Nuclear Weapons: Elimination
Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they would support in the United Nations a timetable to eliminate nuclear weapons if the plan secured the agreement of all other states including India and Pakistan.[HL2459]
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government remain committed to the global elimination of nuclear weapons. The question raises a hypothetical situation. Short of such unanimity and given the complexities of the issues involved, we remain to be convinced of the wisdom of a pre-set timetable.
Chiapas, Mexico: Church Closures
Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have any information about the reported expulsion or imprisonment of 11 priests and the closure of 40 churches in Chiapas province of Mexico; and whether they are discussing these matters and the apparent collapse of the Comision Nacional de Intermediacion (CONAI) as a mediating body with the Government of Mexico.[HL2440]
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Mexican Interior Ministry and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico have confirmed to our Embassy in Mexico City that there are no priests imprisoned in Mexico; and that only three, all foreign, have been expelled from the country. As of March 1998, there were 12 churches closed in Chiapas, mainly because of religious polarisation between Catholic and Protestant groups. None was closed by federal or state government order but by the authority of the churches themselves. Since
6 Jul 1998 : Column WA102
March, the Apostolic Nuncio has called on the Chiapan church to reopen churches for the benefit of local Catholics.
The National Mediation Commission (CONAI), established to mediate between the Mexican government and the Zapatista rebels (EZLN) in Chiapas, was dissolved on 7 June following the resignation of Bishop Ruiz as its President. We have not yet discussed this with the Mexican Government. CONAI had had no formal contact with the EZLN since August 1996. It is not yet clear what impact its dissolution will have on the Mexican Government's efforts to resume direct negotiations with the EZLN. The Congressional Commission on Chiapas (COCOPA) may have a bigger role to play in the future.
Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:
How many persons in Kosovo they estimate to have been displaced (a) into Montenegro, (b) into Albania, (c) into Macedonia and (d) within Kosovo; and whether they have any information about Chechens and Mujahadeen being involved in actions against the Serb forces.[HL2441]
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: At a UNHCR Humanitarian Issues Working Group on 26 June, Mrs. Ogata estimated that 77,000 people had been displaced from their homes in Kosovo. Twelve thousand had gone to Albania, 10,000 had gone to Montenegro and 55,000 were internally displaced. We have not received any information concerning displacement into Macedonia.
There have been rumours suggesting that some Chechens and Mujahadeen are present in Kosovo. We do not discount these.
Kurdish Refugees: Council of Europe Report
Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have studied the revised preliminary draft report of the Council of Europe's Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography of 20 April on the humanitarian situation of the Kurdish refugees and displaced persons in south-east Turkey and north Iraq; and whether they agree with its conclusions.[HL2436]
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have studied the revised preliminary draft report of the Council of Europe's Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography of 20 April 1998. We have also studied the final report, adopted by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on 25 June 1998. We are in broad agreement with the conclusions outlined in the final report, and with Assembly Recommendation 1377 and Assembly Order No. 545 on this issue.
6 Jul 1998 : Column WA103
Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:
How many dogs have been put down since the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997 came into force (a) under Section 1 and (b) under Section 3; and how often Section 4 of that Act is being used.[HL2442]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The numbers of dogs which have been put down following convictions under Section 1 and Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, as amended, since 8 June 1997 are 27 and 28 respectively.
Thirty dogs have been added to the Index of Exempted Dogs under the terms of the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997.
Essex Fire Authority: Redeployment Application
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have reached a decision on the application by the Essex Fire Authority under Section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947.[HL2599]
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr. George Howarth) has today advised the Essex Fire Authority that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has agreed to its application to redeploy an aerial appliance and two foam carrying vehicles, with a consequent reduction of 16 firefighting posts and the regrading of a further post.
The advice we have received from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Fire Services is unequivocal, that the proposals to redeploy the appliances are soundly based and that, if implemented by the authority, the Essex Fire Brigade will still be able to meet fully the national standards of fire cover.
Statutory responsibility for the provision of an efficient fire service rests with the local fire authority. In considering applications by fire authorities for reductions in firefighting resources, my right honourable friend must be satisfied that there has been adequate consultation and that, following any reductions, national standards of fire cover can continue to be maintained. In fulfilling this function, my right honourable friend relies on advice from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Fire Services.
Both my right honourable friend and my honourable friend are satisfied that the Essex Fire Authority has consulted properly over its proposals. There has also been opportunity for representations to be made direct to the Home Secretary and those seven which have been received have all been thoroughly considered.
6 Jul 1998 : Column WA104
NHS: GP Computer Systems
Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:
What progress has been made in implementing Recommendations 28 and 30 of the 1995 report, Patients not Paper.[HL2458]
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The information requested is as follows.
Recommendation 28 called for the National Health Service Executive to:
re-examine the feasibility and cost benefits of co-ordinating the purchase of hardware and software, using the purchasing power of the NHS to secure the most cost-effective solution.
The recommendations of the efficiency scrutinies have been taken into account in the continuing development of the NHS Executive's Information Management & Technology Strategy for the NHS. A study was undertaken during the previous administration which resulted in best practice guidance being issued to health authorities. This report (HA/GP Links review of Benefits) was published in March 1997.
Following the change of government, a more detailed study has been undertaken in broad consultation with health authorities and other relevant interest groups to identify and assess briefly the potential of co-ordinated general practitioner system purchasing initiatives and identify areas where the NHS Executive may have a role to play in co-ordinating GP system purchasing.
The main conclusions of this exercise were that:
the potential for bulk procurement is limited, given that 90 per cent. of practices are already computerised and many would be reluctant to undergo the costs and risks of changing suppliers;
there are opportunities for active intervention by both health authorities and the NHS Executive to make significant savings on current GP computing spending;
there is relatively little co-ordination to ensure value-for-money, and spending restrictions deter health authorities from active intervention;
the practice/supplier contractual relationship has benefits, but is open to exploitation by suppliers;
the potential to make significant cost savings is currently constrained by national GP computing policy, which is intended to provide reimbursement to individual practices to purchase independent systems which meet their own practice requirements.
The main recommendations made from the study were that:
health authorities consider the opportunities identified in this report for improving value-for-money from GP computing;
the NHS Executive and its regional offices undertake certain co-ordination activities which are
6 Jul 1998 : Column WA105
best carried out once centrally, such as developing model contracts for use by suppliers and practices;
the NHS Executive encourages HAs to allocate resources to GP computing co-ordination, and removes the existing disincentives;
the NHS Executive investigates alternative models of providing GP information systems in the future--for example, one based on a view of practices forming an integral part of the NHS providing services to patients.
Work is continuing within the NHS Executive to see how these recommendations can be taken forward within the context of the review of the IM&T Strategy currently being undertaken, and the Government's plans for the reorganisation of primary care services and the exploitation of information technology to improve the delivery of healthcare as outlined in the recent White Paper The new NHS--modern and dependable. The report of this later study was published in April 1998; a copy is available on the Internet at:
Recommendation 30 called for the NHS Executive to:
take action to co-ordinate the efforts of the GP system suppliers to ensure their limited time and resources are deployed to best effect.
Following the publication of the efficiency scrutinies under the previous administration, the NHS Executive has established the NHS Executive and Systems Supplier Liaison Forum to maintain and consolidate effective liaison with GP systems suppliers through a series of regular meetings. These meetings include systems suppliers from secondary and community care sectors of the NHS, as well as the involvement of Primary Care policy representatives and others as appropriate. The NHS Executive continues to develop close relationships with system suppliers in support of the Government's plans to ensure that all GP practices are using the NHS's information superhighway, the NHSnet, by 1999.