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NHS Consultants

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health is today announcing proposals for a new framework of measures to improve rewards for National Health Service consultants and modernise medical careers in England. Copies of the proposed new framework have been placed in the Printed Paper Office.

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The new framework involves using the extra resources that the Department of Health had previously set aside for implementation of a new consultants' contract (rising to some £250 million by 2005–06) to achieve the continued objective of giving greater rewards to consultants who do most for NHS patients and reforming the way the NHS delivers patient care.

To ensure that this extra investment delivers improvements in NHS consultant capacity, productivity and value for money—and helps reform ways of working—there will be a national framework within which local health services will have a choice of investing in local implementation of the contract negotiated with the British Medical Association in June 2002, where there is a high level of local consultant support; investing in new annual incentives for consultants who make the biggest contribution to improving patient care; and investing extra resources in the new system of clinical excellence awards that is due to be introduced from April 2004.

Within this framework, NHS trusts, primary care trusts and strategic health authorities will be asked to deploy the available resources in ways that most effectively support local priorities for improving the efficiency, quality and responsiveness of patient care.

The new framework will be accompanied by new standards for consultant job planning to help provide more varied and flexible medical careers and a more productive, collaborative approach to planning and reviewing consultants' work for the NHS. There will also be new standards governing the relationship between private practice and NHS work to improve transparency and prevent any potential conflicts of interest. Consultants will need to meet these standards to be eligible for the new incentive payments and to demonstrate that they are meeting the standards expected under the new clinical excellence award scheme.

In line with the objective of supporting medical careers, the department will be introducing on a phased basis a new system of sabbaticals for consultants. Initially, by 2005–06 funding will be made available to enable around 800 consultants each year to have sabbaticals of around two to three months, with coverage extending as workforce capacity expands.

The department will also be working closely with the medical royal colleges to modernise medical training, recruitment and career structures. Reforming medical careers in this way will help deliver in a more effective way the treatment patients need most and enable doctors to develop their skills to the full.

Teacher Training Qualifications:Irish Republic

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 15 January (WA47) concerning teacher training qualifications, what are the qualifications

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    that are sometimes additionally required in order that teachers trained in the United Kingdom can teach in the Irish Republic.[HL1166]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Teachers in primary schools, second level teachers in Gaeltacht schools and teachers who are required to teach through the medium of Irish must satisfy the Department of Education and Science in the Republic of Ireland that they are competent to teach the Irish language before being granted full recognition to teach in mainstream classes in national schools. Teachers trained in any other member state of the European Union whose qualifications have been assessed and accepted by the Department of Education and Science in the Republic of Ireland but who do not possess an appropriate Irish language qualification are granted a five-year period of provisional recognition to teach in national schools.

Applicants for posts in voluntary secondary schools whose teacher training courses have not adequately covered the history and structure of the Irish education system aspect are required by the registration council to study for and undertake a written examination.

The Joint Teacher Qualifications Working Group, established under the Belfast agreement, is examining the issue of teacher qualification, including the issue of additional fees, in the context of teacher mobility. The issue will also be considered by the General Teaching Councils for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, together with representatives of the Republic of Ireland (which is still in the process of establishing its GTC).

Mayoral Elections

Lord Waddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following the consultation paper Changes to the Rules for London Mayoral and Assembly Elections and the Greater London Authority Elections (Amendment) Rules 2003, no instructions to voters will say that in the mayoral election a voter must ensure both a first and second choice.[HL1065]

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: The prescribed notices for guidance of voters at GLA elections

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instruct voters to vote once for their first choice and once for their second choice at the mayoral election.

The consultation paper Changes to the Rules for London Mayoral and Assembly Elections includes a proposal to replace the prescribed text for these notices with a set of criteria governing what the notices should and should not include. Within those criteria, the Greater London returning officer would specify the wording and design of the notices, including what they should say about exercising first and second choice votes.

After the consultation closes on 10 March, the Government will analyse the responses and decide whether and how to take this proposal forward.

Council of the Isles

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what dates the Council of the Isles has met since its creation; what areas were represented; what decisions were taken; and when the council is proposing to meet again.[HL1009]

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: The British-Irish Council brings together representatives of the British and Irish Governments, the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the authorities in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. During suspension, UK Ministers represent the interests of Northern Ireland at council meetings.

The council has met on four occasions at summit level: in London in December 1999, Dublin in November 2001, Jersey in June 2002 and Scotland in November 2002. Ministerial meetings in the environment sector took place in October 2000, February 2002 and January 2003. A ministerial meeting on transport met in December 2000. There was a meeting of drugs Ministers in March 2002.

The communiques issued after each of these meetings have been placed in the Libraries of the House. A copy of the communique from the environment ministerial meeting which took place on 16 January 2003 will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

The council will next meet in February for a ministerial meeting on drugs in Dublin.

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