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13 Dec 2004 : Column 923W—continued

Health Funding

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will estimate the proposed percentage of health funding that will be available for service expansion and development between 2005 and 2008. [202599]

Angela Smith: Consultation on the draft Budget Settlement for 2005–06 to 2007–08 concluded on 7 December 2004. The percentage of Health and Social Services funding available for service expansion and development will not be known until the outcome of this consultation has been finalised and the Revised Budget published.

Home Adaptation Budgets

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether allowances to the set home adaptation budgets are made in respect of social housing in areas where there are few new houses which are suitable for the elderly and disabled. [204114]

Mr. Spellar: The Housing Executive's adaptation service for its tenants is driven by demand and budgets are set to reflect that demand. The availability of new houses would not be a factor in setting budgets. Rehousing people whose circumstances have changed, and as a consequence whose homes are no longer suitable for their needs, would most likely only be considered in areas with a greater supply of housing stock, especially newer housing.

Human Rights Commission (Annual Report)

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, what assessment he has made of (a) Section 2 Paramilitary violence and (b) Section 3 Systems for investigating deaths of the Chief Commissioner's Overview of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Annual Report 2004. [202876]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I utterly deplore and condemn the vicious attacks highlighted in section 2 of the Chief Commissioner's overview, which in many cases have left the victims physically and mentally scarred for life. Despite making every effort to bring to justice those responsible for these acts, the police can be hampered when in their investigations if the victims fail to cooperate either through fear or because to do so may implicate them in other crimes. Prosecutions are therefore extremely rare.

However, Government and law enforcement agencies continue to seek ways of addressing the problem effectively. The Independent Monitoring Commission will continue to monitor the level of paramilitary activity including shootings and assaults and report on this regularly to the British and Irish Governments.

In relation to Section 3, following judgments of the European Court of Human Rights the Government has put together a package of remedial measures designed to address the judgments and improve the investigation of deaths including the inquest system. This package reflects the current position of the Government and remains under the consideration of the Committee of Minister's Deputies in Strasbourg.
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Furthermore, the Government recognises the continuing hurt that many feel about the number of deaths that remain unresolved. For those who have suffered the loss of loved ones, the possibility of coming to terms with what has happened in the past is made more remote because there remain significant unanswered questions. We must do everything possible to give those people the best chance of achieving that.

The Serious Crime Review Team within the Police Service of Northern Ireland was established by the Chief Constable this spring to re-examine the files on some of these murders, and to establish whether there is any prospect of fuller reinvestigation leading to an outcome. It is recognised that this is painstaking work and places significant demands on police resources. As a consequence the Government has been working with the Police Service of Northern Ireland on how this work might be expanded to process greater numbers of unresolved deaths and to do so in a way that commands the confidence of the wider community.

Ministerial Meetings

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list his official engagements over the last six months; who was present at each meeting; what the (a) date and (b) location was of each meeting; what issues were discussed; and what plans he has to establish a public register of such information. [202401]

Mr. Paul Murphy: The information requested by the hon. Member could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

North-east Area Plan

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the earliest possible date is on which he expects to receive the north-east area plan for Northern Ireland. [202882]

Angela Smith: The Planning Service has decided to concentrate as many of the agency's resources as possible for a period of time, initially for six months, on the operational side of the business to deal with planning applications. This is because of the rapidly increasing and unprecedented workload pressures in this area. The temporary reallocation of resources will, however, have a knock-on effect on emerging area plans and progress on the remaining area plans will be slower then previously anticipated.

The north-east area plan 1987–2002 will be superseded by the publication of the northern area plan 2016 and work on the draft northern area plan is in an advanced state of preparation. The importance of delivering full area plan coverage is recognised and the Planning Service will move forward with the area plan programme, including the northern area plan as quickly as is feasible. It is not possible at this stage however, to be precise about a time scale for its publication.


Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the nursing resource implications in the Province from the
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mentoring scheme suggested in the Consultation on a Standard to Support Learning and Assessment in Practice document. [202615]

Angela Smith: The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has undertaken a consultation on a standard to support learning and assessment in practice; that consultation has now closed and the responses are being evaluated by the NMC. A decision on consideration of workforce implications will be made once the outcome of the NMC's consultation exercise is known.

Operating Theatres

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will bring forward amendments to legislation to allow operating department practitioners in the Province to have responsibility for the controlled drugs used in operating theatres. [202611]

Angela Smith: To date, the legislation regarding possession and supply of controlled drugs has confined the authority to possess or supply controlled drugs in the operating department to the nursing sister in the department and it has not been appropriate to delegate the holding of the controlled drug keys to other professional groups. However, as of September 2004, the Operating Department Practitioners and Miscellaneous Amendments Order has opened a new part of the Health Professions Council register (part 13) for Operating Department Practitioners. Although the number of Operating Department Practitioners in Northern Ireland is small, this does enhance their professional standing and it is anticipated that the role of the Operating Department Practitioner vis-à-vis the Registered Nurse will continue to evolve. The Department is about to undertake a review of non medical peri-operative staffing skill mix, roles, education and training needs and the issue of handling of controlled drugs will be revisited following the outcome of this review.


David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many members of the (a) Provisional IRA, (b) INLA, (c) UDA and (d) UVF (i) have been convicted of criminal offences and (ii) have had their assets seized following investigations by the Assets Recovery Agency since its formation. [204057]

Mr. Pearson: During the period 1 February 2003 to 30 September 2004, a total of three persons were convicted of membership offences in Northern Ireland 1 . Two of the three were convicted of membership of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the other of membership of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). The three defendants were also convicted of a number of other offences.

Cases are referred to the Assets Recovery Agency by law enforcement agencies. From its formation in February 2003 to the end of November 2004, the Agency had been referred 48 cases. As at 30 November, 12 cases were under active investigation with a total asset value of £4.9 million and eight cases were under assessment. The Agency has also frozen or recovered assets in a further eight cases involving around
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£3 million. The cases cover the whole range of organised crime among all groupings and areas across Northern Ireland.

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