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Child Support

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many child support cases have been calculated using the new assessment procedure in the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999. [161049]

Angela Eagle: Section 80 of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 amended the Child Support Act 1991 to permit the Inland Revenue to disclose information on the earnings of self-employed non-resident parents to the Child Support Agency for the purposes of assessing child support liability.

As at 16 March 2001 the Agency had contacted the Inland Revenue on 7,632 occasions for income details of self-employed non-resident parents.

Stakeholder Pension Schemes

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many stakeholder pension schemes have been registered; and what other information the Government will routinely collect on this type of pension. [161047]

Mr. Rooker: 47 stakeholder pension schemes have been registered so far.

We will collect a range of information about stakeholder pensions. This will include the number of individuals (broken down by gender, age and earnings) as well as the value of contributions made.

Winter Fuel Payments

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the number of people eligible for a non-automatic Winter Fuel Payment for winter 2000 who did not claim the benefit. [161048]

Mr. Rooker: Around 1.3 million people have made successful claims for Winter Fuel Payments in respect of winter 2000 out of a possible 1.5 million people that might have been eligible.

An information campaign has been running since last April. Its aim has been to ensure that existing and potential customers know about changes to the scheme and what, if anything, they need to do to get a payment. It was up to the individual to choose whether to claim a payment.

Pensioner Incomes (Devon)

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many and what percentage of (a) single pensioners and (b) pensioner couples in the Torbay, Teignbridge and Totnes constituencies have weekly incomes below (i) £80, (ii) £90, (iii) £100, (iv) £125, (v) £150, (vi) £175 and (vii) £200. [161032]

Mr. Rooker: The information is not available.


St. Helena

Dr. Marek: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make it her policy to ensure an air strip is available in St Helena (a) at the

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same time and (b) before one becomes available at Pitcairn. [160859]

Clare Short: We are currently waiting for the results of a Comparative Study of Air and Sea Access to identify the least cost solution to St. Helena's future international passenger and cargo transport needs. The final report is expected shortly and its recommendations will then need to be discussed with the St. Helena Government. The results of that study cannot be prejudiced and no presumption can be made that it will lead to support being offered for the provision of an airfield.


Worcestershire NHS Acute Hospitals Trust

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of current bed availability in the Worcestershire NHS Acute Hospitals Trust; and if he will make a statement. [154587]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 20 March 2001]: Assessment of current bed availability in Worcestershire is ongoing on a number of levels. On a practical level there are weekly meetings within the trust to maximise the use of current capacity and review any delayed transfers of care. The health authority works in partnership with Social Services and National Health Service colleagues to address capacity issues through weekly meetings of the local Winter Operational Forum.

In relation to the longer-term position the Worcestershire Health Authority is currently modelling bed numbers and capacity for the year ahead.

The health authority's modelling work on bed numbers will take into account the Government's National Beds Inquiry and the total number of beds available within Worcestershire to care for patients in the most appropriate location after the new hospital opens will actually be in line with the national average.

Shelton Hospital

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the impact of his approval of an acute ward at Shelton hospital. [156514]

Yvette Cooper: I am informed that Shropshire's Community and Mental Health National Health Service trust is in the process of developing plans for replacement Child Development Centres and the replacement of Adult Acute Mental Health wards. However, approval has not yet been given to an acute ward at Shelton Hospital, and no business case has been received by the NHS Executive: West Midlands Regional Office in regard to these developments.

The Government are committed to investment in modernising and improving facilities for patients and staff, and the Regional Office will give full consideration to any business case received from Shropshire's Community and Mental Health National Health Service trust within the usual processes.

Smoking Cessation Services

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much new money was spent in England on specialist

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advice and support for the NHS for smokers waiting to quit in (a) 1999-2000 and (b) 2000-01; what the figure will be for 2001-02; and if he will reconcile these figures with those in paragraph 4.9 of the 1998 White Paper "Smoking Kills". [158352]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 23 April 2001]: In "Smoking Kills" we undertook to invest up to £60 million of new money for smoking cessation services over the three years 1999-2000 to 2001-02. We expect to exceed this commitment. Investment in the sevices has been:

In addition, we have made provision for health authorities to cover the cost of the recently de-blacklisted Zyban and nicotine replacement therapy, which we expect to cost between £10.5 million and £42 million per year.

Cardiothoracic Hospital, Paddington Basin

Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster health authority has made of the effect upon access to its proposed new cardiothoracic hospital in Paddington Basin of road user charges upon (a) patients, (b) staff and (c) relatives and friends of patients. [158604]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 30 April 2001]: The impact of national and local strategies for public and private transport will be the subject of work requested by Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster health authority. This work is to be included in the full business case for the proposed Paddington Basin development.

Audiology Services

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to recruit more staff into audiology services. [160072]

Mr. Hutton: There are currently around 1,400 audiologists, 300 audiological scientists and 120 hearing therapists working in the National Health Service. The Department of Health is working with the National Advisory Group for Scientists and Technicians on a number of initiatives that will help try to improve recruitment and retention of staff into audiology services.

The "Modernising NHS hearing aid services" project will examine all the issues, including staff numbers, involved in modernisation of audiological services. Having the correct balance of staff numbers and grades is one of the keys to developing an effective and modern service.

Herbal Remedies

Mr. Tredinnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps he is taking to ensure that the provisions of the proposed European Traditional Medicines Directive do not restrict the ability to continue to market in the United Kingdom herbal products which are on the market as (a) herbal medicines exempt from licensing under section 12 of the Medicines Act 1968 and (b) foods; [159959]

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Yvette Cooper: The draft directive would not affect products which are not classified as medicines.

In discussions with herbal interest groups, the Medicines Control Agency has reached a wide measure of consensus that the current regulatory arrangements which permit unlicensed herbal remedies under section 12(2) of the Medicines Act 1968 do not provide adequate safeguards for the public: there are no specific standards for the safety and quality of individual products under this regime, and there are inadequate arrangements for providing the public information about the use of the product.

Although work is still at a relatively early stage, we are encouraged by progress in Europe on developing a draft directive on traditional medicinal products. We expect that if negotiations are successful, this legislation would provide systematic regulatory arrangements for a wide range of traditional herbal remedies of the kind currently sold and supplied under section 12(2).

Any systematic updated regulatory regime for traditional herbal remedies is likely to place greater constraints on companies than is currently the case with the weak regulatory arrangements for unlicensed herbal remedies. A potential advantage for companies, however, is the greater confidence the public could have in the safety and reliability of these products.

We take the view that traditional herbal remedies properly classified as medicines should be appropriately regulated within a medicines regime. Standards should be consistent with those applying to other licensed medicines, including the many herbal medicines which have received a marketing authorisation under Directive 65/65/EEC. We also wish to ensure that relevant regulatory requirements developed for traditional medicines are in practice applied in a way that is appropriate to the nature of the specific product under consideration.

The current draft directive includes several features which would have the effect of containing the burden of regulatory requirements: for example, the possibility of a positive list of traditional medicines where in certain defined circumstances the safety of the product and the requirement to demonstrate traditional usage could both

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be accepted as met without the applicant presenting evidence, and the possibility of simplified quality dossiers for defined categories of traditional medicines.

On product innovation, a key feature of the proposed directive is that the usual requirement for medicines to demonstrate efficacy would be replaced by a requirement to show evidence of traditional use. There will need to be continuing discussions about many aspects of the detailed contents of the directive. Our starting point, however, is that where companies are seeking to bring a new medicine, natural or otherwise, to the market the normal route should be through demonstration of the product's safety, quality and efficacy.

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