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Human Reproduction: Sex Selection Consultation

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority gave organisations responding to its consultation on sex selection the opportunity to identify themselves as "pro life"

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because it is particularly interested in whether such groups would condone sex selection techniques, such as sperm sorting, that do not involve the destruction of embryos. The list of categories is not comprehensive and "pro abortion" organisations can take the opportunity to identify themselves as such if they so wish.

Abortion Act 1967, Section 1(1)(d)

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many abortions have been performed each year since 1990 under Section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act 1967; and how many of these abortions have been performed after 24 weeks' gestation; and[HL208]

    Whether medical practitioners performing abortions under Section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act 1967 are legally obliged to specify the nature of the physical or mental abnormalities giving rise in their judgment to serious handicap when reporting such abortions to the Department of Health.[HL209]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The information requested is set out in the table.

Any medical practitioner performing a termination of pregnancy under any grounds set out in the Abortion Act is legally required to notify the Chief Medical Officer on form HSA4. For abortions performed under Section 1(1)(d) practitioners are required to provide details of any foetal abnormalities diagnosed, together with method of diagnosis used, and any other reasons of termination; for example, a condition in a pregnant woman causing a suspected condition in a foetus.

Legal Abortions—numbers performed on residents of England and Wales under Section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act 1967, as amended

YearTotalOver 24 weeks gestation(1)

(1) Figures for 1990 to 1997 are of abortions performed at 25 weeks 0 days gestation or more and may include a very small number of abortions performed under sections other than 1(1)(d); figures from 1998 onwards are of abortions under Section 1(1)(d) performed at 24 weeks 0 days gestation or more.


Statistics Division 3G, Department of Health.

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Healthcare Workers: Smallpox

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to protect key healthcare workers against any possible smallpox emergency.[HL368]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Since the tragic events of September 11, the Department of Health has strengthened its plans against any deliberate release of biological agents, including smallpox.

We have no evidence of a specific threat of a smallpox attack on the United Kingdom. However, it is sensible and prudent to ensure that the National Health Service can deal with any potential threat.

There are three components to the department's preparation for response to a possible smallpox emergency: improved vaccine stocks, a plan of action and a cohort of immunised staff who could deal safely with any potential smallpox cases.

We have already taken action substantially to increase our stocks of smallpox vaccine and we have recently begun a second procurement to add to these stocks.

The Department of Health is today publishing an interim plan of action for discussion and comment over the coming month. Under this plan, it is intended to establish 12 regional smallpox response groups around the UK. They will consist of infectious disease physicians and paediatricians, public health physicians, microbiologists/virologists, acute care and communicable disease control nurses and occupational health staff.

This core group of NHS staff will need to be immune to smallpox and therefore able to react quickly and work safely with patients with actual or suspected smallpox. Preparations for the vaccination of these key workers is now under way. I expect these vaccinations to be completed by the end of next month. It is intended to vaccinate around 350 healthcare staff across the UK. This will be on an entirely voluntary basis with informed consent. The Ministry of Defence, with which we are working closely, is planning to vaccinate a similar cohort of specialist military personnel.

The plan also explains how smallpox cases would be handled in various scenarios. The Department of Health's primary strategy would be to contain and ring vaccinate around any outbreak. The teams of vaccinated healthcare staff are central to delivering this strategy.

These plans are a practical precaution designed to ensure the UK is prepared for any possible smallpox emergency. They are in line with World Health Organisation advice and will be kept under review.

Similar interim plans are being prepared for publication by the devolved administrations.

This work has been taken forward under the cross-governmental civil contigency machinery for which the Home Secretary has overall responsibility.

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Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their plans for modernisation of National Health Service pay.[HL369]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We are pleased to be able to announce that on 28 November negotiators representing the United Kingdom health departments, National Health Service employers and NHS trades unions successfully concluded negotiations on a new pay system for NHS staff (with the exception of those within the remit of the Doctors and Dentists Review Body and the most senior managers). It represents the most radical transformation of the NHS pay system since the foundation of the service in 1948. The proposed new system will now go out for consultation with organisations representing NHS staff.

Over the three year period from 2003–04 to 2005–06 the overall package will mean an average increase of 12.5 per cent. in basic pay for NHS staff. It will give a 10 per cent. pay increase over three years for all staff, plus an average 5.9 per cent. in the longer run linked to modernisation.

The proposed new pay system will be based on a new system of job evaluation. This means that the basic pay that NHS staff receive will reflect the knowledge, responsibility, skills and effort required in their job, rather than their historic job title or occupational group. To progress fully in the new pay system, staff will need to demonstrate a level of applied skills and knowledge appropriate to their level of responsibility.

The new system will also introduce clearer rewards for staff who work flexibly outside traditional working hours. It will give extra flexibilities for local NHS employers to create new types of jobs and to make extra payments to reflect recruitment and retention pressures. Instead of almost 650 different staff grades and thousands of different allowances, there will be a simple set of core terms and conditions based on eight pay bands, including simple, harmonised arrangements for working hours and annual leave.

The new system is designed to ensure fair pay for staff, based on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, and a clearer system of career progression. It will also directly support modernisation of patient care. It will provide new opportunities for staff to take on new responsibilities, breaking down old-fashioned demarcations and enabling jobs to be redesigned around the needs of the patient. It will produce a more sensible division of labour, with nurses, therapists and healthcare assistants taking on new roles that improve NHS productivity and free up more of doctors' and other senior clinicians' time for direct patient care.

Clearer rewards for flexible working will help make NHS services more widely available to patients in the evenings and weekends. Improvements in pay, career and training prospects will help recruit an estimated 10,000 more nurses and other health professionals and an estimated 27,000 healthcare assistants by 2006–07 in England, particularly in high cost areas such as London. A clearer link between pay and development

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of knowledge and skills will help deliver higher and more consistent standards of NHS patient care.

If the new system is approved following consultation, implementation will start in 12 NHS sites in spring 2003, with full implementation starting in October 2004.

A summary of the proposed new pay system has been placed in the Library.

Education Sector: IT Provision

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of recent reports about the £57,000 quarterly Internet bill charged to Sandhurst primary school in Lewisham, what arrangements are in place for government funding of Internet connections in particular, and information technology provision more generally, for the education sector.[HL2]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Schools are individually responsible for their own Internet charges, whether they negotiate their own contracts or purchase through their LEAs. As part of the department's broadband policy, 10 regional broadband consortia were set up to achieve cost-effective broadband connections for schools. The Prime Minister announced on 19 November that every primary and secondary school in the country will be provided with broadband Internet access by 2006.

The Government have made over £1.8 billion available for ICT provision in schools in England over 1998 to 2004. This funding is to introduce and develop schools' ICT infrastructure, including hardware, content, training and Internet connectivity.

In higher education, the Government have provided over £250 million over 2001 to 2004 for improving institutions' local networks; further digitisation of material to meet the growing demands for online information; and upgrading the transatlantic link connecting with the Joint Academy Network (JANet) further to facilitiate international collaboration in research.

In further education, the Government have funded the National Learning Network (NLN) to improve hardware and connectivity, develop staff skills, provide learning materials and guide effective learning, teaching and management across the post-16 sector: £42 million is available in the current and next financial years to support the network.

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