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11 Nov 2005 : Column 830W—continued


Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what evidence was used to inform paragraph 45 of the individual regulatory impact assessment on the smoke free aspects of the Health Bill, presented on 27 October 2005, with particular reference to the statement that the Department does not consider these measures will disadvantage any group; and if she will make a statement. [25268]

Caroline Flint: The assessment in the "Equity and Fairness including race equality assessment" section of the partial regulatory impact assessment reflects issues raised during the development of choosing health. The particular issue of hookah pipes has been highlighted in response to concerns raised previously. Any additional evidence brought forward will be included in informing the final regulatory impact assessment.

Staff Dismissals

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many staff employed in her Department in (a) 2003–04, (b) 2004–05 and (c) in the six months to 30 September have been dismissed, or have had their employment contract otherwise terminated, for failure to perform to the standard expected; and if she will make a statement. [24720]

Jane Kennedy: The numbers of staff who have been dismissed by the Department through either reasons of inefficiency or discipline are shown in the following table.
Year dismissedTotal
April 2003 to March 20045
April 2004 to March 20052
April 2005 to September 20051
Grand total8

Sun Beds

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what regulations apply to the operation of (a) sun bed tanning retail outlets with staff and (b) coin-operated outlets with no staff; and if she will make a statement; [20809]

(2) what guidance is given to local authorities on the operation of sun tanning beds in council-owned leisure and sports centres. [20812]

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Caroline Flint: There are no specific regulations that apply to sun bed establishments with or without staff. The Health and Safety Executive however issued guidelines in 1995 on the use of sun beds for both operators and customers, including those operated in facilities owned by local authorities. The guidance was developed in consultation with the Department and leading experts. Cancer Research UK is in discussions with the sun bed industry to review industry practices and self-regulation. This involves improving information for both staff and customers, including the displaying of information about the use of sun beds and their risks to health.

Swale Primary Care Trust

Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the Kent and Medway strategic health authority was first informed of the deficit at Swale primary care trust; what action it took; and how many meetings it has since held of non-executive directors of the board to discuss the matter. [24621]

Caroline Flint [holding answer 3 November 2005]: Kent and Medway strategic health authority (SHA) was aware toward the end of financial year 2004–05 that Swale primary care trust (PCT) had underlying financial problems. The PCT reported an audited year-end position of £0.45 million overspent.

The SHA therefore required the PCT to develop a robust financial recovery plan to deliver financial balance this year (2005–06).

Delivery of the financial recovery plan has been monitored and performance managed through formal monthly performance meetings, and through individual meetings between officers of the SHA and the PCT, including the direct engagement of the SHA's chief executive. Meetings have also taken place between the SHA's chair and both the current and former chairs of Swale PCT.

This is a local matter. Responsibility for decisions about funding and the provision of local health services now rest with PCTs. It is for PCTs, in conjunction with SHAs to plan and develop services according to the needs of local people.

National health service bodies must live within their means. It is the responsibility of SHAs to deliver both overall financial balance for their local health communities and to ensure each and every body achieves financial balance.

Uterine Fibroids

Jessica Morden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research her Department has conducted into the long-term economic and social effects of minimally invasive technologies for the treatment of uterine fibroids. [24365]

Jane Kennedy: None.
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Avian Influenza

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the UK Government has spent on preventing Avian influenza being brought into the UK in each year from 1998 to 2005. [22861]

Mr. Bradshaw: There is no dedicated funding spent on preventing Avian influenza from entering the UK. Guarding against Avian influenza is part of a wider disease prevention programme (including border controls and quarantine procedures). To enhance emergency preparedness against Avian influenza, Defra is planning to spend over £6 million in 2005–06.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance her Department has issued to the public concerning (a) the Government's policy on Avian influenza, (b) the length of the ban on poultry at markets, shows and fairs determined by Decision 2005/745/EC, (c) the provisions under which the ban as determined by Decision 2005/745/EC can be (i) renewed and (ii) revoked, (d) which species of birds are affected, (e) the circumstances under which events such as market, shows and fairs can proceed subject to a veterinary risk assessment and (f) the details of how a veterinary risk assessment can be obtained; for what reasons this information is not available on her Department's website; and if she will make a statement. [24843]

Mr. Bradshaw: The information requested is as follows:

(a) The Department has distributed guidance materials on Avian influenza to our partners in the industry—including the British Poultry Council, the British Egg Industry Council and the National Farmers Union—who are helping to distribute this material to their members, who cover the majority of birds. A simple one-page leaflet on biosecurity and surveillance for smaller concerns and back yard keepers has also been produced and is being distributed widely including to all veterinary practices and placed in trade and specialist press targeting the same audience. All this information is available on my Department's website and I am placing copies in the Library of the House.

(b) Commission Decision 2005/734 amended by 2005/745 prevent the gathering of birds and is in place until 30 November, but in view of the current disease situation is likely to be rolled forward. These decisions are implemented in the UK by The Avian Influenza (Preventive Measures) Regulations 2005 and is not time limited.

(c) The Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) together with member states will consider whether the decision should be reviewed or revoked based on their assessment of the veterinary risk.

(d) The legislation covers all species of birds.

(e) The Department, on veterinary advice, has carried out a preliminary risk assessment which takes a precautionary approach to the risk of transmission of highly pathogenic Avian influenza attached to
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gatherings of birds. This has shown that gathering of specified types of birds may be permitted under certain conditions.

At present low risk gatherings can be licensed. This means the gathering can only consist of budgerigars, canaries, zebra finches, Bengalese finches and birds classed by fanciers as "British" birds (i.e. captive bred birds of species native to the British Isles, not including pigeons, poultry and waterfowl). The show organiser must agree to meet a number of conditions such as record keeping and biosecurity measures before a licence is granted. Sales from licensed gatherings are not permitted.

Gatherings of other birds including poultry, waterfowl, pigeons and exotic species are considered to be higher risk. Conditions under which shows of higher risk birds might be permitted to take place are still under consideration. Such gatherings will not be licensed until we are confident that they can take place without undue risk.

(f) Information about how to apply for a licence is available from local Animal Health Divisional Offices and comprehensive guidance has been available on the Defra website since the beginning of November.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will introduce further control on the importation of wild birds as pets. [20945]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 24 October 2005]: On 28 October, the EU introduced an extensive ban on imports into the Community of captive birds, along with new restrictions on the importation of pet birds. UK import rules have been amended to reflect this. In line with EU-wide measures, we had previously banned imports of all live birds and products from countries with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

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