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Christmas Trees

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of potential risks to health caused by the chemical treatment of trees used as Christmas trees. [26702]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

The Department has made no assessment to the potential risks.

Locum Doctors

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his strategy is to boost the numbers of locum doctors available in (a) primary and (b) secondary care; and if he will make a statement. [48060]

Mr. Hutton: It is the responsibility of primary care trusts and NHS trusts to identify their own need for locum doctors in the primary and secondary care sectors respectively. It is accepted that locum doctors are an essential part of the NHS workforce.

However, the focus of our plans to increase the size of the medical workforce is to increase the number of permanent doctors. Following the spending review settlement announced by the Chancellor in the Budget we have committed ourselves in "Delivering the NHS Plan" to increasing the medical workforce by at least 15,000 more consultants and GPs by 2008. This is on top of the 9,550 increase in doctors in the NHS since 1997.

Food Standards Agency

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the programme to improve business efficiency, referred to on page 41 of the 2001 report of the Food Standards Agency. [49229]

Yvette Cooper: The Food Standards Agency (FSA) continues to develop ways of improving organisational performance through a co-ordinated programme of activity designed to improve business efficiency.

A major programme of staff training and development to ensure staff have the knowledge and skills to deliver a higher level of performance in meeting the FSA's business needs commenced in 2001. This provides the basis for the successful delivery of the other strands of the efficiency programme.

The programme to improve business efficiency also encompasses the implementation of an effective procurement strategy, development and implementation of an e-strategy including the launch of a new 'user-friendly'

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website, and a critical appraisal of research programmes and management systems. A comprehensive information technology/information systems strategy has been developed leading to the re-letting of the FSA's IT system support contract.

Dental Therapists

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) when restrictions on dental therapists' rights to work throughout the dentistry sector are due to be lifted; [52061]

Mr. Hutton: The Dental Auxiliaries Regulations 1986 need to be amended by affirmative resolution to permit dental therapists to work in all fields of dentistry. We have now laid amending regulations before Parliament and they are to be debated during May. A much wider range of employment opportunities will become available to dental therapists once the restriction is removed which will make careers in dental therapy more attractive. In planning training commissions in the future we would expect workforce development confederations to take account of the contribution that dental therapists can make to dental services.

Speech Therapists

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the reasons why some NHS trusts listed in the answer of 18 April 2002, Official Report, column 1185W, on speech therapists, are omitted from the list of NHS trusts deposited in the Library following the answer of 2 May 2002, Official Report, column 991W. [55916]

Mr. Hutton: The information placed in the Library lists all trusts who employ speech and language therapists.

The vacancy rates for Royal Free Hampstead NHS trust and Tower Hamlets Healthcare NHS trust were not included because of doubts about data quality. Both trusts recently indicated that their vacancies as at 31 March 2001 were considerably lower than they had originally reported to the Department. Rates for a number of other trusts are not given where the sum of staff in post and vacancies is less than 10.

Delegated Legislation

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment he has made of the cost-effectiveness of the Retained Organs Commission Regulations 2001; and if he will make a statement; [53855]

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Ms Blears: Costs associated with regulatory proposals are considered at the policy development stage. A regulatory impact assessment (RIA) is completed for regulatory proposals unless there are no or negligible costs, and sets out the impact, in terms of costs, benefits and risks of the proposed regulation which could affect businesses, charities or the voluntary sector. RIAs are available from the Library.