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17 Jan 2012 : Column WA119



17 Jan 2012 : Column WA119

Written Answers

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Asil Nadir

Question

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Information from this investigation remains under consideration by the judiciary and it would not be appropriate to make this available, or for me to comment, while there are ongoing legal proceedings.

Employment: Sickness Absence

Questions

Asked by Lord Harrison

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The Department for Work and Pensions will be leading on the Government's response to the independent review into sickness absence, with input from other government departments and the devolved Administrations. These are complex issues and we will need to take time to consider the recommendations fully; the response will be published later this year.

Asked by Lord Harrison

Lord Freud: The DWP estimates that sickness absence costs employers £9 billion and that 140 million working days are lost every year, which equates to 2.2 per cent of all working time, or 4.9 days for each worker.

Smaller employers tend to experience lower sickness absence rates and are also less likely to offer occupational sick pay. The Government also recognise the difficulties small businesses can face when trying to access occupational health services.

To help mitigate the costs the Government have instigated a programme of initiatives and support aimed at aiding better sickness absence management and promoting health and well-being in small businesses.

The previous medical certificate, the "sick note", was replaced by the fit note in April 2010. The concept

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of the fit note was to give GPs the opportunity to provide a greater focus on what people can do rather than what they cannot.

A network of health, work and well-being (HWWB) co-ordinators operate across Great Britain. Their role involves championing and leading on the HWWB agenda, helping to reduce the overall incidence of work-related ill health. The network focuses on smaller businesses, working with them to raise awareness of the many benefits of good work to good health-and vice versa.

Occupational health advice services for small businesses operate in England, Scotland and Wales. They provide support to employers and line managers to help them keep employees healthy and at work, or support an employee back to work. The services were evaluated between December 2009 and March 2011, and the final report is expected to be published in March 2012.

A number of case-managed multidisciplinary "fit for work" services are available to individuals in five locations in England, one location in Wales, and one covering all of Scotland. The services provide support for employees in the early stages of sickness absence who may be at risk of spending long periods away from work due to ill health. The first year of service operation has been evaluated, and this report is also expected to be published in March 2012.

The Department of Health has introduced the public health responsibility deal-a mechanism to improve public health outcomes. It has five networks covering alcohol, behaviour change, food, health at work, and physical activity. The health at work network is jointly chaired by Earl Howe and Dame Carol Black, and comprises delegates from the private sector, central and local government and the third sector, and aims to reinforce the positive link between health and work among employers, employees and the general public.

Asked by Lord Harrison

Lord Freud: Dame Carol Black's review of the health of Britain's working-age population identified that small and medium-sized businesses generally have little or no access to occupational health support to help them deal with employee sickness absence or employee health issues at work (Black, C. Working for a Healthier Tomorrow: Review of the Health of Britain's Working Age Population, The Stationery Office, 2008).

Dame Carol recognised that employers, healthcare professionals and Government all have a role to play in improving the health of the working-age population.

A literature review, conducted as part of Dame Carol's review, found that early intervention occupational health services can play a key role in assessing how and when employees can return to appropriate work, and result in a significant reduction in time spent off work (Campbell, Professor J. Avoiding Long-Term Incapacity for Work: Developing an Early Intervention in Primary Care, Peninsula Medical School, 2007).



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A further independent evidence review found that more than 90 per cent of people with common health problems, for example musculoskeletal conditions, can be helped to return to work by simple healthcare and workplace management measures (Waddell, G. Burton, A.K. and Kendall, N.A.S. Vocational Rehabilitation: What Works, for Whom, and When?, The Stationery Office, 2008).

The DWP currently funds a programme of action to improve the health of the working-age population, including occupational health advice services for small businesses in England, Scotland and Wales. The services provide early and easy access to support, to help employers respond to individual employee health issues, including mental health and well-being issues.

Provision of the services up to March 2011 has been independently evaluated. An interim report, covering service provision up to October 2010, was published in July 2011. Early findings included:

the services are being used by the target population, ie small and medium-sized businesses that are dealing with an occupational health issue involving an employee with a health condition;service users appreciated speedy access to a high-quality service, support tailored to their needs, and the reassurance provided that they were taking the right approach; andthe services have been successful in encouraging employers to take on elements of good absence management.

The final report is due to be published in spring 2012.

Financial Services Compensation Scheme

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) provides compensation to consumers in the event that their financial services provider fails. The FSCS is funded by the financial services industry.

The FSCS may borrow from certain accounts administered by HM Treasury if necessary in order to pay out promptly to consumers. The terms of the loan need to reflect the risk and the cost to the Exchequer and would need to serve the public interest.

The funding model of the FSCS is currently under review by the Financial Services Authority, which expects to publish a consultation paper in the first quarter of this year.



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Gendercide

Question

Asked by Lord Tebbit

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): We are not aware of any evidence that abortion on the grounds of sex selection is being practised in Great Britain. This view is informed by the fact that clinicians are not reporting any concerns about requests for abortion based on the sex of the foetus or that this issue might be underlying requests for abortion. In addition, in 2010, 91 per cent of abortions performed on residents of England and Wales take place at 12 weeks' gestation or earlier and it is currently not possible to accurately determine the sex of the foetus until around 16 weeks' gestation.

Government Departments: Procurement

Question

Asked by Lord Prescott

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Departmental practice is for the card holder to check statements against usage and report any anomalies to the card issuing company. Under the terms of the contract with the issuing bank any financial loss arising from external fraud (such as cloned cards) was the responsibility of the card-issuing company that took forward any investigation. Consequently there would be no liability to departmental funds.

This process appears to have been followed and the seven transactions totalling £2,000 were fully recovered during the same financial year.

However, for the avoidance of doubt, we have no evidence that spending in this period at venues such as the Star City Casino, Doyles Seafood Restaurant in Sydney and at Sydney Aquarium, all of which were associated with the visit of the then Deputy Prime Minister (the noble Lord), were cloned transactions. Ministers in this Administration do not believe that such transactions represent value for money for the taxpayer.

It is clear to Ministers, from examining government procurement card spending across the department, that there was unnecessary expenditure. This criticism

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was reflected in Sir Philip Green's efficiency review in October 2010, which noted: "Procurement cards do not allow Government to control or monitor spend efficiently".

I believe that greater transparency on past and present transactions will help prevent the overuse and misuse of the government procurement card in the future. This is why, as I said in a Written Answer to the noble Lord on 12 January (WA107-8), my department has published detailed information on all transactions made using these corporate cards from April 2004 to October 2011, in response to a series of parliamentary questions and freedom of information requests, and has taken a series of steps to reduce unnecessary spending.

Health: Anthrax Vaccine

Questions

Asked by Lord Jopling

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Anthrax infection is rare in the United Kingdom and is not normally transmissible from person to person. Anthrax vaccine is offered only to those whose occupation puts them at a real risk of exposure to anthrax spores, such as those handling potentially contaminated animal products in the leather and wool industries, those working in locations abroad where exposure is highly likely-such as military personnel-and certain veterinarians. For all other occupations and the general public the current risk assessment of a potential deliberate release of anthrax spores through contaminated mail or aerosol dispersal systems does not warrant routine pre-exposure vaccination.

Bioterrorism threats and associated risks of a deliberate release of anthrax are kept under constant review.

Asked by Lord Jopling

Earl Howe: A stockpile of anthrax vaccine is maintained as part of the United Kingdom's national emergency preparedness strategy. Due to security considerations, details relating to the quantity of stock held are not shared publicly. This includes information relating to the production of any stock.



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Michael Brown

Question

Asked by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Electoral Commission is the independent body responsible for the regulation of party and election finance. The Government do not make representations on individual cases-to do so would be inappropriate and risk compromising the commission's independence.

Northern Ireland: Security

Questions

Asked by Lord Laird

Lord Shutt of Greetland: The decision to close Lower Chichester Street was based on the criteria set down in Section 32(1)(b) of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007, which states that a closure can be put in place if it is necessary for the preservation of peace and the maintenance of order.

The Minister of State for Northern Ireland confirmed that there is a continuing security need for the restrictions to remain in place at this time. This decision was made in the light of advice from the Police Service of Northern Ireland and threat assessment information available at the time.

The closure of other roads at the side did not form part of the request by the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

Asked by Lord Laird

Lord Shutt of Greetland: The threat level in Northern Ireland is currently "severe", meaning that a terrorist attack is highly likely. Terrorist groups continue to carry out attacks on the security forces in Northern Ireland, especially the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Combating terrorism in all its forms remains a priority for this Government and the exceptional provision

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of an additional £200 million funding to the Police Service of Northern Ireland is a clear demonstration of this commitment.

Planning

Question

Asked by Lord Vinson

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The draft National Planning Policy Framework maintains protection for the green belt, areas of outstanding natural beauty, national parks, heritage coast, the Broads, sites of special scientific interest and other designations that protect the character

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of our country's landscape, stop unsustainable urban sprawl and preserve wildlife.

We are considering carefully all the responses received to the consultation on the draft National Planning Policy Framework. I cannot pre-empt the outcome of the consultation process by commenting on what is to be included in the final framework, but we intend to publish the final document before the end of March this year.

UN: Year of the Co-operative 2012

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The House does not have any such plans. The United Nations promotes a variety of causes by designating a number of international days, weeks and years, and the House does not usually mark these formally.


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