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Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how DOE Planning Service takes (a) the sustainability of the rural environment and (b) the possible destruction of mature trees and hedgerows into account when considering applications for planning permission. 
(a) The Planning Service's approach to sustainable development is set out in its Planning Policy Statement 1: General Principles. When considering planning applications it is guided by the precautionary principle
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that, where there are significant risks of damage to the environment, its protection will generally be paramount, unless there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest.
(b) Careful consideration is given to the potential impact of any proposed development upon existing trees, woodland and important hedgerows. Wherever possible, these will be protected by the imposition of conditions on planning approvals. Opportunities are also taken to secure new tree planting in development schemes. Where development involves the loss of trees, permission will normally be conditional on a replanting scheme with trees of appropriate numbers, species and size.
Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make available to the Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland the 25 year long service award offered in the Department for Work and Pensions. 
Mr. Pearson: A 25 year long service award is not currently part of the terms and conditions of employees of the Department for Social Development but its introduction will be considered as part of the 2005 pay round.
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list his Department's IT projects in each year since 1997, broken down by (a) amount spent, (b) purpose, (c) cost of over-run and (d) time of over-run. 
Mr. Pearson: The following table gives information on IT projects costing in excess of £1 million within the Northern Ireland Office Core, its agencies, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and the Northern Ireland legal offices (Director of Public Prosecutions and Crown Solicitors Office).
(£ million, excluding. VAT)
|Cost of over run (£000,|
|Time of Over run|
|1999||OASIS Y2K Refresh||To upgrade NIO departmental infrastructure and make it Y2K compliant.||2.2||None||None|
|1999||COMPASS (to 2002)||To provide an e-human resources system for the Northern Ireland Prison Service.||5||0.06||3 months|
|1998||Bloody Sunday InquiryLondonderry (to 2000)||Implementation of IT systems to support the work of the inquiry.||2.6||None||None|
|2000||TARIFF (to 2004)||To provide office automation and an electronic claim processing system for criminal injuries compensation in Northern Ireland||2||0.2||1 year|
|2001||PRISM (to spring 2006)||To provide a prisoner record system for the Northern Ireland Prison Service||7||Project|
|2002||CAUSEWAY (PPP project to 20 13)||A joint enterprise by criminal justice organisations in Northern Ireland to share information electronically||45||Project|
|2002||Bloody Sunday InquiryLondon||Implementation of IT systems to support the work of the inquiry.||2.5||None||None|
|2003||DPP INFRASTRUCTURE||To implement a modern ICT infrastructure for the DPP NI.||1.2||None||None|
|2003||FLAX (to 2004)||Replace NIO IT infrastructure, provide internet and intranet and meet electronic document and records management targets.||8. 5||None||None|
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of pupils at each key stage in Northern Ireland were referred to the Education Welfare Service for persistent or chronic non-attendance in each academic year from 200001 to 200304. 
|Percentage pupils referred|
|Key stage 1||0.89||1.27||1.53|
|Key stage 2||1.72||1.88||2.14|
|Key stage 3||4.85||5.02||5.12|
|Key stage 4||8.12||8.46||8.92|
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many pupils at each key stage were referred to the Education Welfare Service in Northern Ireland in 200304 for persistent or chronic non-attendance. 
The information sought is not available as the system used by the Education and Library Boards to record referrals to the Education Welfare Service was changed during 200304. Boards have been asked to provide the final returns for 200304 to the Department by 31 January and it is intended to publish this information on the website by the end of February 2005.
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Angela Smith: There is currently one midwifery-led unit located on the same site as the consultant obstetric unit in Northern Ireland, at Craigavon Area Hospital. We have plans to develop similar units at a number of other locations including Altnagelvin Hospital, the Ulster Hospital and the new Belfast Maternity Hospital.
My announcement on 29 July 2004, allowed Boards and Trusts to consider the development of stand-alone Community Midwifery Units in locations where there is the support of local professionals and where safe and effective emergency transfer arrangements are in place. I understand that discussions are ongoing between Down Lisburn Trust and the Eastern Health and Social Services Board about the possibility of such a unit in Downpatrick.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average clearance times were in days achieved by the Social Security Agency (a) in each of the last four financial years and (b) in the current financial year to date for dealing with applications for (i) jobseeker's allowance, (ii) income support, (iii) disability living allowance and (iv) incapacity benefit. 
Mr. Spellar: The average clearance times in days achieved by the Social Security Agency in each of the last four financial years and in the current financial year to date for the benefit applications in question are set out in the following table.
| 200001|| 200102||200203|
|Jobseeker's allowance||93% in 21 days||94.7% in 21 days||AACT 12 days||AACT 8.7 days||AACT 12 days||AACT 9.5 days|
|Income support||87% in 13 days||89.6% in 13 days||AACT 12 days||AACT 5 days||AACT 12 days||AACT 7.2 days|
|95% in 73 days||79% in 73 days||95% in 73 days||AACT 83.9% in 73 days||AACT 60 days||AACT 73.6 days|
|Incapacity benefit||85% in 30 days||80% in 30 days||AACT 30 days||AACT 28 days||AACT 30 days||AACT 29.1 days|
|Benefit type|| 200304||200405|
|Target||Result||Target||Year to date|
|Jobseeker's allowance||AACT 12 days||AACT 10 days||AACT 12 days||AACT 11 days|
|Income support||12 days||AACT 8.6 days||AACT 12 days||AACT 9.8 days|
|Disability living allowance||AACT 60 days||AACT 95.1 days||AACT 60 days||AACT 57.9 days|
|Incapacity benefit||AACT 30 days||AACT 28.5 days||AACT 30 days||AACT 39.6 days|
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the accuracy of the figures for (a) debtors and (b) creditors recorded by the Social Security Agency. 
The Agency is actively engaged in resolving these problems, and has established a debt management transformation programme. This will result in the procurement of a modern IT system for the management of debt and improved debt processes to both account for debt much more accurately in future and achieve better recovery rates.
The Agency believes that much more reliance can be placed on the creditor balance. This is because benefit payments "issued" are recorded by the programme accounting computer system and the actual encashments of these payments are either reconciled by the Agency or agreed with the Post Office.
The difference between payments issued less those encashed is represented by the creditor balance and so the Agency concludes that, although a customer breakdown of the total is unavailable, the balance itself is actually robust.
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