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Ponds: Nature Conservation

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): There are already a number of systems in use for identifying ponds as high priority for nature conservation:

    Local and regional records are utilised when appropriate and by local arrangement.

    Agri-environment schemes such as Countryside Stewardship use regular liaison meetings and a targeting process to identify priority habitats and species. Partner organisations such as the wildlife trusts and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group often assist scheme applications by providing biodiversity information.

    Defra's Rural Development Service (RDS), which is the principal delivery service for agri-environment schemes in England, has a reputation for providing high quality ecological advice to potential agreement holders. RDS advisers are able to identify high quality habitats such as ponds when they visit a site to assess an application.

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Illegal Meat Imports

Lord Rotherwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When Customs and Excise will be taking over a range of responsibilities for control of illegal imports of meat; and [HL161]

    Whether Customs and Excise will receive extra funding in order to cover its running of a range of responsibilities for control of illegal imports of meat. [HL162]

Lord Whitty: HM Customs and Excise will take over the anti-smuggling activity for control of illegal imports of animals, plants, fish and their products and foodstuffs (including meat) as soon as practicably possible. Defra and HM Customs and Excise are in discussion on the issues in taking this forward.

Funding was earmarked in the spending review to reduce the risk of plant and animal disease entering the country. Decisions on how this funding will be allocated will take account of the additional responsibilities placed upon the individual departments and agencies involved.

Lord Rotherwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they anticipate that Metropolitan Police dogs will be used at ports of entry to detect illegal imports of meat; and [HL163]

    Whether the dogs belonging to the Metropolitan Police which are being trained to detect illegal imports of meat will eventually come under the control of the Metropolitan Police or Customs and Excise. [HL164]

Lord Whitty: The detector dogs participating in the pilot scheme were trained by the Metorpolitan Police but currently belong to Defra. The pilot study into the use of detector dogs for uncovering illegal imports of meat, plants and their products which began on 16 September 2002 has been fully supported by HM Customs and Excise.

In the light of the announcement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State on 6 November, operational matters on anti-smuggling detection methods will become the responsibility of Customs, linked to delivery of the overall enforcement strategy. Customs will therefore take over responsibility for the dogs that are currently in the pilot scheme and the evaluation of the pilot as soon as practicable. Defra and HM Customs and Excise are in discussion on how to take this forward.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Lord Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What new financial resources have been made available in (a) England and (b) Wales to tackle problems concerning attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. [HL36]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We have made available £105 million of targeted central funding over four years (to 31 March 2003) to support the implementation of a national development strategy for child and adolescent mental health services in England. This includes provision for tackling problems of access and inequity across the range of mental health disorders in children and young people, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

In October 2000 the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) published an appraisal on the use of the drug methylphenidate for ADHD in children and issued clinical guidelines for its use, including a recommendation that the drug should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment programme for children with a diagnosis of severe ADHD. Appropriate funding for NICE recommendations (accepted by the Government) has been built into the allocations for health authorities. We expect the health service, working with other agencies as appropriate, to implement these guidelines.

The funding of health services in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Assembly.

Perioperative Deaths Inquiry

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take to improve the quality of data provided to the National Confidential Enquiry into Perioperative Deaths. [HL121]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Participation by the National Health Service in the National Confidential Enquiry into Perioperative Deaths (NCEPOD) has been mandatory since 1999. A similar requirement was placed on the private healthcare sector in 2001 through the regulatory system enforced by the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC). It is the responsibility of the Commission for Health Improvement and the NCSC to ensure full compliance by the NHS and private healthcare sector.

NCEPOD raised concern in its 2001 Report Changing the Way We Operate, and its 2002 Report Function as A Team about the accuracy of deaths reported to it compared with the Department of Health's Hospital Episode Statistics (HES). There may be a number of reasons for the differences, and departmental officials are meeting the Chief Executive of NCEPOD to discuss the reasons for the difference in the number of deaths recorded and to investigate ways that HES can better support NCEPOD work in future.

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Department of Health: Private Sector Consultants

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What expenditure has been incurred by the Department of Health in respect of services rendered by private sector consultants during the financial years 1997–98, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01 and 2001–02 respectively. [HL160]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Expenditure by the Department of Health on external consultants for each year since 1997 and 2002 is shown in the table.

Financial Year£ million

Irish Language Body

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 6 November (WA120-121) concerning the business plan for the Irish Language Body, which indicated that the plan was approved by the North/South Ministerial Council on 14 June, why the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, in his official report to the Northern Ireland Assembly, stated that the "Council received updates on the business plans"; and whether an update now denotes formal approval.[HL64]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The business plans for both Foras na Gaeilge and Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch were submitted to the NSMC for its consideration and approval at the meeting in language sector on 14 June 2002. Approval was duly given.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the action of a former Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive or the workings of the North/South Ministerial Council.

North/South Language Implementation Body

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the full allocations of funding to the two parts of the language implementation body by the North/South Ministerial Council have been spent in each year since 1999; if not, how much was not spent; by whom; and in what proportions the funding was released back to the United Kingdom Government and that of the Irish Republic.[HL137]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The North/South language body came into operation at devolution in December 1999.

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The funding available and funding drawn down in the past two years and for the current year by the two agencies is as follows:

Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch

YearFunding AvailableFunding Drawn downUnspent

Foras na Gaeilge

YearFunding AvailableFunding Drawn downUnspent

In accordance with best practice, funding is not paid to the North/South Language Implementation Body in advance of demonstrated need in line with objectives in approved business plans.

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Northern Ireland: Hospital Consultant Vacancies

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 7 November (WA178) which indicated that there are 79 hospital consultant vacancies in Northern Ireland, what proportion of the total number of hospital consultants this comprises; and what steps they are taking to remedy the position.[HL175]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: According to the most up-to-date figures held by the department, there are approximately 940 hospital consultant posts in Northern Ireland. There are currently 79 vacancies, which equates to 8.4 per cent.

The department's special advisory committees carry out an annual review of the consultant workforce in each of the clinical specialties, and the numbers in training are adjusted, subject to available resources, to meet the assessed need.

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