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Northern Ireland Health and Social Services Trusts: Working Time Regulation 16

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 supersede the current arrangements which calculate pay during periods of annual leave on the basis of basic earnings. Under the regulations staff are now entitled to a week's pay in respect of each week of leave. A week's pay is to be determined in accordance with Articles 17 to 20 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. The articles do not clearly define a week's pay. Difficulties arise in determining what payments are to be included in the calculation due to the 24-hour nature of the service provided by the HPSS and the wide variety of working patterns, which include shift work, night work, weekend and public holiday working, standing-by and sleeping-in duties.

Regional negotiations are expected to take place with staff representatives in early May with a view to reaching agreement on the definition of a week's pay. Trusts would then implement any agreed arrangements as soon as possible thereafter.

Translink Policy on Roadworthiness of Buses and Coaches

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Translink has advised that it is its policy that all buses and coaches leaving the depots for commercial tasks are in a roadworthy condition as required by law. Ulsterbus and City bus operate a vehicle inspection and maintenance system that exceeds the guidelines set down by the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport, GB.

Northern Ireland Health Trusts and Area Boards: Projected Overspend

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the projected level of overspend for 1999-2000 by each of the health trusts in Northern Ireland and by each of the four area boards; and whether this overspend is higher than the average based on population in England and Wales.[HL2162]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The financial position of the Northern Ireland trusts and the boards is regularly monitored by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, but the information supplied is used for the purposes of internal discussion and advice only. While the most up-to-date information provides a best estimate of the year-end financial position, in some cases the forecasts do not reflect additional income allocated to boards in recent months. The true picture of the year-end position of the trusts and boards will be shown in the audited final accounts, which fully reflect additional allocations received and are produced some months after the year end. A comparison of projected overspends within Northern Ireland with those in England and Wales would therefore not be meaningful at this stage. A detailed knowledge of the assumptions underpinning the projections of all trusts and boards in Northern Ireland, England and Wales would be necessary before any reasonable conclusions could be drawn.

Northern Ireland Hospital Services

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to proceed with the restructuring of hospital services in Northern Ireland.[HL2163]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Government is committed to the development of modern, effective hospital services in Northern Ireland and they hope that decisions about local issues such as the future of hospital services can be taken by the Northern Ireland Assembly. While devolution is suspended, the Government will of course continue to take whatever decisions are necessary to ensure the provision of safe and effective hospital services.

2 May 2000 : Column WA173

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