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Written Answers

Volume 570: debated on Friday 8 March 1996

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Written Answers

Friday, 8th March 1996.

Department Of Agriculture: Watercourse Management Division

asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have for the future organisation of the watercourse management division of the Department of Agriculture.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office
(Baroness Denton of Wakefield)

Having recently completed the prior options study which was announced to Parliament on 20th July 1994, the Government has decided that the watercourse management division should become a next steps agency from 1st October 1996. The division is responsible for the provision of flood defence and river drainage systems and for promoting the sustainable development of inland navigation and water recreation facilities. By making the watercourse management division a next steps agency it will have the flexibility to operate within a framework of appropriate efficiency targets and performance indicators, while remaining a part of the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland.

Jubilee Line Extension: Private Sector Contributions

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many contributions to the cost of the Jubilee Line extension were promised; what was the total value of them; by whom the contributions were promised; and how much has been received.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport
(Viscount Goschen)

Two private sector contributions to the cost of the Jubilee Line extension were promised: one from the developers of Canary Wharf, and one from British Gas, for the station at North Greenwich. Initial payments have been received: £100 million in respect of Canary Wharf and £5 million in respect of North Greenwich. The remainder of the Canary Wharf contribution (a further £300 million) will be paid over a 24-year period beginning one year after the opening of the line. The remainder of the British Gas contribution (the total of which will depend on future land sales) will be paid over time, beginning with the opening of the line.

Hgv Drivers: Vision Tests

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to their Answer in the House on 29th January 1996 [H.L. Deb., col. 1232], what information they have on accidents being caused by motorists' glasses falling off or their contact lenses coming out.

We are not aware of any information that would show a causal link between glasses falling off or contact lenses coming out and accidents. The practical reason for requiring lorry and bus drivers to meet an uncorrected eyesight test is not that such mishaps may cause accidents, but that, in an accident or emergency, glasses or contact lenses may be dislodged, so that the driver has to halt the vehicle or manoeuvre it to safety without their benefit.

Railfreight Distribution: Study

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether any studies have been commissioned into the privatisation of Railfreight distribution; who are the consultants appointed; when the consultants will report and whether the Government will publish any report.

Mercer Management Consulting and National Economic Research Associates have been appointed jointly by the British Railways Board and the Department of Transport to study Railfreight distribution, including the options for privatisation. Their report is expected later this month. The report will not be published, as it will contain commercially confidential information.

Bus Companies: Local Authority Ownership

asked Her Majesty's Government:What steps they are taking to encourage the privatisation of local authority-owned bus companies.

The great majority of bus services in the UK are now provided by private sector bus companies. Since 1988, 28 local authority-owned bus companies, including the eight largest, have moved successfully into the private sector. We welcome this, and are continuing to encourage the other bus company owners to consider seriously the options for privatisation. At present there is a targeted relaxation in the set-aside rate for receipts by local authorities from sale of shares in their bus companies of 25 per cent.—and it had been intended that this would revert to the normal 50 per cent. rate with effect from 1st April. In order to assist local authorities planning to sell their bus companies in the next financial year we have decided to extend the present set-aside rate of 25 per cent. for these sales to 31st March 1997.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the average age of onset for rheumatoid arthritis, angina pectoris and multiple sclerosis has changed over the past 30 years; and, if so, by how much for each condition; andHow many people in the United Kingdom suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, what is the average age of onset, what are the medications of choice, what is the annual cost to the National Health Service (NHS) of such medications and of hospitalisation for such patients per patient and how many days' work as an annual total are lost to this condition.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health
(Baroness Cumberlege)

Information about the number of people with a medical condition, the age of onset of the conditions, the annual cost to the National Health Service of the hospitalisation of people with rheumatoid arthritis, angina pectoris and multiple sclerosis and the number of work days lost to these conditions is not collected by the Department of Health. There are no medications of choice for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis but a range of drugs is available. The medication prescribed in individual cases is a matter for the clinical judgment of the doctor concerned informed by the patient's medical history. It is not possible to isolate the cost of all drugs used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis since some of the relevant drugs are also used for the treatment of other conditions, for example, they include analgesics for the relief of pain. That said, information on prescribing of drugs which may be used in rheumatic diseases and gout is as in the table.

British National Formulary sectionNumber prescription items (millions)Net ingredient cost(£ millions)
10.1 Drugs used in rheumatic diseases and gout20.3169.6
The data cover all prescriptions dispensed by community pharmacists and appliance contractors, dispensing doctors, and prescriptions submitted by prescribing doctors for items personally administered in England.

Malnutrition Screening

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to Lady Cumberlege's Written Answer (9th January

WA 10), whether they are in a position to attempt adequate screening for malnutrition of patients admitted to hospital, and if so, what are the results of such screening.

As stated in my previous reply this particular matter is for local consideration. However, advice to the National Health Service and to Ministers on national policy for implementation of screening programmes will be provided by the new National Screening Committee which is to be chaired by the Government's Chief Medical Officer. The National Screening Committee will meet for the first time later this later.

Antidepressant Drugs: Nhs Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the annual cost of drugs prescribed for the treatment of depression, and whether they are able to identify an average cost per patient.

The cost to the National Health Service of antidepressant drugs dispensed in England in 1994 was £117.2 million (net ingredient cost). It is not possible to identify average costs per patient.

Electroconvulsive Therapy: Related Deaths

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to their Written Answer of 15th February (col.

WA 55) suggesting that only one death has resulted from electro-shock since 1993, whether they are aware of studies conducted in the United States of America and in Britain which show that around one in 200 elderly patients have died following electro-shock; whether they will implement a procedure which would accurately monitor deaths following this treatment; and if not, why not.

We have no evidence that ECT is disproportionately risky in older people. It remains a valuable treatment in the field of old age psychiatry.

Electro-Shock Treatment

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the cost of administering electro-shock per each individual treatment.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are aware of any studies on the efficacy of electro-shock over periods of several years following treatment; and if so, whether any of these studies were conducted by non-psychiatric medical professionals.

Formal randomised controlled trials to test the efficacy of ECT in the treatment of depression have been carried out in Great Britain. These studies were carried out by medically qualified staff.

Nitrate In Vegetables: Ec Legislation

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the current status of negotiations on the European Commission proposals on nitrate in vegetables.

The draft Commission regulation on nitrate in lettuce and spinach was discussed at the European Commission's Standing Committee for Foodstuffs on 20 February. During those discussions the UK indicated that it would, reluctantly, support the Commission's latest proposal (Doc VI/3080/93 Rev 7).

The UK objects to the principle of this legislation, deeming it unnecessary and lacking in scientific justification. However, there is considerable weight of opinion across the EU for various reasons in favour of legislation in this area. For this reason my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and his predecessors have been negotiating with the Commission for a number of years to secure an arrangement that is satisfactory for UK interests and that will allow our growers to harvest and market their excellent and healthy produce. As a result of our pressure, allied to considerable assistance from the NFU and growers, we have secured significant concessions from the Commission which will enable British growers to continue production.

My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food has taken the view that these hard fought gains should not be put at risk by continuing to oppose the Commission, particularly given the uncertainty over the voting intentions of other member states. He believes that the current proposal represents the best possible outcome for the UK given the determination of the Commission and other Member States to introduce legislation in this area. However, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food has made it clear that he would not countenance any diminution of the considerable concessions that we have secured to date. He will maintain this negotiating position until the regulation is formally adopted.