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11 Mar 2004 : Column 1696W—continued

Social Workers

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what targets his Department has set for recruitment of social workers. [159741]

Dr. Ladyman: The Department's national planning guideline is to recruit an additional 50,000 whole time equivalent people into the social care workforce, which includes 5,000 social workers by 2005–06.

As an incentive to train as a social worker, a bursary is available to all students who are not supported by their employer. The introduction of a degree in social work will also help to make this a more attractive career choice.

Step Change

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) when the review of Step Change will occur; and how long the review will take; [155393]

Miss Melanie Johnson: A ministerial committee has been set up to co-ordinate policy on imports of animals, plants, fish and their products, which will include a review of the Step Change. The timing of the review, and how it is publicised, are matters for the committee to decide.


John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the use of Subutex in drugs treatment. [153982]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 9 February 2004]: Subutex is licensed for use in the treatment of opiate dependency, which is included in the clinical guidelines on the management of drug misuse and dependence issued by the Department in 1999. The Department has also made it possible for doctors to prescribe Subutex for instalment dispensing, to ensure there is no disincentive for its use as compared to methadone. While there are recognised advantages, there are also disadvantages to its use. There is a clear risk of Subutex being abused by injection. Methadone liquid appears more suitable for severely dependent opiate addicts. It is for clinicians to determine the appropriate use of Subutex for patients.

Westminster Hall

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to have senior Ministers reply to debates in Westminster Hall. [159617]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House of Commons on Monday 8 March 2004, Official Report, column 1234W.

11 Mar 2004 : Column 1697W


Council of the Isles

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs when the Council of the Isles last met; and when it will next meet. [159478]

Mr. Leslie : The Council of the Isles is known as the British-Irish Council. The Council last met on 28 November 2003 at a Summit at St. Fagans in Cardiff. The Council next meet in July for ministerial level meetings to discuss the Environment and Social Inclusion sectoral work strands. The next Summit is planned for autumn 2004 in Guernsey.

Departmental Communications

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the total expenditure on communications for his Department has been in 2003–04, broken down by expenditure on (a) Government Information and Communication Service staff and (b) other staff, broken down by (i) press officers, (ii) special advisers and (iii) others. [158207]

Mr. Lammy : The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA), which includes its agencies—the Court Service and the Public Guardianship Office (PGO)—employs 60 staff in communications work. This figure comprises 24 staff of the Government Information and Communication Service (GICS) and 36 others.

Amount (£)
Department for constitutional affairs HQ
(a) GICS918,187
(b) Other staff
(i) Press officers(30)35,232
(ii) Special advisers(31)
(iii) Others351,979
Court service
(a) GICS0
(b) Other staff
(i) Press officers0
(ii) Special advisers0
(iii) Others603,185
Public Guardianship Office
(a) GICS0
(b) Other staff
(i) Press officers(30)63,150
(ii) Special advisers0
(iii) Others80,525

(30) Non GICS.

(31) The Special Advisers' Code of Conduct sets out the sort of work a special adviser may undertake on behalf of their Minister. This includes communications activity. Details of the costs of Special Advisers are given on an annual basis. Information for the financial year 2003–04 will be published in due course.


1. All figures include forecast expenditure for February and March 2003–04.

2. 'Others' includes staff working on publications, publicity, internal communications, websites and administration.

11 Mar 2004 : Column 1698W

Election Turnouts

Mark Tami: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the (a) lowest and (b) highest turnout in a local authority election was in the last five years. [156445]

Phil Hope: I have been asked to reply.

Turnout at local authority elections is not recorded centrally and the specific figures requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However a source of information that may be useful to the hon. Member is the Local Elections Handbook which is published annually by the Local Government Chronicle Elections Centre at the University of Plymouth which contains turnout figures for local authority elections.



Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is regarding the role that former Taliban members should play in the future government of Afghanistan; and what his policy is regarding proposals for an amnesty for those Taliban members deemed no longer to constitute a terrorist threat. [159505]

Mr. Straw [holding answer 10 March 2004]: The UK believes that national reconciliation is an important element in the process of rebuilding Afghanistan. It must be an Afghan-led process and one which is transparent. We would oppose the rehabilitation of the Taliban's senior leadership. Taliban who were involved in war crimes, terrorism, or engaged in violent opposition to the Coalition or the Bonn Process, should be brought to justice. The treatment of other former Taliban who no longer constitute a threat is a matter for the Afghan authorities.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Government have made of the progress needed on security for elections to proceed in Afghanistan on 30 June; and if he will make a statement. [159888]

Mr. Straw: Security will be one of the key ingredients in facilitating successful and credible elections, including the electoral registration process currently underway. It is for the Afghan Government to lead on ensuring the elections are held in a secure environment. But they will require international support and assistance. Security is already being provided for the voter registration process. The Afghan Transitional Administration are also working with the United Nations, the International Security Assistance Force (led by NATO), and the US-led Coalition to put the necessary security structures in place for the elections themselves. No date has yet been announced for elections to be held.

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action the Department is taking to support the UN plan to hold elections in Afghanistan this summer. [160221]

11 Mar 2004 : Column 1699W

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The UK has committed £9 million to supporting the UN preparations for elections. Of this £9 million, £3 million has already been dispersed. The UK is also encouraging other donors to contribute to supporting preparations for the elections through funding, and through providing resources to the International Security Assistance Force to enable it to support the Afghan government in providing security for the elections.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance the UK is giving to British businesses considering investing in Afghanistan; and what discussions he has had regarding the underwriting of risk for such businesses. [160229]

Mr. Straw: The Government, through UK Trade and Investment and the British embassy in Kabul provides direct assistance and advice on local business conditions including security advice to businesses wishing to invest in Afghanistan.

Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) is currently unable to offer political risk insurance to UK companies investing in Afghanistan under its Overseas Investment Insurance scheme. ECGD judge that the political and economic situation in Afghanistan is too unstable to allow them to provide such cover. ECGD is however monitoring developments in Afghanistan and expects to conduct a market review in the latter part of 2004, following the proposed elections late this year.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many additional (a) soldiers and (b) officials the Government are planning to send to Afghanistan to ensure stability in the build up to and during the proposed elections in that country. [160236]

Mr. Straw: It is the responsibility of the Afghan Transitional Administration to provide security for the forthcoming elections. The UK is supporting the election preparations through funding of £10.4 million for the UN electoral preparations plan and through the role of the UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Mazar-e Sharif. The Mazar-e Sharif PRT has 90 British soldiers.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced on 7 February 2004 that the UK would support NATO efforts to play a wider role in Afghanistan by increasing support to PRTs (a copy of which is available at >conferences>2004>speeches>Hoon,Geoffrey). The number of British soldiers likely to be involved has not yet been finalised. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is also considering a role in support of the elections. The UK currently contributes 350 soldiers to ISAF but no decision has been made on possible future contributions.

The UK is also supporting the EU Commission's intention to send a team of election observers to Afghanistan, and is currently funding an expert to participate in the ongoing EU exploratory mission on election observation, with a particular focus on women's participation in the elections.

11 Mar 2004 : Column 1700W

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the 15 May Bishkek Conference on stability in Afghanistan; and what discussions he has had with other governments regarding the conference. [159887]

Mr. Straw: We welcome the proposal to hold a conference in Bishkek, involving Afghanistan and other countries in the region. Closer co-operation on trade, development and efforts to tackle illegal activities such as narcotics production and trafficking will enhance stability in the region. The conference will complement the regional commitment to the Good Neighbourly Relations Declaration signed in December 2002, and the related Declaration on Trade, Transit and Investment and Counter-Narcotics signed in September 2003.

We regularly discuss a wide range of issues concerning Afghanistan, including regional co-operation, with other governments and international organisations.

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