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Mr. Woolas: It is for individual committees to decide, when conducting pre-legislative scrutiny, whether to make arrangements for on-line scrutiny or e-consultation. I hope that committees will, as a matter of course, consider the opportunities provided by information technology, including on-line fora of the kind used successfully by the Joint Committee on the draft Communications Bill in 2002.
Mr. Hain: I am strongly in favour of making the Commons more welcoming for voters. I can report that the House of Commons Commission has asked the Administration and Accommodation and Works Committees to examine what improvements can be made and to report by Easter.
Mr. Woolas: In October last year, a majority of Members voted to alter the sitting hours so that the House now sits from 11.30 am on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Standing Orders were changed for the rest of this Parliament, which will allow us a sufficient period to make a considered judgment on the effect of the changes.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners if he will press the Commissioners to take steps to accelerate the timetable for the McClean review of clergy terms of service to deliver its final report. 
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Good progress has been made. The review has completed the first phase of its work (considering clergy without security of tenure) according to the timetable in its terms of reference. It will report to the Archbishops' Council on 9 December and it is hoped that there will be a debate by the General Synod in February, followed by a period of consultation with dioceses and clergy.
Mr. Paul Murphy: The Government are committed to publishing Justice Cory's reports as soon as possible, in line with the judge's terms of reference. These made it clear that any issues involving national security, the criminal process or the safety of individuals, would need to be considered carefully first.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what proportion of the NHS budget for Northern Ireland in each year since 1997 was spent on private treatment; what plans he has to facilitate retrospective payment for treatment carried out privately; and if he will make a statement. 
As regards retrospective payment for treatment carried out privately, an agreement with the relevant area Health and Social Services Board for the cost to be met must be made prior to treatment commencing. To be eligible, the patient must meet certain criteria, namely that the treatment required is not available in Northern Ireland and that the patient's consultant recommends treatment elsewhere.
Mr. Grieve: To ask the Solicitor-General what costs were incurred by the Government Legal Service in advising the Minister for Children in respect of the allegations of libel brought against her by Mr. Demetrious Panton; and who will pay the costs. 
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Mr. Gareth Thomas: During the past decade, Voluntary Service Overseas has filled 7,915 volunteer placements; 6,637 of these were recruited in the UK. The following table gives a breakdown for each year and the place of recruitment of the other 1,278 volunteers. The figures for 200304 are estimates because there are still placements to be filled.
|Canada||Netherlands||Portugal||Kenya and Philippines||UK||Total departures|
Hilary Benn: A cholera outbreak has been reported in the two northern districts of Kariba (in Mashonaland West province) and Binga (in Matabeleland North province). A total of 173 cases and 26 deaths have so far been reported. WHO have commented that this fatality rate of approximately 15 per cent. is alarmingly high, probably due to the declining capacity of the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health to respond, and the growing food shortages. Latest reports indicate that the situation is under control in Binga, where no new infections are being recorded, but appears to be spreading in Kariba district.
Save the Children (UK) are using emergency response resources provided by DFID to address the situation in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, UNICEF, WHO, Médicine Sans Frontières (Spain) and several other NGOs. The aim is to ensure that the disease does not spread further and that those communities at risk are assisted with soap and other hygiene items, as well as water purification tablets and ORS supplies to treat diarrhoea.
Cholera outbreaks are becoming more frequent in the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. Save the Children (UK) are planning to use the lessons learnt during their response to this outbreak in order to conduct rapid response training for other relevant organisations involved in humanitarian operations in Zimbabwe.
Mr. Darling: There are currently three voting systems used in Scotland. Elections to the UK Parliament and local councils use the first past the post system. Elections to the European Parliament use the list system of Proportional Representation while the elections to the Scottish Parliament use the additional member system of Proportional Representation.
8. Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has held with (a) ministerial colleagues and (b) the European Commission on figures published by the Office of National Statistics for the gross domestic product of the Highlands and Islands. 
Mrs. McGuire: No such discussions have taken place. But it is worth clarifying once and for all the situation regarding the Office for National Statistics figures and European Structural Funds. There has been no error made by the Office for National Statistics. Eligibility was based on the best information available at the time and the European Commission confirmed in November 2002 that retrospective eligibility for Objective 1 support was not possible.
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