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Written Answers

Wednesday, 20th December 2000.

Consolidated Fund Bill

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a statement has been made under the Human Rights Act 1998 in connection with the Consolidated Fund Bill.[HL227]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I have made a statement under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Consolidated Fund Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the statement has been placed in the Library of the House.

Criminal Proceedings: Acceptance of Pleas by Prosecution

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Attorney General's guidelines on the acceptance of pleas by the prosecution in criminal proceedings will be published.[HL57]

The Attorney General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I will be publishing my guidelines on the acceptance of pleas by the prosecution in criminal proceedings, which are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament. These documents can also be found on the website for the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers at www.lslo.gov.uk.

Health Food Products: EU Labelling Proposals

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to promote within Europe initiatives to improve labelling information for consumers of health food products; and whether they expect such initiatives to permit more accurate and comprehensive information about the contribution of some of these products to the promotion of well-being and the reduction of the risk of ill-health; and [HL131]

    Whether they expect the work of the Food Standards Agency in reviewing food labelling to lead to proposals that allow consumers to have access to accurate and comprehensive information about the contribution of some food products to the reduction of the risk of ill-health. [HL132]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Food Standards Agency is pressing the European

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Commission to include disease risk reduction claims in its proposals for legislation on health claims, and to introduce an effective and practical system at European Union level for the verification and approval of such claims.

Medical Toxicology Unit: Organophosphate Poisoning Cases

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many patients who attended the Medical Toxicology Unit (formerly the National Poisons Unit) were diagnosed by their clinicians as suffering from:


    (a) acute organophosphate poisoning; or


    (b) chronic organophosphate poisoning

    for each year since 1990. [HL69]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Medical Toxicology Outpatient Clinic does not maintain a separate database which would allow easy identification of specific sub-groups of patients and their diagnosis. This would be done through research projects which require approval according to trust procedures, including ethical approval. Appropriate funding would be required for such research projects.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the pilot study Surveillance of sheep dip exposures 23 September to 3 November 1991--final report October 1992 received Ethics Committee approval; by whom the study was funded; and what subsequent research on organophosphate poisoning, including a questionnaire survey, has been conducted by Medical Toxicology Unit (formerly the National Poisons Unit) staff or researchers employed by them.[HL70]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Ethics approval was not required for the pilot study Surveillance of sheep dip exposures 23 September to 3 November 1991. The study was funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Subsequent to this study, the following research on organophosphate poisoning has been conducted by the Medical Toxicology Unit (MTU) staff:


    A retrospective survey of organophosphorus insecticide poisoning in South Asia (in 1999-2000) in collaboration with World Health Organisation Regional Office for South East Asia (SEARO) and the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) Geneva. A member of the staff of the Medical Toxicology Unit was sent to Nepal, Sri Lanka and India for this study, which was a survey of teaching, district and peripheral hospitals for two months. The report is available at SEARO/IPCS/Guys Hospital.


    Ongoing development of a hypothesis on the toxicity of organophosphorus intoxication and

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    the publication of a book Organophosphates and Health, which is a multinational author production, has been completed with one of the editors and several contributors being from the MTU. The book is intended to be on the shelves by March 2001.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any research conducted by the Medical Toxicology Unit (formerly the National Poisons Unit) into the effects of exposure to organophosphates subsequent to Surveillance of sheep dip exposures 23 September to 3 November 1991--Final Report October 1992 Murray et al, had Ethics Committee approval; if so, when, by whom the work was funded; whether the results of any such work have been published; if so, in which publications; and, if not, whether they will make the results available.[HL90]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Subsequent to the study Surveillance of sheep dip exposures 23 September to 3 November 1991, the following research on organophosphate poisoning has been conducted by the Medical Toxicology Unit staff (MTU) staff:


    A retrospective survey of organophosphorus insecticide poisoning in South Asia (in 1999-2000) in collaboration with World Health Organisation Regional Office for South East Asia (SEARO) and the International programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) Geneva. A member of the staff of the Medical Toxicology Unit was sent to Nepal, Sri Lanka and India for this study, which was a survey of teaching, district and peripheral hospitals for two months. The report is available at SEARO/IPCS/Guys Hospital.


    Ongoing development of a hypothesis on the toxicity of organophosphorus intoxication and the publication of a book Organophosphates and Health, which is a multinational author production, has been completed with one of the editors and several contributors being from the MTU. The book is intended to be on the shelves by March 2001.

None of these activities required Ethics Committee approval.

NHS Complaints System: Elderly Complainants

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the National Health Service complaints system, as now administered, is dealing satisfactorily with the complaints of older people; how long on average those people have to wait for clear outcomes; and what action they are taking to ensure that the complaints of older people are dealt with more quickly.[HL102]

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Government expect all complaints, from whatever age group they originate, to be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible, with the prime aim of resolving any problems and satisfying the concerns of the complainant. An independent United Kingdom-wide evaluation of the complaints procedure is now in its final stages and due to submit findings to Ministers in early 2001. The NHS Plan made it clear that we will act on the results of the evaluation and reform the complaints procedure to make it more independent and responsive to patients, and this would, of course, include older people. The plan also sets out ways in which we will strengthen patient involvement in the National Health Service across the board through the creation of patients' fora, and the Patient Advocacy and Liaison Service, which will help patients raise concerns and have them dealt with quickly. In addition, regular surveys of patients' experience, both locally and nationally, will help to ensure that patients of all ages are placed at the centre of the NHS.

Information on the average length of time people have to wait for a reponse is not available.

HM Prison, Blantyre House

Lord Mayhew of Twisden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why in a Written Answer on 22 May (WA 61) Lord Bassam of Brighton stated that damage to a total value of £500 had been caused in a search of HM Prison Blantyre House on 5 and 6 May, when the Prison Service's internal report on the raid asserts that damage to the value of £6,100 at full commercial rates had been caused and when in guidance to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee the Director General of the Prison Service stated that repairing the damage from their own materials costs the service about £2,500. [HL203]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The figure of £500 given, both in a Written Answer on 22 May (WA 61), and in oral evidence before the Home Affairs Committee on 16 May, represented an estimate of the direct cost to the establishment of the repairs. The Director General wrote to the Home Affairs Committee on 20 June to explain that, if account were taken of the value of the door frames and other materials provided by the Prison Service workshops, that the cost of repairing the damage would be a revised estimate of 2,585. In the event, the cost of the repairs amounted to 2,242.20. This information was passed to the Home Affairs Committee on 28 September, and in its final report (Cmd. 904) the committee noted, at paragraph 101 (c): "It is not unreasonable that the cost of the damage was not known on 16 May". The figure of £6,100 includes labour costs, and was provided as an estimate of the commercially equivalent costs, to provide a benchmarking assurance.

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