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Sheep Dip Exposure Study

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Subject to due considerations of consent and confidentiality, the Medical Toxicology Unit will be pleased to discuss findings of the pilot study Surveillance of sheep dip exposures 23 September to 3 November 1991 with independent researchers carrying out government-funded research.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Six patients were subjects of a clinical investigation by the Medical Toxicology Unit during 1993. All were symptomatic but not all had been exposed to sheep dips.

CJD and Blood Donations

The Duke of Montrose asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The CJD Surveillance Unit and the UK Blood Services collaborate on a study to trace blood donations made by individuals who subsequently develop variant CJD. Information on the study is included in the CJD Surveillance Unit Annual Report, a copy of which is available in the Library.

Inherited Conditions: Free Drug Prescription

Baroness Howells of St Davids asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether patients with the following inherited conditions:

    (a) cystic fibrosis;

    (b) haemophilia;

    (c) sickle cell; and

    (d) thalassaemia,

    are entitled to free drug prescriptions on the National Health Service.[HL1068]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath In England people suffering from cystic fibrosis, haemophilia, sickle cell and thalassaemia are entitled to free prescriptions if they are aged under 16 (under 19 if in full-time education), 60 or over, are suffering from an exempting medical condition (cystic fibrosis, haemophilia, sickle cell and thalassaemia are not of themselves exempting conditions) or they (or their partner) are receiving income support, income based jobseeker's allowance or tax credits (with their maximum credit reduced by £70 or less per week). They may also claim help under the NHS Low Income Scheme. For Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescription charging arrangements are a matter for the devolved administrations.

War Widow's Pension

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 15 February (WA 64), whether any of the five war widows referred to will have their war widow's pension restored if it is demonstrable that they are not "living with a man as his wife"; and what consultation they have had with the War Widows' Association on the provisions in the Social Security Fraud Bill that affect war widows.[HL972]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): A war widow may reclaim her war pension at any time if she ceases to be living with a man as his wife. In two of the five cases referred to, war widow's pension has been restored.

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The only measures in the Social Security Fraud Bill which could directly effect war widows are the loss of benefits provisions at Clauses 7 to 13 under which those who are twice convicted of benefit fraud will lose benefit for 13 weeks.

The Government's proposal is that these measures, which are intended to deter those who cheat the benefit system from re-offending, will apply to the vast majority of social security benefits and war pensions. The Government fully accept that the level of fraud in war pensions is minimal. Nonetheless they take the view that the war pensions scheme should be given the same level of protection from the threat posed by persistent benefit cheats as the mainstream social security system.

As the measures in question are aimed solely at the small minority who abuse the benefit system, the Government took the view that consultation with bodies such as the War Widows Association which represent benefit recipients would not be appropriate.

Depleted Uranium

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What calculations are made within NATO of the implications for the health and well-being of civilian populations whenever depleted uranium is deployed in military action.[HL755]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): When NATO is engaged in an international armed conflict, it is for individual nations whose forces are asked by NATO military authorities to conduct operations to scutinise the targets concerned to ensure that they are consistent with their obligations under international law. These obligations include the obligation to take all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of attack with a view to avoiding, and in any event minimising, civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects. The UK has never used depleted uranium during NATO military operations, but our assessments indicate that the health risks from exposure to DU are minimal.

Gulf Veterans: Blood Tests

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For what purpose more than 250 Gulf veterans were referred by the Medical Assessment Programme to the clinic at the Hammersmith Hospital; and for what purpose the blood samples supplied by the veterans were used.[HL979]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The current physicians who have been at the Gulf Veterans' Medical Assessment Programme since February and September 1998 have no recollection of any Gulf veterans being referred to the Hammersmith Hospital. To find if any such referrals took place would require

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a trawl through over 3,000 medical records held at the GVMAP. This could only be done at disproportionate cost. If the noble Countess would care to write to me with more details of her concerns I will investigate further.

Blood samples taken from Gulf veterans as part of the battery of routine clinical tests at St Thomas' Hospital (not by the GVMAP physicians) are used for the following tests: full blood count, blood biochemistry, glucose level, virology and immunology. The results of these tests are sent back to the GVMAP physicians, who report them to the patient's general practitioner.

House of Lords Reform

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider, as part of House of Lords reform stage 2, life Peers and other Members of the House of Lords should be able to vote in elections for Members of the Upper House; and[HL553]

    Whether they consider, as part of House of Lords reform stage 2, Members of Parliament in the House of Commons should be able to vote in elections for Members of the Upper House.[HL554]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The Government will announce their conclusion on this question as part of their overall package of reforms.

Jubilee Line Delays

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the extreme delays on the Jubilee Line on 1 March were caused by a failure to complete engineering work at Finchley Road; if not, what was the reason; and what steps are being taken to ensure that there are no further delays.[HL1046]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): Day-to-day operation of the Jubilee Line is a matter for London Underground (LUL). LUL informs me that during the morning of 1 March an unusual number of problems occurred almost simultaneously, with the cumulative result that around 45 per cent of normal service unfortunately could not be run.

First, in the course of LUL's nightly out-of-service hours programme of safety checks on the system, a broken rail was discovered north of Finchley Road on the north-bound Jubilee Line track. Engineering work to repair the track was started immediately but was not complete before the start of morning services. As a result some Jubilee Line services had to be suspended and a temporary speed restriction had to be imposed, to enable the necessary safety work to be completed. This led to the cancellation of several trains.

These problems were exacerbated by two other unrelated incidents: a signal failure near the site of the

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broken rail and a SPAD (signal passed at red) farther down the line. These incidents caused further delays, leaving many trains out of scheduled position, severely delayed or cancelled.

LUL has in place official standard procedures, kept constantly under review, both for scheduled maintenance work and for following up and recovering from incidents such as these when they arise. LUL regrets that on this occasion the combination of difficulties arising together led to exceptional delays.

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