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The Lord Chancellor: Conditional fee agreements supported by insurance policies can provide access to justice for individuals seeking to pursue clinical negligence cases who are ineligible for legal aid. The insurance market provides and is continuing to develop affordable products to support conditional fee agreements for civil actions including clinical negligence cases.
The Lord Chancellor: In its paper Access to Justice with Conditional Fees (March 1998), the Government considered whether it was appropriate to remove clinical negligence from the ambit of the Legal Aid Scheme. The Government were of the view that, while sufficiently experienced lawyers ought to be able to employ conditional fee agreements in such cases, the provision of insurance for such cases was relatively new and many solicitors' firms may not yet be financially structured in a way that would enable them to bear the investigative costs associated with clinical negligence. In recognition of this, clinical negligence cases will continue to attract public funding. However as the market develops and lawyers adapt to the greater use of conditional fees, the position will be kept under review.
The Lord Chancellor: The Government are currently considering the recommendations made by the Law Commission in their report on Trustees' Powers and Duties, which was published on 20 July. It is expected that a formal response will be made during the next session of Parliament.
The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The European Commission has proposed that Directive 80/181/EEC on units of measurement, as amended by Directive 89/617/EEC, should be amended to authorise the use of imperial units in all member states as "supplementary indications" alongside the equivalent metric units until 31 December 2009. The Government expect the proposal to be adopted by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament later this year.
It is an offence under Section 8 of the Weights and Measures Act 1985 for traders to fail to use units of measurement authorised for the sale of goods by weight or measure. Offences are liable to a fine not exceeding £2,000 and the forfeiture of measuring equipment. Under legislation made in 1994, the ounce and the pound are authorised for trade after 31 December 1999 only as supplementary indications.
(a) Thirty-seven of the UK radiotherapy centres have expressed an interest in participating in the START trial. Twenty-three of these 37 centres are already recruiting patients and a further nine have local research ethics committee approval.
(b) The objectives of the trial are to test the effects of radiotherapy schedules using fraction sizes larger than 2.0Gy in terms of normal tissue response, loco-regional tumour control, quality of life and economic consequences in women prescribed postoperative radiotherapy for early breast cancer.
(c) There is considerable variability in radiotherapy regimes used to treat breast cancer in Germany, North America and Europe and no widely accepted method. One of the commonest regimes is 2Gy per day, and this is one of the regimes in the START trial. There is no evidence that this is the optimal fractionation regime and there is a need for prospective good quality comparative data, comparing this with other regimes for both local control rates and short and long term morbidity to establish best practice in the area. This is the purpose of the START trial.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government believe that misleading and over-aggressive selling practices are unacceptable, and have helped to introduce changes to curb such activities in the domestic gas market, including a licence condition covering marketing, and strengthened doorstep selling regulations. Also, members of the Association of Energy Suppliers have established a marketing code of practice.
The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets has been monitoring the sales activities of suppliers. The changes which have been introduced are having a positive effect, but some complaints about misleading doorstep selling are still being made. The Government look to the Regulator to take tough action where evidence of abuses exists. Ofgem is currently looking closely at the marketing activities of some suppliers, and is working with the industry to ensure that abuses are stamped out.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The application for judicial review had been sought on the basis of a claim that the Secretary of State's decision in this case was unlawful because a legitimate expectation had been frustrated, the underlying policy was not logical or consistent, and the decision was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgment rejected all those challenges. The court therefore upheld the Secretary of State's decision and policy as lawful, consistent and fair.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): It is not for the Government to give a definitive statement of the law in this area: that is the role of the courts.
The Goode Committee, in its Report on Pension Law Reform, considered the question of how far trustees might lawfully have regard to ethical and social considerations in deciding on investments. Their view was that trustees were entitled to avoid certain kinds of prudent investment that they considered scheme members would regard as objectionable, so long as they made equally advantageous investments elsewhere, and that they were entitled to put funds into investments which they believed the members would regard as desirable, providing these were proper investments on other grounds. However, trustees were not entitled to subordinate the interests of the beneficiaries to ethical or social demands and thereby deprive the beneficiaries of investment income or opportunities they would otherwise have enjoyed.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The estimated number of Invalid Care Allowance (ICA) recipients that undertake work in the form of paid employment or self-employment is around 50,000. This is 13 per cent. of ICA recipients.
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