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Cattle Slaughter Scheme

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what weight of meat and bonemeal from animals slaughtered under the over-30-months scheme is currently being stored in cold storage depots in Grimsby; how long it has been stored

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there; and for how long it is planned to be kept there. [14025]

Mr. Baldry: There are currently no dry warehouses holding meat and bonemeal or cold stores holding carcase material from animals slaughtered under the over-30-months scheme in Grimsby.


Private Finance Projects

Ms Harman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) if he will make a list of the estimated savings arising from each (a) outsourcing and (b) private finance project within his Department for each of the next three years; [12197]

Mr. Burt: The information is not available in the format requested.

The business involvement of the private sector in the Department of Social Security is part of a wider programme of change to transform our business by delivering improved services at a significantly reduced cost.

The information relating to estimated savings is as follows.

The outsourcing to the Royal Mail of Child Support Agency post opening is estimated to save £20,000 in 1996-97 and £35,000 in both 1997-98 and 1998-99.

The Benefits Agency-Post Office Counters Ltd. project is cost neutral but, over the life of the project, we expect programme savings in the order of £1,200 million.

Savings of 60 per cent. will be achieved over the life of the national insurance recording system 2 (NIRS2) contract--up to 2004--compared with what it was estimated the cost would have been had NIRS2 been procured conventionally. No breakdown between years is possible.

Savings estimates are not available for those projects that have not reached the award of contract stage. Individual estimates might prejudice commercial negotiations. From previous departmental experience, areas that have been subject to private finance initiative, outsourcing and market testing have achieved long-term savings.

Information relating to current and planned projects is in the table. The projects listed have been established to test use of the private sector where it can contribute investment and new ideas to help achieve efficiency in our business. Timetables are subject to the procurement meeting our business needs.

Department of social security--private sector projects

Benefits Agency--current projects
A competition to select private sector companies to work in partnership in three area directorates(8) OJEC advert--14 September 1996 Shortlist of suppliers--early 1997 (9)SSR--early 1997 Contract sign--spring 1997
Outsourcing Child Benefit operations(8) OJEC advert--early 1997 Shortlist of suppliers--spring 1997 (9)SSR--Summer 1997 Contract sign--spring 1998
Outsourcing Benefits Agency medical services(8) OJEC advert--17 June 1996 Shortlist of suppliers--20 August 1996 (9)SSR--20 November 1996 Contract sign--spring 1997
Private finance initiative to automate payment of DSS benefits through post office counters and introduce plastic benefit card. Initial trial in 10 post offices.(8) OJEC advert--30 August 1994 Shortlist of suppliers--9 December 1994 (9)SSR--13 April 1995 Contract sign--15 May 1996 Trial start 21 October 1996
Contributions Agency--current projects
Private finance initiative to replace national insurance recording system (NIRS1)(8) OJEC advert--13 August 1994 Contract sign--24 May 1995 Phased roll out from 10 February 1997-- 6 April 1999
Newcastle estates redevelopment(8) OJEC advert--4 January 1995
Private finance initiative to rationalise and improve accommodation of DSS agencies in Newcastle(10) ITT--24 January 1996 Contract sign--spring 1997
Planned projects
Enquiry centre
Proposals for an Enquiry Centre to deal with telephone calls and some written correspondence are developed. A firm timetable has not yet been agreed.
Information Technology Services Agency--current projects
ACCORD (Access to corporate data)(8) OJEC advert--7 August 1996
Private finance initiative to award a contract for delivery of a range of IS/IT services.SSR--spring 1997
Three private sector organisations have been shortlisted to work as a joint team with(10) ITT--Summer 1997
DSS staff to identify requirements.Contract sign--autumn 1997
SASA (StandAlone Support Applications)(8) OJEC advert--15 April 1996 SSR--25 June 1996
Outsourcing the development and support of those small, non-strategic computer applications(10) ITT--early 1997 Contract sign--spring 1997
Child Support Agency--current projects
Royal MailContract sign--22 May 1996
Outsourcing post opening in 6 CSA CentresPhased roll out 2 September 1996- 17 February 1997
Planned projects
Facilities Management
Support services outsourced in 5 of 6 CSA Centres. Position of sixth centre to be considered at contract renewal during 1997
Departmental--current projects
PRIME (Private sector Resource Initiative for Management of the Estate)(8) OJEC advert--28 June 1996
Private Finance Initiative to transfer ownership and management of DSS premises to the private sectorShortlist of suppliers--1 November 1996 Contract sign--autumn 1997
Outsourcing four of the twelve pilot areas running a new service to help lone parents into workAdvert--25 November 1996 (10) ITT-early 1997 Contract sign--spring 1997

1. There are no planned projects for the departmental headquarters, Benefits Agency and ITSA.

2. Future timetable dates are provisional and subject to ministerial approval.

(8) Official Journal of the European Community.

(9) Statement of service requirements.

(10) Invitation to tender.

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War Pensions

Mr. Alfred Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what further medical evidence has been received since the decision to change the policy on noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss; what assessment he has made of whether the additional medical evidence

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is consistent with the reasons for changing his policy on war disablement pensions for deafness; and if he will make a statement. [14343]

Mr. Heald: Since the change in approach regarding noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss was announced, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, has met representatives of the Royal British Legion, and a paper

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written for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf by Dr. Coles has been received. In addition, my noble Friend, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, has received an open letter from four hearing loss experts, Professor Mark Lutman, Professor Adrian Davis, Dr. Jonathan Hazell and Dr. Ross Coles. All the experts agree with the fundamental point in the advice presented to the Central Advisory Committee on war pensions on 5 December 1996, namely that noise-induced loss and age-related hearing loss are broadly additive. It is the scientific fact that led to the new approach.

Mr. Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish in the Official Report the open letter sent to the Minister of State, the noble Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, on 23 January by Professor Mark E. Lutman and others about the Minister's statement that medical opinion on noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss has changed; what action he is taking to revise the Government's change of policy on war disablement pensions for deafness; and if he will make a statement. [14339]

Mr. Heald: A copy has been placed in the Library.

The letter confirms that noise-induced hearing loss and hearing loss due to aging are broadly additive. It is that medical opinion which is now being applied in the assessment of claims for war disablement pension. No action to revise policy on war disablement pensions on hearing loss is therefore being taken.

Mr. Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his estimate of the number of ex-service men and women who (a) will qualify for a war disablement pension for deafness under the revised regulations governing entitlement that became effective in March 1996, and (b) would have qualified had the Government not approved their change of policy. [14341]

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Mr. Heald: No revised regulation or change of policy governing entitlement to war pensions became effective in March 1996. That was the date on which departmental medical advisors initially advised that there was no longer any reasonable doubt that the effects of noise and age-related hearing loss were broadly additive. In the light of subsequent statements by medical experts that this had been known for 30 years, the matter has been looked at again and we now accept that the position should have been corrected at an earlier date.

We estimate that, in 1997-98, 800 new claimants will qualify for a war disablement pension for noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss.

Mr. Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what consultation he had with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People on the Government's interpretation of the medical evidence on noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss; and when they were consulted. [14342]

Mr. Heald: Departmental officials met the Royal National Institute for the Deaf and its medical advisor on 9 January.

The current approach to cases involving service-related noise induced, sensorineural hearing loss and later age-related hearing loss is that the two are not more than additive. All the experts, including those advising the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, agree on this . The medical facts are not, therefore, in doubt.

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