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24 Apr 2007 : Column 1026W—continued

Nigeria: Elections

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what international observers were present for recent gubernatorial elections in Nigeria; and what observers she expects to be present for the presidential elections in Nigeria. [132600]

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Mr. McCartney: The elections held in Nigeria on 14 April to choose State Governors and Members of the State Houses of Assembly were attended by observers from the EU, the Economic Community of West African States, the Commonwealth, the National Democratic Institute and IFES, a United States-based organisation. The same observer missions were present for the presidential elections held on 21 April. The International Republican Institute also deployed observers on 21 April.

For the elections on both 14 and 21 April the EU Election Observation Mission, led by Max van den Berg, Member of the European Parliament, deployed about 150 observers in total, covering 33 of the 36 States. On both election days our High Commission in Abuja, offices of the Department for International Development in Nigeria and other diplomatic missions also deployed observers, to complement the work of the visiting international observers. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) was also present for the presidential elections with our High Commission, as Special Representative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of intimidation and undemocratic practices in gubernational elections in Nigeria; and if she will make a statement. [132601]

Mr. McCartney: There have been numerous reports of violence and intimidation during the elections held in Nigeria on 14 April to choose State Governors and Members of the State Houses of Assembly. It is estimated that at least fifty people were killed in election-related violence between 13 and 15 April.

As well as the unacceptable violence and intimidation, there were serious flaws in the administration of the elections. Problems reported by EU observers include poor organisation, lack of transparency, widespread procedural irregularities, significant evidence of fraud, voter disenfranchisement and lack of equal conditions for contestants. In a statement released on 23 April the EU Election Observation Mission in Nigeria said that both the State elections on 14 April and the Federal elections on 21 April had fallen short of basic international and regional standards for democratic elections.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a public statement about the State and Federal elections on 23 April. The statement is available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at: and we will place a copy in the Library of the House.

Sudan: Asylum

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what monitoring her Department undertakes of the treatment of repatriated asylum seekers in Sudan; and what her latest assessment is of their treatment. [132302]

Mr. McCartney: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not routinely monitor individual repatriated failed asylum seekers. It would generally be
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inappropriate and impractical for the UK to monitor individual citizens of another country once they return there.

This should not be interpreted as disinterest. The FCO follows the human rights situation through our network of posts around the world, including in the countries to which we return failed asylum seekers. Information on the human rights situation is always taken fully into account as a factor in the formulation of Home Office policies on asylum, and hence in the decision about whether it is safe to return an individual.

Asylum and human rights claims by nationals of Sudan are, like those of claimants from all countries, considered on their individual merits in accordance with the UK's obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. Each application is considered against the background of the latest country information available from a wide range of reliable sources including international organisations, non-governmental organisations, the FCO and the media.

The country information on Sudan is available to decision-makers in regularly updated country reports which are available on the Home Office website at:

Sudan: Peace Keeping Operations

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions her Department has had on the situation in Darfur with the Government of (a) Chad, (b) the Central African Republic and (c) Uganda. [132300]

Mr. McCartney: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is pressing all sides involved in the Darfur conflict to engage in a renewed political process and stop supporting each other's rebels.

The UK Ambassador-at-Large for the Sudanese Peace Process raised these issues when he visited Chad on 20 February. Our High Commissioner in Yaounde (non-resident Ambassador to the Central African Republic) also discussed regional instability with the Government of the Central African Republic when he visited in January. Given the importance of this issue, we will continue to press both the Governments of Chad and Sudan on this matter. We regularly discuss the conflict with our partners in the Security Council and with regional Governments such as Uganda.

We are also urging the African Union and UN to make rapid progress on the political track, which they agreed to take forward at the Addis Ababa and Abuja summits last November.


Waiting Times

13. Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made in this Parliament in reducing hospital waiting times. [133186]

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Andy Burnham: Excellent progress has been made. Since May 2005, the number of patients waiting longer than six months for treatment has fallen from around 50,000 to less than 400. The average in-patient wait has fallen from 8.3 weeks to 6.6 weeks.

20. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the current maximum waiting times are for hip surgery in (a) Leicestershire, (b) Warwickshire and (c) England. [133195]

Andy Burnham: The maximum wait for all in-patient/day case surgery, including hip operations, has fallen from 26 weeks to 20 weeks from 1 April 2007. By the end of 2008 patients requiring hip surgery will wait a maximum of 18 weeks from general practitioner referral to the start of treatment.

Waiting time data are collected at a specialty level. The latest available data for trauma and orthopaedics, which include hip surgery in Leicestershire, Warwickshire and England are shown in the table.

Commissioner based trauma and orthopaedics waiting time information at the end of February 2007
Organisation name
Leicestershire County and Rutland Primary Care Trust (PCT) Leicester City Teaching PCT Warwickshire PCT All England

Total number waiting





Number waiting:

Over 20 weeks





Over 26 weeks





Percentage waiting:

Over 20 weeks





Over 26 weeks





Department of Health, Monthly Monitoring

Healthcare-acquired Infections

14. Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will take further steps to improve the public awareness of how to prevent healthcare-acquired infections. [133187]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: We already provide information for the public on healthcare associated infections and the “Health Act 2006 Code of Practice for the Prevention and Control of Health Care Associated Infections” requires Trusts to provide suitable patient information. Additional new materials to help Trusts improve local public awareness are due this summer.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to reduce the incidence of hospital-acquired infection in Gloucestershire. [133179]

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Mr. Ivan Lewis: Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust is working in partnership with Gloucestershire Hospitals National Health Service Foundation Trust on infection control. The foundation trust has produced a detailed action plan which was assessed by my Department's meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus Improvement Programme Review Team on 6 March 2007, and the local NHS continues to monitor the situation.

Health Visitors

15. Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment she has made of the availability of health visitors; and if she will make a statement. [133188]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The latest published census showed the headcount number of health visitors in England has increased by over 400 or 3 per cent. since 1997 to over 12,800 in 2005.

Community Hospitals and Services

16. Andrew Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much her Department is planning to spend on community hospitals and services in 2007-08; and if she will make a statement. [133189]

Andy Burnham: We are committed to community hospitals where they represent the best solutions for local communities. To support this we have set up a five year £750 million programme to promote the development of community hospitals and services. To date we have allocated around £100 million to 14 different schemes.


17. James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment she has made of waiting times to receive a digital hearing aid. [133190]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Department does not collect waiting times data for hearing aid fitting. We recognise that there are significant challenges with regard to waiting times to receive a digital hearing aid. As part of the process of addressing this challenge, we published “Improving Access to Audiology Services in England” in March 2007.

Patients' Telephone Services

18. Jessica Morden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on the progress of work with suppliers to consider further ways of reducing incoming call charges for hospital patients. [133191]

Andy Burnham: Discussions have taken place with the two service providers, originally investigated by the Office of Communications, to identify possible ways of reducing their incoming call charge.

As reported by the Patient Power Review Group, in February, there is no easy, quick fix solution to this problem but the Department is working hard to resolve this issue.

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Smoke-free Legislation

19. Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made towards implementing the smoke-free legislation in England. [133193]

Caroline Flint: With all sets of smoke-free regulations on the statute book, the Department’s Smokefree England campaign is in full swing.

Funding and training has been provided to local authorities. Guidance packs are now being sent to businesses across England and a free phone information line and website is operating.

The Department will also run a public information advertising campaign in the lead-up to 1 July.

Health Mutuals

21. Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health in what ways health mutuals work in co-operation with the NHS. [133196]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: A range of mutual organisations are involved in delivering national health service services, including NHS foundation trusts and some social enterprises. Health mutuals can offer positive benefits for patients, local communities and employees.


Tony Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what funding has been allocated to treat alcoholism in 2007-08. [133681]

Caroline Flint: It is for primary care trusts (PCTs) to determine what proportion of their general allocation is spent on treating alcoholism. An additional £15 million is included within PCTs' general allocation from 2007-08 onwards to help PCTs to improve their local arrangements for commissioning and delivering specialist alcohol interventions.

Breast Cancer: Screening

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many women are required to wait more than three years between breast cancer screenings in (a) each London primary care trust and (b) England. [133816]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The average intervals between screenings for breast cancer by primary care trust is not collected centrally. However, national health service cancer screening programmes requested data from the NHS breast screening programme on the percentage of local screening units achieving the 36 month national standard between screens for quarter four 2005-06 (January to March 2006).

In England, 68 per cent. of women were re-screened within the 36-month national standard and the average wait between screens was 36 months, while the following table shows the average wait between screens (average round length) and the percentage of screenings within the 36-month national standard for the London breast screening units.

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Breast screening unit Average round length (months) Percentage of screenings within 36 months of previous screening

South East London—GCA 1



South East London—GCA 2



North London—EBA



South West London—HWA



Barking Havering—FBH



West of London—ECX



Central and East London— FLO



Whipps Cross—FWC



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