in preparation for the flight and in having medical facilities available at the end of the flight? If the Minister can consider the matter seriously in collaboration with all those concerned this initiative may well produce a good outcome.

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