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6 Dec 2004 : Column 327W—continued

Civil Service

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many civil service jobs have been relocated from the Greater Belfast area to each of the constituencies outside Belfast and North Down in the past five years. [200083]

Mr. Pearson: 40 civil service jobs were relocated from the Greater Belfast/North Down area to the constituency of Foyle in the financial year 2001–02 as a result of a decision to centralise the NICS superannuation functions formerly carried out within Departments. In the year 2002–03 the Department for Social Development relocated 36 jobs to Foyle as a result of the creation of a new Pension Service co-located in Londonderry and Belfast.
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Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much his Department has spent on external consultants in each of the last 10 years. [201946]

Mr. Pearson: I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave on 17 November 2004, Official Report, column 1633W.

Derelict Buildings (Derry)

Mr. Hume: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many buildings in Spencer road in Derry are classified as derelict; what estimate he has made of the value in rates that these buildings would contribute if they were brought back into use as business premises; and how many of these buildings are in Government ownership. [201264]

Mr. Spellar: Government do not hold information on the number of buildings on Spencer road that are classified as derelict. Valuation and Lands Agency has confirmed that derelict property does not appear in the Valuation List, as it is not capable of occupation. The Valuation and Lands Agency only assesses the rateable value of such property if and when it becomes capable of occupation. No estimates are made of potential rates liability except in the case of buildings which are to be refurbished for future Government occupation and which are to be subject to an economic appraisal. No such estimates have been prepared for buildings on Spencer Road.

In relation to property in Government ownership, the Department for Social Development owns the Distillery Brae site, which fronts onto Spencer road and comprises 11 vacant and derelict buildings, and a site at the junction of Spencer road and Lower Fountain Hill, comprising 350 sq m of land.

Driver and Vehicle Testing Centres

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, what the average waiting time is for people applying to take a driving test at each driver and vehicle testing centre in Northern Ireland. [201133]

Angela Smith: The following table shows the average waiting time between 9 August and 29 November 2004 for all driver test categories.
Test centreAverage (days)
Dill Road17
New Buildings18

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The overall average waiting time for all driver test categories from 9 August to 29 November 2004 was 38 calendar days.

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, how many people are waiting on the list for a driving test in (a) Northern Ireland and (b) each of the driver and vehicle testing centres in Northern Ireland; and what the average time is that people are on the pending list in each case. [201134]

Angela Smith: At 1 December 2004 there was a total number of 675 people on the pending list—defined as applications received but not yet appointed—for all driver categories. The following table shows the breakdown by test centre.

The average time for customers on the pending list is not available for each centre, but the average for all centres is 26 days.
Test centreApplications pending
Dill Road121
New Buildings47

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what additional resources have been allocated to the Driver and Vehicle Testing Agency in Northern Ireland to help with the backlog of MOT tests following recent industrial action and to reduce the waiting time for people applying for a driving test in Northern Ireland. [201135]

Angela Smith: The Agency is working to restore normal services as soon as possible. Steps being taken include the recruitment from 1 November 2004 of 30 additional staff, the introduction from 1 October 2004 of a more efficient booking programme, and additional overtime working. Certificates of temporary exemption, which allow vehicles to be taxed and driven legally until they can be tested, are being issued where appointments cannot be offered within 21 days. The measures introduced for vehicle testing have the effect of removing some vehicles temporarily from the testing cycle and freeing up capacity to allow the Agency to focus on priority vehicle testing categories and driver testing.

European Constitution

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the effect of the coming into force of the European Constitution on the operation of his Department, with reference to (a) changes in legislative competence, (b) the extension
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of qualified majority voting, (c) the increased legislative role of the European Parliament, (d) the cost of implementation of regulations, (e) the requirements of adherence to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and (f) the quantity of legislation originating in the EU institutions. [200172]

Mr. Pearson: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. MacShane) on 29 November 2004, Official Report, column 10W.

Illegal Drinking

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to review the legislation relating to illegal drinking in public in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [202877]

Mr. Spellar: A review of legislative measures to control drinking in designated public places is currently being undertaken by the Department for Social Development. A proposal for new primary legislation giving district councils and the police new tougher and more effective powers to deal with this problem will be published in 2005.

People Trafficking

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what information he has received regarding the trafficking of people to the Province for prostitution. [202042]

Mr. Pearson: The Police Service of Northern Ireland has conducted a number of inquiries into suggestions of people-trafficking to Northern Ireland for the purposes of prostitution. There is presently no evidence to suggest that this is taking place in Northern Ireland. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is acutely aware of the problems experienced in other jurisdictions and they continue to monitor the situation closely.


Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the impact the level of resources available in 2004–05 will have on (a) education and (b) health provision. [200188]

Angela Smith: A total of £1.655 billion has been allocated for Education in 2004–05, a 7.9 per cent. increase on 2003–04. This is to maintain service levels, provide for ongoing costs of teachers' pay progression, support for special education pupils, and schools in interface areas, as well as measures to take forward the reform of post-primary education and the new Northern Ireland Curriculum. It will also provide for significant investment in the schools estate.

In light of overspending by two Education and Library Boards in 2003–04, these Boards are having to take measures to contain expenditure within their 2004–05 allocations. Containment plans received from both Boards are being examined carefully to assess the impact that their proposed actions are likely to have and the scope there might be to minimise any impact on front-line services.
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In health and social services, a total of £3.125 billion has been allocated for 2004–05. This investment has enabled levels of services delivered in previous years to be maintained and is also providing for a range of service development across a number of key priority areas. These include, for example, action designed to improve access to GPs and other primary care professionals, an increase of the number of people being supported in community settings, continued action to reduce hospital waiting lists and waiting times, an increase of the number of patients with arthritis who have access to drug therapies, the provision of better support for children and young people in need and the continued promotion of healthier lifestyles.

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