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15 Nov 2004 : Column 1042W—continued

Economic Output Statistics

Mr. Trimble: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether a recent review of the reliability of GDP and Gross Value Added (GVA) output figures for Northern Ireland has been made by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency; and what discussions he has had with the (a) Chancellor of the Exchequer, (b) Secretary of State for Scotland and
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(c) Secretary of State for Wales regarding the reliability of the GDP and GVA output date for other regions of the United Kingdom. [196863]

Mr. Gardiner: The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for producing the estimates of Gross Value Added (GVA) for the regions of the UK, including Northern Ireland. Statisticians in the Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency (NISRA) work on an on-going basis with the ONS to quality assure these and, with their colleagues in the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI), have contributed to the recent Allsopp Review of Statistics for Economic Policymaking.

The Review recommended that the ONS develop new methods to produce estimates of GVA for the countries and regions of the UK. This will include the introduction of annual baseline data for GVA derived according to the production process in addition to the current income based measure of Regional GVA.

No specific discussions have taken place between the Secretary of State and Ministerial colleagues on this topic. However, both DETI and NISRA will work with ONS to implement the Allsopp recommendations as appropriate.

Education Action Zones

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the timetable is for the introduction of education action zones; and for what reasons the previously published schedule for their introduction has not been met. [197101]

Mr. Gardiner: In late 2003 the Department announced plans to introduce Education Action Zones (EAZs), aimed at tackling the root causes of social deprivation and educational underachievement on a multi-agency basis, and at that time it was indicated that the first EAZs might come into operation in September 2004. However, the introduction of the programme involved significant inter-Departmental and multi-agency working, and in summer 2004 the Department wrote to the education and library boards setting out the criteria for EAZs and inviting Stage 1 bids. These bids are currently being considered and it is now expected that the first Education Action Zones could come on stream by spring 2005.

Education Initiatives

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the reasons are for the rejection of the proposals to the Integrated Development Fund relating to education in Greater Shankill. [197102]

Mr. Gardiner: The Joint Working Group's bid to the Integrated Development Fund for resources to the address the educational recommendations made in the West Belfast and Greater Shankill task force reports has not been rejected. The level of funding available to the Integrated Development Fund is finite and in the light of the number and scale of other bids to the Fund, it was not possible to provide funds to meet the education bid in full. The Joint Working Group has been invited therefore to prepare a revised bid and the Department is meeting shortly with the two sponsoring education and library boards to take the bid forward.
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Fair Trade Products

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether it is his policy to ensure that hospitality within his Department is sourced from fair trade producers wherever possible within the boundaries set by the public procurement rules. [197059]

Mr. Pearson: It is for each department to decide how best to meet its catering needs, taking account of any fair or ethical trading objectives. In so far as public procurement of catering services or supplies is involved the requirement must be consistent with best value for money and the EC Procurement Directives.

Genito-urinary Medicine

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on recruitment to non-consultant grade posts in genito-urinary medicine. [196355]

Angela Smith: The Department has recently become aware of recruitment difficulties in the area of genito-urinary medicine. The Department understands that the trust which provides this service regionally to the people of Northern Ireland only received a limited response to a recent advertisement for medical appointments within this speciality.

In seeking to improve service delivery in this area, additional junior doctor training positions have been created within this speciality in recent years which will help over the course of time to increase the number of consultant grade doctors working in this area. In the interim, further consideration is being given to measures which might be taken to improve the recruitment position.

Medical Schools

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans there are to increase the number of medical school places in the Province. [196353]

Angela Smith: I can confirm that it is my intention to increase the annual intake of medical students to 250, as soon as it is feasible to do so.

In the meantime the Department explored with Queen's University Belfast the possibility of a small increase in the medical student intake on a "one-off" basis in the 2004–05 academic year, in advance of completion of the formal process for the full expansion. As a result 33 additional places were awarded this year.

Midazolam/Oxygen Therapy

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what guidance he has issued regarding whether staff can administer (a) midazolam and (b) oxygen therapy at schools for children with special needs in the Province. [196955]

Mr. Gardiner: No such guidance has been issued by the Department of Education, (DE). DE, in partnership with Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, (DHSS&PS), is currently preparing guidance to assist schools in the administration of medication to pupils, once such medication has been prescribed by a medical practitioner.
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Should a child require midazolam, procedures would be established on an individual basis, through a dedicated Care Plan, to ensure safe practice in its administration.

The provision of oxygen therapy for children in Northern Ireland takes place on the basis of a protocol specifying the circumstances under which the oxygen can be administered which is signed by the senior clinical officer. The primary purpose in administering oxygen therapy is for post seizure management.


Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of Northern Ireland dairy farmers received a milk price that failed to meet its cost of production in each of the last three years; and what support he provides to Northern Ireland dairy farmers. [197928]

Mr. Pearson: An estimate of the number of Northern Ireland dairy farmers who receive a milk price that does not cover the costs of production is not determined on an annual basis by DARD. The most recent estimate for milk production costs is for the year ended March 2002. Using the information from that analysis, it is estimated that the milk price received on 24 per cent. of dairy farmers would not cover the economic costs of milk production in that year.

DARD provides a range of educational courses at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) including modules on dairy farming. Also, advice and information is available from locally based development advisors and technology teams based at CAFRE. This localised support is in addition to that provided under the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU.

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to (a) make the Retailer Code of Practice more effective in protecting dairy farmers in Northern Ireland from price cuts imposed by retailers on their milk suppliers and (b) extend the Retailer Code of Practice to cover farmers who supply supermarkets via an intermediary; and if he will make a statement. [197929]

Mr. Pearson: Under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 the regulation of anti-competition practices and agreements and the abuse of dominant position in the market are reserved matters. Responsibility for the Supermarkets' Code of Practice therefore rests with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

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