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Housing Authorities

Mr. Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will announce the allocation of resources for housing authorities in England for 2001-02; and if he will make a statement. [143368]

Mr. Raynsford: We are issuing details today of the revenue allocations for 2001-02. Details of capital allocations made through the Housing Investment Programme were given last week. Copies of the documents setting out the allocations to individual authorities are being placed in the Library of the House.

The £2.6 billion package of housing capital resources for 2001-02 is well over twice the amount allocated in 1997-98, and represents an increase of 24 per cent. in the resources compared to the current year.

2001-02 will see the introduction of resource accounting within the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), including the new Major Repairs Allowance (MRA). Resource accounting is part of the new, more business- like approach to local authority housing and the delivery of better quality services. The MRA will mean that some £1.6 billion of the housing capital resources available next year will be paid through HRA subsidy, to enable all authorities to maintain the condition of their housing stock over the longer term.

Introducing the MRA will require changes to the accounting arrangement for HRA. I have made regulations to give effect to these changes and they have today been laid before the House.

We are combating years of under-investment in the fabric of our council stock. We are determined to improve the quality of council housing and the services to tenants.


Nursing Vacancies

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will provide a regional breakdown of the hard to fill (three months or more) (a) nursing vacancies and (b) midwifery vacancies as of September, and a regional breakdown of all nursing vacancies as of September. [142221]

Mr. Denham: The information on vacancies as of September 2000 is not available centrally. The data collected at 31 March 2000 were only for three months or longer vacancies.

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Department of Health vacancies survey, March 2000
Three month vacancies(1) in NHS regional office areas, qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff

Whole-time equivalents
All qualified staffMidwives
Northern and Yorkshire84030
West Midlands95020
North West78010
South East1,89080
South West60040

(1) Posts that had been vacant for three months or more at 31 March 2000

(2) Five or less and greater than zero.


1. Figures are rounded to the nearest 10

2. Figures exclude learners and agency staff


Department of Health Vacancies Survey 2000


Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions his Department has had with the British Chiropody and Podiatry Association about the future regulation of the profession. [142189]

Mr. Denham: The British Chiropody and Podiatry Association has been included in the recently completed consultation on the Government's proposals for a new Health Professions Council. The Chair of the Association took part in a recent stakeholder event where he had the opportunity to discuss, in detail, future regulation of the profession with Department officials.

GP Practices

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average distance was travelled by patients to gain access to treatment at a NHS general practitioner's practice in each health authority for each year between 1987 and 1999. [142503]

Mr. Denham: The information requested is not collected centrally.


Mr. Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his plans to reduce the incidence of smoking. [142936]

Yvette Cooper: Today the Government have introduced and published the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill. The Department has also issued a press release announcing consultation on the proposal to allow all Nicotine Replacement Products to be prescribed on the National Health Service by general practitioners. Copies of the consultation letter have been placed in the Library.

Midwifery Units

Mr. Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the future of midwifery-led units in the NHS. [141490]

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Mr. Denham [holding answer 13 December 2000]: The National Health Service provides a variety of types of care for women during pregnancy and childbirth including care in midwife-led units. We would expect to see this variety continue, offering individual choice whenever possible. Locally, health care commissioners and providers need to ensure that a full range of maternity services is available to women as close to home as possible.

Maternity Services

Mr. Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he intends to publish his policy on reconfiguring maternity services. [141491]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 13 December 2000]: We are currently discussing with the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Midwives the best way to work together on broader issues around maternity unit staffing and configuration. We expect to make an announcement very soon.

Hospital Appointments

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of patients attended appointments with hospital consultants in the last 12 months. [142531]

Mr. Denham: Statistics for the number of missed appointments or 'did not attend' (DNA) rates are collected quarterly for first outpatient appointments only. Statistics collected for the last two quarters of the year 1999-2000 and the first two quarters of 2000-01 show an average DNA rate of 11.37 per cent. 1

Booked appointments allow patients to pre-book hospital appointments and admission dates that are convenient to them, providing scope to reduce DNA rates. The National Health Service Plan target is that by the end of 2005 all patients will be able to plan their appointments and elective admission dates.

Josie and Mary Attard

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will estimate the legal fees incurred by St. Mary's Hospital, Manchester, for (a) the application for ward of court and (b) other legal costs, for the application to separate the Siamese twins Josie and Mary Attard. [142737]

Mr. Denham: The Central Manchester Healthcare National Health Service Trust has so far incurred legal costs of £55,000. This has been in respect of the original court hearing, the appeal court hearing and the action brought by the Pro Life Alliance Group.

The trust did not make an application for ward of court in relation to the children.

Speech Therapists

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the outcome was of the claim by speech therapists for equal pay with equivalent professions in the NHS; how much has been provided to health authorities for settlement of compensation claims; and if he will set a target date for all claims to be paid in full. [142753]

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Mr. Denham: Most claims were settled through negotiations which found that 351 speech and language therapists out of some 1,800 who lodged claims were due retrospective payment. The settlement also provided a revised grading structure which gave access to the clinical psychologists' pay spine.

The costs of the settlement will be met from within health authority allocations. Every health authority will get a general increase in their allocations to meet pay and other cost pressures. Employers have been asked to make payments within four weeks (or as soon as possible thereafter) of notification that the speech and language therapist has accepted the settlement offer.


World Trade Organisation

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what requirements are to be made of developing countries as part of an agreement on trade in services in the World Trade Organisation negotiations. [142545]

Clare Short: Developing countries will decide for themselves what commitments they wish to undertake in the negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The GATS operates on the basis that governments are able to choose the sectors in which, and the extent to which, they wish to liberalise. Thus, all members are free to decide whether or not opening a particular service to external trade is appropriate and advantageous to their economies.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's negotiating position on an agreement on trade in services in the World Trade Organisation negotiations. [142557]

Clare Short: The UK strongly supports the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations and their objective of progressively opening up trade in a fair and predictable manner. We believe this process offers benefits to all World Trade Organisation members by promoting more efficient, competitive and varied markets domestically and for export.

My Department is working to help build the capacity of developing countries to participate in negotiations.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will list the (a) non- Governmental and (b) other organisations involved in the WTO negotiations on the general agreement on trade in services. [142544]

Clare Short: Negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) are conducted between member Governments of the World Trade Organisation.

The following international organisations have full or partial observer status at the negotiations: the United Nations, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Trade Centre (ITC), the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the

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World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Tourism Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (APC).

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) do not have observer status as it is an inter-government organisation and accountability runs through Governments to their people. The UK Government consult with interested organisations when formulating their position.

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