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19 Nov 2008 : Column 541W—continued

19 Nov 2008 : Column 542W


Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the health effects of a significant reduction in the sugar content of soft drinks. [235819]

Dawn Primarolo: Current United Kingdom dietary recommendations for maximal levels of sugar intake are based on a review of the evidence carried out by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) in 1991, and are in line with a more recent review by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2003. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, which now advises the Government on nutrition issues, are about to embark on a review of the evidence on carbohydrates and health, including sugars and sources of sugar. As a result, dietary advice and any recommendations on specific foods will be amended accordingly.

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what meetings officials of (a) his Department and (b) the Food Standards Agency have had with representatives of food and soft drink manufacturers on the reduction of added sugar levels in food products in the last 12 months; what good practice case studies his Department has identified as suitable for promotion to manufacturers; and what steps he plans to take further to encourage manufacturers to reduce the calorific content of food products; [235820]

(2) what steps the Food Standards Agency is taking to encourage major retailers to reduce the sugar content of their own brand food and beverage products; [235822]

(3) what targets the Food Standards Agency has set for the substitution of extrinsic sugars by low calorie sweeteners in (a) food and (b) beverages; what progress has been made towards those targets; what assessment he has made of the public health benefits which will arise as a result of future progress towards those targets; and if he will make a statement. [235832]

Dawn Primarolo: The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has lead responsibility for taking forward the work with industry to reduce consumption of, and levels of, sugar in food, including drinks with added sugar, as laid down in the cross-Government obesity strategy “Healthy Weight Healthy Lives”.

As part of this initiative, the FSA is meeting with food industry representatives, including the major retailers and their suppliers, to pursue reductions in sugar to soft drinks. It has met with representatives of the soft drinks industry on four occasions over the past 12 months—one soft drinks industry meeting and individual meetings with Britvic (twice) and Coca Cola Bottlers (Ulster). In these discussions, examples of sugar reductions achieved have been reported by Britvic, Coca Cola and GlaxoSmithKline in some of their branded ranges. Departmental officials have not met with industry to discuss sugar reduction specifically.

The FSA is developing aspirational targets for reductions in added sugar and saturated fat in a range of key contributing food products as part of its Saturated Fat and Energy Intake Programme.

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Sugar reductions in soft drinks are being encouraged by the FSA while maintaining taste, quality and consumer acceptability. Specific targets for the substitution of sugar with sweeteners have not been set.


Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate his Department has made of the average (a) length of hospital stay of an invasive surgery patient and (b) cost per day for an invasive surgery patient to stay in hospital in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [235459]

Mr. Bradshaw: It is not possible to provide an estimate of the average cost per day, as the data collected as part of the annual NHS reference cost collection include all costs associated with treatment and service provision, and not just the cost of the stay in hospital.

It is not possible to provide an estimate of the average length of stay, as specific data relating to the average length of stay for invasive surgery patients are not collected centrally.

Wines: Hazardous Substances

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what checks are in place to ensure that wine sold in the UK does not contain harmful levels of metals such as lead, zinc and copper; and if he will make a statement. [237005]

Dawn Primarolo: Food Authorities and the Food Standards Agency wine standards inspectors as part of their routine enforcement work carry out checks including sampling on wine sold within the United Kingdom to ensure that the wine complies with relevant wine-sector and food safety legislation.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

BT: Public Telephones

Mr. Gray: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent representations he has received on BT’s public service obligation on the provision of public pay phones. [233618]

Ian Pearson: BERR officials have received correspondence from a number of local authorities on BT’s national rationalisation programme. Under Office of Communications (Ofcom) guidelines, unitary authority consent is required before BT can remove a payphone where there is not another payphone located within 400 m and BT has therefore been consulting with local authorities across England, Wales and Scotland on proposals to remove low-usage payphones in their area. Ofcom is aware of BT’s plans and BT are adhering to its guidelines for payphone removals. Further details on Ofcom’s guidelines is available from their website at:

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Departmental Conditions of Employment

Mrs. May: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what percentage of employees in his Department (a) are on a flexible working contract, (b) are on a job share employment contract and (c) work from home for more than four hours per week. [233825]

Mr. McFadden: The Department considers flexible working opportunities are a key part of a healthy and productive working environment.

Flexible working options available include a range of working patterns that can be requested by all staff and can help individuals gain a work-life balance. These include home-working, flexi-time, part-time working, job share, compressed hours, and annualised or term-time working.

Guidance, available to all staff and managers, contains best practice hints and tips for flexible workers and managers, specific guidance on skills and how to manage work and performance.

Currently 56 per cent of staff in the Department report that they work flexibly.

Departmental Internet

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the cost of maintaining the Departmental website for the 2007-08 financial year is; and what forecast has been made of the cost of maintaining websites within his responsibility for the 2008-09 financial year. [231379]

Mr. McFadden: The main cost elements of the upkeep of the Department's website are:

Postal Services: Liverpool

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what his assessment is of the impact of Royal Mail's proposal to close the sorting office at Copperas Hill, Liverpool on employment in the city; and if he will make a statement. [237302]

Mr. McFadden: Decisions relating to operational matters, which include decisions on the restructuring of Royal Mail's sorting office operations, are the direct responsibility of the company's management.

Given that volumes of mail are falling due to the upsurge in the use of digital media for communications, it is important that Royal Mail structures its operations as efficiently as possible so that it can compete in a liberalised market, while continuing to maintain the universal postal service at affordable prices.

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Regulation: Departmental Coordination

Mr. Maude: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what guidance his Department has given to other Government Departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies on their obligations under the Code of Practice on Guidance on Regulation. [233543]

Ian Pearson: Guidance on how to comply with the obligations under the code is contained in a Guide to the Code of Practice on Guidance, published alongside the code of practice. The guide is available at:

The Anderson Review of Guidance was announced in the Enterprise White Paper in April 2008 and will report at the end of November. The review will make a series of further recommendations on how to improve guidance for business.

Work and Pensions

Bereavement Benefits: Publications

Mr. Rooney: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reasons leaflet D49 on bereavement benefits has been withdrawn; and what plans he has to publish a replacement for it. [235471]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 13 November 2008]: Leaflet D49 (titled “What to do after a death in England and Wales”) was published in April 2006. A review of the leaflet earlier in 2008 raised a risk that some of the details in the leaflet were now inaccurate, and could mislead citizens if the title remained in circulation.

More recent versions of the information within D49 continue to be available on several government websites, and can be printed locally by the individual or on their behalf, during the brief period while a replacement to D49 is prepared.

The replacement to D49 is currently being agreed by senior policy officials from four different Government Departments responsible for registrars, coroners, probate and benefits. It is expected that the replacement leaflet DWP1027 will be published in December 2008.

To ensure that citizens are aware of their entitlement to bereavement benefits, an interim factsheet has also been produced to fill the gap until the replacement leaflet is published. The factsheet is available online, and has been made available to registrars and coroners offices across Great Britain for them to issue as appropriate.

Child Support Agency: Complaints

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many complaints about the Child Support Agency were received by the Independent Case Examiner in each of the last three years; and how many cases accepted by the Examiner have taken (a) more than six months, (b) more than nine months and (c) 12 months or more to reach a conclusion. [235889]

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Kitty Ussher: The Independent Case Examiner’s office does not hold all the information in the format requested. Such information as is available is in the table.

Number of complaints received about the Child Support Agency Average case clearance in weeks for cases accepted










Children: Maintenance

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his estimate is of the number of children who would be lifted from both (a) absolute and (b) relative poverty should all non-resident parents pay child maintenance; and if he will make a statement. [233097]

Kitty Ussher [holding answer 4 November 2008]: The receipt of child maintenance payments currently helps to lift around 100,000 children out of relative poverty.

We estimate that, under the current system of child maintenance, if all non-resident parents with a positive maintenance liability paid their child maintenance this would lift around 100,000 more children out of relative poverty.

Estimates of the impact on absolute poverty if all non-resident parents paid child maintenance are not available.

Council Tax

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people received council tax benefit in (a) North Yorkshire and (b) the Vale of York constituency in each year since 1997. [237120]

Kitty Ussher: Information is not available at parliamentary constituency level. Information is available for North Yorkshire for benefit units comprising single people and couples.

The following table provides the number of benefit units receiving council tax benefit in each year since 1997.

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North Yorkshire
























1. Data refer to benefit units, which may be a single person or a couple.
2. The figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.
3. Figures for any non-responding authorities have been estimated.
4. Council tax benefit totals exclude any second adult rebate cases.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Management Information System Quarterly 100 per cent. case load stock-count taken in May 1997 to May 2007.

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