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Written Answers

Tuesday, 4th May 1999.

Herbal Medicines

Earl Kitchener asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have concerning the outcome of the recent meetings at the European Commission at which possible amendments were considered to European Union Directive 75/318.[HL2276]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): At a meeting of the European Pharmaceutical Committee on 15 April there was broad support from member states for the European Commission's proposed amendments to the Annex to Directive 75/318 EC in relation to the data required to satisfy the safety and efficacy requirements for the licensing of well established medicines. We await information on how that proposal will be further progressed by the Commission. Our assessment remains that this proposal would have limited impact on herbal medicines seeking a product licence in the United Kingdom and no effect on unlicensed herbal remedies.

A number of member states, including the UK, also advanced the case at the Pharmaceutical Committee for a further, and more wide ranging, initiative designed to move towards a European regulatory framework for herbal medicines which recognises more appropriately the particular characteristics of these products. The committee indicated its support in principle and the Commission will be considering the inclusion of further work on herbal medicines in its next work programme.

Our overall objective is that the public should have access to a wide range of safe high quality herbal remedies with appropriate information about the use of the product.

Residential Support for People with Learning Disabilities: Research

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the forthcoming conference entitled "Improving Quality in Residential Supports for People with Learning Disabilities", whether the conference will include presentations of research commissioned by the Department of Health; and, if so--

    (a) whether any such research findings will be placed in the public domain before the conference: and, if not, why not;

    (b) whether the Department of Health attempted to prevent any premature or inappropriate use of such findings; and, if not, why not; and

    (c) what was the cost of the research in question.[HL2188]

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Baroness Hayman: The conference will include presentations of some aspects of the study, which was commissioned by the Department of Health.

The conference was arranged independently by the Hester Adrian Research Centre (HARC) for 29 April in the expectation that the results of the research project evaluating the cost and outcomes of different types of residential provision for people with learning disabilities would be published by that date. When they realised that this would not be the case, HARC discussed the implications with Department of Health officials, who negotiated a presentation of some aspects of the study only. The researchers are not presenting the full results of the research at this stage but will concentrate on the comparative quality and costs of supported living and staffed housing schemes. They will not be presenting any results pertaining to the quality or costs of village communities or residential campuses.

The department has just received comments from academic experts on a full draft report of this project. Once the researchers have addressed these, the department will be arranging for the full results to be made widely available as soon as possible.

This research cost £274,000.

NHS Policy Research

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the contractual terms and arrangements under which research is commissioned by the Department of Health; and what steps the department takes to ensure that those terms and arrangements are met.[HL2187]

Baroness Hayman: The department commissions research through the Policy Research Programme to support its work on policy development and evaluation in health and social care. The department also manages the National Health Service research and development levy which is used to support research and development of relevance to the National Health Service in hospitals, general practice and other health care settings, and to fund the NHS research and development programme, through which research is also directly commissioned.

We are arranging for copies of the model contracts for both our policy research programme, and the NHS R&D programme to be placed in the Library.

Contracts for commissioned research are monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance and proper project and budget management.

Social Services Expenditure

Lord Skelmersdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the ratio of the total United Kingdom central and local government expenditure on social

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    services to gross domestic product in 1979-80, 1987-88 and 1997-98.[HL2142]

Baroness Hayman: The percentage of United Kingdom social services expenditure to gross domestic product is given in the table.

YearUnited Kingdom expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product

Working Time Legislation

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the reference numbers of any present or proposed European Union legislation which might affect working time in the United Kingdom; what is the state of play of that legislation; and what is their estimate of its cost and benefit to the United Kingdom.[HL2116]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government's Working Time Regulations (S.I. 1998/1933) came into force on 1 October 1998, implementing the European Working Time Directive (93/104/EC) and provisions of the Young Workers Directive (94/33/EC) concerning working time.

The Commission published proposals on 18 November 1998 to extend the Working Time Directive (93/104/EC) to the sectors that were excluded from the directive when it was originally negotiated. These consisted of four legislative proposals:

    a proposal to amend the WTD (98/0318 (SYN));

    two proposals for seafarers (98/0320 (PRT) and (98/0321 (SYN));

    the second, a proposal for seafarers, would control the hours of seafarers aboard ships that use Community ports;

    a proposal for the road transport sector (98/0319 (SYN)).

A Regulatory Impact Assessment on the costs and benefits resulting from the implementation of the regulations was made, a copy of which is held in the Library of the House.

Electricity: Resale Price

Lord Newby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will apply Section 26 of the Consumer Protection Act 1982 to the resale of electricity in order that tenants may be clear about the price their landlord is entitled to charge.[HL2071]

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: At present, the Director General of Electricity Supply fixes the maximum resale price of electricity under the Electricity Act 1989. He does so based on the single rate standard domestic tariff of the local public electricity supplier. With the opening of the electricity market to competition, the present arrangements can mean that the tenant is unable to derive any benefit from lower prices that the landlord may be able to find elsewhere. Changes made to gas legislation by the Gas Act 1995 have introduced greater flexibility, so that, rather than fixing the actual maximum resale price, the Director General of Gas Supply is enabled to set a maximum resale price with reference to the actual price paid by the landlord and also to require that resellers should furnish the purchaser, on request, with information about the price at which they bought the gas being resold. The Government have made clear their intention to legislate, when parliamentary time permits, to reform the way in which public utilities are regulated, and to be driven in doing so by a need to put consumers' interests first. They have also stated in this context that, where it is sensible to do so, they will aim to bring the regulatory regimes for gas and electricity into line.

For this reason, Her Majesty's Government have no plans to make regulations under Section 26 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 on price indications in respect of the resale of electricity.

Aviation Medicine: Research

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention to answer Dr. I. C. Perry's letter of 3 December 1998 to the Secretary of State for Defence concerning human research in aviation medicine following the closure of the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine.[HL2170]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Yes. I regret that Dr. Perry's letter has not yet been answered. Officials are preparing a reply as a matter of urgency.

Serbia: NATO Air Campaign

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have agreed that, as stated by the United States Secretary of Defence, whatever General Clark feels he needs to carry out the campaign in Serbia successfully he will receive, or whether some limits are in fact envisaged.[HL2102]

Lord Gilbert: The Alliance is committed to seeing the current air campaign against military targets in Yugoslavia through to a successful conclusion. The UK wholeheartedly shares that commitment.

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