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Integrated Inquiry Service

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the reasons for abandoning the Integrated Inquiry Service. [12943]

Malcolm Wicks: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) on 24 October 2001, Official Report, column 242W.

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what level of fees he expects to have to spend to commission alternative proposals to the Integrated Inquiry Service; and who has been commissioned to produce these proposals. [12955]

Malcolm Wicks: Affinity, the Department's lead IT service provider, has been commissioned at a cost of approximately £4,000 to explore the options for an alternative to the Integrated Inquiry Service.



Mr. Dismore: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) when the Legal

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Service Commission will publish its guidance on the circumstances in which legal aid funding may be made available for representation at inquests; and if he will make a statement; [12737]

Mr. Wills: The Lord Chancellor recently authorised the Legal Services Commission to decide applications for exceptional funding in inquests without reference to Ministers. At the same time, new guidance has taken effect in which the Lord Chancellor slightly amended the way applications in inquests would be dealt with. I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Brian White) on 1 November 2001, Official Report, column 856W. The Commission is preparing additional guidance for practitioners on the making of applications, which it intends to publish on 15 November in the next issue of "Focus". The text is already available on the Commission's website, In the circumstances, we have no plans to issue a consultation document in the near future.

Translation Services

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what translation services the Lord Chancellor ensures are available to courts in (a) England and (b) Staffordshire. [13499]

Mr. Wills: The Immigration Appellate Authority (IAA) books and pays for interpreters where necessary for people attending IAA hearings. Within the criminal justice system, a national agreement for obtaining foreign language interpreters exists and applies equally to the Crown court, Court of Appeal and the magistrates courts. The agreement requires the courts to arrange and pay for an interpreter for the defendant.

In the Supreme Court and county court, foreign language interpreters are provided free of charge for civil committal hearings and for hearings in cases involving children or domestic violence. Interpreters will be provided for other types of hearings if it can be shown that a failure to do so would interfere with the individual's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The county courts also use a national telephone interpreting service. Sign language interpreters and other forms of communication support are provided free of charge to any party that requires it. A number of different agencies, national and local, are used to arrange this support.

All these arrangements apply equally to England and Wales. There is no regional breakdown of the service provided.

In all courts it is the responsibility of the parties involved in the case to arrange for the translation of documents.

Departmental Projects

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the projects in his Department which have been considered as potential public-private partnerships since 1997 which have not been undertaken because the public sector

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comparator had a lower net present value than the public-private partnership proposed; and if he will make a statement. [13434]

Mr. Wills: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 13 November 2001, Official Report, column 607W by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The Lord Chancellor's Department has not rejected any proposed public-private partnership for the reason stated in the hon. Member's question.


Biological Agents

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what contingency plans he has developed to protect the public against anthrax, botulism and attacks with other biological agents; and if he will make a statement. [11894]

Mr. Hutton: The Department has extensive contingency planning in place. This includes arrangements to mitigate the effects of a terrorist act and to ensure response and recovery in conjunction with other Government Departments, the National Health Service and key public health agencies. Stocks of vaccine and antibiotics are available.

The Public Health Laboratory Service has issued interim guidance, for healthcare professionals and the public, on the deliberate release of a number of biological agents including anthrax, smallpox, botulism and plague and this is available on their website.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what public health measures there are to deal with large-scale anthrax contamination in the UK; and what consideration has been given to the use of a vaccination. [13483]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 12 November 2001]: Plans are in place to enable appropriate measures to be taken to protect the health of the United Kingdom population, should such an attack occur, or be suspected. These plans are under constant development and review. Interim guidelines for action in the event of a deliberate release of anthrax can be found on the website of the Public Health Laboratory Service.

Anthrax vaccine is currently only given to the public for protection against occupational exposure where this is considered likely to occur.

Breast Screening

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measure she is taking to assess the efficacy of the breast screening programme. [12863]

Mr. Hutton: It is the role of the Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer Screening (ACBCS) to consider all research papers published on the subject of breast cancer screening. The national health service breast screening programme is kept under constant re-examination and vigilance. The ACBCS met on 31 October 2001, and in light of recent publications in the medical journals, agreed

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to review the evidence in the Forrest Report 1 , on which the NHS breast screening programme was based. The committee last reviewed this evidence formally in 1991.

The review will be led by Professor Valerie Beral, Chair of the committee, in conjunction with the Institute of Cancer Research and the NHS cancer screening programmes. A first draft of the report will be presented at the committee's next meeting on 15 May 2002.

Waiting Times (Bath)

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on trends in waiting times for (a) orthopaedic out patient appointments and (b) orthopaedic operations at the Royal United hospital, Bath in the last 12 months. [12856]

Ms Blears: The latest published information shows that in the year to the end of September 2001 the percentage of patients waiting for orthopaedic inpatient and day case treatment who were seen in under 12 months remained the same. The proportion of orthopaedic outpatients who have waited over 26 weeks has increased over the same period.

The Royal United hospital, Bath national health service trust is taking a number of measures to ensure that the number of patients who have to wait for an outpatient appointment or for treatment is reduced. The number of orthopaedic clinics is being increased and an additional 1,000 new patients will be seen between now and the end of March 2002. This action is designed to ensure that no patients are waiting over 26 weeks for an outpatient appointment by the end of March 2002.

The trust is also taking measures to ensure that the number of patients waiting over 12 months for inpatient or day case treatment is reduced in line with the Government's target. An additional orthopaedic consultant will be appointed shortly. An additional three orthopaedic recovery beds opened at the end of October providing high care for patients following major surgery. Eighteen extra beds have also been opened on a temporary basis at St. Martin's hospital for the rehabilitation of orthopaedic patients. Additional weekend elective orthopaedic operating lists have been running throughout this year. The trust has already commissioned 100 orthopaedic cases at the local private hospital and is making arrangements with the private sector for an additional 400 patients to be seen this year.

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