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Written Parliamentary Questions: 22nd September 2006

Volunteers
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

(1) what consultation was undertaken by his Department in advance of the change in guidance from his Department regarding lunch expenses for those on benefits who work as volunteers; and with whom such consultation took place;

(2) what assessment he has made of the likely impact of new guidance from his Department regarding lunch expenses for those on benefits who work as volunteers on the number of those on benefits who volunteer;

(3) what estimate he has made of the number of people on benefits who do voluntary work.
(John Hemming)

A:Volunteering plays an important role in helping people move off benefits and back into work. It gives people confidence, the chance to develop skills and to gain invaluable experience after a period out of work.

We do not want to create a situation whereby individuals are put off volunteering or are penalised from helping themselves and others because they cannot afford to buy something to eat.

We have therefore simplified the rules. Meals can now be treated as a reasonable expense which volunteers can claim back so that they are no longer expected to meet the cost of their lunch from their benefit. We have been working closely with volunteering organisations to implement the simplification quickly and smoothly.

The number of benefit recipients who choose to volunteer is not known as we do not collect this information. (James Plaskitt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions)

Local Government Finance
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will increase the limit for capitalisation of local government spending from that announced at the Capital Programme Working Party on 26 May. (John Hemming)

A:We have no plans to increase the limit for capitalisation of local government spending from that announced at the Capital Programmes Working Party. Local authority capitalisation presents a significant risk to the prudent management of national fiscal rules and needs to be managed closely. (Phil Woolas, Minister of State (Local Government & Community Cohesion), Department for Communities and Local Government)

Medical Research
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will ensure that patients and guardians are given a right of access to research protocols for medical research in which they are involved. (John Hemming)

A:Potential research participants have to make a considered choice whether to consent to participate in research. They should receive the information they need in order to weigh up the risks and benefits. Research ethics committees review carefully whether the information is adequate. It is normally presented as an information sheet summarizing the research project, with details of how potential participants can request further information if they wish. They may ask for the research protocol.

Research protocols held by public authorities would normally be disclosed on request. Some parts of research protocols may be confidential. (Andy Burnham, Minister of State (Delivery and Quality), Department of Health)

Event Monitor Hypoxia Study
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will ensure that medical information stored in special case files held by Professor David Southall as part of the NHS-funded research relating to the Event Monitor Hypoxia Study and continuous negative extrathoracic pressure is copied into the patients' NHS medical files; and if she will make a statement.(John Hemming)

A:Decisions about disclosure of medical information to clinicians for incorporation within medical records are the responsibility of the individuals to whom the findings relate. Researchers owe these individuals a duty of confidentiality. They are expected to clarify (either in advance, or where practicable, through subsequent contact with affected research participants) whether the individuals consent to the disclosure of the relevant information.
(Andy Burnham, Minister of State (Delivery and Quality), Department of Health)

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