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Correspondence

Sir Brian Mawhinney: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will reply to the letter from the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire of 19 January on behalf of his constituent Mr. Ball. [154728]

Mr. Denham: A reply to the right hon. Member's letter was sent on 27 March 2001.

Dentists

Mr. Linton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many dentists in Battersea have expanded their practice to treat more NHS patients through the Commitment Payment Scheme since April 2000. [154832]

Mr. Hutton: The information required is not held centrally in the format requested. Information on dental practices is held by health authority.

The number of General Dental Service (GDS) dentists in Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth Health Authority receiving commitment payments at the different levels for the June 2000 quarter and December 2000 quarter are shown in the table.

Number of dentists
Level of PaymentsApril to June 2000October to December 2000
Level 1-£252418
Level 2-£112.50 or £168.75812
Level 3-£222 or £3331712
Level 4-£334 or £5013230
Level 5-£445 or £667.50712
Level 6-£556 or £8341615
Total10499

The value of a commitment payment paid to a dentist in the GDS depends on their level of commitment. Those who qualify may get a payment ranging from £25 for those doing some work within GDS to £834 for those aged 45 or over who have the highest levels of commitment.

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Doctors and Nurses

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if the targets in the NHS Plan for additional doctors and nurses relate to additional whole-time equivalent doctors and nurses; [155399]

Mr. Denham: The targets for doctors and nurses in the NHS Plan are all expressed in headcount as was made plain at the time of publication. We will provide 7,500 more consultants, 2,000 more general practitioners and 20,000 more nurses by 2004.

The Department's annual workforce censuses collect headcount and whole time equivalent figures as at 30 September each year and are routinely published and placed in the library.

Looked-after Children

Ms Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to review the statutory right to advocacy for looked-after children. [155467]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 26 March 2001]: Following the recent consultation exercise on social services complaints procedures, we are considering whether it is possible to introduce a statutory right of access to an advocate under the Children Act procedures.

Listening to the voices of looked-after children and young people is an integral part of the Quality Protects programme. The programme encourages the growth of high quality independent advocacy services in every council and allocates special grant funding for this

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purpose. There are already many good examples of advocacy in social services and we recognise how vital it is to listen to children and young people.

The local authority circular (LAC(2000)22), issued on 13 November 2000 continues to place listening to children as a priority area for 2001-02 and requires local councils to involve young people collectively and to enhance their individual voices through, for example, the development of independent advocacy services. In addition, local councils are encouraged to speed up the complaints procedures, so that children's concerns can be dealt with promptly and sympathetically.

Paramedics

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to increase the pay of paramedics. [155952]

Mr. Denham: All ambulance staff on national terms and conditions, including paramedics will receive an above inflation increase of 3.7 per cent. from 1 April 2001. Increases of 3.7 per cent. are also made to on call, standby and London allowances. Advance letters promulgating the pay award were issued to National Health Service employers on 1 March to allow increases to be paid in April salaries.

Drugs

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will publish the Government's response to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report on Reducing Drug Related Deaths. [156547]

Ms Stuart: The Government are publishing their response to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report today. Copies will be placed in the Library. This is the first stage of our response--we are also preparing an Action Plan to reduce drug misuse related deaths which we intend to publish this summer. This action plan will set targets for agencies and Government departments.

Child Welfare Guidance

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will issue guidance to local authority social services departments on the (a) residence and (b) family circumstances under which a local authority is financially responsible for a child whose mother has been murdered by his father. [156008]

Mr. Hutton: Under Section 17(1) of the Children Act 1989 the duty of every council with social services responsibilities is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and, so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families, by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs. Section 23(2) of the Children Act requires such councils to provide accommodation and maintenance for any child whom they are looking after by placing them with a family; a relative; or any other suitable person, on such terms as to payment as the council may determine. The Benefits Agency may have a role to play in providing financial assistance for a person caring for a child in such circumstances.

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Ten volumes of guidance accompanied the Children Act. The "Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families," published in 2000, provides vital new guidance in assessing the development needs of children and the capacity of their families to respond to these needs in the short and longer term. This guidance was developed to assist councils with social services responsibilities to assess and provide effective services for children in need and their families.

It is not therefore anticipated that further guidance is necessary.

NHS Plan

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what representations he has received on the cost of production and distribution of the NHS Plan document; [155912]

Mr. Denham: To my knowledge no representations have been received on the cost of production and distribution of the NHS Plan document.

The publication and distribution of the NHS Plan cost £175,050 and £268,856 respectively.

WALES

Opinion Polling

Mr. St. Aubyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what (a) quantitative and (b) qualitative analytical work his Department has commissioned from GGC/NOP since 1 May 1997; and what was (i) the cost of the contract and (ii) the specific nature of the work commissioned. [155669]

Mr. Paul Murphy [holding answer 28 March 2001]: The Wales Office has not commissioned any quantitative or qualitative analytical work from GGC/NOP since it was established on 1 July, 1999.

Information for the period 1 May 1997 to 30 June 1999 is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what precautions are taken by his Department's vets and officials to avoid spreading foot and mouth disease when they move from farm to farm. [154995]

Ms Quin [holding answer 22 March 2001]: All officials and contractors must observe stringent cleansing and disinfection procedures when entering or leaving a premises where disease has been confirmed or suspected. Any official or contractor who enters a premises where disease has been confirmed may not enter another premises which contains susceptible species for a period of three days. In certain areas of the country, and in very limited circumstances, this period has just been reduced

30 Mar 2001 : Column: 805W

to 24 hours. In these cases, the risk of spreading foot and mouth disease from the person concerned is far less than the risk that would result from the delayed identification of other infected premises.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when his Department was first informed of the possibility of a suspected case of foot and mouth disease at Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland. [154956]

Ms Quin [holding answer 22 March 2001]: The Ministry first became aware of a suspected case of foot1and mouth in pigs at a farm in Heddo-on-the-Wall on 22 February and confirmed disease on the following day.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the recommended permitted time is from the culling of an animal to the disposal of its carcase. [153953]

Ms Quin: Our objective is to slaughter affected animals within 24 hours of disease having been confirmed, and then to dispose of the carcases within a further 24 hours. There have been problems in achieving these targets, primarily in areas of high disease incidence particularly with the disposal of carcases. Extra operational support has been brought in, in particular logistical help from the armed forces to improve the planning, co-ordination and management of the slaughter and disposal process.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for what reason it is taking five days for pigs in some areas to be slaughtered after being diagnosed as infected with the foot and mouth virus. [155077]

Ms Quin [holding answer 26 March 2001]: We are not aware of any occasion where it has taken five days to slaughter pigs after disease has been confirmed. If the hon. Member can provide me with details of cases he has in mind, we will look into the matter further.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the reason is for the length of time taken for tests on livestock for foot and mouth disease to be completed and reported. [154994]

Ms Quin [holding answer 22 March 2001]: Currently, well over 90 per cent. of foot and mouth cases are being confirmed on the basis of clinical evidence by the veterinary officer who inspects the animals concerned. Where it is necessary to take samples for testing, these are collected, packaged and despatched to the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) at Pirbright in Surrey. The IAH carry out an ELISA test which takes about 5-6 hours to complete. Positive results are then faxed to MAFF's Emergency Control Centre in London for immediate action. The ELISA test can give false negative results and so all negatives are checked by attempting to isolate the foot and mouth virus in a cell culture. This process can take 4-5 days to complete.

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received on the amount of information available to farmers concerning the foot and mouth disease outbreak; and what steps he is taking to ensure that farmers are kept fully informed. [155018]

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Ms Quin: Since the beginning of the outbreak Ministers have held regular, wide ranging meetings with farming and other organisations to ensure they are kept informed of developments. These meetings have provided the Ministry with direct feedback on the information that farmers need to help them cope with the outbreak.

MAFF has a foot and mouth website which is updated at least twice a day to provide the latest news and information. A helpline is open seven days a week from 8 am to 11 pm to answer queries from farmers and members of the public. We have also produced a series of fact sheets on foot and mouth disease which have been sent to every farmer in England, Scotland and Wales. Supplies are held in Animal Health Offices and copies placed in Libraries of both Houses.

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what consultations he has held with the Department for Education and Employment about (a) closure of schools and other education institutions, (b) enforced absence of pupils and the provision of education by other means and (c) staff absence, owing to residence in areas affected by foot and mouth disease. [154674]

Ms Quin [holding answer 21 March 2001]: From the beginning of the outbreak Ministry officials have maintained close contact with officials from the Department for Education and Employment, for example over the advice which the Department for Education and Employment provided to local education authorities on school closures, and staff and pupil absences resulting from the outbreak.

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if foot and mouth disease can be spread by exposure to plants and grains; and if he will make a statement. [154949]

Ms Quin: Plants and grains do not become contaminated if they grow on land which had previously been grazed by animals affected by the disease. Their surfaces can become contaminated if they have been in physical contact or close proximity with an infected animal.

MAFF has posted on its website a general assessment of the implications of the foot and mouth outbreak for the grain trade. No movement of grain is permitted from UK farms where foot and mouth is suspected or has been confirmed. There are no restrictions on the drilling of crops on premises where disease is known or thought to exist. There are, however, restrictions on the movement of plant and machinery to or from such premises.

Sir John Morris: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has established the cause of the current foot and mouth outbreak. [155040]

Ms Quin: Detailed epidemiological investigations are being undertaken into the source of the outbreak. Initial findings suggest that the earliest outbreak was at a pig premises in north-east England and that infection spread from there through the movement of animals, particularly sheep, before the first case was found in Essex on 19 February. However, it is still unclear how the infection entered the United Kingdom. Information on the initial epidemiological findings will be published.

30 Mar 2001 : Column: 807W

Mr. Pendry: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to bring in extra veterinary surgeons from other countries to assist with the foot and mouth disease outbreak. [154950]

Ms Quin: Over 100 veterinary staff have arrived or are due to arrive from the official veterinary services of 11 different countries. There are now over 1,200 veterinarians involved in controlling the foot and mouth disease outbreak.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when his Department was first notified of a possible outbreak of foot and mouth disease at Wick Farm, Laye-de-la-Haye, Essex; when the outbreak was confirmed; when the slaughter of livestock was (a) commenced and (b) completed; when the destruction of carcases was (i) started and (ii) completed; and if he will make a statement. [154720]

Ms Quin [holding answer 20 March 2001]: The information requested is as follows:





Mr. Opik: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will request the suspension of non-essential maintenance work by utility companies which involves work on farm land during the outbreak of foot and mouth disease; and if he will make a statement. [154789]

Ms Quin: The utility companies have suspended non-essential work within foot and mouth infected areas.

Advice and precautions to be exercised by people working in the countryside has been posted on MAFF's website www.maff.gov.uk. Central to this advice is that people should follow strict cleansing procedures which would include leaving vehicles outside the farm, disinfecting boots and wearing boots or clothing supplied by the farm. People working in the countryside should ensure that all mud, slurry and manure is washed off before they leave the premises.

It is essential that all visits to farms and possible contacts with animals are recorded. The records should include the date and time of the visit. Should disease occur on a farm then these records will be used to trace movements and possible spread of the disease.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what his departmental policy was during 2000 in respect of the disinfecting of lorries used for movement of animals, between such movements. [154666]

Ms Quin [holding answer 20 March 2001]: The rules covering the cleansing and disinfection of vehicles used for animal transport were consolidated in the Transport of Animals (Cleansing and Disinfection) (England) (No. 2) Order 2000 (SI 2000/1618), which came into force on 6 July 2000. This Order requires that, subject to certain

30 Mar 2001 : Column: 808W

exemptions, livestock transports should be cleansed and disinfected after each use. It also requires livestock transports that have become soiled, which may give rise to a risk of transmission of disease since last being cleansed and disinfected, to be cleansed and disinfected again before they are next used.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when farmers will be compensated for the problems faced due to the foot and mouth epidemic. [154030]

Ms Quin [holding answer 16 March 2001]: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) on 13 March 2001, Official Report, column 565W.

The Department aims to pay compensation for animals slaughtered to control foot and mouth disease as soon as possible after valuation, confirmation of slaughter and checking of claims. As at 3.30 pm on Friday 23 March, 121 claims which total £12.7 million have been paid and a further 138 claims which total £10.5 million have been approved and will be paid shortly.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what level of compensation he will give to farmers affected by the recent foot and mouth outbreak, with particular reference to (a) farmers having infected animals slaughtered, (b) farmers affected by the ban on movement and (c) farmers suffering loss of income through lack of bed and breakfast bookings; and if he will make a statement. [154285]

Ms Quin: Compensation is payable for the market value of animals slaughtered to control foot and mouth disease. It is not payable for the consequential losses for example caused by movement restrictions. There are no plans to make such payments in response to the current outbreak, but the situation will be kept under review. On 22 March we opened the Livestock Welfare (Disposal) Scheme to deal with livestock facing serious welfare problems as a result of foot and mouth disease control measures. Where the welfare issue can not be resolved by other means, livestock farmers may enter the animals into this voluntary scheme for removal and disposal at the Government's expense, and receive a payment.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment has also announced measures to assist businesses affected by the outbreak. The Taskforce which he is chairing will continue its work and the Government will want to consider any further response in the light of the latest developments.

Mr. Gray: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if Lacock falls within a restricted foot and mouth area. [155332]

Ms Quin [holding answer 23 March 2001]: Lacock falls within the foot and mouth infected area defined in the Foot and Mouth Disease Declaratory (No 30) Order 2001. A copy of the Order and a map of the infected area has been posted on the Ministry's website http:// www.maff.gov.uk/.

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Mr. Luff: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what advice his Department is giving to farmers about drilling crops on holdings that (a) have been or (b) may have been affected by foot and mouth; and if he will make a statement. [155334]

Ms Quin [holding answer 23 March 2001]: MAFF has posted on its website a general assessment of the implications of the foot and mouth outbreak for the grain trade. No movement of grain is permitted from UK farms where foot and mouth is suspected or has been confirmed. There are no restrictions on the drilling of crops on premises where disease is known or thought to exist. There are, however, restrictions on the movement of plant and machinery to or from such premises.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when his Department was first notified of a possible outbreak of foot and mouth disease on Boydale's Farm, Neatherfield, Essex; when the case was confirmed; when the slaughter of livestock was (a) commenced and (b) completed; when the destruction of carcases was (i) commenced and (ii) completed; and if he will make a statement. [155376]

Ms Quin [holding answer 23 March 2001]: The information requested is as follows:





Mr. William Ross: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what investigations he has carried out, with what results, into the sources of meat used in meals served by schools in (a) Sunderland and (b) Gateshead from which the outbreak of foot and mouth disease may have emerged; and if he will make a statement. [154713]

Ms Quin: Investigations into the source of the foot and mouth outbreak are continuing. When we are in a position to draw firm conclusions they will be published.


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