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13 Jun 2005 : Column 86W—continued

Prime Ministerial Visits

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Prime Minister when a serving British Prime Minister last visited (a) Orkney and (b) Shetland. [3034]

The Prime Minister: Regrettably, I have been unable to visit the Orkney and Shetlands islands. My office does not hold information on visits made by previous Prime Ministers.
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Employment Rate

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make a statement on the employment rate in the United Kingdom; and what steps he is taking to increase it; [815]

(2) on what basis his Department set a target employment rate of 80 per cent. for the UK; by what date he expects this target to be reached; and if he will make a statement. [816]

Margaret Hodge: The current employment rate of 74.9 per cent. is the highest in the G7 major industrialised countries and the fourth highest in the EU (behind Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden).

Our long-term aim, as set out in DWP's five-year strategy, is to achieve an employment rate equivalent of 80 per cent. of the working age population. The realisation of this aim will require continued macroeconomic stability and further radical welfare reform to build on the success that has already been achieved through the new deal, Jobcentre Plus and the Pathways to Work pilots.

We decided on the long-term aim of an employment rate equivalent to 80 per cent. by considering historical and international trends in key labour market variables. Then we made a judgment, based on the success so far of our economic and labour market policies. Our judgment reflects our ambition for continuing economic growth and prosperity for the country and opportunity and inclusion for individual citizens.

Motability Scheme

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what type of cars were bought by the Government's Motability scheme in each year since 2000. [735]

Mrs. McGuire: The operation of the Motability scheme, which is an independent not-for-profit charity, is a matter for the board of governors of Motability and not the Government.

Motability customers are free to choose the type of car they have from the scheme. The number and types of cars selected by Motability customers in each year from 2000 and 2004 are shown in the following table.
Land Rover1,155588319322662

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Pension Age

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to extend the retirement age for the basic state pension to 70 years for persons employed in certain professions; and if he will make a statement. [3862]

Mr. Timms: We have no such plans.

Turner and Newall

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps the Government are taking to help those people who paid into the Turner and Newall pension fund; whether the Government are considering setting up a compensation scheme; and if he will make a statement. [3649]

Mr. Timms: The Government have established the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) to protect members of defined benefit schemes by paying compensation if their employer becomes insolvent and the pension scheme is under funded. The PPF became operational on 6 April this year and, after this date, when a sponsoring employer of an eligible pension scheme has an insolvency event the PPF will step in and ensure that members receive a meaningful level of income in retirement.

For eligible schemes not already in wind up before 6 April, but where the employer was in insolvency proceedings prior to this date, entry to the PPF may be possible where a further insolvency event occurs after 6 April 2005. This would require a new qualifying insolvency event to take place (for example an order for the winding-up of a company being made by the court).

Members of the Turner and Newall pension fund may well benefit from the Pension Protection Fund in due course, if the eligibility criteria were met.
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A and E Staff

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many days sick leave were taken
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by staff in each accident and emergency department in Northern Ireland in each of the last three years for which figures are available. [3489]

Mr. Woodward: The information requested is set out in the following table.
Sick days
Altnagelvin HSS Trust305403991
Belfast City Hospital HSS Trust1,502.21,943.11,307.0
Causeway HSS Trust1,006.81,316.4919.7
Craigavon Area Hospital HSS Trust873.4968.61,189.8
Minor injuries unit, South Tyrone Hospital126.5298.7436.2
Down Lisburn HSS Trust comprising
(1) Lagan Valley Hospital242160218
(2) Downe Hospital242188218
Mater HSS TrustFigures not available at present371562.6
Royal Group of Hospitals HSS TrustDue to change in monitoring system,
not possible to capture the
information at this time.
Sperrin Lakeland HSS Trust comprising
(1) Erne Hospital188.897.9343
(2) Tyrone County Hospital353.1128.596
Ulster Community and Hospitals HSS Trust724.40837.701,115.10
United Hospitals HSS Trust comprising
(1) Antrim Area Hospital1,141767680
(2) Mid Ulster Hospital338341173
(3) Whiteabbey Hospital5561195

Information was not available from Newry and Mourne HSS Trust.

The Department keeps absenteeism under careful review. Targets have been set for Trusts to reduce their levels of sick absence.

Belfast Education and Library Board

Sammy Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether his Department has completed its investigation into allegations of fraud in building maintenance in the Belfast Education and Library Board; and if he will make a statement. [2782]

Angela E. Smith: The Department has not yet completed the investigation into allegations of fraud in building maintenance within the Belfast Education and Library Board. As this is a current investigation it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.

Clostridium Difficile

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many cases of clostridium difficile were reported to his Department under the voluntary reporting scheme in each year between 2000 and 2003; and if he will make a statement. [3799]

Mr. Woodward: From 2000 to 2003, under the voluntary reporting scheme the annual total number of laboratory reports of clostridium difficile toxin (all specimen types) collated by the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (Northern Ireland) was:
Number of clostridium difficile toxin

Since 1 January 2005, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has made reporting of clostridium difficile mandatory.

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