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Operation Fresco: Cancellation of Post Operational Tour Leave

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: The impact of Operation Fresco on post operational tour leave (POTL) is being monitored very closely by all three services.

The cancellation of the strike planned for the Christmas period relieved some of the pressure and enabled most individuals to clear their arrears of POTL.

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Every effort is being made to minimise the disruption to the lives of service personnel brought about by this extra commitment to provide fire cover in the event of further strikes. We will seek to maintain our good record in respect of harmony, although plainly we cannot guarantee this for every single unit or individual. The services are also monitoring the impact on career courses and promotion.

Gulf: Marine Package

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Given that the leaked Iraqi intelligence reports suggest possible underwater attacks on allied vessels, whether any further anti-submarine frigates or minesweepers are to be deployed to the region.[HL1447]

Lord Bach: I refer the noble Lord to the statements made by my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary on 18 December 2002 (Official Report, cols. 845–6) and on 7 January 2003 (Official Report, cols. 24–5) in another place in which he announced the composition of a fully balanced and flexible maritime package to the Gulf region. In addition to these assets, there are at present four mine-hunters on longstanding deployment to the Gulf region, as well as a Type 42 destroyer and a Type 22 frigate on permanent taskings.

The threat to the United Kingdom assets is kept under review, as are our contingency plans for dealing with such threats.

Forces Safeguard

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the meeting between the Ministry of Defence and the underwriters of Safeguard on 30 January.[HL1448]

Lord Bach: The meeting to which the noble Lord refers was not between the Ministry of Defence and the underwriters of Safeguard (Scottish Widows) but a management meeting of the underwriters.

After the meeting, Scottish Widows announced that from 14 February 2003 it would introduce a war exclusion clause for all new members joining the scheme and for any existing members increasing their cover. The details, which have been promulgated to service personnel, are as follows.

Prospective members will have the choice of joining without war cover on current premium and benefit rates or with war cover with premium rates loaded by 100 per cent. and benefits reduced to 25 per cent. of the sum insured for claims for death or critical illness arising from war. For existing members, these changes will apply only to any increased cover purchased on or after 14 February.

This is not a geographical exclusion but a war exclusion based on the Association of British Insurers (ABI) definition, i.e. scheme members will be unable to enter a claim for benefit which "results directly or indirectly from war, invasion, hostilities (whether war

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is declared or not) civil war, rebellion, revolution or taking part in a riot or civil commotion".

The exclusion will have no effect on existing members of Forces Safeguard who do not increase their cover on or after 14 February or on anyone joining the scheme (or increasing their cover) whose application is countersigned up to and including 13 February.

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises: Definition

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is a definition of small and medium-sized enterprises used by all government departments; and, if not, what definitions are used by each department.[HL1505]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): There is no single definition of a small firm.

For statistical purposes the DTI usually uses the following definitions:


    micro firm: 0–9 employees


    small firm: 0–49 employees (includes micro)


    medium firm: 50–249 employees


    large firm: 250 or more employees

Listed below are the different definitions used.

The best description of the key characteristics of a small firm remains that used by the Bolton Committee in its 1971 report on small firms. This stated that a small firm is an independent business, managed by its owner or part owners and having a small market share.

Section 249 of the Companies Act 1985 states that a company is small if it satisfies at least two of the following criteria:


    a turnover of not more than £2.8 million;


    a balance sheet total of not more than £1.4 million;


    not more than 50 employees.

A medium-sized company must satisfy at least two of the following criteria:


    a turnover of not more than £11.2 million;


    a balance sheet total of not more than £5.6 million;


    not more than 250 employees.

The DTI's centrally administered small firms loan guarantee scheme (SFLGS) uses the following definitions:


    Manufacturing: turnover of £5 million or less.


    All other eligible businesses: turnover of £1.5 million or less.

There is also an overall eligibility criterion of fewer than 200 employees for SFLGS.


    EC SME Definitions: These are currently under review.


    Micro:


    Maximum of nine employees.

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    Small:


    Maximum of 49 employees;


    Maximum annual turnover of E7 million;


    Maximum annual balance sheet total of E5 million;


    Maximum percentage owned 25 per cent.


    Medium:


    Maximum of 249 employees;


    Maximum turnover of E40 million;


    Maximum annual balance sheet total of E27 million;


    Maximum percentage owned by one or jointly owned by several enterprises not satisfying the same criteria 25 per cent.

To qualify as an SME both the employee and the independence criteria must be satisfied and either the turnover or the balance sheet total criteria.

Local Authority Councillors: Allowances

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the rules relating to (a) claims for job seeker's allowance and other social security benefits by members of principal councils; and (b) deductions from and restrictions on such benefits as a result of the receipt of council allowances and time spent as a councillor. [HL1310]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): A local authority councillor's work is not treated as remunerative work for assessment purposes. However, councillors' allowances and expenses may be taken into account as income, thus reducing the amount of benefit they may receive.

When assessing a claim for income support, jobseeker's allowance, incapacity benefit, housing benefit or council tax benefit, any allowances paid for necessary expenses are not treated as income and are disregarded. Any allowances paid for a councillor's time are regarded as income and are taken into account after applying appropriate disregards.

Councillors are entitled to some allowances whether they are claimed or not. If a councillor has not claimed an allowance they could expect to receive, it is treated as notional income and taken into account as if it had actually been paid.

Further details on the treatment of local councillors' earnings can be found in the Decision Makers Guide, Volume 3, Chapter 15, ref. 15096 and Volume 4, Chapter 20, ref. 20485, copies of which have been placed in the Library.

Haemophilia Recombinant Clotting Products

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to provide recombinant clotting products for all adult haemophilia patients in England.[HL1650]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We are pleased to announce today that the Government have invested an extra £88 million over the next three years to provide recombinant clotting factors for haemophilia patients in England. Haemophilia patients up to age 21 are already receiving these products. The extra funding will extend the availability of recombinant clotting factors to adult patients.

Over the next few months the Government will then work with key stakeholders, including the Haemophilia Society, clinicians and primary care trusts, to design a programme for rolling out access to recombinant products to older age groups. This roll out will take time to achieve because of the large volume of product involved. However, by March 2006 the vast majority of haemophilia patients should be receiving recombinant clotting factors.

We have taken a number of steps to make clotting factors used to treat people with haemophilia as safe as possible. We hope this extra £88 million will ultimately give all haemophilia patients access to synthetic treatments where these are recommended by clinicians.

We would like to take this opportunity to commend my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester on his excellent support and compassion for haemophilia patients and their families. His work as President of the Haemophilia Society has been unstinting and we admire his determination to achieve the very best for its members.


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