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NHS Foundation Trusts

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): The chairman of Monitor (the statutory name of which is the Independent Regulator of NHS foundation trusts) announced on 1 April 2005 that, in accordance with section 6 of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003, Monitor authorised the following NHS trusts to operate as NHS foundation trusts from 1 April 2005, as part of its second group in wave 1a:

Monitor has deferred consideration of the applications from Aintree Hospitals NHS Trust, East Somerset NHS Trust and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust. Further decisions on these trusts may be made at a later date by Monitor.

West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust have not been authorised. In the coming weeks, officials at the Department will work with these trusts to ensure that full support is provided for a further application for authorisation at a later date.

A copy of Monitor's press notice has been placed in the Library.

Monitor's announcement brings the total number of NHS foundation trusts to 31.
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Attenuating Energy Projectile

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Caroline Flint): The then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, announced on 2 April 2001, Official Report, column 372W, that the Government were continuing with a programme to establish whether an acceptable, effective and less potentially lethal alternative to the baton round was available.

A new safer attenuating energy projectile (AEP) is now available and is being issued to police forces in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and to the Army in Northern Ireland. The existing baton round, the L21A1 will be withdrawn once all personnel have been trained in the use of the AEP. It is planned to begin deployment of the AEP on an operational basis from 21 June 2005.

The AEP will be used only in accordance with guidance which is intended to provide authorised firers with a less lethal option in situations where they are faced with individual aggressors whether such aggressors are acting on their own or as part of a group. It is not a crowd control technology; it is designed to be used against specific individuals in a variety of scenarios. Although there will be a reduced risk of serious injury or death when the AEP is used, that risk has not been completely eliminated. Where a round inadvertently strikes the head, the risk of serious and life threatening injury from the AEP will be less than that from the L21A1 baton round, which already has a low risk of such injury. This has been verified by an independent medical assessment, a copy of which I have placed in the Library today. Police guidance produced by the Association of Chief Police Officers and Army guidance on the use of the AEP will be published shortly and copies will be available in the Library of the House.

Details of use by the police will be reported on every occasion to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in England and Wales and to the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and copied to the policing board. Details of use by the Army in Northern Ireland will also be reported on every occasion and copied to the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police (SIB RMP) and the Independent Assessor of Military Complaints Procedures (IAMCP).

The Government and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) remain committed to research and development in furtherance of recommendations 69 and 70 contained in the report of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland. A research programme is continuing with the intended publication of a report marking the end of the fifth phase of the programme in the near future.


Indonesia Earthquake

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I would like to report to the House on the relief effort following the earthquake in Indonesia on 28 March 2005.
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On 28 March an earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Richter scale hit northern Sumatra at 22:09 local time (16:09 GMT). It was 30 km deep and was felt in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The epicentre was between the Indonesian islands of Nias and Simeulue. This is about 180 km south south-east of the major earthquake of the 26 December 2004, which was the second largest in recorded history at 9.3 on the Richter scale.

The 28 March earthquake prompted tsunami alerts across the region. Early warning and disaster preparedness initiatives were tested for the first time since the 26 December earthquake and tsunami. In Thailand and Malaysia, populations vulnerable to the effects of a tsunami were immediately alerted and where necessary, evacuated. The Government of India issued a tsunami warning through the media to coastal areas including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where tremors were also felt. In the Maldives, the Government issued a tsunami warning through the media and a national disaster management centre was fully activated.

The destruction and loss of life caused by the 28 March earthquake was mostly localised to the islands off the west coast of Sumatra, which have a total population of around 525,000. Early estimates from assessments still ongoing give the estimated death toll as around 1,700. Latest figures from the national authorities in Nias place the death toll at around 560 with the number of injured at about 3,000 (10 per cent. seriously injured). On Simeulue there are nine confirmed dead and 47 injured, although the UN estimates some 100 dead and 177 injured, whilst on the mainland there are unconfirmed reports of nine deaths. Figures received today indicate that there may be as many as 300 killed (from a population of about 5,000) on the Banyak Islands, according to the authorities. It is likely that the final death toll will be between 1,500 and 2,000.

Because of the extensive relief and recovery operation already underway in Sumatra, following the earlier earthquake and tsunami, the Government of Indonesia and the international community were well placed to respond quickly to the new earthquake. Assessment teams were formed quickly by the Government, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme, and international non-governmental organisations to carry out rapid assessments in Nias and Simeulue. This included British non-governmental organisations, and I would like to commend them for their immediate response to those in need on the affected islands.

Initial feedback from rapid assessments of the islands confirm that the earthquake hit the island of Nias, with a population of around 450,000, hardest. Estimates of building damage in the capital, Gunungsitoli, range between 20 per cent. and 50 per cent. severely damaged. Most damage was done to cement and brick buildings. Damage is also reported to essential infrastructure, roads, airport, electricity distribution and water supplies. On Simeulue, the most recent reports indicate that 12,000 homes may have been destroyed or damaged.

Over the weekend we heard the news that a helicopter operated by the Australian Navy had crashed while on operations near Nias. Nine military personnel were,
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tragically, killed, and another two survivors are being treated for their injuries. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families of those killed, and wish those injured a speedy recovery.

The rescue and relief operation is well underway, although damage to infrastructure, including to the airport runway on Nias, and adverse weather conditions have caused difficulties. Search and rescue teams, medical teams and medicines, tents, food, water and non-food items have been arriving on the islands by air and sea and distributed to the affected areas. Medical evacuations from Nias are being carried out to Medan and Meulabpk on the mainland. The World Food Programme have estimated that 200,000 Nias residents will need food assistance for about two months.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been co-ordinating the relief effort jointly with Government of Indonesia from Bandah Aceh, consulting closely with the Red Cross Movement, non-governmental organisations and other agencies. An on-site Operational Coordination Centre has been established in Sibolga, on the west coast of Sumatra, and over the weekend, a six-person United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team was mobilised to reinforce UN co-ordination. Relief assistance for Nias is now being channelled through Medan, while assistance for Simeulue is channelled through Banda Aceh.

The Department for International Development had two humanitarian advisers in Indonesia, one in Banda Aceh and one in Jakarta, at the time of earthquake. They have worked alongside the United Nations and other humanitarian organisations to support the relief effort. From the outset we offered whatever assistance might be appropriate, including financial support if needed. The main requirement was to support fast needs assessment and transport provision. Department for International Development funded Mi8 and Super Puma helicopters were used for the initial assessments and were also used for the transport of medical supplies and water to Nias as well as medical evacuations. Department for International Development supplied tents have been moved by the UN to Sibolga for use as shelter on the islands. Following the tsunami, there were already large quantities of relief items in Indonesia, together with numerous humanitarian workers. Nevertheless, gaps in provision might become evident as the assessments on the islands provide more information. Through our staff on the ground and contact with the UN, Red Cross and NGOs, we are monitoring the situation constantly and, should any gaps in provision emerge, we remain prepared to provide additional assistance that may be requested by the United Nations or the Government of Indonesia.

The Government of Indonesia have not requested further international assistance to respond to the earthquake and has allocated approximately £2 million for emergency relief.

In general there appears to be sufficient personnel and material in the immediate region, following December's tsunami, to meet all additional needs, including search and rescue capacity. As a result United Kingdom search and rescue teams that were put on standby did not need to deploy to the region.
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This earthquake will have come as a terrible shock to those still recovering from last year's devastating tsunami, and the further loss of life and suffering will be hard to bear. On behalf of the House, I send our condolences to those affected.

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