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20 Oct 2008 : Column 115W—continued


The information in relation to the non-departmental public bodies could be provided only at disproportionate costs.


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Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much was paid in sick pay to staff in (a) his Department, (b) its agency and (c) the non-departmental bodies for which it has responsibility in each of the last five years; what proportion of the annual staffing expenditure of each body this figure represented in each such year; and if he will make a statement. [216141]

Mr. Sutcliffe: As part of the Department’s Diversity and Health and well-being policies, we have a range of initiatives and programmes in place to support staff and to manage stress, mental health and behavioural issues.

Furthermore, in order to raise awareness of stress and mental health issues we have implemented a range of initiatives and guidance for managers and staff to manage mental health problems in the workplace including an initiative to tackle the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

We regularly monitor sickness absence and reasons for absences as a means to tackle attendance issues and provide support to our staff. This support ranges from a 24 hour employee assistance programme, occupational health referral, rehabilitation programme for staff and reasonable adjustments to work or the working environment.

Our work-life balance and lifestyle programme supports our “stress at work” policy allowing staff to manage stress through achievement of effective work-life balance.

We have robust procedures in place to manage sickness absence within the Department and the policy includes guidance for staff on how to preserve and maintain their own and others mental well-being, this includes information on preventing and identifying stress.

The Department has completed a Stress Audit recently and the overall departmental analysis shows that there are no areas of high risk stress across the Department, and only three areas of medium risk. We are now in the process of drawing up an action plan to address the issues highlighted in the report. We will also be running a health event in November which will aim to raise awareness of health and well-being issues.

The Department’s sick pay policy pays for sickness absence on full pay for up to six months in any period of 12 months absence—followed by half pay for sickness of up to a maximum of 12 months in any period of four years or less.

The information provided shows the salary costs and excludes employers’ pension and national insurance contributions. These and other related information could only be provided at disproportionate costs.

1 April to 31 March each year Salary costs (£) Proportion of annual staffing expenditure (percentage)

2003-04

211,790

1.14

2004-05

200,950

1.01

2005-06

248,664

1.12

2006-07

209,167

0.84

2007-08

153,639

0.59

Note:
Table 1 shows the results for DCMS only. DCMS only holds sickness absence data dating back to 2003.

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Although we requested the information from The Royal Parks Agency—DCMS’s Executive Agency, we were not provided with an answer.

The information in relation to the non-departmental public bodies could be provided only at disproportionate costs.

Football: Betting

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions he has had with the Football Association in respect of recent allegations of match-fixing and unusual betting activity on a Football League Championship match. [228104]

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions he has had with the Football Association on allegations of match-fixing and unusual betting activity involving the Norwich City versus Derby County Football League Championship match on 4 October. [228289]

Andy Burnham: I have not had any discussions with the Football Association (FA) in respect of the recent allegations of match fixing and unusual betting activity on the Norwich City versus Derby County Football League Championship match on 4 October.

The Government take any allegations relating to the integrity of sport seriously. The Gambling Act 2005 introduced tough new penalties to keep gambling free from crime and corruption. In particular it brought in the offence of cheating at gambling where any person found guilty faces a maximum prison sentence of two years.

I am aware that the allegations have been reported to the FA and the Gambling Commission.

The FA is investigating whether there is any substance to the allegations and the Gambling Commission is supporting the FA in its inquiries. It would not be appropriate to comment further on any case that may result in prosecution.

Museums and Galleries: Finance

Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much unallocated grant in aid there is for museums and galleries in his Department's budget. [225460]

Barbara Follett: The Department has no unallocated grant in aid for its sponsored museums and galleries.

Public Service Broadcasting

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether he plans to review the fulfilment by broadcasters of their public service obligations. [227736]

Andy Burnham: The Government have no such plans. Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a statutory responsibility to carry out periodic reviews of the fulfilment of the public service remit; the second
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such review is currently in progress. Responsibility for ensuring that individual broadcasters comply with their public service obligations rests with Ofcom for the commercial public service broadcasters, with the BBC Trust for the BBC and with the S4C Authority for S4C.

Swimming: Concessions

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many additional free or discounted swimming lessons will be provided as a result of the additional Government funding for swimming. [228221]

Andy Burnham: Initiatives such as swimming lessons will be funded from the overall funding package.

Government are currently working with stakeholders including the Amateur Swimming Association and Sport England on the detailed design and delivery arrangements for such initiatives.

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what meetings have taken place with the Swimming Teachers’ Association to discuss the Government’s free swimming proposals. [228222]

Andy Burnham: Government designed the Free Swimming Programme in close consultation with a range of stakeholders including the Local Government Association, the Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers’ Association, the Amateur Swimming Association (as the governing body for swimming) and Sport England.

No meetings have taken place with the Swimming Teachers’ Association to discuss the programme.

Defence

Afghanistan: Casualties

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) reports and (b) complaints his Department has received of civilian deaths due to aeroplane attacks by NATO forces in Afghanistan in the last 12 months; what the (i) date, (ii) location and (iii) alleged resulting number of civilian deaths of each such attack were; what response his Department has made to each (A) report and (B) complaint; and if he will make a statement. [223728]

Mr. Hutton: The Ministry of Defence does not collate data relating to reports or complaints of civilian casualties where these do not relate to incidents allegedly caused by UK forces. Any such reports are passed to the NATO chain of command or the respective national authorities for investigation.

Over the last 12 months, my Department has received formal notification of two occasions on which UK aircraft were involved in incidents in which civilian casualties are believed to have occurred. One occurred in March 2008 and the second in September 2008. In both cases, the incidents were subjected to a thorough and detailed investigation. There is no reason to believe that UK forces behaved inappropriately in either incident. We do not collate or publish figures for civilian casualties in Afghanistan because of the immense difficulty and risks of collecting robust data.


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Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the prospects for conflict resolution in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [225962]

Mr. Hutton: Afghanistan continues to present significant security challenges, particularly in the south and east of the country where the Taliban continue to use intimidation and violence against the local population. Key to our strategy is ensuring there are political-led solutions in Afghanistan as the insurgency cannot be defeated by military means alone. There are no quick solutions, but we continue to support the Government of Afghanistan's efforts to bring disaffected Afghans into society's mainstream.

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what types of helicopter are deployed in Afghanistan undertaking (a) combat support roles and (b) medical evacuation roles; and how many of each type are deployed. [227021]

Mr. Hutton: ISAF helicopter support is provided from a multinational pool. The UK has provided Chinook, Sea King and Lynx helicopters in Afghanistan to undertake combat support roles and has also deployed Apache attack helicopters. The UK also makes use of a range of civilian helicopters through a NATO contract. While any helicopter could in extremis be used to support medical evacuation, Chinook and Sea King helicopters are primarily tasked for this specific purpose.

I am withholding the numbers of helicopters deployed as disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.

Afghanistan: Reconstruction

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in which (a) reconstruction and (b) aid projects British armed forces are participating in Afghanistan. [225940]

Mr. Hutton: British troops are not routinely engaged in the distribution of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. However, they do run or participate in a wide range of reconstruction projects, for details of which I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my ministerial colleague, the right hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), on 1 September 2008, Official Report, column 1438W, to the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox).

Aircraft Carriers

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the most recent time projection is for the completion and commissioning of the two new aircraft carriers. [228114]

Mr. Quentin Davies: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer given by my noble Friend, Baroness Taylor of Bolton to the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever in another place on 14 July 2008, Official Report, column WA103.


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Apache Helicopters: Crew

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans there are to increase levels of the recruitment, training and retention of Apache helicopter crews. [227356]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 16 October 2008]: The Army Air Corps is currently in a very strong position with regard to manning. It continues to attract high quality volunteers for flying training from across the Army, including sufficient candidates for Attack Helicopter training. There are no plans to initiate recruitment activities beyond those measures currently in place.

The training our Attack Helicopter (AH) crews receive is world class. It takes a full year to make AH pilots ready for deployment on combat operations. The training schedule includes a pre-deployment training exercise to Arizona to experience ‘hot and high’ conditions and culminates in a mission rehearsal exercise alongside the deploying formation. In the Afghan theatre, force levels and the capabilities required are regularly reviewed and AH training is constantly scrutinised to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Retention of AH crews is currently being examined, as part of work recently commissioned by the Joint Helicopter Command. We are, however, confident that the operational commitments of the AH force are sustainable. The Apache continues to provide a battle winning capability in Afghanistan and we have increased the flying hours available to commanders on the ground by 15 per cent. since October 2006. We aim to increase flying hours by a further 25 per cent. by early next year, by deploying additional helicopters, and we are building the logistic support required in terms of spare parts and personnel, particularly engineering manpower, to enable this.

Armed Forces: Blood

Mr. Laxton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will use pathogen inactivation for blood products to be supplied for UK forces personnel. [225938]

Mr. Kevan Jones: Pathogen inactivation (PI) is a process designed to eliminate pathogens—i.e. viruses, bacteria and fungi—from water, air or donated blood. The majority of the blood held in-theatre by the Defence Medical Services (DMS) is supplied by the UK National Blood Services (NBS), which does not routinely carry out PI on its blood products. However, we understand that the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO, an independent non-departmental public body) will be undertaking a comprehensive review of pathogen inactivation for blood products in 2009, which will inform decisions on its use in the UK. It would not be practical for the DMS to introduce its own discrete in-theatre PI capability, in view of the complexity of the current technology and the infrequency with which it would be required.


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Armed Forces: Deployment

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) regular and (b) Territorial Army (i) officers and (ii) personnel of other ranks have been mobilised for service overseas within six months of completing their basic training in each year since 2003. [227876]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Officials are collating the information requested. I will write to the hon. Member when the work is complete and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Armed Forces: Health Services

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) armed forces personnel and (b) civilians from his Department wounded in operations have contracted (i) methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and (ii) Clostridium difficile while being treated at (A) Headley Court, (B) Selly Oak and (C) other medical facilities in the United Kingdom since 2002. [201031]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The data available in respect of the Birmingham group of hospitals (Selly Oak, Queen Elizabeth, Heartlands, City and Royal Orthopaedic), which have been collated in consultation with the relevant NHS authorities, relate to military in-patients returning from service in Afghanistan or Iraq over the period January 2003 to January 2008. Over that period, available records show that only one patient is known to have become infected with methicillin-resistant Staphyloccocus aureus Bacteraemia while being treated in a Birmingham
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hospital; 12 patients were infected with Clostridium difficile (including one patient diagnosed twice within a six-week period). All of the patients concerned were members of the armed forces; none was an MOD civilian.

Over the period since 2002 we have no reports of a patient under treatment at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court contracting an infection from either MRSA Bacteraemia or Clostridium difficile during their stay there.

No comparable statistics are readily available in respect of other medical facilities at which armed forces and MOD civilians have been treated. To compile them would involve a trawl of the medical records of all the relevant patient population and subsequent consultation with the microbiology departments of the NHS trusts concerned. This could be done only at disproportionate cost, and with the permission of each individual patient.


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