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Written Answers
12 February 2001
Volume 622

Written Answers

Monday, 12th February 2001.

Severn Rail Tunnel: Safety Exercise

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will place in the Library of the House all reports concerning the most recent safety exercise carried out in the Severn Rail Tunnel this year. [HL591]

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The emergency services (fire and ambulance) and Railtrack are currently holding monthly exercises to familiarise personnel with the Severn Tunnel. There is also a Severn Tunnel Contingency Planning Group which is a multi-agency group facilitated by Railtrack. Its last exercise was a communications exercise on 12–13 August last year. This involved the British Transport Police, the Avon & Somerset and Gwent police forces, and the fire and ambulance services on both sides of the tunnel. Reports on exercises are done internally within each service with joint lessons shared through the group. No reports are published.

Bus Services

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asked Her Majesty's Government:When they intend to extend the 42-day notice period for termination of a registered bus service to 56 days; and [HL603]When they intend to abolish the "five minute rule" under which bus operators can vary departure times by up to five minutes without further notification to the Traffic Commissioners. [HL604]

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These changes will be brought forward in the spring as part of a package of proposals on changes to the registration regulations. These proposals will also take forward the commitment in the White Paper Our Countryside: The Future—A Fair Deal for Rural England to consult on changes to make it easier to run flexibly routed services and on the notice period for community-based services. It is sensible for all changes to the registration rules to be considered in one package.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have any plans to extend the

de minimis ceilings which allow local authorities to negotiate changes to subsidised bus services without re-tendering. [HL605]

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We have no immediate plans to change the de minimis limits, which were last increased in October 1998. However, we will keep their levels under review in the light of any representations from local authorities and others.

Archaeological Sites And Monuments Records

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What advice they have received from their statutory advisors (English Heritage) on the desirability of a statutory obligation that local authorities maintain archaeological sites and monuments records. [HL577]

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English Heritage supports a statutory obligation being placed on local authorities to maintain such records.

Stamp Duty

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Why the rates of stamp duty on the purchase of residential and commercial property are identical; and [HL519]Whether the same economic and fiscal arguments apply to changes in the rate of stamp duty on residential property, particularly houses costing over £500,000, as on commercial property; and [HL520]What practical difficulties of duty assessment or collection would follow a decision to levy stamp duty at different rates on residential and commercial property. [HL522]

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The stamp duty charge on transfers of land and buildings does not depend on the use made of that property. This has always been the case. The Government examine all the economic and fiscal arguments that apply to residential and commercial property whenever they consider the appropriate rates for stamp duty on property. The administrative implications of introducing different rates would depend on the definitions of residential and commercial property and how the charge would apply to mixed-use properties.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What is their estimate of the cumulative net cost, to owner-occupiers of commercial properties worth more than £500,000, of the increase in stamp duty from 1 per cent to 4 per cent since the 1997 general election. [HL521]

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The information in the form requested is not available.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What were the revenue receipts from stamp duty on (a) residential and (b) commercial property transactions in the financial years 1996–97, 1997–98, 1998–99 and 1999–2000. [HL523]

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The stamp duty revenue receipts for land and property for the requested years are given in table 15.1 of Inland Revenue Statistics 2000. The estimated component of the receipts attributable to residential transactions is given in table 15.2. The estimated stamp duty receipts component for commercial transactions is the difference between these two amounts.

Parliamentary Questions: Cost Of Answers

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What is their current estimate of the cost of answering a written parliamentary Question and an oral parliamentary Question. [HL709]

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As at April 2000, the latest date for which data are available, the average cost of answering a written parliamentary Question and an oral parliamentary Question was £123 and £285 respectively.

Self-Assessment Tax Returns: Electronic Filing

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asked Her Majesty's Government:How many self-assessment tax returns for the current year were filed electronically up to and including 31 January; and how this compares with the Inland Revenue's target for electronic filing. [HL561]

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Three hundred and twenty-four thousand, two hundred and ninety-six self-assessment tax returns for the current year were filed electronically up to and including 31 January. The Inland Revenue has not set a target for take-up of electronic filing services.

Unclaimed Agrimonetary Compensation

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the total agrimoney available that is likely to be lost if it is not claimed by the end of April. [HL612]

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We expect the Commission to notify us of the amount of agrimonetary compensation available later this month. Initial estimates suggest that it could be of the order of £200 million across the beef, sheep, dairy, arable and sugar sectors. These estimates should be treated with caution as they are based on 1999 claim data, and the relevant data on market prices in 2000 are not yet available. If these estimates are correct, and the full amount were paid, the cost to the UK taxpayer would be around £170 million.

Smoking Policy In Government Departments

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish in the

Official Report, or place in the Library of the House, a table showing the number of designated smoking rooms in each government department; and whether smoking is permitted in the staff restaurant and library of each department. [HL361]

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Responsibility for policy concerning smoking in government buildings is delegated to departments.I have asked colleagues in other departments for details and will write to the noble Lord with my findings. I will place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of progress reports produced by government departments about their internal smoking policies. [HL363]

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Responsibility for policy concerning smoking in government departments has been delegated to departments. Specific departmental policies are not held centrally. I have asked my colleagues to provide the information requested and will write to the noble Lord with my findings. I will place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.In my department we operate a no smoking policy in all of our buildings. Smoking is permitted in designated areas only. I will place a copy of the Cabinet Office policy in the Library of the House.

Millennium Dome: Sale

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What deadlines have been imposed by them upon the signing of contracts with Legacy plc for the sale to that company of the Millennium Dome site. [HL326]

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The Government set a deadline of 14 January for Legacy plc to submit its response to the preferred bidder letter to the Competition Team and a further deadline for exchange of contracts. The Government are continuing to negotiate with Legacy plc.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in the event of the sale of the Millennium Dome site to Legacy plc not proceeding, they are sure that nothing has been done in the interim to prejudice the success of a bid from another source which would seek to retain the attractions within the Dome structure. [HL327]

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The Government are in negotiation with Legacy plc as preferred bidder and under the competition rules are unable to treat with third parties. Work is currently under way to return those assets owned by third parties, including the Talk and Journey zones, which are wholly owned by BT and Ford respectively. Assets owned by NMEC will be subject to private treaty sale or public auction which is scheduled to take place at the Dome site from 27 February to 2 March 2001. The Government intend to ensure that nothing is sold at this auction or otherwise which would prejudice the Dome's future as a leisure attraction.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's statement in its strategic plan that it is "completely independent from any outside influence be it Government, a political party, a large company, a non-governmental human rights organisation or a group of activists", is compatible with a majority of its commissioners being members of the Committee for the Administration of Justice. [HL530]

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This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The Chief Commissioner has been asked to write to the noble Lord. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What equality criteria were used in the formation of committees by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to advise on a Bill of Rights; and whether the members of each committee were requested to declare their background and community involvement before their appointment. [HL549]

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The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is bound by the requirements of s.75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity and good community relations. The composition of any working group set up by the commission is a matter for the commission itself. The Chief Commissioner has been asked to write to the noble Lord. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 29 January (

WA 30–31) referring to the letter from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission of 19 January which indicated that the Ulster Scots Agency had been consulted about appointments to the Bill of Rights Language Committee, in what form was the consultation; when it took place; and what was the response, from whom and in what form. [HL550]

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This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The Chief Commissioner has been asked to write to the noble Lord. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library.

Bse Inquiry Report

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What steps they are taking to implement the recommendations of the BSE inquiry report. [HL707]

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The BSE inquiry report was published on 26 October 2000. In welcoming it, we said that the Government's substantive response would be announced in the coming months. The Government announced on 21 December 2000 that they would be making an interim response as a basis for public discussion before finalising their full response.The Government's interim response was published on Friday, 9 February. There will be a parliamentary debate on 15 February. The response has been prepared with contributions from across Whitehall and the devolved administrations and seeks to present the actions being taken in all the legislatures.This response is intended to focus on the future. It sets out what has happened since March 1996—which was the point to which we asked the inquiry to take its examination. It gives full attention to the 167 specific findings and conclusions in the inquiry report, and to the major themes that emerge from it: management of scientific advisory committees and how scientific advice is used in developing policy; openness; risk and uncertainty; the structure of government and the legislative framework; and the need for rigour in the development and implementation of policy.The response takes the opportunity to set out how the Government are taking the lessons and comments in the report as a spur to developing the action already under way as a result of the Modernising Government agenda, the Office of Science and Technology's work on the use of science in government and work on developing a government statement on risk.The Government intend that this interim response should be the subject of positive action to seek the views of interested parties. Public debate on how the lessons in the report can be most effectively applied and embedded across departments will help to ensure a comprehensive final government response to the BSE inquiry report.

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the review of the civil servants who were criticised in the BSE inquiry report. [HL708]

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Sheila Forbes, as an independent Civil Service Commissioner, has now completed her urgent review of the criticisms in the report of serving civil servants. She has recommended to the Permanent Secretaries of the departments involved that there should be no disciplinary action taken against any serving civil servant. They have accepted this recommendation and the civil servants concerned have been informed.

Human Fertilisation And Embryology Authority

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asked Her Majesty's Government:On what grounds licences for human embryo research were granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to:

  • (a) Kings College Hospital, London (1992);
  • (b) the University of Oxford (1992); and
  • (c) the Centre for Genome Research, Edinburgh (1996); and in what ways were studies into cell lives derived from human embryo relevant to the development of fertility treatments. [HL599]
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    Licences for human embryo research were granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to:

  • (a) Kings College Hospital, London in 1992 under paragraph 3(2)(a) of Schedule 2 to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 to "promote advances in the treatment of infertility" and paragraph 3(2)(e) of that schedule to "develop methods for detecting the presence of gene or chromosome abnormalities in embryos before implantation". We are not aware of cell lines being developed in the course of this research;
  • (b) the University of Oxford in 1992 under paragraph 3(2)(a) of Schedule 2 to "promote advances in the treatment of infertility". This research was originally licensed by the HFEA's predecessor, the Interim Licensing Authority, and involved the development of cell lines. However, the research licensed by the HFEA in 1994 did not involve the generation of any cell lines;
  • (c) the Centre for Genome Research, Edinburgh in 1996 under paragraph 3(2)(a) of Schedule 2 to "promote advances in the treatment of infertility" and paragraph 3(2)(b) to "increase knowledge about the causes of congenital disease". The authority licensed the project, so far as it related to paragraph 3(2)(a) of Schedule 2 to the 1990 Act to "promote advances in the treatment of infertility", as it aimed, among other things, to provide new information in identifying the quality of embryos before implantation. This was in respect of establishing culture conditions suitable for selecting the "best" embryos, which could aid the aim of many infertility units to improve live birth rates obtained with assisted reproduction techniques.
  • When permitting this research the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority took into account the strict provisions in the 1990 Act governing the use of embryos in research.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:

  • (a) when they next intend to review the membership of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority;
  • (b) whether they intend to reform the peer review procedures for licence applications to the HFEA to exclude peer reviewers who have submitted or intend to submit their own application;
  • (c) what qualifications or experience are required in order to be appointed as a peer reviewer, and who makes these appointments; and
  • (d) what is their policy concerning the appointment of members to the HFEA who may have a conflict of interest. [HL597]
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    Under the provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, members are appointed to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for a maximum term of three years. At the end of three years a further term may be offered subject to guidance issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Appointments are staggered to ensure continuity of membership, with terms ending on 6 November each year.The HFEA has a panel of peer reviewers who are recognised national and international experts in the field of reproductive biology and infertility. Names and details of peer reviewers are included in the HFEA's Annual Report, copies of which are available in the Library. The panel includes persons who hold or who have held HFEA research licences, although peer reviewers and members are required to declare any conflict of interest in relation to an application that is being considered. Each research application is considered by two or three peer reviewers prior to a decision being made by a HFEA Licence Committee consisting of five members of the authority.Additional peer reviewers are recruited when there is a need for specialist expertise not currently available on the panel—for example in cryobiology or cytogenetics. The Licensing and Fees Committee of the HFEA ratifies the appointment of peer reviewers.All appointments of members of the HFEA are conducted in accordance with guidance issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Members are chosen for the skills and experience they bring to the authority's work. The information pack provided to applicants for membership emphasises the importance of public service values in the running of the authority, and states that all members on appointment are required to subscribe to the authority's code of best practice. This code contains a requirement to declare at an early stage any potential conflict of interest that might arise in the course of authority business. Any relevant business interests, positions of authority or other connections with commercial, public or voluntary bodies must be declared.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether any members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority have accepted sponsorship or benefits of any kind from Serono, Organon or any other company involved in fertility drugs or related products; and, if so, whether they will list them. [HL598]

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    Details of the interests of members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority are held in the authority's Register of Members' Interests, which is available for inspection. This information is reproduced in the authority's annual report, copies of which are available in the Library and published on the authority's website at www.hfea.gov.uk.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:What applications have been received by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority into human embryo stem cells under the regulations approved on 22 January; whether these are currently subject to peer review; and whether they will list them. [HL600]

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    The Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority has not received any applications for research licences under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in the light of the decision of the High Court to permit a Judicial Review of the Government's response to the Donaldson Committee report into the use of human embryos for research into stem cell techniques, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will not issue licences permitting the use of human embryos until after the court has deliberated in June. [HL558]

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    On Friday 26th January the High Court ordered that the question of whether permission should be granted for the Pro-Life Alliance to bring a judicial review should be adjourned and considered at a full hearing to be held on or after 15 June. At the full hearing, the court will decide whether the application should proceed. If this is permitted, the court will then go on to consider the substantive issues.The application concerns the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001, and the definition of "embryo" in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.It is for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to decide whether or not to issue licences under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 and the recent Research Purposes Regulations. The authority has decided not to issue any licences for research involving cell nuclear replacement until the outcome of the judicial review is known, although it will consider any applications it receives. 'The authority has not, however, received any applications for such research.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are giving consideration to the scientific research into the use of embryonic stem cells published in

    The Scientist on 22 January, which highlighted the development of tumours in animal models; and what weight they will attach to the safety issues which arise. [HL559]

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    Peer-reviewed scientific papers may be taken into account by the human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority when they consider research applications made under the HFEA Act 1990 and Embryo Research Regulations 2001.Such applications are subject to the strict conditions placed on embryo research by the 1990 Act.

    Foetuses Retained For Research

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:How many foetuses are held for research purposes by hospitals and clinics through the United Kingdom; what form of consent was obtained from their parents; whether any foetal tissue has been used for work involving stem cells or germ live gene therapy; what ovarian tissue from aborted or miscarried foetuses has been the subject of research licences; and whether they will list the details. [HL601]

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    Information on the number of foetuses held for research is not available. However, the recent Census of Organs and Tissues Retained by Pathology Services in England shows an estimated 2,900 "stillborn babies and foetuses" retained at the end of 1999 from post-mortems carried out between 1970 and 1999; and a further 2,700 retained from before 1970. The census (lid not distinguish between stillbirths and aborted foetuses or specify why the foetuses were retained.The use of foetuses in research falls under the

    Polkinghorne Code of Practice on the Use of Fetuses and Fetal Material in Research and Treatment, which states that the written consent of the mother should be obtained. There is no licencing system for foetal research. Consequently, data to answer the questions about ovarian tissue and the origins of foetal stem cells used in research are not available.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:What foetal tissue is supplied to the Medical Research Council foetal tissue banks at Hammersmith Hospital by the Marie Stopes Ealing abortion clinic; what commercial arrangements exist between these institutions; to what use this foetal tissue been put; what consent has been obtained from parents; what other links exist in the United Kingdom between the National Health Service facilities and abortion clinics; and whether they will list them. [HL602]

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    The clinic supplies foetuses from terminations of pregnancy to the tissue bank. There are no commercial arrangements between the two institutions and the foetal material is provided free of charge.The tissue bank is an intermediary body set up in accordance with the Polkinghorne recommendations and does not itself carry out research. The tissue is put to a variety of uses from applied research on diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease. Down's syndrome, leprosy and AIDS/HIV to underpinning research on basic cell and tissue culture techniques and work on normal human development.Written consent is obtained from women in accordance with

    Polkinghorne Code of Practice on the Use of Fetuses and Fetal Material in Research and Treatment. The only other independent sector clinic with permission to supply tissue to the National Health Service is the Calthorpe Clinic, which supplies material to the Birmingham Children's Hospital.

    Organic Food

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Food Standards Agency has any scientific means of determining the difference between foodstuffs grown organically and those grown conventionally. [HL498]

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    There is no universally applicable method of distinguishing organic food from that conventionally produced. The Food Standards Agency is funding research to explore ways in which this might be achieved for vegetables.

    Embryonic Cloning: Professor Donaldson's Briefings

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Why they did not invite Professor Neil Scolding, or another expert with comparable scientific authority, to contribute to the Department of Health briefing (17 January) on the issue of embryonic cloning to give an alternative view to that proposed by Professor Liam Donaldson. [HL635]

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    Briefings were arranged for the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Donaldson, to present the findings of his expert group, which had considered these issues for a year and took evidence from a wide range of organisations and individuals. The briefings allowed Members of both Houses to ask questions about the issues in his report.

    Many other briefings took place, arranged by a number of external organisations, which Members were welcome to attend.

    Diamorphine Prescription To Terminally Ill Patients

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:How many people in National Health Service hospitals who died in each of the last five years as "Do not Resuscitate" patients were being prescribed diamorphine when they died; for how long in each case the drug had been prescribed; and, if they do not currently have the figures, whether they will ask each National Health Service trust to provide them with as much information as they have available. [HL375]

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    Information on the prescribing of diamorphine in National Health Service hospitals to individual patients is not collected locally or nationally. Most records of prescribing and administration of medicines in hospitals are held on paper. The information requested is only available from individual patients' case notes. Collecting and analysing this information would require examination of the notes of all patients who died in NHS hospitals in the last five years.Clinical governance arrangements, introduced in March 1999, provide a clear and comprehensive framework of measures to assure and improve the quality of clinical care delivered to all NHS patients.In June 1998 the Department of Health endorsed and distributed throughout the National Health Service two documents of good practice in palliative care, produced by the National Council for Hospices and Specialist Palliative Care Services. One of these documents was

    Guidelines for Managing Cancer Pain in Adults, which was designed for use by health professionals in primary care and institutional settings and includes guidance on dosages of diamorphine for terminally ill patients. The Other, Changing Gear— Guidelines for Managing the Last Days of Life in Adults, as the title suggests, refers to the care needed when death is imminent. Copies are available in the Library.

    Haemophilia Patients: Information On Product Contamination

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 29 January on haemophilia patients and vCJD in blood products (

    WA 37), what consultations the Department of Health had with the Haemophilia Society, as the national patient group, to help determine what information should be provided to haemophilia patients about the fact

    that a blood donor whose plasma was used in haemophilia products had been found to have vCJD; and whether in future the department will consult the Haemophilia Society on the management of such incidents. [HL578]

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    The Department of Health had discussions with the United Kingdom Haemophilia Centre Doctors Organisation on their strategy for providing information to patients but not directly with the Haemophilia Society. The CJD Incident Panel is currently developing a framework for the management of such incidents. This will be subject to consultation with interested bodies, including the Haernophilia Society.

    Haemophilia Patients: Recombinant Clotting Factor Treatment

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:How many adults with haemophilia in England are currently receiving (a) plasma-derived haemophilia treatment products and (b) recombinant treatment products; and [HL579]What would be the additional cost to the National Health Service of treating with recombinant genetically engineered products all adults with haemophilia in England currently receiving plasma treatment products. [HL580]

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    Based on figures provided by the United Kingdom Haemophilia Centre Doctors Organisation, we estimate that approximately 13 per cent of adult haemophilia A patients and 4 per cent of haemophilia B patients in England are currently receiving recombinant clotting factors. We estimate that the additional cost of providing all adult haemophilia patients with recombinant clotting factors at around £50 million per annum.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:What differences exist between the provision of recombinant genetically engineered haemophilia treatment product in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and [HL581]Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 29 January on haemophilia patients and vCJD in blood products (

    WA 37), whether all adults with haemophilia in England will in future be treated with recombinant genetically engineered treatment products, as is provided for children under 16 in England and all haemophilia patients in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. [HL582]

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    In England, all new haemophilia patients and children under 16 are treated with recombinant clotting factors. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland provide, or are in the process of providing, recombinant clotting factors for all haemophilia patients. The Government are currently considering whether all adult haemophilia patients in England should also be treated with recombinant clotting factors.

    Tuberculosis

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:How, if the symptoms are identical, it is possible to separate bovine tuberculosis in humans from human bovine tuberculosis. [HL480]

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    Most human cases of tuberculosis are caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is not a zoonosis. Man is the natural host for M. tuberculosis. Mycobacterium bovis is the cause of tuberculosis in cattle but can also be highly infectious for man and can pose a zoonotic risk.Since human infections caused by

    M. tuberculosis and M. bovis are clinically and radiologically indistinguishable, diagnosis can only be made by typing and isolating the aetiologic agent. Routine diagnosis of tuberculosis in cattle is by the tuberculin test.

    The Hospice Movement: Nhs Funding

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are able to increase contributions to the work of the hospice movement. [HL560]

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    By 2004 the National Health Service will invest an extra £50 million to end inequalities in access to specialist palliative care to enable the NHS to make a realistic contribution to the cost hospices incur in providing agreed levels of service. What this means is that by 2004 the overall NHS investment in specialist palliative care services will match the overall contribution from the voluntary sector. This unprecedented increase in funding will be used to ensure greater cohesion between the efforts of the voluntary sector and the NHS.

    Sexual Advice To Young People

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will issue guidance to health professionals advising them to commend sexual abstinence for young people under 16 for the sake of their health and personal development. [HL547]

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    Best practice guidance on the provision of effective contraception and advice services for young people was sent to all local teenage pregnancy co-ordinators and posted on the Department of Health's teenage pregnancy website in December. The guidance highlights the importance of services having staffed trained in counselling skills and providing sufficient time and support to allow young people to make informed choices about their relationships.

    A national media campaign aimed at young people began in October. The central messages of the campaign are about encouraging young people to take control of their lives, personal responsibility and not to be pressurised into having sex. The design of the campaign was informed by a major piece of research into what media messages and advertising campaigns work best with young people.

    Water Fluoridation

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they agree with the statement by the authors of the article

    Infants' Fluoride Ingestion from Water, Supplements and Dentifrice in the Journal of the American Dental Association 1995; 126:1625, that "The optimal level of fluoride intake has never been determined scientifically". [HL653]

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    Numerous epidemiological studies indicate that, in temperate climates, the highest level of prevented dental decay associated with the least cosmetically significant dental fluorosis and no clear evidence of other effects is reached when approximately one part of fluoride is present in a million parts of drinking water.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 30 January (

    WA 55), whether they accept the statements made by Professor Sheldon, who chaired the advisory group to the recent systematic scientific review of water fluoridation, in an open letter dated 3 January that (a) "the quality of the studies [on effectiveness] was generally moderate"; (b) "There was little evidence to show that water fluoridation has reduced social inequalities in dental health"; and (c) "The review did not show water fluoridation to be safe". [HL651]

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    We prefer to refer to the report itself, which says that: "There appears to be some evidence that water fluoridation reduces the inequalities in dental health across social classes in 5 and 12 year-olds …" and, "Overall, no clear association between water fluoridation and incidence or mortality of bone cancers, thyroid cancer or all cancers was found". The report also noted that the best available evidence suggests that fluoridation of drinking water supplies does reduce caries prevalence.We acknowledge that the systematic scientific review team found that there was a lack of good quality research on which to base their findings. We wish to remedy this and have asked the Medical Research Council to advise on what further research might be needed.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 31 January (

    WA 66):

  • (a) whether they continue to support the fluoridation of water; and
  • (b) how the promotional role of the British Fluoridation Society is compatible with the production of objective, evidence-based information on the subject, in the particular light of the society's briefing on the systematic scientific review by the National Health Service Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, which stated inter alia that "The findings of the York review are unequivocal: water fluoridation is effective and it is safe". [HL652]
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    We can confirm that the Government continue to support the fluoridation of water, subject to its effectiveness and safety being kept under regular review.We accept that the York review identified a need for more good quality evidence and have asked the British Fluoridation Society to ensure that this is reflected in future briefings.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will specify the scientific studies that show the safety and effectiveness of fluoridated milk in preventing caries in schoolchildren. [HL654]

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    Safety was considered in the Department of Health Report on Health and Social Subjects No. 41: Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom.The following nine studies have addressed effectiveness:

    • Effect of fluoridated milk on caries: 5-year results. Journal of the Royal Society of Health: 105(3), 99–103.
    • Effect of Fluoridated Milk on Caries: 10-year results. Journal of Clinical Dentistry: 3,121–124.
    • Caries reduction and fluoride intake in Russian children receiving fluoride-milk. Journal of Dental Research: 77(IADR Abstracts); 712.
    • Dental caries reducing effects of a milk fluoridation project in Bulgaria. Journal of Public Health Dentistry 55(4); 234–237.
    • Fluoride addition to milk and its effect on dental caries in school children. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: 11; 94–101.
    • Five-year double-blind fluoridated milk study in Scotland. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 12(4); 223–229.
    • Caries prevention through fluoridated powdered milk in a Chilean rural community. Caries Research: 31, 303.
    • The effect of fluoridated milk on caries in Arab children. Results after three years. Clinical Preventive Dentistry 9(4); 23–25.
    • Report on the Winterthur study with fluoridation of household milk. Helvetica Paediatrica Acta:19; 343–354.

    Northern Ireland: Law Officers' Meetings

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:On how many occasions during the calendar year 2000 (i) the Attorney-General and (ii) the Solicitor-General:

  • (a) visited Northern Ireland and met the Director of Public Prosecutions Northern Ireland; and
  • (b) attended meetings of the Bar Council, apart from the Annual General Meeting of the Bar. [HL538]
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    During the calendar year 2000:

  • (a)(i) The Attorney-General visited Northern Ireland seven times and met the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland on six of those occasions. In addition, the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland has travelled to London to meet the Attorney-General on eight occasions. (ii) The Solicitor-General visited Northern Ireland once and met the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland.
  • (b)(i) The Attorney-General has attended two meetings of the Bar Council and one meeting of the Bar Council in Northern Ireland. (ii) The Solicitor-General has attended three meetings of the Bar Council.
  • Law Officers: Appearances In Court And Committee

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:On how many occasions during the calendar year 2000 (i) the Attorney-General and (ii) the Solicitor-General:

  • (a) appeared in court to prosecute in criminal proceedings in England and Wales;
  • (b) appeared in court representing the Crown or a Department of State in civil proceedings in England and Wales;
  • (c) attended a Committee of either House of Parliament, either as a member of that Committee or at the invitation of that Committee. [HL537]
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    During the calendar year 2000:

  • (a)(i)(ii) neither the Attorney-General nor the Solicitor-General has appeared in court to prosecute in criminal proceedings in England and Wales;
  • (b)(i) the Attorney-General appeared for the Inquiry at the opening of both the re-opening of the Formal Investigation into the loss of the M-V "Derbyshire" and the Formal Investigation into the collision between the "Marchioness"/ "Bowbell".
  • (ii) the Solicitor-General has represented the Crown or a Department of State on five occasions in civil proceedings in England and Wales.
  • (c)(i)(ii) neither the Attorney-General nor the Solicitor-General has attended a Committee of either House of Parliament, either as a member of that Committee or at the invitation of that Committee.
  • Sub-Postmasters: Retention

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:What steps they have taken to stem the numbers of sub-postmasters leaving their businesses. [HL611]

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    By accepting all 24 recommendations of the Performance and Innovation Unit's (PIU) report on the future of the post office network, the Government have demonstrated their continuing commitment to maintenance of a nationwide network. We are working closely with the Post Office, the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters and other stakeholders to implement the PIU recommendations. These measures are designed to modernise and improve post office services and to strengthen confidence in the future of the network. The Post Office has also accepted a formal requirement, placed on it by the Government, to maintain the rural network and to prevent any avoidable closures of rural post offices.

    Bt Local Exchange Local Loop Unbundling

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:In how many local exchanges local loop unbundling is currently taking place; and how this compares with the situation amongst other European Union states. [HL563]

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    BT has handed over facilities enabling local loop unbundling at four trial exchanges and services are being provided over BT's exchange lines by other operators at two of them. In preparation for further local loop unbundling, nearly 700 exchanges have been surveyed by BT, though it is ultimately up to individual operators where they place orders for unbundling facilities. It was agreed last month that BT would bring forward work on unbundling at the most popular exchanges and building work at the first of those exchanges should start before Easter. Requests for "distant location", where an operator locates its equipment outside the local exchange, are going forward on a business as usual basis with BT.

    Comprehensive current data on unbundling in other European Union states are not available. Germany is the only country with a significant amount of unbundling and achieved around 150,000 lines in nearly three years from January 1998.

    Universal Banking Services

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:When they expect to receive the conclusions of the negotiations on the proposed establishment of the Universal Bank. [HL610]

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    Good progress is being made with the development of Universal Banking Services. Agreement in principle was reached on 20 December 2000 with six banks (Barclays, Lloyds TSB Ltd, RBS/NatWest, HSBC, Abbey National and the Halifax) to contribute towards Universal Banking Services at the Post Office. Discussions continue with other banks and building societies to examine what contributions they can make. The intention is for the banks to sign a memorandum of understanding within the next few weeks.

    Neighbourhood Warden Scheme

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:What qualifications the members of the proposed police neighbourhood warden scheme will require; and whether there will be an upper age limit. [HL609]

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    It is entirely a matter for managers of a neighbourhood warden scheme to decide the qualifications that are required in recruiting people for that scheme. The qualifications will depend on the functions of the particular scheme. There is no centrally prescribed age limit. Some schemes will be recruiting from the intermediate labour market, providing jobs and training for the long-term unemployed.The Neighbourhood Wardens' Unit supports schemes with guidance and training for wardens and their managers. Wardens are encouraged to undertake accredited training.

    Asylum Seekers In Emergency Accommodation

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:How many persons seeking asylum in the United Kingdom since 1 April 2000 have lived in initial emergency accommodation for (a) more than seven days, (b) more than 14 days, (c) more than 28 days, and (d) more than three months; and how many of them were under 18 years of age in each case. [HL555]

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    This information is not readily available and can only be obtained at disproportionate cost. As at 26 January this year there were 5,900 people in emergency accommodation in England and Scotland.

    Immigration Clearance Times, Heathrow

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the target time for passengers arriving at London Airport (Heathrow) between entering the immigration hall and being seen by an immigration officer; and whether they are satisfied with the current average waiting time. [HL70]

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    Current target clearance times for non-European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EAA) nationals not requiring further examination at the four Heathrow Terminals are:

    • Terminal 1: 95 per cent in less than 30 minutes
    • Terminal 2: 90 per cent in less than 30 minutes
    • Terminal 3: 85 per cent in less than 30 minutes
    • Terminal 4: 85 per cent in less than 30 minutes
    The target time for EU/EAA nationals is that they should pass through the controls without delay.Regular independent surveys (conducted by BAA) of arriving passengers demonstrates a high level of satisfaction with all aspects of the service provided by the Immigration Service. The Immigration Service is, nevertheless, constantly striving to achieve further improvements.

    Migrants' Fiscal Contribution To Uk Economy

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish the methodology and calculations which led the Home Office to conclude that Britain's foreign born population pays 10 per cent more than it receives from government, as reported in the

    Daily Telegraph of Tuesday 23 January; and how this compares with the generality of the population. [HL616]

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    The figures quoted in the Daily Telegraph are taken from the recently published Home Office study Migration: An economic and social analysis. These figures represent an initial estimate of the fiscal contribution that migrants make to the economy—that is the value of the taxes they pay over and above what they consume in benefits and other public services. However, as noted in the Home Office study, there are a wide range of possible assumptions that affect estimates of the contributions of both migrants and the UK-born population. Work is under way to refine these assumptions and it is the intention to publish the findings from this analysis, which will include details of the methodology used and the calculations.

    Daily News, Harare: Bombing

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:What is their response to the report in the

    African Defence Journal of 28 January that three eastern-made anti-tank landmines were used in the recent bombing of the printing presses of the Daily News, Harare; and whether this implicates the Zimbabwean army and government in the bombing. [HL564]

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    We deplore the bombing of the Daily News printing presses. We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to carry out an immediate investigation into who is responsible and to make good their undertaking to bring the culprits to justice.

    Senior Salaries Review Body Recommendations

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have any response to make in regard to the recent report and recommendations of the Review Body on Senior Salaries. [HL710]

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    The 2001 report of the Review Body on Senior Salaries, which makes recommendations about the pay of the senior Civil Service, senior military personnel and the judiciary, together with the annual uprating of parliamentary salaries, was published on 9 February 2001. Copies are in the Vote Office and the Library of the House. I am grateful to the chairman and members of the Review Body for their work.The main recommendations of the Review Body are:an increase from 1 April 2001 of 3 per cent in the minimum and maximum values of each of the pay bands for the senior Civil Service. Within the bands, departments will determine individual awards on the basis of performance. As last year, a further 0.4 per cent of the total senior Civil Service paybill should be made available to fund additional performance awards for the most senior staff, whose pay has fallen well behind comparable remuneration elsewhere;an increase from 1 April 2001 of 3.7 per cent in judicial salaries; andan increase from 1 April 2001 of 3.7 per cent in the maxima of the pay ranges within which individual salaries are set for senior military officers.The Government have decided to accept these recommendations. Their cost will be met within existing Departmental Expenditure Limits.

    Pay increases for Members of Parliament and Ministers are linked automatically to the increase in pay bands for the senior Civil Service. Their pay entitlement will therefore increase from 1 April by 3 per cent.

    Anglo-French Summit, 9 February

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the Anglo-French Summit of 9 February. [HL711]

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    The 23rd UK/French Summit took place in Cahors on 9 February. The Prime Minister was accompanied by his right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Defence Secretary and the Minister of State for Transport. There were productive exchanges on a range of bilateral issues, and measures were agreed to deal with the problem of illegal immigration. A Cross-Channel Commission to improve joint management of issues that affect cross-Channel relations was established. In addition it was agreed to take forward joint work in the fields of maritime safety, food safety, drugs trafficking and the environment.EU, foreign policy and defence issues were also discussed, and declarations on our shared priorities for the Stockholm Special European Council in March, and on further bilateral work in Africa were issued. Copies of these and other agreed declarations have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

    Black Rod

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    asked the Chairman of Committees:When was the advertisement seeking applications for the post of Black Rod published; in what newspapers; and on how many occasions. [HL606]

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    The advertisement was published in The Times on 16 November 2000 and republished in that newspaper free of charge on 23 November and 7 December, and in The Guardian on 18 November.

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    asked the Chairman of Committees:What criteria were used in selecting the newspapers in which the Black Rod advertisement was placed; and what was their total certified circulation. [HL607]

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    The advertisements were placed in newspapers selected to achieve the maximum circulation among potentially suitable candidates, taking account of the need to ensure value for money. I understand that the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) figure for the average daily circulation in November 2000 of The Times was 712,592 copies and of The Guardian 398,332.

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    asked the Chairman of Committees:Who drew up the advertisement for Black Rod and who was consulted in the process; when was the decision taken to advertise and by whom; and when this matter was considered by the House of Lords' Offices Committee. [HL608]

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    The advertisement was drawn up by the Establishment Office, after consultation with the Leaders of the main parties in the House and the Convenor of the Cross Benches. The decision to advertise the post of Black Rod was taken by the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee of the Offices Committee on 24 October 2000. The Sub-Committee also decided that the advertisement should be circulated to the Cabinet Secretary, the Head of the Diplomatic Service, the Defence Services Secretary at the Ministry of Defence and the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, in accordance with previous practice.

    House Of Lords: Heating

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    asked the Chairman of Committees:Whether the heating in the House of Lords is adequate for comfortable working, particularly on Mondays; and [HL626]Whether the heating system in the House of Lords is capable of providing comfortable working conditions in a severe winter; and [HL627]How many electric heaters are in operation in offices throughout the House of Lords; and whether there is any safety implication. [HL628]

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    I believe that in general the heating in the House of Lords is adequate for comfortable working. But satisfactory heating control in this building is undoubtedly difficult because of its age, construction and layout. In the event of any local discomfort, if a telephone call is made to the helpdesk (telephone extension 4747), the Works Directorate will do everything it can to assist.The heating is controlled by a computerised building energy management system which balances operational control with energy conservation. The system takes account of external temperature to calculate the optimum time to start the heating. In cold weather, particularly on a Sunday night, the shift technician makes a judgment whether to override the computer and start the heating earlier. The temperature settings in various parts of the Palace relate to the respective uses of the rooms. Occupants have widely differing comfort requirements, but heating technicians endeavour to meet personal preferences.The works rolling programme includes heating modernisation and improvement projects. The main Palace boilers are to be renewed in 2002–03. Heating and air conditioning is being improved in three committee rooms each year. £300,000 is spent each year on the modernisation of basement plant rooms, and each summer recess, as part of the PDVN installation project, heating is modernised and other maintenance is carried out in a section of the building.One further difficulty is that, in very cold weather, the doors which have to remain open for the Line of Route allow in a great deal of cold air. At these times it is only after 1 pm that the Royal Gallery, Prince's Chamber and the Chamber itself can really warm up.If an occupant requires additional heating in a room, an electric heater can be provided, subject to the loading on the electrical distribution. Seventy electric heaters have been issued. They are regularly checked for safety under a portable appliance testing contract. There is clearly a safety implication if they are left on overnight or over weekends.