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Written Answers

Tuesday, 20th June 2000.

Textile and Clothing Industry: Support Package

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the recent announcement of the extra £14-£15 million support for the textile industry, what plans they have to help that part of the industry located in Northern Ireland.[HL2720]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced a 12-point plan to help the UK textile and clothing industry on 6 June. The package as a whole has national application and most of the activities it supports will be open to companies in Northern Ireland as well as elsewhere in the UK. This support is in addition to the assistance the department has given over the last three years to the textile and clothing industry in Northern Ireland through funding of the Northern Ireland Growth Challenge.

Committee for Ethnic Minority Employment in Film

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 17 March (WA 235-236), what progress has been made by the group set up by the British Screen Advisory Council at the request of the Secretary of State to raise the representations of our multicultural society in the film industry.[HL2752]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Secretary of State formally launched the British Screen Advisory Council's Committee for Ethnic Minority Employment in Film on 22 May. The Committee, under the chairmanship of Simon Albury, had its first meeting on the same day, although the sub-committees had met prior to this. The Committee hopes to report in the autumn.

Millennium Dome Additional Funding: Direction

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 24 May (H.L. Deb., col. 773) that the Millennium Commission concluded independently that an extra £29 million should be committed to funding the Dome, whether the Department for Culture, Media and Sport issued any guidance or direction to the Commission, or its accounting officer, in this matter.[HL2677]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport did not issue any guidance or direction to the Millennium Commission or its accounting officer on the release of £29 million to the New Millennium Experience Company. I refer the noble Baroness to the Answer I gave to the noble Baroness, Baroness Blatch, on 7 June, Official Report, (WA 158).

Organic Farming Scheme: Grant Eligibility

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, if a farmer enters conversion to organic production prior to the opening of the Organic Farming Scheme next year, he will remain eligible to apply for grant aid under the scheme in 2001.[HL2742]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The current rules of the Organic Farming Scheme require applicants to lodge a valid application within three months of the land being registered with a sector body. The review of the scheme now in train will consider the effect of the three-month rule on those who have commenced farming organically since the scheme's closure in November 1999.

Sea Defence and Flood Control Expenditure

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been, for the most convenient recent year for which information is available, the total government expenditure in the United Kingdom on sea defences and main river works, indicating how the expenditure has been financed; the proportion of total expenditure financed by drainage rates; and on whom drainage rates are levied.[HL2767]

Baroness Hayman: This Answer is in respect of England only, as flood defence is a matter for the devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In England, measures to reduce the risk of flooding from main rivers and the sea are undertaken primarily by the Environment Agency. In 1998-99 the agency's total expenditure on flood defence was £277.0 million. The agency's major sources of income for flood defence are government grants towards approved capital works (£33.5 million in 1998-99) and levies from local authorities (£192.6 million in 1998-99). Local authority levies are included in the Standard Spending Assessments of the local authorities.

In the agency's Anglian Region, a general drainage charge is levied on occupiers of agricultural land, the income from which totalled £2.9 million in 1998-99. This provided nearly 5 per cent of the agency's expenditure on flood defence in that region of £58.9 million, and 1.5 per cent of the agency's total expenditure in England.

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Flood defence works to reduce the risk of flooding from non-main rivers and the sea may be undertaken by local authorities or internal drainage boards (IDBs) but a breakdown of expenditure is not readily available. Part of the IDBs' expenditure is financed by drainage rates charged to owners of agricultural land within their districts.

House of Lords Reform: Proposed Joint Committee

Lord Alli asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to set up a Joint Committee of both Houses to consider the parliamentary aspects of reform of this House, as set out in the White Paper Modernising Parliament; Reforming the House of Lords (Cm 4183, January 1999).[HL2952]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): Yes, my Lords. As my right honourable friend the President of the Council announced in another place during the course of its debate on the Report of the Royal Commission A House for the Future (Cm 4534, January 2000) the Government do intend that such a committee should be established in due course. The membership and precise terms of reference will need to be considered with the usual channels in both Houses.

Tuberculosis Immunisation

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are any areas of London in which tuberculosis immunisation for school children has been suspended; and, if so, what are those areas; what are the reasons, and how long is the suspension for.[HL2871]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Due to severe manufacturing problems with Celltech Medeva, who provide the only United Kingdom licensed source of Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine (BCG) against tuberculosis, the routine schools BCG immunisation programme was suspended across the UK in October 1999. Once we are confident about stocks and continuity of supply, the programme will be restarted.

In response to this problem, the department has identified other manufacturers of BCG vaccines worldwide and is investigating these possibilities together with experts from the National Institute of Biological Standards and Control, the Medicines Control Agency and NHS Supplies. This work is still ongoing due to the complex nature of ensuring the safety and efficacy of any alternative source. We are not yet in a position to be able to confirm when, or if, an alternative source will be available.

In the meantime, we are concentrating the available supplies of BCG vaccine towards higher

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risk groups, in particular to maintain selective neonatal immunisation of infants at higher risk of exposure to tuberculosis.

Medicines: Cost of Blister Packs

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the additional annual cost to the National Health Service of tablets, capsules and pills that can now be sold only in blister packs.[HL2897]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The type of packaging used for medicines is a commercial decision for the manufacturer concerned, provided the quality and safety of the product are maintained. No medicines are legally required only to be sold in blister packs.

Aspirin: Comparative Costs

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the present price per tablet paid by the National Health Service for 75 milligram enteric coated aspirin; and what is the comparative price paid in Spain.[HL2898]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The June 2000 Drug Tariff prices for 75 milligram enteric aspirin are £1.64 for 28 tablets or £3.08 for 56 tablets in a calendar pack. We have no data on comparative prices paid in Spain.

Science Enterprise Centres

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the outcome of the additional round of Science Enterprise Challenge will be announced.[HL2916]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): I have today announced that four additional enterprise centres are to be established at the universities of Durham, Oxford, Ulster and Warwick.

These centres will join the existing network of eight centres announced by the Secretary of State in September 1999. These centres will foster the commercialisation of research and new ideas, will help to stimulate scientific entrepreneurialism and will incorporate the teaching of enterprise into science and engineering curricula in universities.

The quality of the proposals demonstrates the wealth of talent and creativity within our science and engineering community, and the enthusiasm for innovative thinking and entrepreneurialism.

I very much look forward to seeing these centres develop, I am confident they will make a significant contribution to the enterprise and innovation culture in the UK.

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