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Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We are examining a number of potential sources of health and social care data on autism. On a pilot basis, autism will be included in the next Children in Need Survey, to be carried out in the autumn. We also announced recently that we have asked the Medical Research Council to obtain a clear and comprehensive picture of the current knowledge about the incidence and prevalence of autism and how strong the evidence is which underpins that knowledge.

The Department for Education and Employment is conducting a special educational needs (SEN) pilot classifications study involving 200 schools. The SEN data collection pilot forms are due back from participating schools in April. The forms include various categories of special educational need that best describe a pupil's SEN one of which is autistic spectrum disorder.

Children with autism will benefit from the measures to improve services for all children. One of these is Quality Protects, the Government's five-year, £885 million programme to improve the management and delivery of services for children in need. The participation of children, young people and their families in the planning and delivery of services and in decisions about their day to day lives is one of the priority areas for grant within the programme. That would include the development of advocacy services: children with autism would be among those to benefit from such services.

Issues affecting people with autism in other parts of the United Kingdom are a matter for devolved administrations.

Parkinsons's Disease: American Clinical Trials

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: A clinical trial involving the use of foetal cells in the treatment of American Parkinson's disease patients has shown adverse results in a small number of cases. This technique is not currently used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease in the United Kingdom.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will arrange for details of the research using foetal cells in Parkinson's disease treatments to be placed before the Select Committee on Stem Cell Research; and whether copies will be placed in the Library of the House.[HL1229]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: A clinical trial of the use of foetal cells in the treatment of Parkinson's disease has recently been reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. Copies of this report have been placed in the Library.

The House of Lords Select Committee was set up to report on issues connected with human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. It will be a matter for the committee to decide what evidence is called for.

NHS Charges: Increase

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to increase National Health Service charges and the value of optical vouchers.[HL1253]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We have laid before the House regulations to increase National Health Service charges in England from 1 April 2001. There will be a cash increase in the charge of 10p (1.67 per cent) from £6 to £6.10 for each quantity of a drug or applicance dispensed.

The cost of prescription prepayment certificates will rise to £31.90 for a four-month certificate and £87.60 for an annual certificate. These offer savings for those needing more than five items in four months or 14 in one year.

Prescription charges are expected to raise some £414 million for the NHS in 2001-02.

Charges for elastic stockings and tights, wigs and most fabric supports supplied through the hospital service will be increased similarly.

The maximum patient charge for a single course of dental treatment begun on or after 1 April 2001 will increase from £354 to £360. Only about one in every 1,000 courses of treatment will attract the new maximum charge.

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We have restricted the prescription charge increase to the same cash amount as the previous two years and the other increases are in line with this percentage increase.

Optical voucher values will increase overall by 2.5 per cent to help children, people on low income and certain people with complex sight problems with the cost of spectacles or contact lenses.

NHS charges and optical voucher values in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are a matter for the devolved administrations.

Details of the revised charges have been placed in the Library.

Northern Ireland: Air Sea Rescue

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the current arrangements for air sea rescue in Northern Ireland; and[HL789]

    Whether there is a plan to change the arrangements for air sea rescue in Northern Ireland; and if so, what the new arrangements will be.[HL790]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): Air sea rescue in Northern Ireland is currently provided by Wessex helicopters, which are not specialist search and rescue (SAR) units, based at RAF Aldergrove, and by Ministry of Defence (SAR) helicopters based at Royal Naval Air Station Prestwick and Royal Air Force Valley.

The Wessex aircraft is expected to be withdrawn on 31 March 2002. The cover provided by the Ministry of Defence helicopters will continue. Additionally, the Ministry of Defence has undertaken to maintain helicopter availability in Northern Ireland at one hour's notice for search and medical evacuations to support the mainland SAR helicopters.

Rail Passenger Safety

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether mandatory seat belts on passenger trains would help passenger safety and reduce deaths and injuries in railway accidents.[HL1164]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Although the use of properly fitting seat belts could in certain circumstances protect passengers in a train accident, the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE's) Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) is not persuaded that the fitting of seat belts in trains is a reasonably practicable precaution.

HSE is not aware of any examples (worldwide) where seat belts are provided on railway trains. HMRI continues its independent monitoring and investigation of rail safety to ensure that safety standards are maintained and improved where necessary.

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Driving a Bus on Oxford Street while using a Mobile Phone

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is an offence for a bus driver to drive along Oxford Street while using a hand-held mobile phone.[HL860]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): There is no specific road traffic offence but the Highway Code clearly states that drivers should not use hand-held mobile phones while driving. Drivers must exercise proper control of their vehicle at all times and may be liable to prosecution for failing to do so.

Individual bus companies may also issue instructions to drivers about the use of mobile phones.

Dog Wardens and Foxes

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any local authority dog wardens releasing into the countryside foxes caught in urban areas.[HL1100]

Lord Whitty: The Government are unaware of any local authority dog wardens releasing foxes caught in urban areas into the countryside.

France: Motorway and Port Blockades

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What impact the blockades by hauliers and farmers of motorways and ports in France have had on international traffic passing through the country to which the French Government are obliged under European Union law to grant access.[HL1189]

Lord Whitty: Given its geographical position, any blockades of French ports or motorways have a considerable impact on international lorry traffic. It is not possible, however, to quantify their effects. EU legislation (Council Regulation (EC) 2679/98) requires member states to take all necessary and proportionate

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measures in order to facilitate the free movement of goods on their territories. Such measures must not, however, affect the exercise of fundamental rights, including the right or freedom to strike.

Equestrian Centres of Excellence

Barness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their definition of the proposed equestrian centres of excellence; how many they propose to establish; what funds will be made available and for what purposes; whether there have to date been any applications for funding; and, if so, from whom. [HL674]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is not for the Government to define the proposed equestrian centres of excellence. This is an initiative proposed by the British Equestrian Federation and therefore its reponsibility as the national governing body of the sport. In this regard the British Equestrian Federation has defined the purpose of the centres as regional leadership and co-ordination of competition and training for all members of the federation; setting high standards of competition and training through delivery and example; implementation of the best practices in equine science and sports medicine for riders; development, in conjunction with Riding Clubs and pony clubs, of the BEF regional riding club structure; host venues for the Regional Coaches in Residence, and will set high minimum standards in terms of facilities, particularly all-weather surfaces that are kind to horses.

The BEF has developed a facilities strategy as part of an overall strategic plan for 2001-04, which was recently presented to UK Sport and Sport England, containing proposals for the establishment of equestrian centres of excellence. The facilities strategy proposes to establish 11 centres in England, two in Scotland and two in Wales.

Any funds made available to support the centres of excellence will be determined by the appropriate home country sports council and the purpose of the funding would be based upon each indvidual facility application. To date there have been no applications for funding.

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