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21 Jan 1999 : Column WA115

Written Answers

Thursday, 21st January 1999.

Winter Fuel Allowance

Lord Marsh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the cost of applying payment of the £20 winter fuel allowance to those persons in each of the top two bands of income tax.[HL472]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: For the 1998-99 tax year, it is estimated that the Exchequer cost of winter fuel payments to those persons paying basic rate or higher rate tax will be around £25 million.

Quieter Road Surfaces

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made with the provision of quieter road surfaces on motorways and major roads.[HL539]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Quieter noise surfaces are being specified as a matter of course for all new trunk roads, including motorways, for contracts awarded since the announcement of the new policy in the report A New Deal for Trunk Roads. They are also being used where appropriate when existing roads need to be resurfaced in areas where noise is a particular concern. Quieter road surface materials have been extensively trialled by the Highways Agency in the preceding two or three years in response to a rapidly evolving market in these innovatory materials.

Human Rights Task Force, Scotland

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the announcement by the Home Secretary on 21 October 1998 of the setting up of a task force to assist the Government in the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998 in England and Wales, (a) whether they have any plans to establish a similar task force or committee for Scotland; (b) if not, why not; and (c) if so, when this will be done.[HL509]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Human Rights Task Force announced by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be invited to seek comments from Scottish interests among others on issues of general application, and to hold one or more Scottish sessions to discuss specifically Scottish issues that emerge in the course of its work. A separate task force in Scotland would be bound to duplicate some of this work and for that reason we do not propose to establish one. But the

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Scottish Executive and Parliament will be able to reach their own view on this issue when they begin operating later this year.

Terrorist Training Camps

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have investigated the activities of so-called terrorist training camps in the United Kingdom, in order to establish whether any criminal offences have been committed.[HL487]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government is determined to ensure that this country is not used as a base for the planning and preparation of terrorism here or abroad. Where there is evidence of anyone conspiring in the United Kingdom to commit criminal offences in other countries, they can now be brought before our courts under the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998. There have been a number of reports of "training camps" in this country allegedly linked to terrorism. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said on 11 January [col. 26 of the Official Report of another place]: "We have not established that there was any breach of British law during such training. But the investigations are continuing".

Feasts of the Church: Shop Opening

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy concerning the opening of supermarkets on Christmas Day and Easter Day; and what steps they intend to take to ensure that the law is enforced.[HL501]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Shops may choose their opening hours, except on Sundays if they are over 280 square metres in area. The restrictions affect Easter Sunday, but Christmas Day only when it falls on a Sunday.

We have no plans to change the present law. Enforcing it is a matter for local authorities; the courts can impose fines of up to £50,000 for a breach of the law.

General Pinochet

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Under what powers General Pinochet was detained between the first and second warrants for his extradition to Spain.[HL465]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Senator Pinochet was arrested on 16 October 1998 by the Metropolitan Police on the basis of a provisional arrest warrant issued by the Bow Street magistrate under Section 8(1)(b) of the

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Extradition Act 1989. Section 8(5) of the Extradition Act allows for the execution of such a warrant by any constable.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the cost of the police operation to protect General Pinochet during the journey to and from the magistrates' court at which he appeared.[HL495]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The arrangements for the provision of protection for Senator Pinochet are operational matters for the Chief Officers of the police forces concerned.

For security reasons, it has been the practice of successive governments not to provide information about police operations relating to protection.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have been responsible for the costs of the hospital accommodation of General Pinochet from the moment of his arrest.[HL498]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government have made no contribution to the costs of the hospital accommodation for Senator Pinochet.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received any representations from Henry Kissinger about the arrest of General Pinochet; and, if so, what they were.[HL499]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: No representations about the arrest of Senator Pinochet were received from Henry Kissinger.

Extradition: Defective Warrant

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, when, following an application for extradition, the accompanying warrant is found to be defective, the Home Office normally would so advise the legal representatives of the accused and the police.[HL500]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Home Office officials can identify no record of a Home Secretary cancelling a provisional warrant in recent years but, if such a decision were taken, the accused's legal representatives and the police would have been informed. This power has been rarely invoked. I am advised that my officials have been able to find one example, dating from 1911, which followed the withdrawal of the application for extradition by the requesting country.

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Glasgow: Housing Debt

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Within what time they propose to write off the housing debt of Glasgow City Council; and how.[HL441]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): Glasgow City Council is undertaking feasibility work in connection with a possible transfer of the council's housing stock into community ownership. A firm bid for assistance with debt cannot be made until the feasibility work has been completed and the council has decided whether or not to proceed with a transfer. We have indicated that, where transfer proposals represent good value for money and are selected to proceed, we will be prepared to provide assistance with debt in those cases in which the debt exceeds the receipt obtained by the council. Detailed arrangements will need to be agreed in individual cases and be affordable.

Scottish Local Authorities: Housing Debt

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What authorities in Scotland other than Glasgow are to have their housing debt written off, and within what time-scale; and whether they intend to treat all authorities in Scotland equally, or to treat Glasgow as a special case.[HL442]

Lord Sewel: A number of councils, including Glasgow City Council, are studying the feasibility of transferring all their housing stock into community ownership. We have indicated that where transfer proposals represent good value for money and are selected to proceed, we will be prepared to provide assistance with debt in those cases in which the debt exceeds the receipt obtained by the council. Detailed arrangements will need to be agreed in individual cases and be affordable. Applications for assistance with debt in these circumstances will be considered equally and competitively.

Breast and Prostate Cancer Screening and Treatment Costs

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the annual public expenditure in the United Kingdom on:


    (a) breast cancer screening;


    (b) prostate cancer screening;


    (c) the treatment of breast cancer;


    (d) the treatment of prostate cancer.[HL417]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): Annual public expenditure for breast cancer screening in the United Kingdom is £47.5 million. Figures for spending on screening for prostate cancer cannot be provided as screening is not routinely offered by the National Health Service, following the advice of the National Screening Committee.

Expenditure on treatment for different forms of cancer cannot be identified. The estimated total expenditure for 1997-98 was £41.7 billion. Of this an estimated £2.7 billion was spent on cancer treatment.

Fluoridated Water

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the three recent United States studies which show neurological damage to the

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    brains of rats fed with fluorides (Neurotoxicology and Teratology 1995; 17,2:169-177; Brain Research 1998; 784-798; Neurotoxicology and Teratology 1998; 20:537-542); and[HL491]

    What is their response to two recent Chinese studies which suggest that fluoridated water may adversely affect the IQs of children (Fluoride 1995; 28,4:189-192; Fluoride 1996; 29,4:190-192.[HL492]

Baroness Hayman: We are aware of these studies. They do not indicate that typical intakes of fluoride at levels experienced by the population of this country are harmful.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they believe that the action of fluoride at 1 part per million in water on human teeth is topical or systemic.[HL489]

Baroness Hayman: We consider that the action is both systemic and topical.



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