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31 Oct 2005 : Column 788W—continued


Mr. Peter Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) deaths and (b) incidents of serious injury involving legally held firearms, excluding Police Service of Northern Ireland and army firearms, there were in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. [22998]

Mr. Woodward: The Chief Constable has advised me that their Central Statistics Unit and Firearms and Explosives Branch do not hold records or statistics that would enable this question to be answered.

Foster Carers

Mr. Peter Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many registered foster carers there have been in Northern Ireland in each of the last 10 years. [22767]

Mr. Woodward: The routine collection of data by the Department on the numbers of registered foster carers in Northern Ireland commenced in 2001. In addition, a figure is available for 1997 from a fostering inspection report published by the Social Services Inspectorate showing that at that time there were 1,380 foster carers in Northern Ireland. The available data are presented in the following table:
Registered foster carers at quarter ending June


Health Authority Finances

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the cumulative deficit is for each strategic health authority in the Province; and if he will make a statement. [22639]

Mr. Woodward: Strategic health authorities do not exist in Northern Ireland. Their nearest equivalent is Health and Social Services Boards. The four boards are
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required to achieve at least a financial break-even position each financial year and I can confirm that none of the four has incurred a cumulative deficit.

Invest Northern Ireland

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what research he has commissioned on the perceptions of small and medium sized businesses in Northern Ireland of the effectiveness and accessibility of Invest Northern Ireland in the last 12 months. [22435]

Angela E. Smith: Invest NI has not specifically researched the perceptions of the entire small and medium enterprise (SME) business sector in Northern Ireland. In March 2005, however, the agency initiated a Client Satisfaction Survey which focused on its client company base, over 95 per cent. of which comprises businesses falling within the EU definition of a SME. Independent consultants were recruited to carry out this research, which covered all key Invest NI programme areas including Business Improvement, Research and Development and Trade.

The survey disclosed that clients' participation in Invest NI programmes had increased significantly, generating high levels of client satisfaction. The research also demonstrated high levels of communication taking place between Invest NI and its clients, through face-to-face meetings and a variety of other forms of communication. Client companies also expressed satisfaction with the overall quality of service delivered by their Invest NI client executive.

The survey identified a number of areas where improvement could usefully be made and Invest NI is actively working to address these as part of its commitment to increase its customer focus and service delivery.

Meningococcal Infection

Mr. Peter Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many confirmed cases of meningococcal infection there have been in each NHS board area in each of the last five years. [22811]

Mr. Woodward: The number of confirmed cases of meningococcal infection within each Health Board for the last five years is shown in the following table.
Health Board20012002200320042005(17)
Northern Ireland8183837046

(17) Figures for 2005 are up until the last confirmed case, 26 October 2005.
1. Information is based on Enhanced Surveillance of Meningococcal Disease.
2. Figures relate to calendar years.
Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre NI (CDSCNI).

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NHS Dentistry

Mr. Peter Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average waiting time was for access to NHS dental services in Northern Ireland in 2004–05. [22756]

Mr. Woodward: The majority of health service dentistry is carried out by general dental practitioners, who are independent contractors. Information on waiting lists for these services is not held centrally.

Waiting lists are collected for inpatients (both ordinary admissions and day cases) awaiting admission to NHS hospitals and outpatients awaiting their first appointment in an NHS hospital. This information is collected by specialty and by time band. It is therefore not possible to calculate the arithmetic mean (average) length of time waiting. It is, however, possible to identify the median or mid point waiting time band:

NICE Guidelines

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the merits of extending National Institute for Healthcare and Clinical Excellence guidelines to Northern Ireland. [22823]

Mr. Woodward: The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has assessed National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance and has been developing proposals for applying this guidance in Northern Ireland. I hope to make an announcement shortly on arrangements for implementing the institute's guidance in Northern Ireland.

Parades Commission

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many applications have to date been received for membership of the Parades Commission, broken down by (a) political affiliation, (b) gender and (c) ethnicity; and if he will make a statement. [20777]

Mr. Woodward: The Government are committed to ensuring, so far as is practicable, that the Parades Commission is representative of the people of Northern Ireland. The current appointments expire on 31 December. A reappointments process began on 25 July and is on schedule.

We have received 94 applications for membership of the Parades Commission and 49 applications for the position of chair. We are pleased with the volume and quality of applications received from both sides of the community.

The process is being run in close co-operation with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA). An OCPA independent assessor is one of three panel members sifting and interviewing applicants for both chair and membership.
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As the appointment process is currently ongoing, it is not considered appropriate to reveal the monitoring information at this time.

Paramilitary Groups

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he plans to take to encourage loyalist paramilitary organisations to decommission their weapons. [22737]

Mr. Woodward: On 26 September 2005 the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning determined that the IRA had met its commitment to put all its arms beyond use in a manner called for by the legislation. The report recognised that the arms of the loyalist paramilitary groups, as well as other paramilitary organisations, remain to be addressed.

On 21 September 2005 the Secretary of State announced that David Hanson would be taking the lead on engaging with representatives from the protestant/loyalist communities.

As well as socio-economic measures, there will continue to be engagement with political representatives of loyalism.

But be in no doubt, there will continue to be a robust security response to loyalist criminality.

It is essential that we continue to build upon the encouraging signs reported by the Independent Monitoring Commission in their assessment of 19 October and that all paramilitary groups fully decommission their weapons. We call on all those with influence to help bring this to an early conclusion.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the number of paramilitary-style crimes committed in each month since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement by (a) Loyalist and (b) Republican groups, broken down by category of offence; and if he will make a statement. [22847]

Mr. Woodward: The information is not available in exactly the format requested. However, since April 2004 the Independent Monitoring Commission has monitored and reported on paramilitary-style crimes and involvement in organised crime. The Commission has presented seven reports to date with detailed analysis of paramilitary activity.

In addition, the Police Service of Northern Ireland holds up to date and comprehensive statistical analysis on crime and security in Northern Ireland. The information can be accessed on PSNIs website at

Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many criminal cases were prosecuted against persons linked to (a) Loyalist and (b) Republican paramilitary groups in each of the last five years. [21557]

Mr. Woodward: Information on the number of criminal cases prosecuted against persons who are linked to either loyalist or republican paramilitary groups is not collected.
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Details of the number of persons that have been charged with terrorist and serious public order offences, broken down by affiliation, have been collected since April 2003 and are contained in the following table:
Persons charged with terrorist and serious public order offences 2003–04 to 2004–05(18)

Type of chargeLoyalistRepublicanLoyalistRepublican
Attempted murder9122
Firearms offences32172714
Explosive offences35015
Armed robbery8016

(18) Statistics include only the most serious offence with which a person is charged and refer to charges brought against a person after the original period of detention (including extensions). Any subsequent changes, additions, deletions to the original charges are not included.
(19) Other includes hijacking, petrol bomb offences, membership, withholding information, arson and rioting.

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