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Drug Treatment

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average waiting time has been for treatment for a heroin addict in Plymouth in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [59743]

Ms Blears: The current waiting time for non-urgent specialist prescribing for a heroin addict in Plymouth through statutory drug services is 65 weeks (which has remained stable since December 2001) 1 and through those general practitioners who initiate prescribing the waiting varies from immediate access to three months 1 . For non- urgent specialist prescribing through the non-statutory services that facilitate shared care with general practitioners, the maximum wait for community opiate detoxification is three months 1 and the maximum wait for longer-term opiate substitute prescribing is 12 months 1 .

Urgent cases are seen within one week 2 .

Oestrogenic Steroids

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps are being taken to monitor the flow of oestrogenic steroids into the human food chain. [60832]

Ms Blears: The use of all hormones, including oestrogenic steroids, as growth promoters in food producing animals is banned throughout the European Union. The veterinary medicines directorate routinely monitors for synthetic hormones in animals in Great Britain as part of our EU obligations. No evidence of their use has been reported in recent years.

Age Discrimination

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list for each NDPB or agency sponsored by his Department (a) the maximum retirement age adopted for most employees, and that age and (b) whether they have a policy of not considering applications for employment by persons over a particular age, and that age. [59581]

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Mr. Lammy [holding answer 24 May 2002]: At present the Department and its executive agencies have a normal staff retirement age of 60 and do not consider applications for employment from those over that age. However, the Department is now involved in a centrally led initiative, Winning the Generation Game, which will examine age-related issues such as flexible retirement beyond the normal retiring age of 60. The Department would expect that its non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) would also wish to adopt any revised policy the Department itself adopted as a consequence of that initiative. The following policies on retirement age apply in the Department's NDPBs:

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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment his Department has made of the relative costs and benefits of stents and drug eluting stents in (a) reducing the need for open heart surgery, (b) increasing the number of treatments undertaken and (c) reducing the incidence of restenosis after angioplasty. [59777]

Ms Blears [holding answer 10 June 2002]: The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued guidance on the use of stents in May 2000. This guidance is due for review in April 2003. The Department referred drug eluting stents to NICE on 20 May 2002.

NICE will provide evidence based advice to the National Health Service in England and Wales on the clinical and cost-effectiveness of drug eluting stents compared to 'bare' stents, and on their appropriate use.

Cutting Plants

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cutting plants there are in the United Kingdom that are licensed to remove specified risk material from slaughtered cattle; what the locations of these plants are; and if he will make a statement. [61576]

Ms Blears [holding answer 12 June 2002]: The only specified risk material that can be legally removed at cutting plants is the vertebral column of certain bovine animals. In the United Kingdom there are 50 cutting plants licensed for this purpose. The are located as follows: 20 in England, two in Wales, eight in Scotland and 20 in Northern Ireland. There is one cutting plant in Scotland that is licensed only to remove the vertebral column of cattle from beef assurance scheme herds.