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Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if she will place in the Library for each year since 1995 the average response time for providing a substantive answer to (a) hon. Member's correspondence, (b) correspondence from members of the public and (c) written parliamentary questions in the (i) House of Commons and (ii) House of Lords; [7049]

Ms Hewitt: I received almost 13,000 items of post in the last year. My Department aims to respond to all letters received within 10 working days.

General information on the volumes of correspondence received across Whitehall and on overall performance is published by the Cabinet Office. Figures for 2000 were published on 6 April 2001, Official Report, columns 324–28W and on 19 July 2001, Official Report, columns 454–56W.

My Department aims to answer all ordinary written parliamentary questions within five working days, and named day written parliamentary questions on the day named.

I have answered 378 written parliamentary questions this session, providing substantive answers for 76 per cent. of them on time.

Business Recovery Fund

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many applications for grants were made under the business recovery fund; and how many have been allocated, for each Regional Development Agency in the last three years; [7800]

Alun Michael: I have been asked to reply.

23 Oct 2001 : Column: 142W

The business recovery fund has been in existence only since May this year as part of our response to the impact of foot and mouth disease on the rural economy. Discretion was given to each Regional Development Agency to use available funds flexibly and quickly to meet the specific needs of their own region. As a consequence information on numbers of applications is not available on any consistent basis. Information on the value of grants is given in the table.

RDA allocations—direct grants to business(6)
All cash figures in £ million

AllocationApproved for paymentNumber of applications approvedApplications awaiting approval

(6) 17 October 2001


Strategic Communications Unit

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister what the cost was of running the Strategic Communications Unit in the financial year 2000–01. [8767]

The Prime Minister: The total cost of running the Strategic Communications Unit for the financial year 2000–01 was £957,302. This includes the cost of developing and running the No. 10 website which now receives over four million hits a week.

Special Envoys

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the overseas missions undertaken on his behalf since 7 June by (a) Lord Levy and (b) the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), listing in each case (i) persons and places visited, (ii) the reason for the visits and (iii) the cost to public funds. [8774]

The Prime Minister: Since 7 June, Lord Levy has travelled as my personal envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority from 10 to 13 July, and to Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan from 30 September to 10 October. During his visits he met a range of senior figures including the Israeli Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defence Minister, the President of the Palestinian Authority, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, King Abdullah and the Jordanian Foreign Minister. The purpose of these visits was to carry messages on my behalf to other leaders. Lord Levy received no remuneration and travels at his own expense. The FCO and diplomatic missions overseas provide him with practical support, the cost of which is not separately itemised.

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I have appointed my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) as Chairman of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group. He has not undertaken any missions on my behalf.

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister in respect of visits abroad undertaken on his behalf by (a) Lord Levy and (b) right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), and if it is his policy to inform the Foreign Office of such visits in advance. [8773]

The Prime Minister: When Lord Levy travels as my personal envoy, the FCO is informed and he is supported by FCO staff in London and at overseas diplomatic missions.

In respect of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I have him today.

Regional Government

Mr. Collins: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the allocation of ministerial responsibilities for aspects of regional Government. [7528]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) on 9 July, Official Report, column 408W.


Alcohol Strategy

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he plans to publish his alcohol strategy. [7386]

Ms Blears: The broad timetable for the strategy is set out in the NHS Plan, which was published in July 2000. The plan said that the Department would be implementing the strategy by 2004. The Department expects to publish a consultation paper in due course.

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to provide a screening service for asylum seekers arriving in Kent; and what finance is being made available. [6066]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 15 October 2001]: In Kent, as in the rest of the country, health authorities are responsible for providing health services, including screening, to asylum seekers. There are also national guidelines on what screening health authorities should offer their populations for tuberculosis (TB), and interim guidance on screening refugees and asylum seekers for TB has recently been circulated. In addition, the Department has commissioned the Refugee Council to provide best practice guidance on the health and social care needs (including screening needs) of asylum seekers dispersed through the National Asylum Support Service.

More generally, there is provision in immigration legislation for immigration officers to refer any prospective entrant to the United Kingdom to a medical inspector at the port of entry for a medical examination. The Department is considering with the Home Office and

23 Oct 2001 : Column: 144W

the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, whether the current arrangements for controlling cases of imported infection need to be strengthened, and if so how.

Care Home Standards

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance the Government will provide on assessing the physical and mental fitness of (a) a registered provider, (b) a registered manager and (c) care home workers, as required in the Care Homes Regulations 2001; who will carry out the assessments; who will pay for these assessments; and if he will make a statement. [7993]

Jacqui Smith: The requirements for a report on the physical and mental health of registered persons and employees of care homes are set out in both the draft Care Homes Regulations and the National Care Standards Commission Registration Regulations. This is standard practice as required by many registration and inspection units throughout England currently.

Reports for registered persons should be requested from a general medical practitioner. Where a general practitioner intends to charge for such a report it will be the responsibility of the person applying for the report to pay any fee. People working or seeking employment in a care home may seek a report from a GP but if the GP is unable or unwilling to provide a report they may sign a statement as to their physical and mental health.

Chiropodists and Podiatrists

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many of the training places for professions allied to medicine relate to chiropodists and podiatrists in each of the years from 2001 to 2004. [7707]

Mr. Hutton: Between 1999 and 2001 around 340 chiropody/podiatry training places each year were commissioned.

As part of the NHS Plan target to provide 4,450 more therapist and other key health professional training places each year by 2004 we would expect to see an increase in the number of chiropody/podiatry training places.

Targets for the number of chiropody/podiatry training places for the remainder of the NHS Plan period will be set later in the year.

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