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Written Answers

Volume 961: debated on Tuesday 30 January 1979

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Written Answers To Questions

Tuesday 30 January 1979

Social Services

Maintenance Of Services (Industrial Disputes)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action he intends to take to maintain services in the light of current industrial unrest in the National Health Service.

It is the responsibility of health authorities to make plans and arrangements locally to maintain services and to meet emergencies.

Smoking

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the progress of his Department's campaign to discourage smoking.

There is clear and encouraging evidence of real progress. The proportion of adults who do not smoke continues to rise. The sales of cigarettes are still falling; the latest reduction reported by the industry was 5·8 per cent. for the year ending 30 April 1978 compared with the corresponding period in 1976–77. Moreover, those who continue to smoke have become more conscious of the tar content of cigarettes and are turning to lower tar cigarettes.

Children Act 1975

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a statement on the implementation of the Children Act 1975.

A number of important provisions came into force in 1976 but since then shortage of funds has held up further implementation. I am determined to ensure the full implementation of the Act when circumstances permit and to make progress during the International Year of the Child. I am reexamining the cost and timing of implementing the remaining provisions with the local authority associations.

Creaton Hospital, Northamptonshire

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to make a decision on the future of Creaton hospital, Northamptonshire.

I refer the hon. Member to my reply to his similar Question on 7 November last.—[Vol. 957, c. 105.] I am considering a number of issues affecting this closure proposal and have asked for views and ideas. I will take a decision as soon as possible.

National Health Service (Industrial Relations)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the current state of industrial relations in the National Health Service.

I am gravely concerned by the current industrial action in the Health Service. Discussions on these pay claims are continuing on the basis of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's proposals on low pay and comparability studies.I have taken action on a number of fronts to improve industrial relations in the NHS. For example, proposals for a new local disputes procedure are now being considered by the General Whitley Council. Special attention is being paid to training personnel officers and local managers in the skills and techniques of industrial relations.

54.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the current state of industrial relations in the National Health Service.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd) earlier today.

Maternity Grant

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services to what level the maternity grant would have to be raised to make it equal in value to its last uprating to £25.

The maternity grant was raised to its present level of £25 in November 1969. It would have to be increased to £73 to restore the 1969 value.

Social Workers (Withdrawal Of Labour)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what assessment he has made of the effects of the withdrawal of labour by social workers in a number of local authority areas; and if he will make a statement.

In the 14 authorities with strikes by field social workers there has been a serious and damaging disruption of services affecting children, old people, the disabled and other vulnerable groups. I have repeatedly urged the local authority employers and the social workers to solve the dispute through the proper negotiating channels. I was glad that on Friday NALGO approved proposals for a new grading framework for field social workers. I hope this will lead to a quick end to this damaging and unnecessary action.

Pension Funds

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what further proposals he has relating to the management of independent pension funds.

The Government remain committed to the introduction of legislation which will give recognised independent trade unions the right to nominate up to 50 per cent. of the trustees or the members of a comparable body concerned with the management of an occupational pension scheme.

51.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what further proposals he has relating to the management of independent pension funds.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Members for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and Leek (Mr. Knox) earlier today.

Nurses (Pay)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is now in a position to reply to the request of nurses for special treatment in future pay awards, in view of the vocational nature of their employment.

The Government are at present carefully considering the repre- sentations made by the nurses and midwives Whitley Council and I have undertaken to give a decision to the Whitley Council as soon as possible.

56.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now make a statement on nurses' pay.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for Surbiton (Sir N. Fisher) earlier today.

Retirement Pensioners

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans he has to introduce a rent-free scheme for retirement pensioners.

My right hon. Friend has no such plans. It would be inappropriate to make provision for national insurance retirement pensioners to live rent free, irrespective of their financial circumstances. Pensioners with limited incomes are entitled to claim a rent rebate or allowance, a rate rebate or supplementary benefit.

Secure Units

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action he proposes to take to encourage regional health authorities to speed up the provision of regional secure units for the mentally ill.

I shall continue to press for regional secure units and interim facilities to be treated as priorities by all concerned, and thus to build on the slow, but of late more encouraging, progress being made. In this task my Department will seek by all means available to play its full part in helping health authorities to overcome the various problems they face in establishing the programmes.

70.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will detail the progress made by regional health authorities in the provision of regional secure units for the mentally ill and mentally handicapped since 1975, detailing the amounts of money centrally allocated for this purpose; and how much has been spent in each year.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my replies to my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) on 20 November 1978, 30 November 1978 and 4 December 1978.—[Vol. 958, c. 491; Vol. 959, c. 286–8; Vol. 959, c. 490–2.] The necessary capital funds, estimated at a total of £14 million at 1975 prices, have not been allocated to regional health authorities in advance but are made available to them each year as estimates are approved.

asked the the Secretary of State for Social Services if the £2,419,000 allocated to the North-West Thames and South-West Thames regional health authorities, for the specific purpose of establishing secure psychiatric units for the mentally disordered, will be carried forward to the next financial year without a corresponding cut-back from other items of expenditure.

The £2·419 million quoted by my hon. Friend relates to the total revenue allocated over three years for running regional secure units. In the current financial year North-West Thames and South-West Thames regional health authorities have £482,000 and £406,000 respectively for this purpose: equivalent sums will be included in the 1979–80 revenue allocations. Since the sums are already in the allocations the question of corresponding savings in other expenditure will not arise.

Mentally Handicapped Persons (Birmingham)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how the standard of facilities provided for the care of the mentally handicapped and the mentally ill in Birmingham compares with that of other large urban areas; and to what extent the facilities fall short of the standard regarded as necessary by his Department.

I have no reliable means of making comparisons of quality. On quantity, the latest published statistics show that, in relation to population, the number of places available in various forms of personal social services provision for these groups in Birmingham is still below the numbers in the English metropolitan areas taken as a whole; which are in turn below the long-term aim set out in the guidelines in two White Papers, "Better Services for the Mentally Handicapped" and "Better Services for the Mentally Ill".

Perinatal Mortality (Salop)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action he proposes to take to effect a reduction in the high perinatal mortality rate in the area of the Salop area health authority; and if he will make a statement.

Following a review of standards and procedures for perinatal care, Salop area health authority proposes to increase staffing levels in labour wards, and also in the special care baby unit at the Royal Shrewsbury hospital. Copthorne. There has already been an increase in paediatric junior medical staff. Additional monitoring equipment is being purchased for labour wards and, in due course, for the special care baby unit.Training courses in neonatal care are being developed regionally and West Midlands regional health authority has made an initial allocation of £150,000—£20,000 in the current financial year—towards the further development of neonatal intensive care in Birmingham which will provide a service to the region as a whole. In addition, the region's strategic plan due to be submitted shortly to my Department is expected to contain proposals for capital developments affecting maternity services in the eastern part of the county.

Consultant Services (Nottinghamshire)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he proposes to take to assist the Trent regional health authority to improve its staffing rates for consultants in anaesthetics, radiology, mental illness, general medicine, and other important medical positions, which are currently the lowest in England and Wales.

The Government have placed a high priority on reducing the disparity in health provision in different parts of the country and is committed to financial and manpower policies aimed at achieving this. Under the RAWP formula, Trent regional health authority will continue to have a higher than average rate of growth. In addition, my Department will continue to give priority to the authority's requests for additional consultant posts while medical recruitment will be helped by the recent establishment of two medical schools in the region.

Benefits (Industrial Disputes)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the amount paid in social security benefits to the wives and children of men on strike during the current financial year; what was the equivalent sum paid during the same period in the previous financial year; and what proposals he has for altering the present criteria for such payments.

In the current financial year up to 28 November, £1·9 million was paid in supplementary benefit to the dependants of those on strike. In the financial year 1977–78 the corresponding figure was £1·2 million.I have no proposals for altering the present criteria for these payments. The rules on the payment of benefit in trade disputes are being considered as part of the second stage of the review of the supplementary benefit scheme. A basic assumption for this work is the continuation of the striker's entitlement to benefit for his dependants.

68.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received supporting or opposing changes in the eligibility to benefit of the wives and children of those involved in industrial disputes.

I have received a number of representations on this matter. The Government's policy remains as set out in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) on 5th December 1978.—[Vol. 959, c. 1200–1.]

United States Of America (Reciprocal Agreement)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress has been made in formulating a social security reciprocal agreement with the United States of America; and if he will make a statement.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to him on 23rd January.—[Vol. 961, c. 102.] Since that reply officials of my Department have also discussed the matter with the American Embassy in London which has had a number of unofficial representations on the matter.

Kidney Donors

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many people are currently registered as kidney donors; and what steps are being taken to encourage this registration by his Department.

There is no register of kidney donors, although people who wish to donate their kidneys are encouraged to record their wishes on a kidney donor card and carry this with them. My Department has given considerable publicity to the scheme and since it started in 1972 over 24 million cards have been issued. There are encouraging indications that the number of people possessing a kidney donor card has increased significantly recently.

National Health Service (Industrial Relations)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the effect of current industrial disputes on the National Health Service.

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the effect of current industrial disputes on the National Health Service.

I refer the hon. Members to my reply to the hon. Member for Reading, South (Dr. Vaughan) on 22 January and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) on 25 January.—[Vol. 961, c. 27–36; Vol. 961, c. 678–84.]

Royal College Of Nursing

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he last met representatives of the Royal College of Nursing.

57.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he last met representatives of the Royal College of Nursing.

59.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he last met representatives of the Royal College of Nursing.

I frequently meet representatives of the Royal College of Nursing in discussions concerning particular aspects of the National Health Service or the nursing services. I last met a full delegation from the Royal College on 30 October, when we had a wide-ranging discussion, based on a paper which the Royal College had produced on "The State of Nursing in the NHS in 1978".

Pension Funds

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what further proposals he has relating to the management of independent pension funds.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) earlier today.

Nurses (Car Allowance)

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will review the proposed levying of income tax upon car allowances to district nurses serving in densely populated urban areas.

Arrangements for taxation have recently been reviewed by my Department and the Inland Revenue. The position is that public transport and standard rate mileage allowances are free of tax unless paid for home-to-work journeys. Staff who are paid regular user car allowances will pay tax on a proportion of their allowances if they drive 3,000 miles or less a year on official business but not otherwise.

Pharmaceutical Industry

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what consultations he has had with the pharmaceutical industry about the export of its products.

My Department maintains close links with the pharmaceutical industry. We have an important interest in its exports which last year reached some £650 million—nearly 40 per cent. going to less developed countries. Our requirement that export certificates should bear the batch number of the medicine facilitates the maintenance of safety and quality controls over exported products.

Hospital Waiting Lists

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimate he has made of the number of people added to the hospital waiting lists as a result of recent disputes.

53.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimate he has made of the number of people added to hospital waiting lists as a result of recent disputes.

69.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimate he has made of the effect of recent Indus trial disputes in the National Health Service on hospital waiting lists.

Waiting lists will inevitably be affected by the current industrial action by Health Service workers and by lorry drivers, but full information about the effects is not at present held centrally. As regards the effects of the industrial action by hospital works staff last year, I refer the hon. Members to my reply to the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) on 6th November.—[Vol. 957, c. 38.]

Teaching Hospitals (London)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement about the future relationship between the teaching hospitals in London and the four London regional health authorities and their possible separation.

The Government have decided not to undertake any major change in the organisation of the National Health Service in advance of receiving and considering the report of the Royal Commission on the NHS which is expected later this year.

South-East Thames Region (Resource Allocation)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the progress towards implementation of the Resource Allocation Working Party report in the South-East Thames region.

Some progress has been made in the reallocation of resources in the region but problems have also been encountered and I shall not be satisfied until they are solved. I have set up a national Advisory Group on Resource Allocation to advise me on any modification which can with advantage be made to the formula recommended by the Resource Allocation Working Party in its 1976 report "Sharing Resources for Health in England". Concurrently a joint working group of representatives of my Department and the four Thames regions is considering the steps necessary to establish a uniform approach to the calculation of area and district target allocations in those regions.So far as the South-East Thames region is concerned, I would refer my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend's reply on 26 January.—[Vol. 961, c.

280–1.]

Chronically Sick Patients (Cambridgeshire)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, in the light of the fact that the Cambridgeshire area health authority is unable to provide long-term care for all the chronically sick patients for whom it is required as a result of financial reasons, whether he will ensure that this health authority and all others are provided with sufficient funds to discharge their statutory duties.

If the hon. Gentleman has a particular case in mind, I should be grateful if he would write to me about it.

Dangerous Pathogens Advisory Group

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now agree to the reform of the Dangerous Pathogens Advisory Group and, in particular, in such a way as to make provision for trade union representation.

As I announced in my statement on 24 January, the Government have decided that the responsibilities and constitution of the Dangerous Pathogens Advisory Group should be widened and that its membership should be broadened so as to represent those who run and work in the laboratories and the wider public interest.—[Vol. 961, c. 436.]

Public Sector Employees

40.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has any plans to meet representatives of workers employed in the public sector.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my replies to the hon. Members for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel), Reading, South (Dr. Vaughan) and Ealing North (Mr. Molloy) earlier today.

Mobility Allowance

41.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many disabled people are obtaining the mobility allowance at the latest available date.

At 15 January 1979 a total of 103,494 people were in receipt of mobility allowance. This figure included 21,904 awards of "no age limit" mobility allowance to former beneficiaries of the NHS vehicle service.

Patients' Charter

42.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress has been made in drawing up a patients' charter.

50.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress has been made in drawing up a patients' charter.

I have had discussions with the leaders of the main NHS unions and professions on the possibility of some form of code of practice to govern industrial action in the Health Service. It has not so far been possible to achieve agreement on detailed national procedures or guidelines that would be generally suitable in local circumstances. It is not merely the wide variety of the treatment situations and the varying degrees of dependence of the patient; there is the wide range of NHS staff who contribute in one way or another to treatment and care and industrial action may, therefore, take a wide variety of forms. I have decided that the arrangements for maintaining emergency or minimum services must be determined locally and, at my request, health authorities are discussing these with local representatives of the unions. Any difficulties that cannot be settled locally will be taken up urgently by the health Departments with the unions concerned at national level.

Supplementary Benefit

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what would be the cost of equalising short-term and long-term supplementary benefits.

Leaving out of account the cost of paying benefit to people who would become entitled to supplementary benefit on account of such an increase, but assuming that children's rates were increased by the same proportion as would be needed to increase the adult rates to the long-term rates, about £340 million annually.

Secure Units

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what further measures he proposes to take to ensure that the regional health authorities actually spend the £17 million special revenue allocation given to them for regional secure psychiatric units on the establishment of such units.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) earlier today.The revenue funds for staffing and other recurrent expenditure for regional secure units amount to £6·5 million per year at current pay and price levels. This sum, suitably revalued, will be included and separately identified in the 1979–80 revenue allocations to regional health authorities which will be urged to devote any part of their special allocations which they cannot spend on secure facilities to other psychiatric services.

Lambeth, Lewisham And Southwark Area Health Authority

45.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has now completed his coterminosity review of the Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark area health authority; and if he will make a statement.

The question whether possible changes in the structure and organisation of the Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham area health authority (teaching) would be beneficial is still under consideration. Of more immediate importance is the urgent need for that authority to take steps to bring its expenditure under control in accordance with the instructions I issued on 8 December 1978.

Mentally Handicapped Persons (Hospital Residence)

46.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the latest available figure for the total number of people living in hospitals for the mentally handicapped; and what percentage has been in hospital for (a) 10 or more years and (b) 20 or more years.

It is estimated that on 31 December 1976, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 48,773 patients in hospitals and units for the mentally handicapped in England. The corresponding figure for Wales was 2,303. Reliable information about mentally handicaped patients who have been in continuous hospital residence for 10 years or more can be obtained only from censuses. The results of the last census held at the end of 1970 showed that 67 per cent. of all mentally handicapped patients in hospital in England and Wales had been in continuous hospital residence for 10 or more years and 42 per cent. for 20 or more years.

Disabled Persons (Mobility)

47.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent representations he has received about the mobility problems of disabled people.

We have received many representations on aspects of this complex but most important subject, for example, on the difficulties of blind and mentally handicapped people. If the hon. Member has any special point in mind, I shall be glad to look into it for him.

Invalid Tricycle (Replacement)

48.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a further report on his progress towards finding an alternative vehicle to replace the invalid tricycle.

Existing stocks of three-wheelers, which are being carefully conserved, will be adequate to meet the needs of present users of the vehicle until 1982 or 1983 and possibly longer. At the moment, I can go no further than my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) on 27 November 1978.—[Vol. 959, c. 54–6.]

Disabled Drivers

49.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent consultations he has had with representatives of disabled drivers.

Both I and my officials are in frequent touch with organisations representing disabled people, including those concerned with mobility.

Motability

52.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the working of the Motability scheme.

Since its establishment a little over a year ago, Motability has made excellent progress. It is an independent voluntary organisation which will, I have no doubt, be prepared to consider any suggestions which the hon. Member may care to put to it.

Common Waiting Lists

55.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to reach agreement on a common waiting list for patients suffering considerable pain and discomfort but for whom treatment is regarded by the medical profession as non-urgent.

I wrote to health authorities on 19 December about common waiting lists. A copy of my letter was placed in the Library of the House. I will be considering steps for the extension of common waiting lists on receipt of the reports which I requested from authorities by the beginning of July 1979.

Fraud (Prosecutions)

58.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many prosecutions for fraud have been brought by his Department in the last four years.

The number of prosecutions for social security fraud by my Department, including those undertaken on behalf of the Department of Employment, were as follows:

197410,221
197511,404
197613,113
1977–818,842
As from February 1977 the figures given above relate to a period from February to February which is the Department's statistical year.These figures exclude social security frauds prosecuted by the police or Post Office in 1977–78; these amounted to 7,216.

Retirement Pensions (Payment)

60.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make arrangements for retirement pensions to be paid either four-weekly or quarterly direct to the bank account of the recipient, or by means of a Giro transfer to pensioners having an account with the National Giro bank.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Thompson) on Thursday 25 January.—[Vol. 961, c. 243.]

Ward Closures (Bromley)

61.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received on the subject of proposed ward closures in the Bromley area; and if he will make a statement.

I have received representations about the closure of beds in Bromley from the hon. Members for Croydon, Central (Mr. Moore), Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) and 21 members of the public. Bromley area health authority is over-provided with acute beds under current planning guidelines and is proposing to reduce the number with the aim of enabling it to keep within its cash limits and to provide the authority with a securer basis for developing other services, particularly those for the elderly, mentally ill, mentally handicapped, and children.

Benefits (Convicted Persons)

62.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received on the subject of withholding supplementary benefits from families of murderers, rapists and others convicted of serious crimes.

Pension And Tax Years (Alignment)

63.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will align the pension year with the tax year so that both begin on the same date.

The Government have no plans to alter the arrangement whereby pensions and other social security benefits are uprated annually in November. This ensures pensioners and other beneficiaries their increases before the onset of winter, with its higher fuel costs, and this has proved to be a satisfactory arrangement.

Kidney Transplants

64.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the adequacy of provision for kidney transplant surgery within the National Health Service.

I am satisfied that there are adequate facilities for transplanting all the available donor kidneys within the National Health Service. Despite a recent welcome increase in the number of kidneys being transplanted, the continuing shortage of donor kidneys is the major factor preventing a further increase in the number of transplants taking place. I am taking several measures to improve the supply of kidneys by encouraging more people through the kidney donor card scheme to become kidney donors, and hospital staff to identify suitable donors and initiate the process of organ removal. These measures include the production of a film for use by transplant surgeons to demonstrate the value of kidney transplantation and the accompanying procedures to other hospital staff, and the setting up of a working party, under the chairmanship of Lord Smith, to produce a code of practice for the removal of organs for transplantation.

National Insurance (Contributions)

65.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services by how much the weekly national insurance contribution would have to be increased to produce £400 million per annum.

On the economic assumptions used in the Government Actuary's report on the Contributions Re-rating Order 1978, Cmnd. 7403, an increase in the standard contribution rate of 0·55 per cent. for employees or 0·50 per cent. for employers would increase contributions on earnings in the tax year 1979–80 in Great Britain by £400 million.

Mobility Allowance

66.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent representations he has received concerning the mobility allowance.

We have received many representations on various aspects of mobility allowance, for example, on the phasing-in of new age-groups, the abolition of vehicle excise duty and the extention of the allowance to disabled people after age 65.If the hon. Member has any special point in mind, I shall be glad to look into it for him.

Short-Term Benefits

67.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the current level of short-term benefits.

Short-term benefit rates were increased as recently as last November. My right hon. Friend is statutorily required to review their level in each financial year and to make at least such adjustments as are necessary to maintain their value.

Foster Children

71.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many young offenders are currently being fostered in private families; and how many children who would otherwise have been placed in care were fostered in 1977 and 1978.

We estimate that on 31 March 1977 about 500 young offenders in the care of local authorities in England were boarded out in foster homes. This estimate is based on information which was not available when I replied to my hon. Friend's Question on 1 December 1978.—[Vol. 959, c. 413–4.] We have also provisionally estimated that on 31 March 1977 6,100 privately fostered children were being supervised by local authorities in England under the child protection provisions of the Children Act 1958. Figures are not yet available for 1978.

Cinemas (Access For Handicapped Persons)

72.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will seek powers to ensure that cinemas are so constructed or adapted to allow access of handicapped persons consistent with fire and safety regulations.

The problems of access to cinemas for handicapped people is referred to in the report of the Silver Jubilee committee on improving access for disabled people. The committee's report, copies of which are available in the Library, recommended that the access sections of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 should be made mandatory and that there should be a review of fire precautions as they affect disabled people.As I announced on 25 January in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), Ministers will be considering the report's recommendations both urgently and sympathetically. I shall also be looking to the Silver Jubilee committee's successor body, the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People, to which I referred in the same reply, to carry forward the important work of improving access on which the Silver Jubilee committee has made such a significant impact.

Sickness Benefit

73.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will ensure that young unemployed workers who become ill are informed that during the period of their illness they are entitled to social security, instead of leaving them in many cases in ignorance of the fact and merely with a refusal of sickness benefit because of an insufficiency of contributions.

I have no reason to believe that such persons generally are not aware that they may claim supplementary benefit. Notifications that sickness benefit is not payable specifically draw attention to the point.

Benefits (Withdrawal)

74.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services on how many occasions in the latest 12-month period for which figures are available benefits have been withdrawn from persons on the grounds that they are not seriously willing to take work available; and whether he is satisfied with the methods open to officers of his Department for dealing with those who are reluctant to take work.

Between 1 October 1977 and 30 September 1978, the latest 12 month period for which information is available, unemployment benefit was disallowed or withdrawn from claimants on 5,058 occasions because they either neglected to avail themselves of, or refused, suitable employment. As regards supplementary benefit, in 1977, 60,761 people, including 2,920 seeking work of a seasonal nature, ceased to draw benefits as a result of action taken by unemployment review officers.I am satisfied.

Trycilic Drugs

75.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether, in view of the high rate of suicide among patients taking trycilic anti-depressant drugs, he will issue guidance on the use of this drug.

These drugs are available only on prescription. It is for the prescribing doctor to advise his patient on the use of the drug and to supervise the treatment. Information for this purpose is provided in the data sheets issued by the manufacturers, some of whom already stress the need to maintain close supervision of severely depressed patients, particularly in the early stages of therapy, and to avoid allowing them access to large quantities of the drug. Steps are being taken in line with the recommendations of the Committee on the Review of Medicines to ensure that this kind of advice is made explicit in all data sheets.

Phipps Respiratory Unit

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he is taking to ensure the continued operation of the Phipps respiratory unit; and if he will make a statement thereon.

The future of the Phipps unit is currently under consideration by the Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham AHA(T) and the South East Thames RHA. I have asked the RHA to inform me as soon as possible of the conclusion that is reached. In the meantime, I take this opportunity to pay warm tribute to the valuable works being done by the unit's skilled and dedicated staff.

Order Books (Thefts)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps are taken to minimise the bulk theft of claimants' order books from social security offices.

A programme of improvements to the physical security of local offices is nearing completion. The measures taken are intended to provide better protection for order books and other instruments of payment. To describe these measures would detract from their effectiveness.

"Respect For Medicines" (Campaign)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how much will be spent by the Health Education Council on its national "Respect for Medicines" campaign.

The Health Education Council expects to spend some £200,000 in 1978–79 on the "Respect for Medicines" campaign which is due to be launched on 5 February in co-operation with the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.

Community Health Councils

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many complaints he has received from the medical profession of breaches of confidentiality by community health councils in connection with service committee cases; what was the number of such cases; and if he will make a statement.

Representatives of general medical practitioners have raised this matter with officers of the Department, and cited two specific cases. I am aware of a very small number of other cases where it is suggested that community health councils were concerned in breaches of confidentiality.A meeting is being arranged between representatives of the medical profession and of the community health councils, with officials of my Department also present, at which the matter will be discussed. I recognise the importance of confidentiality for both doctors and patients, and the legitimate interest of community health councils in these cases; I am confident that any problems can be resolved by co-operation between the bodies concerned.

Hospital Consultants And Waiting Lists

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services why an increase in the number of hospital consultants leads to an increase in the number of patients on waiting lists.

In recent years the number of hospital consultants has increased, as have levels of hospital activity. There has also unfortunately, been an increase in waiting lists. There is no single explanation for this phenomenon.

Orthopaedic Belts And Corsets (Repair)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement regarding the withdrawal of the repair service for orthopaedic belts and corsets at Birmingham general hospital.

I am advised that there has been no withdrawal or diminution of service, but if my hon. Friend has a particular case in mind I shall be pleased to have it looked into.

Resource Allocation Working Party

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will take steps to modify the Resource Allocation Working Party formula.

I refer my right hon. Friend to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) on 9 November 1978—[Vol. 957. c. 346–7]—giving the terms of reference and membership of the Advisory Group on Resource Allocation. I shall consider modifications to the Resource Allocation Working Party formula in the light of advice that I receive from the group.

Attendance Allowance

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many children were receiving attendance allowance at each rate in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and each English

NUMBER OF CHILDREN IN RECEIPT OF ATTENDANCE ALLOWANCE AT 31 DECEMBER 1978
Higher RateLower Rate
Standard Regions/CountryNumberPer 1,000 child population*NumberPer 1,000 child population*
Northern1,2281·591,5051·94
Yorkshire and Humberside1,7631·462,4672·04
East Midlands†2,1531·572,3201·69
East Anglia†
South East5,5951·427,7641·96
South West1,3161·331,8101·83
West Midlands2,1531·642,9122·22
North West3,2221·973,6732·24
England17,4301·5522,4512·00
Wales1,2771·911,3892·07
Scotland1,7171·282,5641·91
Northern Ireland‡1,0722·291,1072·36
*The population figures are estimated as at mid-1976.
† Separate figures for East Midlands and East Anglia are not available.
‡ Figures for Northern Ireland have been supplied by the Department of Health and Social Services, Northern Ireland and relate to 6 October 1978.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many adults were receiving attendance allowance at each rate in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and each English region, respectively, at the last date for which

NUMBER OF ADULTS IN RECEIPT OF ATTENDANCE ALLOWANCE AT 31 DECEMBER 1978
Higher RateLower Rate
Standard Regions/CountryNumberPer 1,000 adult population*NumberPer 1,000 adult population*
Northern7,8523·348,8403·77
Yorkshire and Humberside10,2842·7911,9233·24
East Midlands†13,8843·3312,1622·92
East Anglia†
South East41,9093·2440,4863·13
South West12,8273·9313,1664·03
West Midlands12,5073·2512,2863·19
North West18,7873·8219,5593·98
England118,0503·36118,4223·37
Wales13,2046·3010,9825·24
Scotland11,0162·8511,5923·00
Northern Ireland‡6,6126·185,7695·39
*The population figures are estimated as at mid-1976.
†Separate figures for East Midlands and East Anglia are not available.
‡Figures for Northern Ireland have been supplied by the Department of Health and Social Services, Northern Ireland, and relate to 6 October 1978.

Butazolidin

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will publish what information he has on the contra-side-effects resulting from the use of Butazolidin and the number of

region, respectively, at the last date for which figures are available; and if he will express each figure per 1,000 child population.

The information requested is as follows:figures are available; and it he will express each figure per 1,000 adult population.

The information requested is as follows:patients who have suffered such contra-side-effects.

Butazolidin is one of a large number of medicines containing phenylbutazone which have been in use for many years. On the basis of a study by the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) published in 1977 (BMJ 1, 1500) the incidence of fatal blood disorders, which are the main risk associated with phenylbutazone, was estimated to be 2·2 per 100,000 patients treated. Most of these deaths occur in those who are both aged and severely incapacitated. Therefore, the risks of treatment with this drug which are well known have to be balanced against the undoubted benefit to patients suffering from painful conditions.

Hospital Admissions

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many people were taken to hospital by the police or volunteers on 22 January; and whether he is aware of any instances in which the absence of emergency cover by the normal ambulance service aggravated the condition of the patient.

Hospitals (Industrial Action)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) whether he expects that hospitals' waiting lists will be lengthened as a result of recent strikes and industrial action; and if so, by how much;(2) how many National Health Service hospitals in England and Wales were closed on 22nd January as a result of industrial action;(3) how many National Health Service hospitals in England and Wales were restricting admissions on 22 January as a result of industrial action;(4) how many National Health Service patients were evacuated from hospitals because of industrial action that took place on 22 January.

Waiting lists will inevitably be affected by the current industrial action by Health Service workers and lorry drivers. However, full information about the effects of the industrial action on 22 January and subsequently on hospital services in England and Wales is not at present held centrally.

Emergency Services (Code Of Conduct)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress he has made in establishing a code of conduct to safeguard the rights of patients during hospital disputes.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will seek to establish with the unions concerned a code of conduct to cover situations where human lives are at risk.

I have had discussions with the leaders of the main NHS unions and professions, but so far it has not been possible to achieve agreement on detailed national procedures or guidelines that would be generally suitable in local circumstances. It is not merely the wide variety of the treatment situations and the varying degrees of dependence of the patient; there is the wide range of NHS staff who contribute in one way or another to treatment and care and industrial action may, therefore, take a wide variety of forms. I have decided that the arrangements for maintaining emergency or minimum services must be determined locally and, at my request, health authorities are discussing these with local representatives of the unions. Any difficulties that cannot be settled locally will be taken up urgently by the health departments with the unions concerned at national level.

Hospital (Medical Supplies)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the level of medical supplies that is currently available to hospitals.

I cannot be satisfied about any situation in which there is a disruption of supplies to hospitals but although there have been many local difficulties there has so far been no major impact on health services.

Heating Allowance (Supplementary Benefit Recipients)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will consider raising the maximum heating allowance for people receiving supplementary benefit.

The rates of heating additions, which are a matter for the Supplementary Benefits Commission were last increased in November 1978 and the highest standard rate is currently £2·55 a week. Local officers have discretion to pay more than the standard rates where circumstances justify this.

Supplementary Benefit

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he has taken to introduce a written notice of assessment for supplementary benefit claimants showing how the benefit is calculated or why it is refused; and what estimate he makes of the staff and cost needed for such a scheme.

, pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 15 December 1978; Vol. 965, c. 450–1], gave the following information:Written explanations of assessment are already issued to claimants on request and their attention is drawn to this in notices issued to them. Claimants are told in general terms why benefit is refused and advised on their appeal rights. The automatic issue of written notices of assessment has been considered in the past but they have not been introduced, primarily because of the high manpower cost. Recent studies suggest however that a notice produced by carbon copy from a working document is feasible at a much more economical cost—of some 50–70 staff—and the possibility is therefore being reconsidered. Work is well advanced on the design of a suitable notice, but any increase in staff costs has to be considered carefully in relation to other competing claims for priority.

Pensioners (Christmas Bonus)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many people did not receive the £10 Christmas bonus because the qualifying date was fixed at the week commencing 4 December.

I regret this information is not available. Whatever qualifying date had been chosen there would have been a number of people who did not qualify for the bonus.

Education And Science

Nursery Education (Cornwall)

76.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is satisfied with the rate of provision of nursery school places in Cornwall; and if she will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend will not be satisfied until nursery education is available to all 3 and 4-year-olds who want it. Although the Cornwall local education authority has taken up allocations every year under my Department's nursery education building programme, providing a steady increase in the number of places, it has not applied for grants for nursery education projects under the urban aid programme. This is, however, a matter for the local education authority.

Central Museum And Art Gallery (Birmingham)

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will publish in the Official Report the attendance figures for 1978 at the central museum and art gallery of the city of Birmingham, with the percentage increase or decrease on the attendance figures for 1977.

My right hon. Friend has no responsibility for this matter. I am writing to my hon. Friend.

Adult Education

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action has been taken since the Russell report on adult education to (a) increase and (b) decrease actual resources available to the sector covered by the report; and what further action is contemplated by Her Majesty's Government.

The wide-ranging recommendations of the 1973 Russell report were addressed not only to central Government but to local education authorities and other providers. Despite the resource constraints of the last five years, the Government has taken a number of initiatives to increase resources in the spirit of the report, as follows:

  • i. Since 1975 State awards have been available for students at the long-term residential colleges at a total cost to date of some £2·2 million.
  • ii. £500,000 has been made available for capital expenditure at those same colleges.
  • iii. A new long-term residential college was opened at Wentworth castle, near Barnsley, in September 1978 and receives central Government grant of some £30,000 per annum.
  • iv. In 1975 the Adult Literacy Resource Agency was set up as a short-term pump-priming measure to enable adult literacy to become firmly established as an integral part of local adult education provision. It disbursed Government funds of some £3 million during the three years of its existence. The rate support grant settlement for 1978–79 was calculated to enable local provision to continue at its 1977–78 level and it was assumed that the extra costs to local authorities would be about £1·3 million. The adult literacy unit now provides a continuing central focus for adult literacy matters with funds of some £330,000 per annum.
  • v. The Workers' Educational Association has been encouraged to shift the emphasis of its work towards the first three of the priority areas identified in paragraph 232 of the report, and since 1977–78 has received an additional £100,000 per annum in grant to facilitate this change.
  • vi. The Government have provided grants of £400,000, £650,000 and £1 million for the years 1976–77, 1977–78 and 1978–79 respectively, towards the provision and development of trade union education.
  • vii. Looking to the future, the Government have established the Advisory Council for Adult and Continuing Education to advise generally on the education of adults, and in particular to promote both co-operation between all providers of adult education and the development of future policies and priorities in the context of the concept of continuing education.
  • The Government have taken no action designed specifically to decrease the resources available to adult education. It was, however, inevitable that this area of provision should bear its share of the economies which local education authorities were bound to make, by way of increased fees and other means, in the light of the financial stringencies of recent years.

    Teachers (Employment)

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many qualified teachers seeking employment were unemployed at the latest available date.

    The number of people in England and Wales who were registered with the Department of Employment as unemployed and who were seeking employment as school teachers in December 1978 was 9,786. In addition 2,456 so registered were seeking posts in higher and further education.

    Small Businesses (Questionnaires)

    asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he anticipates that the exercise designed to reduce the number of questionnaires affecting smaller businesses, initiated by the Prime Minister, will be completed.

    I expect the review of statistical forms to be completed in September this year.

    Home Department

    Press Council

    78.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to meet the Press Council.

    Anscombe Grange, Styal And Holloway

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many children of convicted parents are in (a) Anscombe Grange, (b) Styal and (c) Holloway; and what are the ages of those children.

    On 23 January there were 16 such children at Askham Grange, 12 at Styal and five at Holloway. Their ages were:

    AskhamStyalHolloway
    0–3 weeks152
    1–3 months542
    4–6 months621
    7–12 months010
    13–18 months200
    19–24 months100
    There was also one child aged 3 years at Askham Grange.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much it costs per week to keep a woman prisoner at (a) Anscombe Grange, (b) Styal, (c) Holloway and (d) at those establishments at which women are remanded in custody prior to trial or after conviction awaiting sentence.

    The cost of keeping inmates in particular establishments is not readily available. During 1977–78 the average weekly cost of keeping an inmate in a female establishment was £127.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how much it costs per week to keep a child with its mother in prison in (a) Anscombe Grange, (b) Styal and (c) Holloway.

    The cost of keeping a mother and child in prison is not separately recorded.

    Parole

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has received the report of the feasibility study into the possibility of the Parole Board stating its reasons for refusing an application for parole; and when he expects to inform the House about his conclusions on that report.

    I would refer my hon. Friend to the replies given to questions by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) on 30 November.—[Vol. 959, c. 685–6.] The results of the experiment are still being assessed.

    Women Prisoners

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many children are at present on remand with their mothers; what ages the children are; and in which establishments they are situated.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many women in prison have children under the age of 16 years; and how many children under the age of 16 years are separated from their mothers as a result of their mothers' imprisonment (a) on remand and (b) after conviction.

    Essential Supplies (Picketing)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will issue instructions to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis to ensure that essential supplies are enabled to pass through the picket lines.

    The police have the responsibility of upholding the criminal law and preserving the peace. In particular, in industrial disputes, they have a duty to prevent obstruction of anyone minded to cross a picket line. I have no power to instruct chief officers of police on how they should discharge their responsibilities.

    Postal Voting (Wales)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what would be the estimated cost of introducing postal voting of the type permitted in parliamentary elections into community and town council elections in Wales.

    We have not made a detailed study on which such an estimate could be based.

    Community Service Orders

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of offenders serving community service orders complete their sentences.

    Returns made by the probation service for the 12 months ending 31 March 1978—the latest date for which figures are available—indicate that 78 per cent. of the community service orders which were terminated in that period were completed successfully.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of offenders serving community service orders, who fail to complete their sentences, subsequently serve custodial sentences.

    In 1977, 44 per cent. of those sentenced in England and Wales for breaching a community service order were given an immediate custodial sentence and a further 9 per cent. were given a suspended sentence of imprisonment. The numbers involved are shown in Table 6.22 of "Criminal Statistics, England and Wales, 1977" (Cmnd. 7289).

    Fines Arrears (London)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the total of arrears of fines outstanding at 31 December 1978 in inner London.

    Messrs Doherty And Butcher

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why Hugh Doherty and Butcher, both involved in the Balcombe Street unit, have been put in solitary confinement; and how long it will be before they are returned to a proper location where they will be entitled to privileges which have been taken away from them when they have committed no offence against internal prison discipline.

    Mr. Doherty and Mr. Butcher, together with other former inmates of the special security wing in Leicester prison, have been located in other local prisons to enable necessary building work to be carried out in the wing. They are segregated from other prisoners under rule 43 of the prison rules in the interests of good order or discipline. As soon as the wing is reopened, they will be returned there but I cannot at present say when this will be.

    Eviction

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prosecutions have been brought and how many convictions obtained under (a) section 1(2) (Unlawfully depriving a residential occupier of any premises) and (b) section 1(3) (Acts calculated to interfere with the peace and comfort &c., of residential occupiers) of the Prevention from Eviction Act and its predecessor, by each London borough during each of the last two years for which statistics are available.

    Marriage Guidance (Consultative Document)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the consultative document prepared by the working party on marriage guidance will be published; and if he will make a statement.

    An independent working party on marriage guidance was established in 1975 by the Home Office, in consultation with the Department of Health and Social Security, to study the provision of helping services to those with marital problems and produce a consultative document containing suggestions for any improvements. This document entitled "Marriage Matters" has been published today and copies are available in the Library of the House.The Government hope that the document will be widely discussed by practitioners and other interested agencies, and the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Security are issuing a joint memorandum of consultation. This must not be taken as implying any commitment by the Government to the proposals in the document which must be considered alongside other claims on resources and within a climate of restraint on public expenditure.

    Prime Minister (Engagements)

    Q5.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 30 January.

    Q6.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 30 January.

    Q7.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 30 January.

    Q8.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official duties for 30 January.

    Q9.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q10.

    asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q11.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his public engagements for 30 January.

    Q12.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q15.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his public engagements for 30 January.

    Q18.

    asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q19.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 30 January.

    Q21.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q24.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q25.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his public engagements for 30 January.

    Q26.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 30 January.

    Q28.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q30.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 30 January.

    Q33.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 30 January.

    Q34.

    asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q38.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q41.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 30 January.

    Q42.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q43.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q45.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 30 January.

    Q48.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q49.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    Q50.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for 30 January.

    Q52.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 30 January.

    I refer the hon. Members and my hon. Friends to the reply which I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick).

    Tuc And Cbi

    Q13.

    I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave him on 7 December 1978.

    Q14.

    Q17.

    Q44.

    I refer my hon. Friends to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) on 7 December 1978.

    Q16.

    Q23.