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Lord Chancellor: Hospitality

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) whether the Lord Chancellor has used his official residence at Admiralty House to entertain (a) Labour hon. Members, (b) Labour party donors and (c) Labour party officials; [114010]

(2) whether the Lord Chancellor has used his official residence at Admiralty House to host any Labour party event. [114011]

Bridget Prentice: Guidance on the use of official residences is set out in section 4.2 of the Ministerial Code. The Lord Chancellor complies fully with the requirements of the Ministerial Code.

Prisoner Voting

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether her Department’s proposals to enfranchise convicted prisoners would involve prisoners voting in the constituency where the prison is located or in the constituency of their last known abode. [114013]

Bridget Prentice: No decision on either the enfranchisement of any convicted prisoners, or how such prisoners would vote were they to be enfranchised, has been made.

A consultation paper on the voting rights of convicted prisoners detained with the United Kingdom, was published on 14 December 2006. This will be followed by a second consultation, to consider how any changes might work in practice. Ultimately it will be for Parliament to decide what, if any, changes are made.


Mrs. May: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) what the process is for deciding the date of publication of statistics prepared by or relating to the Department; and who is involved in that process; [113085]

(2) on how many occasions in the last five years the publication date of statistics produced by her Department has been changed; what the (a) subject of the statistics, (b) (i) original and (ii) final date of publication and (c) reason for the delay was in each case; and who took the decision to delay the publication in each case. [113669]

Vera Baird: In accordance with the National Statistics Code of Practice (2002), the Head of Profession for Statistics in the Department for Constitutional Affairs has sole responsibility for determining, pre-announcing and, if necessary, altering the dates of publication of ‘National Statistics’ and other relevant statistics produced by the Department.

Any decision to change a pre-announced publication date will be based on a range of professional considerations such as the completeness of the underlying data, their fitness for purpose, the need for consistency and coherence, the need to promote widespread access and informed debate, or any earlier
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accidental or wrongful release. In reaching their decision, the Head of Profession will also take into consideration the detailed procedural guidance given in the ‘National Statistics Protocol on Release Practices’. The Code and its 12 supporting Protocols are available in the Library of the House.

There have been only two occasions in the last five years when the Head of Profession has changed a pre-announced publication date. In both cases, the affected release was the monthly National Statistics bulletin “Average time from arrest to sentence for persistent young offenders”. The details are as follows:


Alcohol Abuse

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much her Department spent on each project aimed at the prevention of alcohol abuse in each of the last 10 years. [105640]

Caroline Flint: The Department has implemented a number of projects aimed at preventing alcohol misuse and tackling alcohol related harm over the last 10 years.

In November 2006, the Department, jointly with the Home Office, launched the ‘Know Your Limits’ campaign. The Department will contribute £1.7 million in 2006-07. The campaign seeks to discourage binge drinking by young adults.

In October 2006, the Department announced the Identification and Brief advice trailblazers, which are a series of demonstration projects on preventive interventions in health and criminal justice settings for people who are drinking at hazardous and harmful levels.

The Department is investing £3.2 million in this project over 2006-08. The Department has also issued Section 64 funding to various projects over the last 10 years run by organisations who tackle alcohol related harm, at least some of this funding being spent on projects aimed at prevention. The total cost was £4.8 million, £4.4 million of this money went to core funding of Alcohol Concern. In addition, Alcohol Concern projects were supported as follows:

Title £


Promoting health in the workplace



Information for Primary Care staff



Accident and Emergency (links with alcohol services)



Alcohol and teenage pregnancy



Alcohol and mental health


Total for Alcohol Concern projects


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Other organisations that received funding



Medical Council on Alcoholism for a project on alcohol and health



Tacade core funding


Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people have sought support from the NHS for alcohol addiction in each year since 1997. [110318]

Caroline Flint: This information is not held centrally. The Alcohol Needs Assessment Research Project (ANARP) published in November 2005 provided the first ever comprehensive picture of alcohol related needs and availability of treatment in England.

ANARP found that in England 1.1 million people are alcohol dependent and estimated that 63,000 access alcohol treatment each year.

It would not be expected that all those who are dependent on alcohol access treatment during any one year. This is discussed further in the ANARP.

Alcohol Awareness Campaigns

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions she has had with drinks manufacturers with respect to alcohol awareness campaigns. [113613]

Caroline Flint: Officials of the Department facilitated discussions between the alcohol industry and non-industry stakeholders on the establishment of the new independent Drinkaware Trust. A memorandum of understanding was signed in June 2006. The alcohol industry has committed funding of £12 million to finance the new Trust’s activities over the first three years, which are likely to include alcohol education campaigns.

The alcohol industry is represented, along with non-industry stakeholders, on the communications stakeholder group, which meets regularly to give advice on the Government’s campaigns and communications on alcohol misuse.

Alcohol Strategy

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will provide funding for the alcohol strategy to match that for the drugs strategy. [110164]

Caroline Flint: It is for primary care trusts (PCTs) to determine how much of their budget they spend on alcohol services locally in accordance with the needs of the local population.

PCTs are currently spending £217 million on alcohol treatment. A further £15 million has been allocated to PCTs in 2007-08 to improve alcohol interventions further.

Audiology Services

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to reduce waiting times for (a) fitting of new digital hearing aids and (b)
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upgrade of digital hearing aids from analogue hearing aids in (i) Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust area and (ii) all NHS trusts; and if she will make a statement. [114671]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: A national action plan for audiology will be published soon. The action plan will be aimed at improving access, service delivery and waiting times through the development of a sustainable service model for the service. Implementation of the action plan and its recommendations will be the responsibility of local services. This includes Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals National Health Service Foundation Trust.

In addition to the development of the action plan, the Department has also announced the procurement of up to 300,000 audiology pathways from the independent sector to provide assessment, fitting and follow up.

Both of these measures will assist in significantly reducing waiting times and will greatly benefit those who receive hearing aids.

Calorific Sweeteners

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimates she has made of the average levels of consumption of calorific sweeteners. [110103]

Caroline Flint: We assume that by calorific sweeteners my hon. Friend is asking about bulk/polyol sweeteners such as sorbitol or xylitol and not sugars.

No direct estimate of consumption of these products is made through the national diet and nutrition survey.

Cheese Making

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many UK nationals will take part in the audit of cheese-making establishments initiated by the European Commission; where conclusions of the audit will be made public; what the cost is of the audit; and what percentage of the cost will be borne by the European Commission. [112749]

Caroline Flint: The European Commission’s audit of the United Kingdom's implementation and enforcement of food safety rules in the dairy sector took place between 21 and 29 November 2006. The audit commenced with an initial pre-meeting between the two Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) inspectors involved and officials from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Defra. The inspectors were then accompanied by FSA officials on visits to seven dairy business premises in England and Wales to evaluate at first hand official controls relating to the safety of milk and milk based products. The audit mission concluded with a closing meeting involving officials from the FVO, Defra and the FSA.

The FVO report of the mission is not yet available. Following the established consultation procedures, the FVO will publish the report on the Commission website in due course.

The mission took the usual format, with all parties funding their own expenditure. However the overall cost of the audit has not been assessed.

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Colchester General Hospital

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she has taken to fund the planned expansion of Colchester general hospital; and if she will make a statement. [114593]

Andy Burnham: This is a local matter, which falls to national health service providers locally. However, I am advised that despite the Private Finance Initiative process stopping in June 2006, Essex Rivers remains committed to centralise core services at Colchester general hospital. The trust’s intention is to achieve the same strategic ends over a longer period using other avenues for finance and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise. This is the central theme of the trust’s investment strategy, launched in September 2006, for which consultation ended on 22 December 2006.

A strategic capital solution of around £40 million to £50 million is being developed. Early approval by the North East Essex primary care trust and NHS East of England boards will be sought this financial year, which will deliver a new five-year programme comprising 14 projects which will achieve the outcomes required, assuming that the funding regime and activity are broadly in line with the current assumptions.

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much compensation has (a) been paid and (b) will be paid to the private sector consortium involved in the former Private Finance Initiative project at Colchester general hospital; from which national health service budget or budgets the compensation will be paid; and if she will make a statement. [114594]

Andy Burnham: Forensic accountants appointed by the Department have completed their work with Essex Rivers national health service trust to verify the reasonableness of the claim submitted by AMEC and its consortium partners in respect of bidding costs incurred on the cancelled private finance initiative scheme. Ministers are now considering the accountants’ report and how any such compensation payments should be administered.

Curd Cheese

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many meetings there have been between scientists representing the UK Government and the European Commission to agree the definitions of curd cheese; what the (a) date and (b) location was of each meeting; what other UK scientific procedures or definitions have been disputed by the European Commission; what instructions the European Commission has issued as a result of such disputes; how many production units have been closed as a result of such instructions; and what compensation is available to UK cheese producers closed as a result of action taken by the European Commission. [112752]

Caroline Flint: There have been no meetings between United Kingdom Government representatives and the European Commission to discuss the definition of curd cheese. There have been, and it is expected there will continue to be, discussions about the procedures for
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testing milk for antibiotic residues, about cheese recovery operations and about the placing on the market of foodstuffs intended for further processing before consumption. The European Commission has not recently issued any new instructions about practices in the dairy sector, but it did adopt Commission Decision 2006/694/EC, the preamble (recitals) to which set down how the Commission intends the controls on antibiotics in milk should operate within the Community. The decision required all member states to prohibit the placing on the market of curd cheese manufactured by Bowland Dairy Products Ltd. of Barrowford, Lancashire, and the question of compensation is a matter for it to pursue with the Commission.

Food Standards Agency

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many employees in the Food Standards Agency have qualifications relating to the dairy industry; and how many scientists are employed by the Food Standards Agency. [112748]

Caroline Flint: Some 40 per cent. of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) 750 staff are scientists. They include microbiologists, chemists, toxicologists and others with more generalist scientific qualifications. Scientists work on the full range of the agency’s business as and when the need arises. This includes work on dairy related issues.

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