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21 Jun 2005 : Column 950W—continued

Laptop Computers

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many laptop computers have been used by (a) Ministers, (b) special advisers and (c) officials in his Department in each year since 1995; how many have been (i) lost and (ii) stolen in that period; what the cost was of the use of laptops in that period; and if he will make a statement. [4119]

Mr. Thomas: DFID currently has 1,409 laptop computers currently in use. These are all allocated to officials, none are used by Ministers or special advisors.

DFID does not keep records of the number of laptop computers in use in previous years. The number of laptop computers purchased in each financial year since 1995 are as follows:
Financial yearLaptops purchased

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The numbers of laptop computers lost and stolen in each financial year since 1995 are shown in the following table. All losses and thefts of IT equipment in DFID are investigated and reported according to Government accounting rules.

Laptop computers are used as an integral part of the DFID IT systems. It is not possible to separate the cost of use of laptop computers from other IT costs.


Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations he has received concerning reports that the Nicaraguan Government has been allocating funds received from the IMF for poverty alleviation projects to service internal debts; and if he will make a statement. [4006]

Mr. Thomas: DFID's office in Nicaragua has received representations from representatives of Nicaraguan civil society about the use of funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by the Government of Nicaragua.

The IMF does not finance specific projects. Rather, it transfers funds in support of an overall government budget that is consistent with agreements reached between that government and the IMF about what is needed to achieve economic stability and reduce poverty. The IMF's funds are merged with the government's own funds (e.g. tax revenue) and used to finance the planned expenditure as a whole, rather than any specific components.

At issue are the appropriate levels of domestic debt servicing by the Nicaraguan Government (GoN) and the adequacy of expenditure on items that help reduce poverty.

The representations made relate to two elements of GoN's internal debt:

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Payment of these debts, and the associated legislation to enable stronger regulation of the banking sector, are required if Nicaragua is to be able to create a climate where sustained poverty reduction and economic growth can take place. Furthermore, they have not prevented the Government of Nicaragua from increasing expenditure on poverty reducing programmes from 10.8 per cent. of Gross National Product in 2003 to 12.2 per cent. in 2004. The Government's budget for 2005 continues this trend. However, the National Assembly have allocated increased expenditure to a range of subsidies, many of which do not reduce poverty, which threaten macro-economic stability and the Government's ability to maintain its plans to increase poverty reducing expenditure.



Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans there are to increase the number of audiologists in the Province. [5355]

Mr. Woodward: The recruitment of staff, including audiologists, is a matter for individual health and social services trusts taking into account factors such as service needs and available resources. However, during the 2003–04 financial year, the Department provided funding for additional audiologists and it has been confirmed that 14.5 additional posts were created and these have been filled.

The position will be monitored through the Department's ongoing work force planning mechanism.

Government Circulars

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what equality impact assessment was conducted on Circular HSS (Gen) (2) 2005. [5248]

Mr. Woodward: Circular HSS (Gen) (2) 2005 was not subjected to an equality impact assessment. The information contained in that circular replicates the public holidays in Northern Ireland as published by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Community Hospitals

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to expand community hospital provision in Northern Ireland; and how much funding was provided to each community hospital in Northern Ireland in each of the past three years. [5499]

Mr. Woodward: The development of community hospital provision is central to our plans for the modernisation of hospital services. The new local hospital in Downpatrick is scheduled to open in 2008; business cases for new local hospitals in a number of other locations are being prepared. In addition we are taking forward plans to modernise the primary and community care infrastructure to improve further the quality and range of service available within local communities.
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Departmental funding is allocated to health and social services boards under an agreed capitation formula, which recognises the healthcare needs of the populations within each board area. It is for boards to allocate their resources to meet health and social care priorities within their own board area. Details of allocations to specific community hospitals are not, therefore, collected centrally.

Complaints Procedure (NHS/Care Homes)

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the complaints procedure is for those in (a) private care homes and (b) NHS facilities in the Province. [5331]

Mr. Woodward: The information is as follows:

(a) Independent homes have a regulatory requirement to provide advice to all residents (including private residents) on how to make a complaint and who to contact outside the home if they remain dissatisfied. The complaints procedure for a resident placed in an independent home by an Health and Social Services Trust is the Health and Personal Social Services (HPSS) Complaints procedure entitled: Complaints Listening ... Acting ... Improving: Guidance on Handling HPSS Complaints: Hospital and Community Health and Social Services" issued 2000.

(b) The same complaints procedure is available to a resident in a statutory home.

Creagh Youth Centre

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) was paid by Castlereagh borough council for Creagh Youth Centre; and whether the SEELB has claimed the whole sum due to it from Castlereagh borough council. [5636]

Angela E. Smith: No capital monies have yet been paid by Castlereagh borough council to the South-Eastern Education and Library Board for Cregagh Youth Centre and, therefore, their full contribution of £400,000 towards total capital costs of approximately £800,000 remains outstanding.

Digital Hearing Aids

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the cost of providing a digital hearing aid on the NHS in the Province is, broken down by (a) assessment, (b) fitting, (c) follow-up and (d) purchase of the aid. [5351]

Mr. Woodward: The information requested is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

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