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Artificial Limbs: NHS Supplies

Lord Rowallan asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Hayman: The Government will, as part of its modernisation programme, strive to ensure that all patient care is delivered quickly, consistently and at the highest possible standards. The provision of artificial limbs is very specialised. Each limb is designed to fit the individual user in a way which takes account of their lifestyle needs.

Our priority is to ensure that in this, as in other NHS services, products both meet the needs of the individual concerned and offer value for money. To this end NHS Supplies have recently set up a group of all those involved in the supply of prosthetics, including users, to determine good practice and improve performance throughout the NHS Supply function.

Primary Case Groups

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they anticipate that all Primary Care Groups will be operational by the due date.[HL3279]

Baroness Hayman: We have made clear in the White Paper "The new NHS Modern--Dependable" published on 9 December 1997 that, by 1 April 1999, all general practitioners (and their patients) will be represented within a primary care group. The final shape, the functions and the level at which primary care groups will perform will reflect local circumstances. All appropriate mechanisms will be in place to allow primary care groups to become operational on 1 April 1999.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What definitive research the Department of Health has commissioned into the physical causes of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME); and what plans it has to commission such research.[HL3277]

Baroness Hayman: The main Government agency for funding research into the causes and pathogenesis of health problems is the Medical Research Council (MRC) which receives its grant-in-aid from the Department of Trade and Industry.

The MRC is funding one study which is about to be completed at the University of Manchester entitled The role of noradrenaline in the neuropsychological pathogenesis of the chronic fatigue syndrome. The MRC also supports a considerable amount of basic research that would underpin any search for the pathophysiology of myalgic encephalomyelitis.

The Department of Health has not commissioned any research in this area, and has no present plans to do so. We are however working with the Linbury Trust on issues related to the treatment and management of the problem.

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Patient's Charter: Review

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect the Review of the Patient's Charter under Mr. Greg Dykes to be completed and published.[HL3276]

Baroness Hayman: We expect Mr. Greg Dyke's report and recommendations to be delivered to Department of Health Ministers later this year.

NHS Direct

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the detailed timetable for setting up NHS Direct by the year 2000; and what resources, beyond the £14 million recently announced, are planned to be made available for the service when it is fully operational.[HL3278]

Baroness Hayman: The first three pilots of NHS Direct were set up in March 1998. My honourable friend the Minister of State for Health announced a second wave on 4 August, which will be up and running in the first half of 1999 and take coverage of NHS Direct up to over 40 per cent. of the population. Fourteen million pounds has been allocated to funding NHS Direct in this financial year and at least £35 million will be spent during the 1999-2000 financial year on the second wave. A third wave will follow before national roll-out in the year 2000. We will be examining suitable funding levels for NHS Direct as part of our evaluation of these pilots and, on current estimates, we expect NHS Direct to cost something between £1 and £2 per head of the population annually.

Child Labour

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, having drawn attention to the widespread child labour in the Third World, they will now examine and report on the situation in the United Kingdom.[HL3247]

Baroness Hayman: Exploitative child labour, wherever it occurs, is unacceptable. Current domestic legislation on the protection of children who work is being updated to ensure conformity with European standards. Furthermore, a review of these arrangements will address particularly the protection of working children's health, safety, welfare and general development. This review will report by the end of the year.

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OECD Convention on Combating Bribery

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the provisions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions for monitoring and follow-up are of importance to the implementation of the convention; and whether the United Kingdom delegation to recent meetings in Paris of the OECD Working Group on Bribery opposed arrangements for such monitoring and follow-up.[HL2832]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The provisions for monitoring and follow-up are, of course, very important in ensuring that the provisions of the Convention are both implemented, and adhered to, by all parties.

The UK delegation did not oppose arrangements for such monitoring and follow-up. Rather, it expressed a preference for one of three tabled options. The majority of OECD Member States preferred an alternative option, which was accepted by the UK without demur.

Shrimp Imports: Protection of Sea Turtles

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a panel of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has decided that the United States may not prohibit shrimp imports from countries that fail to protect sea turtles from being killed by shrimping boats; and, if so, what steps they will take to ensure that the WTO in future abides by appropriate environmental principles and rescinds this particular decision.[HL2954]

Lord Simon of Highbury: The United States prohibits the import of shrimps from countries which do not apply a regulatory programme comparable to its own for the protection of sea turtles from shrimp fishing nets. In May 1998, a WTO dispute settlement panel upheld a complaint made by India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand against the United States that this prohibition was inconsistent with GATT rules. On 13 July the US lodged an appeal against this finding. Appeal proceedings should generally be completed within 60 days and always within 90 days.

Junk Faxes

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have to deal with the nuisance and cost of junk faxes, used to send unsolicited advertising material to domestic premises.[HL3052]

Lord Simon of Highbury: The DTI will shortly be carrying out a public consultation on draft Regulations to implement the Telecoms Data Protection Directive

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(97/66/EC). The Directive requires that unsolicited direct marketing faxes to natural persons should not be allowed without the consent of the recipient.

Short-term Engine Shut-off: Pollutant Emission

Lord Milner of Leeds asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 19 May (Official Report col. 1434) whether, having regard to the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 (S.I.1986 No. 1978) as amended by the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use Regulations) 1998 (S.I.1998 No. 1), they accept the advice of the Automobile Association that if a car with a catalyst is to be stationary for four minutes or more it is less polluting to switch off the engine; whether in the case of a non-catalyst car they stand by the advice given in a Department of the Environment leaflet published in July 1995 (95EP110) that "if you expect to be stuck for more than a couple of minutes in a traffic jam the engine should be switched off"; and whether they will now instruct drivers of Government cars to switch off their engines when parked.[HL3220]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): I refer the noble Lord to the reply given by Baroness Hayman to Lord Berkeley on 11 June 1998 (WA 103) and the letter from the Chief Executive of the Government Car and Dispatch Agency to Lord Berkeley on 16 June 1998 (WA 125).

Roads Review

Baroness Thomas of Wallisford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Statement on the Roads Review by the Lord Whitty on 31 July (Official Report, cols. 1741-45), what financial support will be made available to regional planning conferences which undertake consideration of the 28 schemes mentioned in Annex C to the White Paper A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England.[HL3273]

Lord Whitty: Following the roads review, 44 schemes have been put on hold pending consideration by the regional planning conferences in developing draft regional planning guidance. To assist them in preparing sustainable transport strategies and identifying priorities for trunk road investment the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will be commissioning and funding a number of studies to identify multi-modal solutions to the most urgent problems on the trunk road network. The regional planning conferences will be consulted on these study proposals.

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