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Prisons: Operational Capacity and Staff Numbers

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The information requested is shown in the table:

Operational Capacity Staff in Post
All prisons in England and Wales71,96274,87841,83943,347
Wandsworth prison1,3711,461664685


1. The figures for operational capacity and staff in post at all prisons in England and Wales include the figures for Wandsworth prison.

2. The staff in post figures show part-time staff as one post.

3. The staff in post figures include all staff with an employment contract with the Prison Service such as officers, administrators etc. They do not include staff such as agency staff or education staff.

4. The staff in post figures do not include privately managed prisons.

5. The figures for capacity used here are those for useable operational capacity.

Meteorological Office

Baroness Howells of St Davids asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the first stage of the quinquennial review of the Meteorological Office has been completed.[HL870]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The first stage of the quinquennial review (QQR) of the Met Office has been completed. This has focused primarily on the future status of the Met Office and on the arrangements for strategic oversight by its parent department, the Ministry of Defence.

The stage 1 report examined a number of alternative status options for the Met Office but concluded that the Met Office should remain a trading fund agency of the Ministry of Defence for the foreseeable future. It concluded also that there was a need for a substantial reform of the arrangements for oversight of the agency by its owner, the Secretary of State for Defence. The recommended reforms comprise the reshaping of the Defence Met Board into a UK Met Board, including in its membership representatives of the three principal civil stakeholder interests in the Met Office's product (environment, transport and civil contingencies) alongside the existing defence stakeholder interest; the adoption of a more proactive stance by the new board, with the focus on identifying in advance and resolving key strategic issues so as to provide a clear policy framework for Met Office management; and the provision of adequate administrative support to the new board.

We have today given our endorsement of these recommendations, and action is now in hand to give effect to them as soon as possible. It is planned that the UK Met Board should come into existence early in

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2003. A copy of the QQR Stage 1 report has been placed in the Library of the House.

Stem Cell Research

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much of the additional £40 million funding for stem cell research recently announced by them will be devoted exclusively to adult stem cell research.[HL626]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The booklet Science Budget: 2003–04 to 2005–06 published on 9 December and available in the library gives further information on the proposed research, but it is too soon to say how much of the new money will be spent on specific research.

Rural Sub-Post Offices

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they expect rural sub-post offices to remain open if the universal bank accounts scheme is cancelled.[HL455]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Good progress continues to be made on universal banking services in advance of migration of benefit to ACT in 2003. As my right honourable friend the Minister for Competitiveness and E-commerce announced on 2 December, £450 million will be made available (from 2003 to 2006) to help the rural post office network through the transition of benefit payment to ACT. A total of £150 million will be invested in each of the three years, all of it ringfenced for support of the rural network. The package will be funded from Royal Mail Holdings accumulated surpluses as part of a package to put Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd on a commercial footing. The funding will be administered by Post Office Ltd under contract to the Government. In return, Post Office Ltd will be required to maintain the rural network and prevent avoidable closures working through their code of practice for doing so in the first instance to 2006 and to provide reasonable access for all citizens to "over the counter" services in rural areas. Subject to state aid clearance, funding will be in place in April 2003.

NHS Provision of Digital Hearing Aids: Lancashire

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In which areas of Lancashire digital hearing aids are provided by the National Health Service; what are the criteria for making decisions on whether they are provided; and when it is intended that they will be provided throughout the county.[HL339]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Morecambe Bay Hospitals NHS Trust was part of the first wave of National Health Service trusts to participate in the Department of Health's digital hearing aid project. On 22 November, the Minister of State for Community (Ms Jacqui Smith) announced a further 17 successful sites which included the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust which is now providing digital hearing aids for adults as well as for children. Arrangements are also in hand for the Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals NHS Trust to receive the necessary equipment and training to enable it to provide a digital hearing aid service.

The following criteria was published before the second wave of the project: ability an willingness to modernise quickly; geographical spread; interest in providing some services from a community base; Implications for transfer of paediatric patients to an adult service.

However, in practice, all sites that applied with the full support of their primary care trusts have been successful. The commitment of PCTs has been vital. Discussions are still continuing in relation to extending the digital hearing aid project nationally.

Pathology Modernisation Programme

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the objectives of their pathology modernisation programme; and how these compare with what has been achieved by the managed network of public health laboratories.[HL572]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Pathology Modernisation Programme is a 10 year programme to modernise pathology services and encourage larger systems of clinical pathology which will have the capacity to deal with rising demand and technological developments. The aims, which encompass National Health Service and Public Health Laboratory Service laboratories, are to improve the quality and efficiency of services, while securing sufficient medium and longer-term savings to support continuing reinvestment and development. This is consistent with the direction of development in PHLS. The main objectives of the PMP are to support NHS pathology services to respond to workforce pressures, growing demand, and the continuing development of new diagnostic technologies.

Public Health Laboratories

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the public health laboratories scheduled for transfer to their local National Health Service trusts provide food, water and environmental services to local authorities; how many hold United Kingdom Accreditation Service

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    accreditation; and what are the comparable figures for National Health Service trust managed laboratories.[HL540]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Of the 31 Public Health Laboratory Service laboratories scheduled for transfer to National Health Service trusts, 22 analyse food, water and environmental samples for local authorities. All 22 are United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited. The other nine receive samples direct from environmental health officers, which are then forwarded to other public health laboratories for testing.

We are not aware of any NHS laboratories that are UKAS accredited, since the main accreditation system for them is with Clinical Pathology Accreditation (UK) (CPA). Forty-seven per cent of NHS laboratories have full accreditation with CPA and a further 21 per cent have conditional accreditation.

We do not have any statistical data on the number of NHS laboratories that provide a food, water or environmental service to local authorities.

Eighty-seven per cent of public health laboratories in England hold full accreditation with CPA and a further 11 per cent hold conditional accreditation.

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the public health laboratories scheduled for transfer to their local National Health Service trusts hold contracts for providing support to National Health Service microbiology departments.[HL541]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: All of the 31 laboratories scheduled to be transferred to National Health Service trusts have contracts with their local NHS trusts for providing microbiological services. hp

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