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Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of patients in Northern Ireland waiting for (a) hip replacement surgery, (b) knee replacement surgery and (c) other surgery went on to have the operation carried out privately in each of the past five years, broken down by local health board area. 
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to be able to publish school statistics that distinguish between authorised and unauthorised absence in Northern Ireland. 
Authorised and unauthorised absence data were collected for the first time from post-primary schools in October 2004. These data are currently being verified with each school, as part of a quality assurance
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process to ensure consistency of recording across all schools. I expect to be able to release figures by early autumn 2005.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what analysis the Government have made of the prevalence of unauthorised absence from school among (a) different types of school in Northern Ireland, (b) Catholic children and (c) Protestant children, respectively. 
Mr. Spellar: New legislation is being developed to implement the agenda for reform of water and sewerage services in Northern Ireland. The legislation will establish the duties and responsibilities for the proposed Government owned company, and the desludging of septic tanks is one of the many issues under consideration. It is anticipated that consultation on this draft legislation will begin during the first half of 2005.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what criteria the Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety uses to set priorities in relation to (a) children in need, (b) family policy and (c) child protection for the Budget round for 200508; and what discussions it has had with key stakeholders in (i) boards, (ii) trusts and (iii) the voluntary sector. 
Angela Smith: Current bids in the area of children in need, family policy and child protection have been based on wider government policy. Extensive discussions have taken place with Board and Trusts Chief Executives and Directors of Finance and Planning as to the impact of the draft Budget proposals on the provision of Health and Social Services in 200508. These discussions have identified a potential way forward to ensure the continued delivery of existing services and ensure that reform and modernisation takes place across the entire HPSS, to improve services.
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the ploughing of the intertidal mudflats at Strangford
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Lough over the Christmas and new year period; and what assessment he has made of the impact of that activity on the Lough's ecosystem. 
Angela Smith: On Tuesday 28 December 2004 and Monday 3 January 2005, several hectares of the intertidal mudflats at Strangford Lough were ploughed by agricultural tractors. The Environment and Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment was informed of the damage on Monday 3 January 2005 and the damage was subsequently, and continues to be, investigated by its staff.
The ploughing activity and the resulting damage covered an extensive area of the shore. Furrows which had obviously been washed by several tides and two areas of completely fresh ploughing, within the zone in which eel grass (Zostera) grows, were clearly visible. Consequently the Department commissioned an urgent scientific assessment of the damage. This will assist the Department in deciding what further action needs to be taken including whether the matter should be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what payments are made to the National Trust to provide a warden and other related services in and around Strangford Lough; what services the National Trust undertake to provide in return with particular reference to (a) personnel and (b) equipment; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Smith: The Environment and Heritage Service currently provides the National Trust with £72,650 per annum to support its Strangford Lough Wildlife Scheme. This contributes to the cost of four wardening staff. It also contributes to overheads, transport, machinery, materials, volunteer expenses and administration. Site integrity monitoring, co-ordination of biological monitoring and practical management to maintain and enhance species and habitats all form part of the National Trust's work. In addition the National Trust provides public access, educational programmes and interpretion about the Lough and its wildlife.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action (a) he and (b) other public bodies for which he is responsible propose to take in respect of the ploughing of the intertidal mudflats at Strangford Lough over the Christmas and new year period; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Smith: The Environment and Heritage Service is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the ploughing of the intertidal mudflats at Strangford Lough over the Christmas and new year period. An urgent scientific assessment of the damage has been commissioned. This will assist the Department in deciding what further action needs to be taken including whether the matter should be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will take steps to ensure that signs in and around Strangford Lough indicate those areas designated as areas of special scientific interest; and if he will make a statement. 
As part of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the recent damage caused to Strangford Lough mudflats, the Department is
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considering how best to strengthen public understanding of the international importance of the Strangford Lough area for nature conservation. There is already a set of modern interpretation boards in place round the Lough. Modifications of these, and additional signs, will both be considered.
David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps have been taken to ensure that the restructured Sure Start project in north Belfast incorporates best practice from the Home Start model in using volunteers to support families. 
Angela Smith: One of the core services to be delivered through Sure Start is home visiting but how that service is provided in a restructured project will be determined largely by the findings of the community consultation exercise carried out by the project in relation to the needs of local parents and children aged 03.
David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he has taken to ensure that a multi-agency approach in service delivery is central to the proposed new Sure Start model. 
Angela Smith: The Department remains fully committed to the principle of multi-agency partnership within Sure Start. It is important that the composition of any Sure Start project reflects a wide range of expertise and input from all sectors in the planning and managing of its services.
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