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16 Dec 2003 : Column 846W—continued

Eating Disorders Group

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the Eating Disorders Group was established; what its remit is; and what the (a) names and (b) positions of its members are. [144343]

Angela Smith: The Regional Eating Disorders Working Group was established in June 2003 to take forward the recommendations of the eating disorder services consultation exercise. The group aims to oversee the development of services at all levels (community, primary care, generic mental health services, secondary care services and specialist services). It has the following objectives:

Objective 1:

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Elderly Patients

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) residential places were available for the elderly and (b) beds were blocked by elderly patients on the latest date for which figures are available, broken down by parliamentary constituencies. [144262]

Angela Smith: Information is not available according to Parliamentary constituency on the number of residential places available for the elderly or the number of delayed discharges in respect of elderly patients. This information is collected centrally according to Health and Social Services Trust, and is shown in the table in respect of the position at 31 March 2003, the latest date for which both sets of data are available.

Number of Places in Residential Homes for the Elderly and elderly delayed discharges, 31 March 2003:

Health and Social ServicesTrustPlaces in ResidentialHomes for ElderlyElderly Delayed Discharges
Down Lisburn54119
North and West Belfast31645
South and East Belfast84643
Armagh and Dungannon17227
Craigavon and Banbridge1738
Newry and Mourne22916
Sperrin Lakeland3115
Northern Ireland Total4,706329


Places in residential homes for the elderly refer to the total number of available places in such homes, regardless of whether they were occupied or not. The information refers toresidential places in residential or dual registered homes only and excludes nursing places in nursing homes and dual registered homes. Delayed discharges refer to patients occupying acute hospital beds although they were medically fit for discharge. This information is shown according to patients' community Trust of residence, for those aged 65 and over.

Hare Population

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what evidence he has collated on the change in the Irish hare population since 1995 in Northern Ireland. [144619]

Angela Smith: Research carried out at the Queen's University of Belfast (QUB) reported in 1997 that the population of the Irish Hare was at low density in Northern Ireland.

This assessment was followed up by a research study, 'The Northern Ireland Irish Hare Lepus timidus hibernicus Survey 2002', commissioned by the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) of the Department of the Environment and also carried out by

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QUB. It reported that Irish Hares were widespread but occurred at a low density of about 1 to 2 per square kilometre.

The Irish Hare Species Action Plan, published by EHS in 2000, has among its objectives a target to double the Irish Hare population, over as wide an area as possible, by 2010. There will be regular surveys of the Irish Hare population through to 2010. These will identify population trends and assess progress against the objectives in the Irish Hare Species Action Plan. The first of these surveys will be undertaken in Spring 2004.

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will place in the Library, the scientific evidence he is using as the basis for his proposal for a temporary ban on hare hunting in Northern Ireland from 1 January 2004. [144620]

Angela Smith: I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave my hon. Friend, the Member for Vauxhall on 11 December 2003, Official Report, column 577W.

Mobile Telephones (Driving Offences)

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to ban the use of mobile telephones while driving in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the introduction of spot fines for the use of such telephones by drivers. [142660]

Mr. Spellar: Under the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999 drivers are required by law to exercise proper control of their vehicle at all times. The Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 provides that a person who breaches these regulations commits an offence and is liable to a fine of up to level three on the standard scale (£1000). As such, drivers can already be prosecuted for driving with undue care and attention if they are using a mobile telephone while driving.

With effect from 1 February 2004,1 will be making it a specific offence to use a hand-held mobile phone when driving. The penalty will be a £30 fixed penalty—sometimes referred to as a "spot fine"—or a fine of up to £1,000 on conviction in court. It is also my intention to introduce by September 2005 legislation to increase the penalty by making it an endorsable offence attracting penalty points and a £60 fine.

Operating Theatres

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action has been taken to address the issues raised on the use of operating theatres by the Audit Office in April. [144263]

Angela Smith: A wide range of action has been taken in response to the recommendations made by the Northern Ireland Audit Office report "The Use of Operating Theatres". The Report made 35 recommendations, of which 13 have been fully implemented. A further 11 recommendations have been partially implemented to date and plans are in place to implement all of the remaining recommendations by September 2004.

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Public Liability Insurance

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to help small businesses in Northern Ireland cope with rises in public liability insurance. [143849]

Mr. Pearson: I appreciate fully the problems which the current hard market in insurance is creating for many businesses.

Invest NI and the Health and Safety Executive for NI are working with local companies to improve risk management and insurability. In addition I have been pressing the UK insurance market to facilitate more coverage for Northern Ireland businesses.

In relation specifically to Employers Liability Compulsory Insurance (ELCI), I will also be working alongside Ministerial colleagues throughout the UK to ensure the effective implementation of the recently published Second Stage Report of the Department of Works and Pensions led ELCI review.

Public Transport

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to announce the results of the research undertaken into the proportion of disabled passengers carried on the Easibus network in Northern Ireland. [143585]

Mr. Spellar: The results of the survey are expected to be made available early in the new year.

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many licensed bus and coach operators there were in each of the last five years. [144223]

Angela Smith: The number of licensed bus and coach operators based in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years was:


Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to introduce a public transport service to serve (a) isolated communities and (b) mobility impaired residents in rural areas. [144232]

Mr. Spellar: The Department for Regional Development continues to support 16 rural community transport partnerships, which offer a range of transport services for their members that complement conventional public transport networks and which in particular provide transport opportunities for people with reduced mobility in rural areas. These partnerships cover most of rural Northern Ireland and the Department is encouraging local interests to establish partnerships in areas currently not covered. The Department also provides revenue support to Translink to maintain a network of 44 rural routes across Northern Ireland, which would otherwise be uneconomic to run. Recently the Department introduced the Bus Challenge

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Scheme to support new stage carriage bus services in both rural and urban areas. This scheme is open to both Translink and private bus operators and is aimed at addressing gaps in the provision of bus services. So far the Department has agreed to support eight new routes which go through rural areas.

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