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IACS Regulations (Flooding)

Mr. Curry: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he will take to ensure that farmers whose land has been affected by flooding meet the requirements of the IACS regulations. [144884]

Ms Quin [holding answer 15 January 2001]: In addition to the measures announced by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on 7 November, we have been evaluating with farming organisations here and with the European Commission in Brussels the extent to which further flexibility may be needed in applying certain CAP scheme rules.

The EU's Cereals Management Committee has approved a derogation from Article 19(3) of Commission Regulation 2316/1999 to extend the latest date for harvesting crops from land to be set aside in 2001 from 15 January to 28 February, with a further extension to 31 March in the specific cases of sugar beet and potatoes.

We have also put to the Commission proposed changes to our national implementing rules for the Arable Area Payments Scheme (AAPS) designed to allow farmers on whose land winter crops have either been lost, or could simply not be planted, the option of trying to establish spring sown crops after 15 January, retaining the possibility of entering such land into set-aside up to the 15 May IACS claim deadline if the attempts prove unsuccessful. Similarly we are proposing to treat flood damaged winter crops which are either ploughed in or

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otherwise destroyed by 15 May as meeting our green cover requirements for entry into set-aside if no other crop is feasible. We will be making further detailed announcements about this in the light of the Commission's response.

We will be exercising our national discretion under Council Regulation 1251/1999 to extend the relevant latest sowing dates from 15 May to 31 May 2001 and will keep open the possibility of seeking extensions if necessary.

We have also requested that all farmers who consider their cropping plans to have been affected by the recent extreme weather conditions should let their local MAFF Regional Service Centre have details of the circumstances so that these are on record when subsequent area payment claims come to be assessed.

The position on other IACS schemes remains under review.

Potato and Sugar Beet Crops

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received on the impact of recent severe weather conditions on potato and sugar beet crops. [146234]

Ms Quin: There have been a small number of representations specifically addressing the impact of the recent severe weather on potato crops although none specifically in relation to sugar beet. The National Farmers Union has also made representations about these crops where they are on land which is to be set aside under the Arable Area Payments Scheme in 2001. Under EU rules, these crops have to be harvested by 15 January to allow the land to be set aside. However, as the bad weather has seriously delayed the harvest, my right hon. Friend the Minister wrote to Commissioner Fischler. As a result, the Commission has made a regulation which, where the adverse weather has prevented an earlier harvest, permits any crop to be harvested up to 28 February and potatoes and sugar beet to be harvested up to 31 March on land which is to be set aside in 2001. As required by the EU regulation, any farmer who wishes to take advantage of this should contact his/her MAFF Regional Service Centre.


Ms Kingham: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many staff were employed on the Environment Agency's Floodline programme during the period October to December 2000. [145472]

Mr. Morley: The Floodline service is operated at a BT call centre where callers can either listen to pre-recorded information or speak to a live operator. Calls are initially taken by a BT operator who will try to respond to the call. If this is not possible, or if the call relates to a particular flooding emergency, they will refer the caller to the relevant Environment Agency office (to which there is a 24-hour link for emergencies).

The call centre is normally staffed with up to 10 positions, but during the recent flooding that number was increased to 20 operators with a total of 42 trained to cover the whole day's shift (8 am to 12 am). The agency

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estimates that some 5,000 hours were spent by BT call centre staff on Floodline during the period October to December 2000.

The agency's offices receiving calls from Floodline, or direct from the public, will have been staffed at variable levels during the flooding period. Some staff would have been dedicated to dealing with such calls, others would have combined this with other work. In total the agency estimates that its staff spent some 8,200 hours on Floodline work during October to December 2000.

Floodline received a total of 689,838 calls during the same three month period. This compares to some 102,000 calls in the first year of the service's operation.

The operation of Floodline will be included in the "lessons learned" report that the agency will be producing on the flooding.


Accident and Emergency Departments

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many and what proportion of patients waited in accident and emergency for more than two hours, once a decision had been made that they need a bed for each quarter for the last two years in each NHS Trust or Health Authority, by NHS region. [141507]

Ms Stuart [holding answer 13 December 2000]: National summary information on emergency admissions through accident and emergency departments for the period Quarter 1 1998-99 to Quarter 2 2000-01 is given in the table and is available in the Library.

Information by health authority and National Health Service trust is not routinely published.

Year and quarterTotal number admitted through A&E in quarter Number of patients admitted to ward more than 2 hoursPercentage of patients admitted to ward more than 2 hours
Quarter 1511,782116,55023
Quarter 2516,977120,78523
Quarter 1486,90985,63018
Quarter 2497,27790,62918
Quarter 3523,318112,13921
Quarter 4527,615126,97824
Quarter 1480,66983,27917
Quarter 2473,68180,38017
Quarter 3501,767103,22321
Quarter 4497,662103,54521

Food Standards Agency

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the areas of policymaking for which the Food Standards Agency is responsible and those areas of policymaking for which his Department is responsible. [144122]

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Ms Stuart: Under Section 6 of the Food Standards Act 1999, the Food Standards Agency is responsible for developing policies relating to matters connected with food safety or other interests of consumers in relation to food. The Department is responsible for improving and protecting the health and social well being of the people of England, tackling the causes of ill-health and modernising the National Health Service and personal social services.

In certain subject areas, such as nutrition, the two Departments have a shared interest. Details of the relative responsibilities of the two Departments in such areas are set out in a concordat, copies of which have been placed in the Library.

Waiting Lists (Barnet)

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients are on NHS waiting lists in the Barnet Health Authority area; how many were on such lists in May 1997; and if he will make a statement. [146509]

Mr. Denham: The figures relate to the total inpatient waiting list. Data for May 1997 are not available as data were only collected quarterly at that point. Therefore data are provided for the two nearest quarter months for Barnet Health Authority:

Total inpatient waiting list--Barnet Health Authority

March 19977,321
June 19977,198
November 20005,360


QF01 quarterly return/monthly returns

In 1999-2000 both inpatient waiting lists and the number of outpatients waiting over 13 weeks, nationally were reduced. This demonstrates that waiting is being attacked on a broad front, and one is not being reduced at the expense of the other.

The inpatient waiting list is currently 137,000 below the level inherited, and at September 2000, the number of outpatients waiting over 13 weeks fell by 9,000 since the last quarter.

Digital Hearing Aids

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to add other NHS trusts in Hampshire to the list of trusts providing digital hearing aids. [146512]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 22 January 2001]: The Department will study the results of the modernising National Health Service hearing aid services project at the twenty participating NHS trusts to determine how changes to hearing aid services are rolled out to the NHS. Pending the outcome of the project other hospitals are able to access the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency contract for digital hearing aids where the service criteria are met.

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