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24 May 2000 : Column WA85

Written Answers

Wednesday, 24th May 2000.

Kashmir: Humanitarian Needs

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the assessment of the present humanitarian need in Kashmir (Azad and Indian occupied); and what steps they are taking to address the situation.[HL2308]

Baroness Amos: The security situation in Kashmir remains tense. We do not have first-hand information about the humanitarian situation there, although a number of international agencies issue situation reports.

India, Pakistan and Afghanistan:Drought Relief

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assistance they have provided through the Department for International Development for the drought in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.[HL2467]

Baroness Amos: The Department for International Development has contributed over £2.7 million for drought relief activities in South Asia. This support has been channelled through the World Food Programme for its operations in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan; to Oxfam for India and £100,000 for Save the Children Fund in Pakistan. We have also seconded a five-person team of specialists to the United Nations Development Programme in Pakistan. They will help complete assessments and develop a medium-term drought response strategy.

We have also deployed our own humanitarian assessment team to India. Information gathered from this and other ongoing regional assessments will be used to inform our strategy and to determine what, if any, further support may be required.

Epilim

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the anti-epileptic drug acid Epilim was first licensed for use in children in the United Kingdom; how many adverse drug reactions relating to hepatic and psychoneurological effects following use of this drug in children have been reported; how many deaths in children have been reported; and what measures are in force to ensure adequate surveillance. [HL2567]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Epilim, the anticonvulsant sodium valproate, was first licensed for use in children in 1976.

As with all medicines, the safety of Epilim is continually monitored by the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) and the independent advisory body, the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) through the Yellow Card Scheme for spontaneous reporting of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs).

Forty-three suspected liver-related and 71 suspected neuropsychiatric reactions associated with the drug Epilim have been reported to the MCA/CSM on 88 children (aged less than 13 years) in the UK, to date. Fatal reactions were reported in 18 children. Reporting of a suspected adverse reaction does not necessarily mean that the medicine caused the reaction.

As well as spontaneous reports, the MCA reviews a number of other data sources in order to identify or confirm drug safety issues, including published articles in scientific journals, periodic safety update reports, epidemiological studies, other databases and information received from other regulatory authorities around the world. The Committee on Safety of Medicines has considered the safety of Epilim on a number of occasions with subsequent publication of advice to prescribers in the bulletin Current Problems in Pharmacovigilance.

Financial Services and Markets Bill

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many amendments they tabled to the Financial Services and Markets Bill (a) in Committee in the House of Commons; (b) at Report stage in the House of Commons; (c) in Committee in the House of Lords; (d) at Report stage in the House of Lords; and (e) in total.[HL2422]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The number of amendments tabled by the Government is as follows: (a) 437; (b) 327; (c) 252; (d) 280; (e) 1,468.

The tabling of a large number of amendments is to be expected with a Bill of this size and complexity (over 430 clauses and 22 schedules). A further 1,297 non-Government amendments have been tabled by others during the passage of the Bill.

Pension Provision: Extension to Survivors

Lord Alli asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the proportion of: (a) public sector pension schemes: and (b) private sector pension schemes, which make provision for widows continuing to receive their partner's pension after remarriage; and[HL2473]

    What is the proportion of: (a) public sector pension schemes; and (b) private sector pension schemes,

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    which provide pensions to cohabiting partners after the death of their partner; and[HL2474]

    What is the proportion of: (a) public sector pension schemes; and (b) private sector pension schemes, which provide pensions to same sex partners after the death of their partner; and[HL2475]

    What is their estimate of the cost to: (a) public sector pension schemes; and (b) private sector pension schemes, of extending provision of pensions to widows after remarriage; and[HL2476]

    What is their estimate of the cost to: (a) public sector pension schemes; and (b) private sector pension schemes, of extending provision of pensions to cohabiting partners after the death of their partner; and[HL2477]

    What is their estimate of the cost to: (a) public sector pensions and (b) private sector pensions; of extending provision of pensions to same sex partners after the death of their partner.[HL2478]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government do not collect comprehensive information on the pension benefits provided by private sector schemes or public corporations. However, research by the Government Actuary's Department suggests that the majority of private sector pension schemes provide for widows continuing to receive a pension after remarriage although in most cases the amount of the spouse's pension is reduced if there is a significant age difference. Most large occupational pension schemes in the private sector allow for payment of survivor's benefits to the unmarried partners of the opposite sex of scheme members, but in an overwhelming majority of cases this is at the discretion of the trustees. Survivors' benefits are provided to same-sex surviving partners in a minority of schemes, usually at the trustees' discretion.

The public service pension schemes at present provide survivors' pensions only for the legal spouse of a deceased member. This pension is suspended on the remarriage or cohabitation of the widow or widower. The Local Government Pension Scheme has taken the opportunity to amend its scheme rules and allow lifetime pensions for widows in the context of introducing a new scheme. Other public service schemes are considering the extension of lifetime pensions to widows.

There is currently no provision to pay survivor benefits to opposite-sex and same-sex partners in the public service schemes. The Government have indicated that if the general membership of a public service scheme wanted to extend these benefits and were prepared to pay the additional costs, they would be prepared to consider how practicable arrangements could be devised for achieving this in the context of a statutory scheme.

The Table shows the extra costs that would be incurred by public service occupational pension schemes, based on estimates provided by the Government Actuary's Department.

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Cash cost for all public service schemes1Lifetime Spouse's PensionsAdult Dependants1 Pensions2
(i) Future service of current actives £150 million per annum£200-£1,000 million3 per annum
(ii) Past service of current actives £1.5 billion (capitalised cost)£2-£10 billion3 (capitalised cost)
(iii) Past service of current actives, pensioners and deferred pensioners£3 billion (capitalised cost)£4-£20 billion 3 2 (capitalised cost)

1Public service schemes include the Local Government Pension Scheme, the NHS Pension Scheme, the Teachers' Pension Scheme, the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, the Armed Forces Pension Schemes, the Police and Firefighters' Pension Schemes and other schemes which operate on an analogous basis.

2Includes cost of extending to both opposite and same sex partners.

3Ranges are given because the cost would depend on the definition of dependent adopted and on any restrictions imposed on the availability of benefit that might apply.


British Potato Council

Lord Alli asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the first statutory review of the British Potato Council.[HL2607]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The first statutory review of the British Potato Council (BPC) has been carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act 1947. I have considered the report of the review and the outcome of the BPC poll, together with the Minister for Rural Affairs at the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales Secretary for Agriculture and Rural Development. We agreed that the council carries out a necessary function that could not be so efficiently carried out by other means. We have therefore decided that the BPC should continue for a further term while taking forward the recommendations of the report, in particular about ways of improving the council's service to levy payers.


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