Parliament: The House In Brief

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The Independent Online
Drugs bill up pounds 160m

THE NHS has been forced to spend pounds 160m more on drugs this year because of shortages of "generic" medicines - cheaper versions of branded treatments - Health Minister of State John Denham said in a Commons written reply. But the service was able to cope with such pressures, he added. The Health Department said the increase on the NHS's pounds 4.7bn-a-year drug budget would be offset by projected savings of pounds 150m from changes to the rules on purchase of non-generic drugs.

The Government had also set up a "fundamental review of the current arrangements to see whether there are alternative ways of supplying the NHS with generics which would better ensure consistency of supply at reasonable prices".

Peer into history

MORE THAN 800 years of parliamentary history ended last night after legislation to abolish most hereditaries' voting and sitting rights reached the statute book. The Government defied opposition by some of its backbenchers and approved the so-called Weatherill compromise under which 92 hereditary peers will be reprieved until stage two of Lords' reform.

Deaf rule review

JACK STRAW, the Home Secretary, is reviewing courtroom rules after a deaf man was barred from serving as a juror, Tony Blair said. "It should be possible for all people to take part in jury service," he added. "It is a very great public service when people engage in jury service and we should do everything to encourage them."

No, says Mo

MO MOWLAM, the Cabinet Office Minister, rejected calls for a review of the Government's use and number of spindoctors despite Tory claims that there were eight special advisers to Tory former Prime Minister John Major, but under Tony Blair this had risen to 21.

New Year cheer

BRITONS CAN enjoy New Year's Eve in the knowledge that public services are unlikely to break down because of the Millennium Bug, said a report by the National Audit Office.

Sale plan savaged

A PLAN to partially privatise the Government agency which researches high-tech weapons was savaged by an all-party committee of MPs as "fatally flawed". The Commons Defence Committee said proposals to sell the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera) would lead to valuable scientific knowledge being lost, and risk Britain being left behind in weapon developments. The Treasury could raise pounds 750m from selling the agency in Farnborough.

Today's agenda

Provisional business depending on progress with Bills:

Parliament meets at 11.15am to be prorogued, ending the session.

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