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Written Answers

Tuesday, 20th May 2003.

Prisoners: Employment and Ethnicity

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the number of prisoners, broken down by ethnic group, who obtain employment within a year of release.[HL2706]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Government do not collect data on the number of prisoners, broken down by ethnic group, who obtain employment within a year of release. A survey in late 2001 of prisoners in the last three weeks of their sentence showed that 29 per cent of white prisoners had employment or training arranged after release. This compared with 47 per cent of Asian or Asian British prisoners, 33 per cent of black or black British prisoners and 27 per cent of "mixed ethnicity" prisoners.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to publish a Command Paper listing the regulatory impact assessments published during the latest six-month period. [HL2953]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The Government are committed to ensuring that regulations are necessary, give effective protection, balance cost and risk, are fair and command public confidence. In accordance with this, we require departments to produce and publish regulatory impact assessments (RIAs) for all regulatory proposals likely to have an impact on business, charities and the voluntary sector.

I have today presented to Parliament a Command Paper listing RIAs published between 1 July and 31 December 2002. Copies of those listed have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. This is the 18th such Command Paper.

Crown Dependencies: Human Rights Legislation

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the European Convention on Human Rights has been incorporated into the domestic legislation of each of the Crown Dependencies; and, if not, when such incorporation will take place. [HL2725]

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Each of the Crown Dependencies—the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and the Isle of Man—have passed legislation similar to the United Kingdom Human Rights Act 1998: the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000, the Human Rights (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 2000 and the Human Rights Act 2001 (of Tynwald). In each case the legislation is expected to come into force before the end of this year.

Fallen Stock

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they have given to local authorities with regard to the disposal of fallen stock following the burial ban coming into force on 1 May.[HL2696]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Trading Standards, who enforce the regulation, have received guidance notes and training on the new rules. In addition, information on the disposal of animal carcases is available on the Defra website, at http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/by-prods/default.htm., and from local Defra animal health offices.

In the meantime, Defra will enforce the regulations in a reasonable manner, with a light-touch approach to the legislation to allow farmers time to adjust to the new rules. We expect farmers to make every effort they can to comply with the regulation, but we will take a pragmatic approach particularly in winter and poor weather conditions in upland areas and we will give advice to enforcement agencies accordingly.

Organic Farming:Defra Correspondence with FSA

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What response has been received by the Minister for the Environment, Michael Meacher, to his letter to the chairman of the Food Standards Agency, Sir John Krebs, concerning the environmental benefits of organic farming; if no reply has yet been received, when one is expected; and whether they will place a copy in the Libraries of both Houses.[HL2748]

Lord Whitty: I am arranging for copies of the correspondence so far to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Life Support Ventilators and SARS Patients

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many life support ventilators are currently available for operation in each of the private and public sectors; how many trained staff are estimated to be available to operate them; what estimated

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    percentage of severe acute respiratory syndrome sufferers need to be put on ventilators; and how many beds are estimated to exist in United Kingdom hospitals which would be suitable for patients with SARS where suitable isolation could be provided. [HL2772]

Baroness Andrews: The Department of Health does not collect information about the number of life support ventilators available for operation in each of the public and private sectors. There are currently 3,097 adult critical care beds in the National Health Service in England. As a minimum standard there will be one mechanical ventilator for each bed area. Each critical care unit will have additional ventilators available to be used in rotation for cleaning, decontamination, and maintenance purposes.

Trusts have contracts for purchasing and maintenance of ventilators with their preferred manufacturers. It is likely that additional ventilators could be made available quickly should a trust require additional equipment in the case of a sudden influx of patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) needing respiratory support.

Nurses working in critical care units are trained to look after patients needing mechanical ventilation. Generally, patients requiring mechanical ventilation require one to one care and supervision. Critical care units normally operate with an overall establishment of 6.0–7.0 whole-time equivalent nurses per bed. There will be local variations in staffing levels depending on the size of the unit and case-mix.

None of the four probable SARS cases reported so far in the United Kingdom has required ventilation. The number estimated to require ventilation would depend on a number of factors such as the length of time the patient had been ill, along with any other secondary illness. Patients admitted to hospital with suspected or confirmed SARS will be transferred to a cubicle in the critical care unit, and isolation procedures will be put in place.

The Department of Health does not collect information on the number of cubicles or isolation facilities available. This information will be available to local major incident planners.

NHS: Specialised Commissioning

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they will monitor and report the effectiveness of the new arrangements for specialised commissioning.[HL2790]

Baroness Andrews: Strategic health authorities and collaborative commissioning groups and associated service-specific consortia will report regularly to their member primary care trusts (PCTs) and should report at least annually on a formal basis to them. In addition, individual PCTs will report on the commissioning of specialised services in their annual reports.

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Contraception: Morning-after Pill

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Baroness Andrews on 7 May (HL Deb, col. 1092) and in the light of the report Contraception and Sexual Health 2001 published in 2003 by the Office for National Statistics on behalf of the Department of Health, whether they believe that the average age of those prescribed the morning-after pill is 28.[HL2802]

Baroness Andrews: Survey data contained in the report Contraception and Sexual Health 2001 shows that women aged 18 to 19 had the highest proportionate use of emergency contraception followed by women aged 16 to 17. However, a large number of women aged 20 and over also reported using emergency contraception and the data in the report can be used to calculate an average age of all women using emergency contraception, which is 26.5 years. In my Answer of 7 May about the average age of women using emergency contraception I was referring to research commissioned by Schering, the manufacturer of Levonelle (emergency contraception pill), which found that the average age of a woman purchasing Levonelle was 28 years. As both the surveys were based on relatively small samples of women, the data need to be interpreted with caution. However the average age of women supplied with emergency contraception in both surveys were broadly similar.

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Baroness Andrews on 7 May (HL Deb, col. 1092), whether they believe that the possibilty of sexually transmitted infections will not be detected by general practitioners if women visit them for the purposes of obtaining emergency contraception.[HL2803]

Baroness Andrews: Most testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is currently undertaken in genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinics. We understand, though, that an increasing number of general practitioners are offering testing for STIs and may choose, where appropriate, to test for infection during a request for emergency contraception. However the incubation period for the most common STIs is often longer than the 72 hours within which requests for emergency contraception should be made. For example the incubation period for gonorrhoea can be up to 10 days and for chlamydia up to three weeks. Any infection resulting from the incident of unprotected sex leading to a request for emergency contraception is not likely to be detected at that time. GPs who do not provide STI testing, and other health professionals who supply emergency contraception, should advise women of the risk of infection from unprotected sex and provide appropriate advice on attendance at a GUM clinic for screening at a later date.

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