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8 Nov 2001 : Column: 368W
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 6 November 2001]: The gross expenditure on the Public Health Laboratory Service for each of the past five years is given in the table. These figures are in cash terms for the whole period.
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 6 November 2001]: £6 million was included in health authority main allocations in England for commissioning occupational health and safety services for general medical practitioners and their staff during 200102. Guidance on the provision and range of service delivery standards was issued to health authorities on 28 June 2001.
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 6 November 2001]: Health authorities were asked to set plans to achieve 48 hour access for 60 per cent. of patients by April 2002. These plans are being monitored through the usual performance management mechanisms. The 60 per cent. milestone is the first on the way to achieving 100 per cent. coverage by 2004.
As part of regular performance monitoring, health authorities were asked to carry out a survey of primary care access on 26 September. Data from the survey are currently being analysed and will be available shortly.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the legislation required to enable health authorities and primary care trusts to send patients abroad for routine treatment. 
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 6 November 2001]: The recent judgments of the European Court of Justice in the joined cases Geraets-Smits/Peerbooms and Case Vanbraekel (joined Cases C-157/99 and Case 36898 respectively) marked a development in the interpretation of directly applicable provisions of European Community law. The cases concerned the interpretation of directly applicable Treaty provisions and these have to be applied even in the face of inconsistent domestic law.
The relevant provisions of the National Health Service Act 1977 will be amended in the interests of legal certainty. This can be done by regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972 and this is in hand. In the meantime health authorities and primary care trusts are legally able to commission services abroad.
Working with the three test-bed sites, the Department is examining the detailed practical and legal issues involved in sending patients abroad. This work may raise legal issues requiring further amendments to specific regulations.
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 6 November 2001]: European Economic Area doctors (and others with enforceable Community rights) do not have to prove to the registration authority that they have a knowledge of English in order to have their qualifications recognised in the United Kingdom.
National health service employers themselves are responsible for ensuring that the doctors they employ have the necessary language, communication and professional skills to carry out their jobs safely.
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 6 November 2001]: As the Minister with responsibility for research at the Department, my noble Friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath announced in March 2000 plans for the modernisation of national health service research and development funding set out in "Research and Development for a First Class Service". They included the establishment of a funding system for NHS priorities and needs research and development, which should be introduced in 200203. This system will open new avenues for funding research activity across the NHS and replace in a more co-ordinated way the support hitherto provided from
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Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions have taken place between NHS officials and the district valuer about the planned Widdrington Health Centre, Northumberland; and whether agreement has been reached in time for the funds available from the single regeneration budget to be used for the project. 
Jacqui Smith: Discussions between Northumberland health authority and the district valuer, concerning the rental levels for the buildings of the new Widdrington Health Centre, are ongoing and a final settlement is expected very shortly. Single Regeneration Budget funds have been identified to provide optometry and dental facilities within the health centre and agreement has been reached for these funds to be used within the 200102 and 200203 financial years.
Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he 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; 
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 32428W and on 19 July 2001, columns 45456W.
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Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the workstep programme, with particular reference to (a) progression to open employment and (b) maintenance of an infrastructure for sheltered employment. 
Maria Eagle [holding answer 31 October 2001]: Workstep was introduced on 1 April 2001 and replaces the supported employment programme. It is designed to help disabled people progress to working without support and to provide longer-term support for those who need it. Our targets for progression into open employment are around 10 per cent. from among existing participants and 30 per cent. from people joining Workstep after 1 April this year.
However, we have been very clear that no one should be pressurised to progress from the programme if this is not the right choice for them. Longer-term support will still be available for supported employees who need it. But it is equally important that they have access to the development opportunities the programme will offer in the longer-term.
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