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Written Answers

Monday, 5th October 1998.

Bangladesh: Flood Relief

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to assist the people of Bangladesh affected by the recent severe flooding.[HL3297]

Baroness Amos: The flooding in Bangladesh has been described as the worst in living memory. The Prime Minister has expressed our concern and sympathy to the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, and has pledged an additional £21 million aid for Bangladesh to help with flood relief and rehabilitation.

The Department for International Development (DfID) has a team based in the British High Commission in Dhaka. Officials are working closely with the Government of Bangladesh, with the UN Donor Co-ordination Committee, and with Non Governmental Organisation co-ordination bodies to identify needs and priorities and to respond to these.

Before the formal appeal from the Government of Bangladesh, DfID made grants of over £400,000, working through NGOs to provide food relief, shelter, drinking water and medicines. Our new pledge will enable us to work with government and NGOs and make a significant contribution to food needs, to continuing relief operations, and to the rehabilitation of agriculture and essential infrastructure when the waters eventually recede.

Northern Ireland: "Punishment Beatings"

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many persons have been charged and how many convicted in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years and any subsequent period for offences connected with so-called punishment beatings and shootings.[HL2979]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): The RUC holds records of statistics on offences only under specific crimes--for example, "violence against the person", which are not necessarily related to attacks of a paramilitary nature. Therefore it would incur disproportionate cost to try to extract which of the acts were in fact intended to be so-called punishment attacks.


Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What response they and the Contact Group of Nations are making to the recent killing in Kosovo by Serb forces of three persons trying to deliver food supplies from the Mother Teresa Charity, together with

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    obstruction of the staff of humanitarian agencies and of aid convoys at the Yugoslav frontiers.[HL3286]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We were greatly saddened by the death in August of the three aid workers near Malisevo. It underlines the risks faced by all humanitarian agencies operating in Kosovo. Despite the dangers, there is a very real need for effective humanitarian relief.

We welcome UN Security Council Resolution 1199, which Britain took the lead in preparing. The resolution warns President Milosevic that he must put an end to the wave of repression which has made tens of thousands homeless and sends a clear signal that the international community's patience is exhausted. It calls on both sides to facilitate the humanitarian relief effort and do all in their power to avert the impending humanitarian catastrophe. It also calls for a ceasefire in Kosovo and rapid progress on political dialogue, which is the only route to a lasting solution to the humanitarian problem.

With our Contact Group colleagues, we are taking action in Belgrade and Pristina to make clear that we expect SCR 1199 to be fully and rapidly implemented.

NATO contingency planning for a full range of military options is now complete. As a first stage in force planning, the North Atlantic Council on 24 September decided to move to force generation for both a limited air option and a phased air campaign in Kosovo. This brings NATO's military planning to a high state of readiness, should the necessary decisions have to be taken.

We fully support the humanitarian relief effort in Kosovo.The Department for International Development (DfID) has pledged £2 million to that effort following the recent UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal. This is in addition to the UK's contribution of £1 million for humanitarian assistance following the Flash Appeal earlier this year, £1.5 million allocated for longer term peace-building activities in the region and £200,000 made available to the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights for field operations in Kosovo.


Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, if significant introduction of telemedicine (that is remote diagnosis using information and readings supplied on-line or by telephone) is planned for the National Health Service, the fundamental principle of evidence-based medicine will be preserved; and whether: (a) telemedicine applications will only be introduced on the basis of identifiable clinical need supported by evidence of cost-effectiveness; and (b) external commercial pressures to introduce telemedicine will be resisted until evidence of

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    cost-effectiveness has been obtained by scientific research trials in the National Health Service.[HL3298]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The Government are committed to modernising the NHS, including introducing telemedicine applications where that is appropriate. These will only be widely introduced where there is clinical need and evidence from research and evaluation indicates that it is appropriate to do so.

Doctors: NHS Disciplinary System

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have received from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in relation to the disciplinary system used by the National Health Service in respect of doctors; and[HL3294]

    (a) how many doctors have been suspended from their posts in the National Health Service each year since 1994; (b) for how long each suspension lasted; and (c) the outcome of each suspension; and[HL3295]

    On what basis the National Health Service is exempt from requirements to comply with European law in respect of the rights of qualified and approved doctors to practise medicine except after their suspension by either the General Medical Council or a court of law.[HL3296]

Baroness Hayman: National Health Service employers, like other employers, have to comply with European law. There are no exemptions for the NHS in European law in respect of the rights of doctors to practice medicine. Hospital doctors who are suspended from duty, in most cases, continue to receive full pay during the investigative process because suspension is a neutral act. There have been no representations received from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in relation to the disciplinary system used by the NHS in respect of doctors.

Information on the number of NHS doctors suspended is held centrally only for those cases lasting more than six months and was not collected prior to 31 March 1995. For the period 31 March 1995 to 30 April 1998, there have been a total of 33 reported cases of suspension, of which 11 cases are still unresolved. The average length of suspension for these cases is 13 months. Information on the outcome of each suspension, other than the date when suspension was lifted, is not available centrally.

Mental Health Legislation, Scotland

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a review of Scottish legislation on mental health is to be undertaken on lines similar to the review of the Mental Health Act 1983 announced in July for England and Wales.[HL3289]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): A review of mental health legislation in Scotland is proposed, and the arrangements for it will be announced in due course.

Postal Codes: Inclusion in Telephone Directories

Viscount Bridgeman asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the public interest, they will provide assistance for entries in British Telecom's phone books to include postal codes.[HL3299]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): BT was separated from the Post Office by the British Telecom Act in 1981. This created two separate industries, one for postal services, the other for telecoms. BT is required by its licence to provide a directory information service, but this does not specify that it should provide printed telephone directories.

There is no requirement on BT under its licence to provide postal codes in its telephone directories. It is a commercial matter for BT to decide whether or not to include postal codes in its printed telephone directories. I understand that the Post Office has its own telephone helpline for customers who have queries about postal codes. The Government have no plans to provide assistance for entries in BT telephone directories to include postal codes.

Effra Site, Vauxhall: Car Park

Lord Sefton of Garston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will call in any proposal to develop the car park at Vauxhall Bridge with a view to ensuring that it does not conflict with their aim to solve the problem of traffic congestion.[HL3196]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The extant outline planning permission for mixed use development of the Effra site at Vauxhall was granted by the Secretary of State for the Environment in November 1995 following a public inquiry. The likely traffic generated by the development was considered at the inquiry. The inspector concluded that this was not a reason to reject the proposals but he recommended that details of the access to and from the site should be the subject of detailed approval. Applications for this and other reserved matters are currently under consideration by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and the London borough of Lambeth.

My right honourable friend will consider whether to call in any further planning applications made in respect of the site by looking at the issues raised by each case.

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