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Magistrates' Courts: Civil Proceedings

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Material for civil proceedings in the magistrates' courts is required only under Section 2 of the Human Rights Act. As indicated in paragraph 2 of the consultation paper, Human Rights Act 1998: Rules, published on 10 March 2000 by my department, this will be similar to the material produced for the civil and family courts generally under Section 2. It is anticipated that the final rules and practice directions for all civil and family proceedings will be published by the end of July 2000.

Asylum Appeals: Disposal Rate

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Lord Chancellor: The impact of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights was taken into account by the Immigration Appellate Authority in drawing up its Business Plan for the year 2000-2001. The plan shows a disposal rate for asylum appeals by adjudicators of 1.5 per day for the months of October and November 2000. The disposal rate is then increased to 2 per day from December 2000 onwards.

River Thames: Strategic Planning Guidance

Lords Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy on development along the Thames, especially in relation to the appropriate height of buildings[HL2053]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Strategic Planning Guidance for the River Thames (RPG3b/9b) was issued in February 1997. The guidance includes a section on the built environment alongside the River Thames. It states that development should establish and reflect a relationship with the river, it should take full account of its local context, including its relationship with buildings and structures of particular sensitivity. The scale, mass, height, silhouette, skyline, layout, material and colour of buildings adjacent to and in the vicinity of the river should all be given close attention and should be appropriate to the local context. Because of the emphasis on the context of buildings and the varied character of the river, there is no rigid prescription about the height of buildings.

In November 1999, Ministers broadly endorsed advice produced by the London Planning Advisory Committee on high buildings and strategic views. The advice re-states the guidance in RPG3b/9b that London boroughs should identify the extent of the Thames policy area in their development plans and carry out an appraisal of their stretch of the river. This appraisal should form the basis of the designation of any areas appropriate for high buildings.

Post Offices: Benefit Payments

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether benefit books and giro cheques for social security beneficiaries will continue to be made available for presentation at post offices for those who require them after 2003.[HL2088]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): From 2003 we intend to move from the traditional paper-based methods of benefit payment to

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a more secure and efficient method of paying benefits through automated credit transfer (ACT). The move to ACT will begin in 2003 and be completed in 2005. During this period we will phase out girocheques and order books as benefit recipients are migrated to payment by ACT.

However, those benefit recipients who wish to collect their cash at post offices will continue to be able to do so, both before and after the move to ACT.

We also recognise that there will be some people whom we will be unable to pay by ACT. For these, we are considering what alternative simple electronic money transmission system, which could also be accessed at post offices, may be commercially available.

Child Support Act 1991: Reduced Benefit Directions

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they hold on the outcomes of Reduced Benefit Directions under the Child Support Act 1991; and, in particular, when parents with care ultimately chose to co-operate, what was the average length of time they were subject to a reduced benefit direction before deciding to do so. [HL2020]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The information is not available in the form requested. Such information about the duration of reduced benefit directions as is available is in the table.

Numbers of Quarters that Parents with Care on Income Support have a Reduced Benefit Direction (RBD)

No. of Quarterly ScansRange (No. of Quarters)No. of PWCs on IS with an RBD (grossed)
10-237,000
21-315,000
32-45,000
43-56,000
54-64,000
65-713,000
7-116-121,000
Total81,000

Notes:

(1) Average (mean) number of quarters RBD imposed is 2.6 (34 weeks).

(2) Figures based on 5 per cent scan of Income Support Computer System at quarterly intervals February, May, August, November from April 1993 to 30 November 1999.

(3) Range refers to the duration that the RBD could have been imposed, given that the scan does not identify the exact date it was imposed and lifted.

(4) Number of cases where RBD is lifted may not necessarily be because parents with care co-operate. For example, they may go off benefit. The scan does not identify the reason the RBD is lifted.


Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the incidence among parents with care, who have been subject to a reduced benefit direction, of (a) theft; (b) prostitution; (c) serious

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    illness; and (d) disappearance from Government records, and how these figures compare with those for the adult population as a whole; and [HL2021]

    What proportion of parents with care who have been subject to a reduced benefit direction, and have subsequently agreed to co-operate, have been victims of domestic violence; and how this figure compares with figures for the population as a whole.[HL2022]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The information requested is not available. However, reduced benefit directions are only imposed where a parent with care refuses to co-operate with the Child Support Agency without good cause.

Generic Medicines: Pricing Policy

Lord Davies of Coity asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the pricing of generic medicines used in National Health Service primary care.[HL2205]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): I am today announcing the Government's proposals for setting maximum prices for generic medicines supplied for use in NHS primary care.

Generic medicines play an increasingly important part in NHS treatment. In 1998, 63 per cent. of all prescriptions were written generically and savings from generic prescribing have allowed the NHS to invest in other areas of patient care. The Government are committed to building on this success.

The policy of encouraging generic prescribing depends on a reliable supply of generics which offer value for money. Over the last year the generics market has failed to deliver either. There have been apparent shortages and steep price rises in many generics, which cannot adquately be explained by changes in the cost base for generics manufacture.

Generic price increases and related turbulence in the generics market are expected to cost the NHS in England some £200 million in 1999-2000. Equivalent pressures have been experienced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Government are determined that the NHS should not face further additional cost pressures arising from generics in 2000-2001. We therefore propose to use powers in the Health Act 1999 to introduce a statutory ceiling, applicable across the UK, on the prices of the main generics. The proposals will not apply to branded medicines sold to the NHS by the research and development-based pharmaceutical industry, the profits of which are regulated voluntarily under the 1999 Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS). The statutory ceiling will correspond to prices some 15 months ago, before last year's steep price inflation. It will be reviewed after 15 months. We also propose to require the submission of information by suppliers of generics to underpin the review. The

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scheme will also include provision for appeals and for penalties in cases of contravention.

Subject to the outcome of consultation, we propose to lay regulations to underpin the controls around the middle of June.

The Government have considered the scope for introducing a voluntary scheme for setting maximum prices. It is difficult to see how a meaningful voluntary scheme could be negotiated, given the fragmentation of the generics supply chain, the number of representative bodies involved and the fact that many companies are not represented by any of them. However, if the Government are persuaded, through the consultation exercise, that a meaningful voluntary agreement could satisfactorily be negotiated, then they will seek to do so.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the principle of fair reimbursement for community pharmacists and dispensing doctors is maintained under the proposed scheme. At the same time, we share the view of the House of Commons Select Committee on Health that aspects of the reimbursement system--in particular the Category D arrangement--are flawed. We believe that Category D has had the effect of encouraging speculation in the supply chain and now propose to abolish it. We intend to discuss this and the wider implications of the price control scheme with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the General Practice Committee of the BMA (GPC). There will be separate discussions to cover arrangements in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Government's proposals are intended to correct last year's unjustified price increases in the generics market and, in so doing, to protect the position of the NHS. At the same time, the Government remain committed to building on the UK's successful record on generic prescribing. We are therefore determined to ensure that, for the longer term, we have in place arrangements which best serve the Health Service as well as supporting a soundly managed and fully competitive generics market. Identifying such arrangements is the purpose of the Fundamental Review of the generics supply chain, which we have commissioned from Oxford Economic Research Associates (OXERA). We expect OXERA's programme of work to be concluded in the summer.

A copy of the consultation document setting out the Government's proposals for setting maximum prices has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. It is also available on the internet at www.doh.gov.uk/gendcon.


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