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Residential Care

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has undertaken of the implications of the Competition Commission Tribunal Appeal Judgement Bettercare Group Ltd v. The Director General of Fair Trading on resources allocated by government to the purchase of residential care by statutory social services providers from the private sector. [76215]

Jacqui Smith: The competition commission appeal tribunal's (CCAT) judgment in the Bettercare case stated that the Competition Act 1998 applied in the particular circumstances that were presented. One implication of this is that potentially local councils' commissioning of care services could be subject to the Competition Act, but each case would need to be considered in the context of its facts. The judgment did not comment on whether the particular health and social care board involved in the case or other councils are presently contravening the Act. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) will now reconsider the issue of the alleged anti-competitive conduct of the board involved in the case. Beyond this, no general assessment of the implications of this ruling can be made. I understand that in deciding not to appeal the judgment the OFT had in mind that the European Court is currently considering a similar case (case T-319/99 FENIN v. European Commission). The outcome of this case is expected before the spring of 2003. This may assist in clarifying further whether the Act applies to the commissioning functions of public bodies.

Smallpox Vaccine

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about the procedure for letting the contract for supply of smallpox vaccine; and if he will list the companies which he invited to put in tenders. [76273]

Mr. Hutton: After 11 September 2001, the Government decided to augment its existing stocks of smallpox vaccine. For reasons of national security, confidential discussions were held with five companies with known production capabilities in the United Kingdom and Europe and proven track records in the delivery of high quality vaccines. This confidential process was needed to secure stocks quickly in the light of a renewed assessment of risk.

The companies, whose agreement to being identified has been obtained, were Acambis, Aventis Pasteur MSD, GlaxoSmithKline, Powderject and RIVM. Our requirements for the vaccine strain, timing, and delivery were made clear to each of the companies, who were then given time to submit their written responses.

Transplant Surgeons

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the adequacy of

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the supply of transplantation surgeons in the United Kingdom (a) at present and (b) if targets for increased transplant activities are met. [74238]

Mr. Hutton: Consultants in transplant surgery are not separately identified but are drawn from a range of surgical specialties including cardiac and general surgery (including hepato-biliary) and urology. Postgraduate deans funded 11 new transplant training fellowships from April 2001.

These are aimed at providing additional training in organ transplantation to surgeons nearing the completion of their training. Following the publication of XA Health Service of All the Talents: Developing the NHS Workforce", workforce has been recognised as key to the successful delivery of the NHS Plan. New national workforce planning and development structures have therefore been set up to take up the challenge of delivering a multidisciplinary and integrated health and social care workforce to support service improvement. The supply of transplant surgeons necessary for the delivery of increased transplant activity will be kept under careful review.

Worcestershire Health Authority

Dr. Richard Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the financial deficit for the Worcestershire health authority at its dissolution on 1 April, and how this was divided between the primary care trusts that took over its commissioning role. [76243]

Mr. Lammy: Worcestershire health authority had a financial deficit of #2,200,000 at its dissolution on 31 March 2002.

The three primary care trusts (PCTs) in Worcestershire, Redditch and Bromsgrove PCT, South Worcestershire PCT and Wyre Forest PCT, have agreed to divide the #2,200,000 as follows:

Redditch and Bromsgrove PCT 711
South Worcestershire PCT1,286
Wyre Forest PCT203


Antisocial Behaviour Orders

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what the average penalty imposed following conviction for breach of an antisocial behaviour order has been in cases where the offender was fined; [76684]

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Mr. Denham: The available information, relating to breaches of anti-social behaviour orders in England and Wales, covers the period 1 June 2000 to 31 December 2001 and is shown in the table. The analysis covers only those breaches by persons issued with Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) during this period and notified to the Home Office.

Persons proceeded against for breach of anti-social behaviour orders by outcome England and Wales—1 June 2000 to
31 December 2001

Persons proceed against139
Persons found guilty125
Persons fined
Average fine amount (#)116
Persons sentenced to immediate custody
Average sentence length (months)5.5

Asylum Seekers

Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what relevant statistical evidence of (a) crime rates, (b) illegal working and (c) health service demands was used to inform the decision to withdraw asylum seekers' right to work; [77115]

Beverley Hughes: I made it clear when I announced the abolition of the employment concession earlier this year that this reflected the increasing timeliness of the asylum decision-making process.

The concession was established when widespread delays occurred in the asylum system, and we have always made clear that we would review its operation in light of our ongoing reforms to the asylum system. By the time I announced its abolition in July, it had become largely irrelevant and applicable to only a minority of applicants.

The vast majority (around 80 per cent. of asylum seekers) currently receive an initial decision within six months and we are committed, with our programme of increased resources and ongoing legislative reforms, to further improving the speed of the system for new applicants.

We also believe that while we continued to operate the concession, an incorrect perception existed that all asylum seekers had permission to work while their cases were considered. This was not the case, and this decision underlines our determination to maintain a robust asylum process which helps those fleeing persecution and not those seeking work in the UK. Those who seek to enter the UK for the purpose of work have a range of

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schemes open to them, and we continue to open up more routes to allow people to come here and work on a legal basis in ways which boost our economy.

Those asylum seekers who had already obtained permission to work prior to 23 July 2002 will retain that right until such time as a final decision is made on their claim, while those who had sought permission to work but have not had a response prior to July 23 will have had their requests considered in line with the concession. We have also retained a discretion to grant permission to work in exceptional cases.


Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he intends to reply to the letter dated 9 July from the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan regarding his constituent Mr. A. Innes of Banff. [77309]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 28 October 2002]: Due to an administrative error, the hon. Member's letter was not forwarded by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to the appropriate area to provide a reply. It has now been passed to UK Visas for their response. I am very sorry for the delay.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will respond to the letters of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight dated 24 May and 24 July under his reference V1008944/2. [78074]

Beverley Hughes: The Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) wrote to the hon. Member on 23 October. I am sorry for the delay in responding.

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