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Hospital Admissions

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measure he proposes to take to ensure that the national health service can cope with an above-average demand for hospital admission; and if he will make a statement. [1153]

Mr. Sackville: Planning for fluctuating levels of hospital admission is a routine task for health authorities and hospitals, taking into account previous experience and local circumstances.

"The Health of the Nation"

Ms Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what procedures have been put in place by his Department to monitor the environmental impacts arising from the implementation of "The Health of the Nation" [258]

Mr. Sackville: "The Health of the Nation" is a Government strategy. It is subject to environmental monitoring and appraisal in the same way as other Government policies.

22 Nov 1995 : Column: 133

Ms Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if (1) "The Health of the Nation" Cm 1523, was (a) subject to and (b) modified on account of environmental appraisal using the guidance contained in policy appraisal and the environment produced by the Department of the Environment; and if he will publish the appraisal; [256]

Mr. Sackville: "The Health of the Nation" is a Government strategy agreed after widespread consultation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment was fully involved in that consultation and is a member of the Cabinet sub-committee which oversees development and monitoring of the strategy. Healthy environments are one of the "healthy settings" which "The Health of the Nation" recognises as being important to public health. The Government's policy on environmental matters is described in the Environment White Paper, "This Common Inheritance" and the sustainable development strategy.

Staffing

Mr. Byers: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many staff his Department employs on a regional basis in each standard English region; what is the cost of running these regional operations; what was the total budget for each region in 1994-95; and what are the main purposes for which the budget is used. [265]

Mr. Sackville: The information requested on staff employed in each of the standard English regions is shown in the table.

Information about departmental running costs by region is not available. Details of the Department's gross running costs are provided in the Department's annual report for 1994-95, Cm 2512.

Region
Northern16
Yorkshire and Humberside929
North west637
East Midlands62
West Midlands108
East Anglia0
South east2,822
South west21

Source: 1. MANDATE returns to Treasury from Chessington Computer Centre and Departmental records both as at 1 July 1995. 2. Figures include inward loans and secondments, fixed term appointments, casuals and staff in Agencies. 3. Figures exclude industrial staff and outwards loans and secondments.


Invoices

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the average length of time that it takes his Department to pay invoices. [930]

22 Nov 1995 : Column: 134

Mr. Sackville: The latest available information shows that the average time in 1994-95 was 16 days.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what is the amount owed to those businesses whose invoices were not paid within the agreed credit period or within 30 days in each of the last five years; [1068]

Mr. Sackville: The information is not available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how his Department publicises payment practices other than as percentages of invoices paid late. [958]

Mr. Sackville: The Department's policy, which will be published in the Departmental annual report, is to make payment to suppliers within the time limits agreed and specified in contracts with them. This will normally be within 30 days. Where appropriate, departmental contracts also require contractors to make payment to sub-contractors within 30 days of receipt of an invoice.

Population Statistics

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of the population is (a) white European, (b) Asian, (c) black and (d) other ethnic minorities. [113]

Mr. Sackville: The latest available information from the labour force survey is shown in the table:

Ethnic group Estimated percentage of private household population of Great Britain during period June 1994 to May 1995
White(2)94.2
Asian3.4
Black1.7
Other groups0.6
Total(3)100.0

(2) All but 0.5 per cent. of people in the White group are estimated to

have European Nationality (Including Turkey and nations from the former USSR).

(3) Percentages do not sum exactly to 100.0 because of rounding.


Public Interest Immunity Certificates

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list all those in his Department who have authority to issue public interest immunity certificates; how many such certificates have been issued in each of the last five years; and what were the main reasons for them. [1433]

Mr. Sackville: A claim to public interest immunity relating to departmental documents or information is normally made by the appropriate Minister.

I refer the hon. Member to the replies I gave the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) on 19 July Official Report, column 1286 and on 24 October, Official Report, column 571.

22 Nov 1995 : Column: 135

Vitamins

Mr. Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to fortify cereal grain flour in accordance with recommendations of the Medical Research Council vitamin study; and if he will make a statement. [334]

Mrs. Browning: I have been asked to reply.

The Medical Research Council vitamin study research group on the prevention of neural tube defects made no recommendations on the fortification of foods. An expert advisory group was, however, convened to consider the dietary implications of the results of the MRC study. Its report recommended inter alia that the range of breads and breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid should be increased; that fortification with folic acid should be limited to breads and breakfast cereals; and that there should continue to be available a choice of unfortified breads and breakfast cereals. There was no recommendation to fortify flour. In response to the report the Government have encouraged the food industry to increase the range of breads and breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid on a voluntary basis. It is estimated that last year 50 to 60 per cent. of breakfast cereals and about 10 per cent. of breads were fortified with folic acid.

DUCHY OF LANCASTER

Ministerial Transport, London

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many times in the last year he has used (a) London Transport buses and (b) London Underground while on official business; [405]

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Minister without portfolio how many times in the last year he has used (a) London Transport buses and (b) London Underground while on official business. [399]

Mr. Roger Freeman: None.

Energy Consumption

Mr. Battle: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made towards cutting energy consumption in Government buildings for which he has responsibility, in each year since 1990. [1453]

Mr. Freeman: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Ainsworth) on Wednesday 17 May 1995 Official Report, column 260.

Invoices

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the average length of time it takes for his Department to pay invoices. [936]

Mr. Freeman: The average length of time taken by my Department to pay invoices is 27 days.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how his Department publicises payment practices other than as percentages of invoices paid late. [954]

22 Nov 1995 : Column: 136

Mr. Freeman: In accordance with the Government's undertaking given in the 1994 competitiveness White Paper, my Department sets out its payment policy in its annual report, Cm 2820, together with payment performance statistics expressed as a percentage of invoices paid. It is not intended to change the method by which performance is measured.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the pilot project for a single licensing point for small businesses. [945]

Mr. Freeman: A study into a computer-based, one-stop system to provide new businesses with customised information about their regulatory and licensing requirements was announced on 8 August 1995. The study, which is being undertaken by KPMG Management Consulting, is due to be completed by the end of this year. Following the study, the intention is to undertake a pilot scheme in some selected business links covering starting up as a vehicle component manufacturer, a corner shop, a small hotelier and a small builder. Depending on the outcome of the pilot the Government, will consider the case for extending the system to other sectors of business and all areas of the country.


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