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There have been other significant improvements:

working with RNID, we have ensured that high quality digital hearing aids are now available throughout the NHS with an estimated 750,000 people fitted with digital hearing aids by the NHS;the current public/private partnership (PPP) is also proving very successful; by February 2006 approximately 68,600 patients had been fitted with a hearing aid. NHS trusts benefit from the increased capacity, competitive pricing and quality of service provision available through PPP;RNID and NHS Purchasing and Supplies Agency (PASA) working together have negotiated a reduction in the cost to the NHS of digital hearing aids;a new degree has been developed to help address the national shortage of audiologists;“Hearing Direct” has been set up—12 sites run by NHS Direct which provide follow-up care and advice for selected hearing aid users (may be suitable for one-third of all NHS patients); andsince January 2006 we have been collecting waiting time and activity data for 15 diagnostic tests and procedures, including pure-tone audiometry. These data have been shared with the NHS, for performance management purposes since 2 June 2006. The data were published on 12 July 2006.

A key area of challenge to delivering the 18-week waiting target outlined in section two of the publication, Tackling hospital waiting: the 18-week patient pathway—An implementation framework,was audiology. Work is under way at official level to scope a national action plan for audiology, to be published in due course. The intention is to develop and take the work forward in partnership with stakeholders. This will involve working with eight physiological measurement sites to test ideas and to improve access to physiological measurement diagnostic services, including audiology. These sites will be critical to inform the action plan and its eventual implementation.

The Government's investment, through the work of MHAS, has improved outcomes for patients. Medical Research Council research shows that patients have reported a 40 per cent increase in benefit with the new service.

Roads: Local Pricing Schemes

Lord Davies of Oldham: My honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Dr Stephen Ladyman) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

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The department is to release guidance on appraisal and modelling for local road pricing schemes. The guidance will advise scheme promoters in their preparation of business cases involving road pricing and can be found in the consultation section of the department's transport analysis guidance website at The guidance has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

An overview of the analysis of road pricing schemes is provided by Introduction to Modelling and Appraisal for Road Pricing. This is supported by four other modules for analysts: Designing Efficient Local Road Pricing Schemes (TAG Unit 3.12.1), which discusses approaches to the design of effective road pricing schemes; guidance on the issues arising when modelling road pricing schemes is provided in Modelling Road Pricing (TAG Unit 3.12.2); guidance on the issues arising when appraising road pricing schemes is provided in Appraisal of Road Pricing Options (TAG Unit 3.12.3); and Measuring the Social and Distributional Impacts of Road Pricing Schemes (TAG Unit 3.12.4) provides guidance on the use of social research methods to assess the social and distributional impacts of road pricing.

During the consultation period, ending 1 October, the department welcomes comments. The guidance will be kept under review and may be updated from time to time to reflect any comments made.

Taxation: Self-assessment Filing Deadline

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My right honourable friend the Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In his report on the Review of HMRC Online Services, published at the Budget in March 2006, Lord Carter of Coles recommended that, for 2007-08 and subsequent returns, the income tax self-assessment filing deadline should be brought forward from31 January to 30 September for paper returns and to 30 November for returns filed over the internet. Lord Carter has since reviewed the responses to the partial regulatory impact assessment published with his report and has received further representations from tax practitioners. Having reviewed his earlier findings, he has now recommended that, for 2007-08 and subsequent returns, the filing period for paper returns should be reduced to seven months—the new deadline should be 31 October—and the filing period for online returns should remain at 10 months with a deadline of 31 January. He has also suggested that HM Revenue and Customs officials should work with practitioners to explore how in future the practical difficulties in collecting data earlier might be overcome so that taxpayers can complete their returns sooner if they wish. The Government have accepted Lord Carter's revised recommendation. This updating of the self-assessment system takes account of both the views of tax professionals and the operational requirements of HM Revenue and Customs.

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Transport: Journey Time Targets

Lord Davies of Oldham: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The accessibility of our cities is key to their economic growth and success. It is therefore important that local authorities take responsibility for addressing the problem of road congestion and the impact on journey times caused by the increasing numbers of journeys being made.

Each of the 10 largest urban areas in England, therefore, has a target to limit the increase in person journey time per mile, given the expected increase in travel over the next five years. The target relates to the overall average journey time on a representative set of the busiest roads in each of their major urban centres. The 10 are: London, Greater Manchester, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Tyne are Wear, Merseyside, Bristol, Nottingham and Leicester.

While ownership of these local targets, and implementing measures to deliver them, is the responsibility of the local authorities involved, we have weighted (according to traffic volumes) and averaged the journey times across the 10 areas to create a national composite PSA target for the Department for Transport, as we announced on 5 July 2005.

The national PSA target is therefore that:

By 2010-11, the 10 largest urban areas will meet the congestion targets set in their local transport plan relating to movement on main roads into city centres. The target will be deemed to have been met if, on target routes in the 10 largest urban areas in

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England, an average increase in travel of 4.5 per cent is accommodated within an increase of 3.7 per cent in person journey time per mile. The local targets on which this is based include:in London, accommodate an increase in travel of3 per cent within an increase in journey time of no more than 1.5 per cent;in Manchester, accommodate an increase in travel of 1.5 per cent with no increase in journey time; andin the West Midlands, accommodate an increase in travel of 4 per cent within an increase in journey time of no more than 5 per cent (the target is expected to change—possibly to 3 per cent if funding for the West Midlands urban traffic management and control project is fully approved in 2006-07).

Each local authority is responsible for finding a balance between economic development, safety and journey times consistent with local circumstances and needs. The targets for each area are consistent with each authority's local transport plans, which set out their wider transport strategies. The Department for Transport will be working with each authority to encourage and support them in delivery.

London, Manchester and the West Midlands account for about two-thirds of the traffic in the10 urban areas. Major scheme bids, including for the West Midlands urban traffic management and control project, are currently being considered.

We have today published a PSA technical note, with full methodological details, on the Department for Transport website. Copies have been placed in Library of the House.

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