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Financial Services Industry

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to ensure that fund manager and stockbroking firms do not levy unjustified charges on their clients. [45784]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The Myners review of institutional investment reported that the costs of broking commissions were subject to insufficiently clear scrutiny and control. The Government took forward the recommendations of the review, and following a period of consultation, issued a set of principles of investment for pension funds, and 10 questions for trustees to ask fund managers to ensure that they understand charges. A review of progress will start in March 2003 to decide how successful the principles have been in bringing about change.

For retail investors, CAT standards and stakeholder pensions impose strict limits on charges by financial institutions.

VAT Registration

Mr. Jim Murphy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what his estimate is of the annual lost revenue due to the illegal use of UK VAT registration numbers; [46112]

Mr. Boateng: No such estimates exist.

Mr. Jim Murphy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consideration he is giving to the tightening of VAT registration procedures for VAT numbers. [46114]

Mr. Boateng: Customs selectively apply extended checks aimed at identifying fraudulent applications, including making visits before registration is granted and applying conditions to the registration, where appropriate. Cases are monitored on an individual basis to ensure a balanced approach between facilitating business and protecting the revenue.

In addition, Customs are working to automate their validation, verification and risk scoring system by September 2002.

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Laura Moffatt: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment has been made of the loss of revenue to the South East economy caused by the smuggling of (a) alcohol and (b) tobacco in the last three years. [46433]

Mr. Boateng: No such estimates are currently available. However, estimates of the tax revenue lost from smuggling of alcohol and tobacco into the UK were set out in XMeasuring Indirect Tax Fraud" published by HM Customs and Excise alongside the Pre-Budget Report.

Aggregates Levy

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of (a) the increase in recycling of construction and demolition waste and (b) the reduction in demand for virgin aggregates as a direct result of the aggregates levy.[45737]

Mr. Boateng: Research suggests that there is significant scope for increased use of recycled construction and demolition waste. The levy is designed to encourage use of this material as an alternative to virgin aggregate, thereby reducing demand for the latter.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the long term impact of the aggregates levy in Northern Ireland once the levy has been fully phased in. [45738]

Mr. Boateng: Phasing in the levy for aggregate used in processed products will allow the industry in Northern Ireland time to adjust, and to use greater amounts of recycled and alternative materials in their products.

Sir Robert Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what criteria he will adopt for setting the rate for the aggregates levy in future years. [46406]

Mr. Boateng: As with all taxes, the aggregates levy will be reviewed at each Budget.

Public Services

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his Department has commissioned external research into its paper on public services productivity; and if he will make a statement. [46573]

Mr. Andrew Smith: No.

Press Office

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff in his Department's press office have received (a) termination and (b) redundancy payments in each of the last four years. [41072]

Ruth Kelly: None.

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Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures his Department is taking to reduce the number of adverse incidents involving wheelchairs.[45146]

Ms Blears [holding answer 21 March]: The Medical Devices Agency (MDA) has specific responsibility on behalf of the Secretary of State to safeguard public health where medical devices are involved. Within this overall remit, MDA has a specific unit responsible for wheeled mobility devices where adverse incidents concerning the safety or quality of wheelchairs are considered.

The MDA unit works with users, manufacturers, trade associations, professional groups, service providers, and other Government departments where appropriate to reduce safety problems for users both in the short and in the longer term. If the unit finds that there is a need for improvement in a wheelchair design, usage instructions or manufacturing process then appropriate action is taken with the manufacturer/supplier. When necessary Safety Warning notices are widely distributed which incorporate the actions required to reduce specific problems with wheelchairs that are already in use. Advice or written guidance on wider issues relating to the safety of wheelchair users is also given where root cause, or trend, analysis highlights a particular area of concern which requires improvement for the future. Also, if a shortcoming is revealed in an issued British Standard concerning wheelchairs or a need for a new standard the unit works with the British Standards Institute (BSI) to make any necessary revisions or assist with the drafting of any new standard.

Jim Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to increase the budgets for the provision of electric powered indoor/outdoor wheelchairs to health trusts. [42525]

Ms Blears: Funding for wheelchair services is part of health authorities general allocations. It is for health authorities in partnership with Primary Care Groups/Trusts and other local stakeholders to determine how best to use their funds to meet national and local priorities for improving health, tackling health inequalities and modernising services. Health authority allocations for 2002–03 were announced on 6 December 2001.

Primary Care Trusts

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which PCTs have delayed planned initiatives and new services (a) in 2001–02 and (b) for 2002–03. [45934]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer issued 25 March 2002]: Decisions about local priorities and investment in local services are made by PCTs. The Department does not collect this information centrally.

Delayed Discharges

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average delay for patients with delayed discharges was in the third quarter of 2001–02. [42702]

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Jacqui Smith: The Department does not collect information in the detail requested. I refer the hon. Member to the response I gave the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow), on 18 March, Official Report, column 160W.

It is not possible to calculate an accurate average length of delay from the information collected.

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of all acute beds were occupied due to delayed discharges in each of the last five years. [37484]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 28 February 2002]: Information on the proportion of acute beds occupied due to delayed discharge is collected centrally once a quarter. The information which is available since June 1997 has been on the basis of the proportion of patients aged over 75 occupying an acute bed whose discharge has been delayed. The table below shows this proportion for each quarter since June 1997.

Delayed Discharge—patients aged 75 and over
Per cent.

CollectionProportion of patients over 75 with a delayed discharge
2001–02 Q310.5
2001–02 Q212.0
2001–02 Q111.1
2000–01 Q411.9
2000–01 Q311.7
2000–01 Q213.0
2000–01 Q112.1
1999–2000 Q411.3
1999–2000 Q311.7
1999–2000 Q212.8
1999–2000 Q113.4
1998–99 Q412.4
1998–99 Q312.5
1998–99 Q214.3
1998–99 Q113.4
1997–98 Q413.2
1997–98 Q313.9
1997–98 Q215.7
1997–98 Q113.3


Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received from pharmacists on the global sum dispensing fee (a) on his original announcement of fee levels for 2002–03 and (b) consequent upon its revision; and if he will make a statement. [42944]

Ms Blears: I have not yet determined the overall level of fees for community pharmacy services for 2002–03. However, pending my decision, the basic dispensing fee from April 2002 will rise from the current level of 91.6p to 94.6p per prescription item.

I agreed in February that officials should work with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) to explore ways of improving information about community pharmacy finances as part of a set of measures to inform our discussions on remuneration and on modernising the current NHS contractual framework. This work is under way.

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