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18 Dec 2000 : Column WA27

Written Answers

Monday, 18th December 2000.

Iraq: Kuwaiti Hostages

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek the release by the Iraqi Government of the 600 Kuwaiti hostages seized during the Gulf War.[HL48]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Her Majesty's Government continue to press Iraq to account for the whereabouts of the 605 Kuwaitis and other nationals missing since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in line with its obligations under Security Council resolutions. The UK plays an active role in the Tripartite Commission process, chaired by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which seeks to resolve these cases. That process has, however, been hampered by persistent Iraqi obstruction, demonstrated most recently by Iraq's refusal to attend commission meetings. In addition, Her Majesty's Government support the work of Mr Yuli Vorontsov, the UN Secretary General's High Level Co-ordinator for Kuwaiti missing and property issues.

Burma

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will boycott the European Union-ASEAN meeting in December and urge other European Union governments to do the same, in the light of the conduct of the Burmese military towards the Karen, Karenni and Shan ethnic minorities and Burma's membership of ASEAN.[HL30]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My honourable friend John Battle, Minister of State, attended the EU-ASEAN Ministerial meeting in Vientiane on 11-12 December. They had a frank discussion on Burma. EU and ASEAN Ministers expressed their full support for the efforts of Mr Razali, the UN Secretary General's Special envoy, and called for an early dialogue between the Burmese Government, the NLD, and other relevant parties. The Burmese Foreign Minister gave assurances that the EU Troika mission in January would have full access to the NLD, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and other opposition groups. This is a welcome development.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have not attempted to build consensus at the United Nations Security Council concerning the creation of an International Criminal Tribunal on Burma.[HL31]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I refer the noble Lord to my answer of 25 October (WA 42) on this issue. In raising our concerns about Burma with Security Council partners, we have directed our efforts towards building consensus. It nevertheless remains the case that there is no consensus for engagement on Burma issues for now. This extends also to the question of an International Criminal Tribunal on Burma.

Israeli Occupied Territories: Human Rights

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that Israel has complied in full with Article 2 of the Israel-European Union Association Agreement, which requires Xrespect for human rights and democratic principles"; and, if not, what action they will take.[HL1]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories, and would expect the European Union to raise human rights issues with the Israelis in the context of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

Article 2 must of course be read in conjunction with the rest of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, including Article 76, on security.

Smoking: Reduction Measures

Baroness Serota asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their plans to reduce the incidence of smoking.[HL172]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government have introduced and published the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill. The Department of Health has also issued a press release announcing consultation on the proposal to allow all nicotine replacement products to be prescribed on the National Health Service by general practitioners. Copies of the consultation letter have been placed in the Library.

Blood Donor Selection Criterion

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the authorities within the medical profession to whom the blood transfusion service, in considering what blood transfusions to accept or reject, turn for advice.[HL78]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. The National Blood Service has a United Kingdom Standing Advisory Committee on the Care and Selection of Donors. This committee reviews the criteria for selection of blood donors on a regular basis and consults with individual medical experts as the need arises.

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National Institute for Clinical Excellence

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How particular interventions and treatments are selected for appraisal by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence; and why the appraisals carried out so far have concentrated on drug therapies rather than on interventions which are not pharmaceutically based.[HL26]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Possible topics for appraisal by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence are identified by the Horizon Scanning Centre at the University of Birmingham, by policy advisers in the Department of Health, by professional or patient organisations, or by other interested parties such as pharmaceutical companies. Topics are assessed against published criteria. Ministers take the final decision on which topics are referred to the Institute.

Application of the criteria has so far led to the majority of appraisals being concerned with pharmaceuticals. However, the work programme has also included other technologies such as surgical interventions, hearing aids and a screening technique.

NHS Local Policy: User Consultation

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is a duty on the National Health Service to consult the users of National Health Service provision about the therapeutic value of drugs or therapies currently used.[HL29]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Health authorities should develop local policies for the delivery of National Health Service services within available resources, taking into account guidance from the Department of Health and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. In formulating local policies there is no statutory duty to consult users, but as a matter of good practice it is recommended that the public's interests should be represented by the inclusion of lay representation on the local forum established to advise the authority.

Multiple Sclerosis, TSEs and AIDS: Research Funding

Lord Elton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of King's Heath on 16 October (WA 75-76), what are the criteria by which they allocate funds for research into multiple sclerosis, Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy and AIDS respectively.[HL32]

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Government support for research into Multiple Sclerosis, Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSEs) and AIDS is provided through a number of government departments and research councils.

When assessing individual proposals in any scientific area, the same fundamental criteria are used:


    scientific quality of the proposals;


    significance and importance of the research topics;


    proposals' contribution to the scientific strategy and priorities of the research council and the government department considering the proposals;


    value-for-money.

Over the past few years the Government have put in place special funding initiatives in the areas of both AIDS and TSEs to expand the United Kingdom research base in order to address urgent new health problems. The funding data provided in my previous reply of 16 October (WA 75-76) reflect this.

A similar approach has not been taken with Multiple Sclerosis but, nevertheless, the scope for increasing the MRC's support in the field has been evaluated by the MRC Neurosciences and Mental Health Board and at a recent workshop, and is now being considered.

National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Urinary Fluoride Measurement

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by Baroness Hayman on 8 February 1999 (WA 2) and 9 March 1999 (WA 21), when the National Diet and Nutirtion Survey of 19-64-year-olds will be completed; and whether it will include measurements of urinary fluoride. [HL52]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Fieldwork for the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of adults aged 19-64 years began in July 2000, and will continue for a year until June 2001. A report of the findings is expected in early 2003. 2,000 people are expected to participate in the survey, a proportion of whom will provide a 24-hour urine collection which will enable an analysis of urinary fluoride to be made.

Health Staff Pay Review

Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the reports and recommendations of the Health Pay Review Bodies. [HL193]

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We are responding on behalf of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to the reports of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) and the Review Body on Nursing staff, Midwives, Health Visitors and Professions Allied to Medicine (NPRB), which are published today. We understand that a similar announcement is being made by the First Minister and the Minister for Health and Community Care in Scotland. Copies of the reports are available in the Vote Office and the Library. We are grateful to the chairmen and members of both review bodies for their hard work.

The pay recommendations of the two review bodies are being accepted in full and without staging.

Nurses, midwives and health visitors are to get an across the board increase of 3.7 per cent. For the third time in three years the award is being paid nationally in full without staging. In addition one discretionary point is being consolidated into pay ranges of grades F, G, H and I and the flat rate elements of London Allowance, on call and standby payments are also increased by 3.7 per cent. and the flat rate elements of London Weighting are being harmonised in line with rates paid to staff above grade B.

On top of these increases we are also introducing Cost of Living Supplements from 1 April 2001. These will be worth between £600 and £1,000 for qualified NPRB staff in London, and between £400 and £600 for equivalent staff in high cost areas in the South of England.

The minimum starting pay of a newly qualified nurse will rise to £15,445, an increase of 30 per cent. in cash terms over the salary paid at 31 March 1997. In Inner London, starting pay for a new nurse will be £19,178, including London Weighting and the new cost of living supplement--an increase of 7 per cent. on the April 2000 figure.

The pay of an experienced ward sister or charge nurse on the maximum of grade G will rise by 5.5 per cent. to £25,420. This reflects the 3.7 per cent. award and the consolidation of one discretionary point. An equivalent nurse in inner London will earn £29,535, including also the new cost of living supplement--a 9 per cent. increase over the April 2000 figure.

On the issue of midwives' grading, the NPRB has endorsed the agreement reached between the parties and recommended that it be implemented from 1 April 2001. This means that all midwives will be able to move through to the maximum of grade F without needing to be promoted.

This year the largest increases go to the most experienced nurses, midwives and health visitors who are in the vanguard of delivering the modern NHS--providing leadership, assuring clinical and environmental standards and getting all aspects of basic nursing care right for the patients.

The NPRB has also recommended an across the board increase of 3.7 per cent. for physiotherapists, radiographers and other professions allied to medicine (PAMs). Starting pay for basic grade PAMs with a degree after four years' training will increase on 1 April

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2001 to £15,920. PAMs in the pay ranges of the Senior II, Senior I and Chief/Head/Superintendent IV, and the Chief/Head/Superintendent III grades are also to have one discretionary point consolidated in recognition of the extra responsibilities placed on them by the NHS Plan. In addition, the qualifying period for discretionary points will be reduced to one year in line with the arrangements for other NPRB staff.

These awards are fair and reflect the contribution of the key staff in the review body groups to the delivery of the NHS Plan and the whole modernisation agenda.

The Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body (DDRB) has recommended an overall pay increase of 3.9 per cent. for salaried doctors and dentists and general medical and dental practitioners.

To encourage the retention of general medical practitioners, the DDRB has also recommended a 7 per cent. increase in seniority allowances, worth in the region of £500 for a general medical practitioner with 25 years' service. This is in addition to the 3.9 per cent. increase in intended average net remuneration.

For consultants, this 3.9 per cent. increase comes on top of the £50 million package to recognise increased workload, contribution to NHS and intensity of work. Within this, over £40 million will be paid out in intensity supplements to consultants this year, paid in January 2001 backdated to April 2000.

The DDRB pay rise takes the starting consultant salary to £50,810 and a consultant on the maximum of the scale with maximum distinction award to £128,935. The number of distinction awards has also been increased by 176, which will support the Government's proposals to reform the existing schemes to give more opportunity to reward consultants for their commitment and contribution to the NHS.

Doctors in training will benefit from this increase as well as from the new pay and banding system introduced in December 2000. This deal replaced the old, unfair system of half pay for extra hours with a banding system to reflect total hours worked. As well as giving doctors in training significant increases, the pay deal acts as an incentive for employers to reduce excessive hours. With the addition of this pay increase, a Pre-Registration House Officer (PRHO) on minimum of scale working more than 48 hours at most unsocial times (band 2A) will receive £26,903 and a Senior House Officer (SHO) on the maximum of the scale, again in band 2A, will receive £44,820.


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