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Delayed Discharges

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many delayed discharges there were of NHS patients on (a) 1 January, (b) 1 February, (c) 1 March, (d) 1 April and (e) 1 May; and how many NHS patients on each of those dates there were whose discharge had been delayed but who had fully funded social services packages arranged. [429]

Mr. Hutton: Information on delayed discharges of patients aged over 75 years in England is collected centrally on a quarterly basis. In December 2000 the number of over-75s whose discharge was delayed was 5,801 and in March 2001 this figure was 5,938. In December 2000, 35 per cent. of the people whose discharges were delayed were awaiting placement in a residential care or nursing home or awaiting arrangement of a package of care to allow them to return to their own home. In some cases patients will be exercising their right to await a place in a home of their choice. No information is collected on the funding arrangements for these packages. For March 2001 this figure was 37 per cent.

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the number of acute hospital beds which are unavailable to incoming patients as a result of their occupation by patients needing accommodation in a nursing home. [835]

Jacqui Smith: Information is not available centrally in the form requested. Information is collected for England on the number of people aged over 75 whose discharge is delayed awaiting a care home placement (residential

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care homes and nursing homes are not separately distinguished). In the last quarter of 2000-01 (the latest figures available), there were 1,703 such people. Some of these people will be exercising their right to await a place in a home of their choice.


Power Generation

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to assess the feasibility of setting up demonstration plants for cleaner coal power generation technology. [974]

Mr. Wilson: I can announce that a new review will commence this month and is expected to report its findings at the end of the year.

Its Terms of Reference are:

To assess the value of a cleaner coal demonstration plant from four key perspectives:

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Ultra-low Sulphur Petrol

David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many outlets sell ultra-low sulphur petrol in (a) the UK and (b) England. [757]

Mr. Wilson: The latest estimates available are that, as of mid-June 2001, over 98 per cent. of the more than 13,000 retail sites in operation in the UK were selling ultra-low sulphur petrol, and virtually all deliveries of premium grade petrol for consumption in the UK are now ultra-low sulphur. There are no separate estimates available for England.

EU Information and Consultation Directive

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the areas where consultation between workers and employers would be obligatory under implementation of the EU Information and Consultation Directive. [299]

Ms Hewitt: A political agreement was reached at the Employment and Social Policy Council on 11 June on a Presidency compromise text. The text gives employees in the undertakings covered a right to be informed about the undertaking's economic situation, informed and consulted about employment prospects, and to be consulted with a view to reaching agreement about decisions likely to lead to substantial changes in work organisation or contractual relations, including redundancies and transfers. Employers and employees may agree on different arrangements than those prescribed in the directive.


Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on future ownership arrangements for (a) Consignia and (b) its constituent parts. [297]

Ms Hewitt: The future ownership arrangements for Consignia and certain of its subsidiaries are governed by Part IV of the Postal Services Act 2000. In accordance with sections 65 of the Postal Services Act, no shares in the Post Office company (i.e. Consignia Holdings plc) may be issued or disposed of to anyone other than the Treasury or the Secretary of State (or their nominees) without authority from Parliament in accordance with section 67 of the Act. The Act also prohibits the issuing or disposal of shares in any "relevant subsidiary" of the Post Office company to anyone other than the Treasury or the Secretary of State (or their nominees) or the Post Office company or any other appropriate relevant subsidiary (or their nominees) without parliamentary authority in accordance with section 67. Consignia plc--

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the wholly-owned principal operating subsidiary of Consignia Holdings falls within the definition of a "relevant subsidiary".

The future ownership of subsidiaries other than Consignia plc and other "relevant subsidiaries" is a commercial matter for Consignia Holdings plc (or the member of the group who owns the subsidiary), in accordance with the commercial freedom given the company under the Post Office reform package.

Energy Markets (EU)

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions her Department has had at EU level concerning liberalisation of energy markets; and if dates for completion of the single market in this area have been set. [755]

Mr. Wilson: In March 2001, the Commission proposed a new Directive to amend the existing rules on electricity and gas liberalisation. The Commission also proposed a Regulation on cross-border electricity trading. The new Directive includes the date of 2005 for full liberalisation of the EU electricity and gas markets. These proposals were discussed at the Stockholm European Summit. Discussions of the proposals are continuing in the Council Energy Working Group. UK officials are also actively engaged in a number of bilateral discussions with other member states and representatives from the Commission.

Government Regulation

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will outline her plans for reducing the administrative burden on business; and what quantifiable targets she has for measuring progress. [740]

Nigel Griffiths: The DTI will continue to ensure that administrative burdens associated with necessary regulation to protect the interests of consumers and citizens and to provide decent minimum standards for workers are minimised. The regulatory impact appraisal (RIA) process was changed in 2000 to require that administrative and policy costs should be separately identified, enabling us to concentrate on minimising the cost of the administration associated with regulation. Where it is shown to us that administration is excessive, we will reduce it, as we did with the Working Time Regulations in 1999.

The new Regulatory Reform Act will play a vital role in the Government's drive to reform outdated, overlapping and over-burdensome regulation. The Labour Party's Business Manifesto commits the Government to use the new Order-making power in the Act to bring forward a programme of regulatory reform initiatives involving all the key Government Departments. A list of 51 examples of reforms that could be achieved by this means is available from the Libraries of the House, and on the Cabinet Office website.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress the Small Business Service has made in establishing an Index of Regulation; and if its operational target date has been met. [743]

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Nigel Griffiths: In line with the principles set out in "Think Small First" published in January the SBS remains committed to obtaining a detailed picture of the impact of regulation and is considering the best way to proceed on this important issue.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to introduce longer lead-in times and consultation periods for new regulations. [747]

Nigel Griffiths: The new Consultation Code requires that public consultations should last at least 12 weeks except in clearly defined circumstances, or where Ministers judge that the particular circumstances require a shorter consultation period. The new procedures for guidance for business on new regulations mean that where new regulations require action from business, guidance should be issued at least 12 weeks before the entry into force of the regulation.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which regulations implemented since 1997 her Department is planning to review the working and impact of. [754]

Nigel Griffiths: We keep the regulatory framework under constant review, assessing the impact of regulations made before 1997 and since. We are also carrying out the following specific reviews.

The Government have appointed the independent Low Pay Commission to monitor and review the impact of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and accompanying regulations. The LPC is to be established as a permanent body, continuing to advise on the national minimum wage and carrying out associated research.

We are currently reviewing whether the Timeshare Regulations 1997 and Price Marking Order 1999 should be amended in the light of their operation.

We will also comprehensively modernise company law, following the final report of the independent Company Law Review, to be published this summer.

The forthcoming White Paper on the reform of the competition regime will address aspects of that regime dating from before May 1997, as well as those introduced since.

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