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Written Answers

Tuesday, 10th October 2000.

Bangladesh: Flood Relief

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assistance is being given to Bangladesh to help with the current heavy flooding and the influx of refugees from West Bengal.[HL3988]

Baroness Amos: We have committed £500,000 towards the immediate relief needs of vulnerable groups in the flood affected areas. Our support is being channelled through non-governmental organisations focusing on the provision of shelter, emergency food and health assistance, and water and sanitation needs.

We are continuing to assess closely the situation and remain ready to provide further help.

There has not been any significant influx of refugees into Bangladesh. The small numbers of families who have crossed the border are expected to return as the waters are receding faster on the Indian side of the border.

Kosovo

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking together with other governments and international organisations to ensure that, as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees scales down its operations in Kosovo, adequate resources are available to UNMIK and all those responsible for civil administration to ensure that the economic, security and other needs of returning and returned refugees and displaced people are fully met.[HL3855]

Baroness Amos: We have allocated £15 million to our bilateral programme in Kosovo over three years. It is supporting capacity building in health, social welfare, public administration reform, development of public broadcasting, organisation of elections, and economic development. These activities are intended to benefit all people in, or returning to, Kosovo. Our bilateral contribution is in addition to our (approximately £39 million) share of the European Community programme, which is providing a total of 360 million euros of assistance this year.

We have also earmarked funds for commitment to the international agencies should they identify new humanitarian needs in Kosovo not covered by existing contributions.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking together with other governments and international organisations to

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    ensure that adequate funding is available for temporary shelters for those without habitable homes in Kosovo for as long as such shelters are required.[HL3799]

Baroness Amos: We have earmarked funds to enable us to respond to any appeals for emergency needs including shelter not already being met by the international community.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking together with other governments and international organisations to ensure that special targeted financial assistance is provided for those returned refugees and displaced people in Kosovo who are without any means to complete the construction or reconstruction of their homes.[HL3798]

Baroness Amos: The housing reconstruction programme in Kosovo is being funded and managed by the European Community's Agency for Reconstruction. The cost of the programme this year is 55 million euros, of which the UK share is approximately £5.8 million. Additionally, we are providing £260,000 in bilateral funds for the renovation of severely damaged houses in the area of Operation Trojan, a community project led by the British forces in Kosovo Force. Operation Trojan aims, in part, to encourage displaced Serbs and Albanians to return to their home villages.

The beneficiaries of housing reconstruction are selected by municipal housing committees. We understand that the United Nations Mission in Kosovo is considering the introduction of accelerated appraisals for returning refugees and displaced people.

Connexions Service

Lord Northbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much money was allocated to the Government's new Connexions Service in their Year 2000 Spending Review; and whether the allocation (if any) is the total amount of "additional funding" which the Minister referred to during the passage of the Learning and Skills Bill (H.L. Deb., 17 February, col. 1380, and H.L. Deb., 14 March, col. 1504)[HL4015]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The Secretary of State for Education and Employment will make an announcement in due course about the year 2000 Spending Review outcome for individual programmes in 2001-02 and beyond, including the new resources for the Connexions Service.

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Computers in Primary Schools

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What importance they attach to the recent report from the Alliance for Childhood suggesting that computers in primary schools do more harm than good.[HL3908]

Baroness Blackstone: It is important that we draw the right conclusions for public policy in this country, especially as the Alliance for Childhood's research was conducted in the USA. This is why the department is investing in a programme of research looking at the impact of Information and Communications Technology on learning, teaching and institutional effectiveness.

The Government believe that computers are a valuable and important addition to the resources available in primary schools. They are not a substitute for effective teaching of the basics, which is why we have introduced the daily literacy and numeracy lesson. But, effectively used, they can enhance teaching and learning. It is also essential that young people start to learn about ICT from an early age, as they are increasingly such an important part of everyday life. That is why we have invested in ICT as well as providing considerably improved resources for teaching, books and school buildings.

Hepatitis C

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of estimates that 200,000 or more people in the United Kingdom may be infected with hepatitis C, whether they are developing a national strategy for this condition; what is their estimate of the current level of the hepatitis C epidemic in the United Kingdom; and what projections exist for its future course; and[HL3889]

    What is the current effectiveness and availability of treatment for hepatitis C through the National Health Service.(HL3891)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government's health strategy for England is an action plan to improve health and is set out in the White Paper Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation. As part of this, hepatitis C initiatives may be taken forward under the umbrella of wider action on public health.

Studies suggest that the prevalence (current level) of chronic carriage of hepatitis C may be around 0.5 per cent of the general population in the United Kingdom. The incidence (new infection) of hepatitis C is not known, as the virus is usually acquired without symptoms. There is likely to be an increase in the diagnosis of hepatitis C in the next 10 years as individuals who have carried the virus for some time are identified through wider testing of groups who have been at risk.

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Two drug treatments for hepatitis C are currently licensed; monotherapy with alpha interferon and combination therapy with alpha interferon plus ribavirin. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is considering the use of combination therapy to treat hepatitis C, and will issue recommendations on its clinical and cost effectiveness shortly.

Evidence-based clinical guidelines on the management of people infected with hepatitis C are being developed by a group from the British Society of Gastroenterology, the British Institute for the Study of the Liver and the Royal College of Physicians. The authoritative guidance provided by NICE and by the guidelines will ensure that combination therapy is provided consistently throughout the National Health Service, and that the most effective treatment is delivered.

In addition, the NHS Health Technology Assessment Programme is funding a £1.1 million multi-centre, clinical trial into the potential health benefits of treating mild disease.

Cancer Detection and Treatment Initiative: Funding

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will require the tobacco companies to support through funding the initiative on cancer detection and treatment announced by the Prime Minister on 26 September in Brighton.[HL3941]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Government have no plans to target tobacco companies to fund the initiative on cancer detection and treatment.

Health Education: Anti-smoking Campaign Funding

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will require tobacco companies to support, through funding, health education campaigns highlighting the risks of smoking.[HL3897]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Government have no plans to make tobacco companies contribute towards health education campaigns highlighting the risks of smoking.

GM Seed in Conventional Seed: Control

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made by the European Commission to deal with adventitious presence of genetically modified seed in conventional seed. [HL4080]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Commission has recently published a package of

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interim measures on the adventitious presence of genetically modified seed in conventional seed. Copies of these measures have been placed in the Library of the House.

We have urged the Commission to develop comprehensive and enforceable regulatory measures as quickly as possible. In response, Commissioner Byrne has written confirming that the Commission is working on draft proposals to amend the relevant seed marketing directives. We will consult widely on the Commission's proposals once they are available.


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