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Miners Pension Surpluses

Mr. Watts: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made on her Department's review of the distribution of miners' pension surpluses. [27574]

Ms Hewitt: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) on 17 January 2002, Official Report, column 403W.

Land Rover

Mr. John Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement about the employment situation in the west midlands, with special reference to Land Rover. [29447]

Alan Johnson: The latest labour force survey data shows that there were 2,505,000 people resident in the west midlands who were in employment in the period September to November 2001. This represented an increase of 30,000 or 1.2 per cent. on the previous three-month period and an increase of 42,000 or 1.6 per cent. on the equivalent period a year earlier.

Land Rover employ a total of around 12,000 people in the west midlands. With regard to the current situation between Land Rover and KPMG (administrative receivers to UPF Group) both parties are in urgent negotiations to resolve their differences. We hope that a satisfactory solution is found that safeguards security of supply to Land Rover and also enables the UPF business to be sold

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as a going concern. DTI continues to remain in contact with all the key players but essentially this is a commercial matter for Land Rover and KPMG.

Sellafield

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the security of nuclear materials stored at the Sellafield reprocessing plant. [29831]

Ms Hewitt: All aspects of required security arrangements for nuclear materials stored at the Sellafield reprocessing plant are kept under continuing review by the Director of Civil Nuclear Security, the security regulator. Stringent security measures apply at all civil nuclear sites including Sellafield. It is not Government policy to disclose details of security measures taken at civil nuclear sites.

Post Offices

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what discussions she has held with Consignia concerning the possible closure of post offices; and if she will make a statement; [30006]

Ms Hewitt: The Government have agreed in principle to support the compensation package negotiated between Post Office Ltd. and the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters for a restructuring of the urban post office network. Where appropriate, compensation will be made available to sub-postmasters affected. Detailed discussions continue on the programme.

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will ensure that Consignia's proposals for possible post office closures are made public. [30007]

Ms Hewitt: The programme to restructure the urban post office network will be taken forward in consultation with individual sub-postmasters, the local community and Postwatch. To ensure that post offices meet the high expectations of customers and are in the right locations for their communities, the programme will be carefully tailored to the circumstances of each locality.

Gas Transportation Tariffs

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether she raised the effect of gas transportation tariffs on Northern Ireland when she met representatives of Centrica on 6 December 2001; and if she will make a statement. [29474]

Mr. Wilson: I met representatives of Centrica on 6 December 2001 when we discussed a number of issues in confidence and, under Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, it would be inappropriate to go into detail.

Gas is transported to Northern Ireland under the terms of a commercial contract. This contract is a matter for the parties involved.

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HEALTH

Digital Hearing Aids

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans the Government have to increase the availability of digital hearing aids. [10002]

Jacqui Smith: We announced the modernising hearing aids services project in October 2000. Since then, to the end of December 2001, 19,368 digital aids had been fitted, 19,353 adult patients had been assessed and 14,856 adult patients fitted. By the end of March, we expect to have fitted over 18,000 patients.

I announced on 24 December 2001 that a further £20 million would be made available in 2002–03 so that a further 30 national health service sites can join the modernising hearing aids project during that year. Decisions on which sites will become involved in the project next year will be made shortly.

The Institute of Hearing Research is evaluating the project, and its findings will help planning of the wider availability of changes in hearing aid services, which include the provision of digital hearing aids, to all NHS audiology departments.

In the meantime, all NHS trusts with the ability, in terms of staff, training, equipment and experience, to provide digital hearing aids, are able to apply for access to a favourable contract for supply of digital hearing aids.

Hospital Admissions

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients were waiting for admission to hospitals, including suspended patients but not including self-deferred cases, in (a) England and (b) each NHS trust in England in the year ending 31 March. [13621]

Mr. Hutton: The number of in-patients waiting for treatment and the number of patients suspended from the waiting list at end March 2001 is given in the table, which has been placed in the Library.

Patient Choice

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to impose (a) geographical and (b) financial limits on the ability of patients to have greater choice over the location of their hospital treatment; [15412]

Mr. Hutton: On 6 December 2001, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced proposals to give patients choice over where they are treated in the national health service.

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From July 2002, all patients who have been waiting more than six months for heart surgery will be offered a choice of treatment at another NHS hospital; a hospital in the private sector; or possibly a hospital abroad. Patients opting to stay with their current hospital will do so on the basis that they will wait no more than 12 months in total there.

By 2005, all patients and their general practitioners will be able to book hospital appointments at both a time and place that is convenient to the patient.

Proposals to increase the capacity of the NHS are set out in the NHS Plan. The proposals to increase choice are set out in the discussion paper "Extending Choice for Patients", copies of which are available in the Library.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what IT changes will be required to enable patients to have information about the choices open to them described in the Secretary of State's speech to the Fabian Society; [15415]

Mr. Hutton: An outline business case (OBC) has been developed, proposing a framework for implementing electronic booking systems. The OBC can be found at: www.doh.gov.uk/nhsplanbookingsystems/.

The framework was developed in consultation with stakeholders. It is based around local health communities and will allow them to implement locally based solutions within a consistent common national framework. It builds on the national information and information technology infrastructure.

Information on the estimated IT investment to implement electronic booking systems is in the OBC.

East Cheshire Hospice

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much money was provided by the NHS to the East Cheshire Hospice in each of the last 10 years. [18449]

Yvette Cooper: South Cheshire health authority funding for East Cheshire Hospice for the past six years (since the creation of the health authority) is as follows:

£000
1995–96279
1996–97248
1997–98253
1998–99262
1999–2000272
2000–01282

The figures exclude the cost of drugs, which is also funded by South Cheshire health authority. Last year this was approximately £50,000 but the amount can vary year to year depending on requirements.

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