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Written Parliamentary Answers: 31st March 2006

Learn Direct

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much Learn Direct has spent on sponsoring the Jeremy Kyle show. (John Hemming)

A:Ufi, the organisation responsible for learndirect, is currently sponsoring a package of programmes on TV. This comprises 12 weeks of 'The Jeremy Kyle Show', on ITV and also 12 weeks of Sunday night drama (three weeks of 'Wild at Heart', six weeks of 'The Royal' and three weeks of 'Heartbeat'. The sponsorship extends to having the learndirect logo and name mentioned at the beginning and end of each programme and during the commercial breaks. These programmes have been chosen because they are watched by the people who Ufi want to reach. The total cost of sponsoring these shows is £425,000 which represents excellent value for the projected number of learners that Ufi expects to respond to the advertising. (Phil Hope, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Skills)

Affordable Housing (Bi…

INCT - The Implied National Council Tax

When Council Tax was first created the government had a figure called "Council Tax at Standard Spend" which was the figure they assumed would be the average Council Tax at Band D.

This was replaced by the Assumed National Council Tax for 2003/4. One of the problems for the government with these figures is that they make it quite clear that the government is financing local authorities on the assumption that Council Tax will increase beyond inflation.

In 2006/7, however they have stopped declaring the amount. It can, however, be calculated and the INCT (Implied National Council Tax) has gone up by 3.6% for England as a whole and 3.8% for Metropolitan Authorities between 2005/6 and 2006/7. This is, of course, more than inflation.

St Patrick's Day Parade Birmingham 2006 Photo of Tipperary County Association

John Hemming playing the guitar as a member of the Tipperary County Association's parade in March 2006.

My ancestor from Tipperary was born in 1841 and was in Birmingham in the 1880s.

Treasury Hatchett Men sent into University Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust to do emergency cost surgery on New Hospital

An emergency meeting of Consultants has been called together for Thursday Evening to respond to demands from the Treasury for reductions in Costs in the proposed new Hospital on the QE Site.

An email was sent by management to 400 Consultants and Professors, on Monday morning, calling them together for a crunch meeting on Thursday Night to look at cost cutting. The bean counters from the Treasury are to be parachuted into the Hospital on Friday and Monday to do emergency surgery on the costs of the scheme.

Angry medical staff have contacted local MP John Hemming who has said:

"The reason there is this paniced search for cuts is because the NHS generally is in a financial mess. This is unfair for the UB NHS Foundation Trust which is one of the best run hospitals in the country. They have been in balance for 11 successive years, are high performing and the local PCTs have agreed that the finances for this scheme stacks up."

"It is wrong to make Birmingham suffer for the i…

Council Tax Increase by Government 72%

Between 1992 and 2005/6 the Council Tax has been driven up by the government by a total of 71.8996%.

It has been government policy (both Labour and Conservative) to have an increase in the amount of revenue raised locally. This policy, like many others, has simply been maintained.

I raised this in the chamber today, but it was denied.

Loans and New Labour Government

The allegations so far about Funding and Government are perhaps not as extreme as that which implied that as a consequence of a Million Pound loan the government oddly decided not to ban adverts for smoking at Formula One Races.

The Bernie Ecclestone Million Pound Loan involved a payment which achieved lobbying access and as a consequence a change in the law.

If people are getting planning appeal decisions going their way and baronets as a consequence of similar loans then it is only really part of a trend. I was always quite surprised that Labour got away with the situation about F1. Still it in the end depends on the views of the voters. I think they are likely to be more concerned about the fact that the government is a disaster on a number of fronts than its continuing and worsening slease.

PbR Tariff released

About a week ago the price list for operations in the Health Service was finally released. I have not managed to review it as yet, but is seems substantially lower than the previous one.

This implies deficits in the Hospitals.

The big issue at the moment is to find out at the end of the Financial Year (next Friday) when the "music stops" what the real NHS deficits are.

One problem is that Organisation A may claim that Organisation B owes it £20 Million, but Organisation B denies that. This means that A counts the money and B doesn't. Overall whichever way it ends up there is a net deficit of £20 Million. This will not be clear until after the end of the Financial year when all these discrepancies are reconciled.

The response of the government in topslicing (and the West Midlands could be as high as 5%) shows that they are aware that there is a bigger problem than they are admitting.

A national average topslice of 3% would imply £1,929,270,000 being placed into reserve to…

Written Parliamentary Question: 29th March 2006

Predictive Diallers

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 7 March 2006, Official Report, column 1251W, on predictive diallers, what estimate she has made of the cost of establishing whether any public body for which her Department is responsible uses predictive dialling.(John Hemming)

A:My reply of 7 March 2006, Official Report, column 1251W, on predictive diallers was based on an estimate that it would cost between £3,000 and £6,000 (£5 to £10 for each public body concerned) to obtain this information from the bodies themselves. (Liam Byrne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)

Primary Care Trusts

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much purchaser protection adjustment she expects to be lost to each primary care trust in each of the next three years. (John Hemming)

A:holding answer 16 February 2006

The 2006–07 payment by results transitional adjustments for commissioners are based on giving primary care trusts 50 per cent. parity.…

NHS Dental Crisis Worsens

The implementation of the new Dental Contract is causing considerable chaos. Because of an error in the leaflet about the charges being paid for dentures the whole batch of leaflets about the new system have had to be withdrawn and reprinted. The Dentists Computer system is also not currently available which means that PCTs will encounter a cashflow problem as they will be unable to clawback charges. John Hemming MP said, "The DoH have budgeted for a 30% increase in charges to patients. They will have a cashflow problem if they cannot claim these back from the dentists. Their cash situation is particularly tight at the moment."

Documents leaked from the Department of Health that have been obtained by John Hemming MP show that the Department of Health is having considerable problems handling the developing NHS Dentistry Crisis

"The leak shows the Department are having a lot of problems handling the NHS Dental Crisis. One of the key changes is getting all the information ce…

Stealth Tax on Private Emails ?!?

The link is to Chapter A of yesterday's Budget. This includes raising £50 million next year (£100m, £150m subsequent years) from removing the exemption from income tax of loan of a computer.

If you take your laptop home then one presumes that is loan of a computer if you use it for private activity. It appears then that the HMRC will have to monitor how many private emails you send or how much other private useage you make.

If you, therefore, play a game of Freecell on a company computer it could be argued that you are borrowing the computer for that purpose and hence should pay a little extra tax.

I am not sure this is that workable a proposal.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 22nd March 2006

Results Tariff

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the reasons were for the withdrawal of the national tariff for payment by results; when her Department will indicate what payment by results tariff will apply for financial year 2006–07; and if she will make a statement.(John Hemming)

A:Regrettably it was necessary to withdraw the tariff for 2006–07 in order to correct underlying errors in the calculation. We are now testing the revised tariff with the help of national health service colleagues, and will publish a corrected version as soon as possible. (Liam Byrne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)

NICE Appraisals

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health who authorised the signing of the contract between the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Southampton Technology Assessment Centre (SHTAC) that provides that the cost-effectiveness model prepared by SHTAC for NICE for consideration in the technology appraisal of donepezil, rivastigmine,…

Are New Labour Maoists?

Maoism supports the concept of "continual revolution". It seems that New Labour prefer instability to stability and see "continual reform" as a good mechanism for quality services.

Sadly they have turned up the heat of continual change on the health service. This is causing problems all over the country.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 21st March 2006

Classrooms

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many classrooms in schools have been built under private finance initiative schemes; what the size is of each new classroom; what guidance she has issued on the minimum size of classroom; and if she will make a statement. (John Hemming)

A:The Department does not hold information specifically on the number or size of new classrooms in PFI schools. We produce non-statutory guidance on the overall size of schools and of individual classrooms in the form of Building Bulletins 98 and 99: 'Briefing Framework for Secondary School Projects' and 'Briefing Framework for Primary School Projects', respectively. The application of this guidance to individual projects is a matter for local decision-making, although the Department strongly encourages local authorities to follow the area guidelines set out in its Building Bulletins. (Jacqui Smith, Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Educa…

Meltdown in NHS Finances

The link is to my speech yesterday about Health Finances.

Although there are problems at the moment which are in part hidden by the money-go-round in the health economy it does appear that the goverment are putting a lot of effort into ensuring that the problems are far greater in the coming financial year.

The government's big mistake is to reorganise everything when actually the system needs some stability.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 17th March 2006

Post Office Card Account

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in Birmingham collect their (a) pensions and (b) benefit payments through the Post Office card account.(John Hemming)
A:holding answer UIN 53834 27 February 2006

The information is not available in the format requested.

Information showing the number of DWP benefit and pension payment accounts paid by direct payment into a Post Office card account for each parliamentary constituency has been placed in the Library. (James Plaskitt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions)

Departmental Procedures

Q: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if her Department will take steps to ensure that a photocopy of marked registers is kept locally for each constituency before the original is taken to storage. (John Hemming)
A:The Electoral Administration Bill will provide that at future parliamentary elections, it will be the responsibility of electoral registra…

NHS Cash Crisis 'won't hit patients' !?!

Pull the other one.

The problem is that they are doing too many things at once. They are trying to handle a financial crisis, introducing completely new financial rules, reorganising the commissioners of most of the services (64.309 bn of about 69).

There will be costs from the reorganisation not savings. If they were serious about managing the service in a proper manner they would:

a) Stop the PCT reorganisation apart from those where there is a local call for reorganisation.
b) Either reverse the removal of PPA or change the tariff system for PbR.
c) Stop moving as much funding outside the NHS.

There are substantial costs to reorganisations. Redundancies cost money. Changing things in the public sector is, therefore, something that takes planning.

I think they will be forced to remove PbR to some extent as it is being used to ratchet up the costs.

There are good arguments for transactional payments, but there is no financial leeway in the system to cope with the consequences.

If an NHS o…

Gas Debate and Drugs

I was pleased to persuade The (Deputy) Speaker to have an Emergency Debate on the gas crisis - see link.

I will put my text on the Gas issues blog.

In the mean time I have now written a letter referring the Drugs overpayment to the National Audit Office. There are clear financial problems in the NHS and if the NHS is overpaying for drugs then that should stop.

NHS Finances Debate

Surprisingly few MPs turned up at this. That meant I got a short unplanned speech in.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Andrew George) for arranging this debate. I also thank you, Mr. Amess, for calling me to speak, and I know that I have to end at half-past 10. I had not intended to speak, but when I saw how few Members were intending to participate, I thought that I could perhaps get in.

I particularly congratulate the hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes (Mr. Lancaster) on identifying all the key points that are causing a major crisis in the finances of the health service. The hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) mentioned purchaser protection adjustment, and there is also the top-slicing of primary care trusts and the fact that we do not yet know what the tariffs will be. It is important to understand what impact that can have on hospitals.

There are certain ways in which trusts can press a button and get money from their PCTs. Some PCTs are finding that unusual t…

Written Parliamentary Question: 14th March 2005

Iraq

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the policy of the Coalition is on the protection and identification of holy sites in Iraq. (John Hemming)
A:The Iraqi Government has responsibility for the identification and protection of holy sites in Iraq. The Coalition does, however, take very seriously the need to respect Iraq's religious, historical and cultural heritage. UK forces respect sites of cultural sensitivity wherever they are deployed in the world. As part of the Coalition in Iraq, UK forces provide support as necessary to the Iraqi security forces as they continue to build stability and security. (Adam Ingram, Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence)

SEARCH FOR MOST FAMOUS INDUSTRIALIST STARTS WITH VOTING

SEARCH FOR MOST FAMOUS INDUSTRIALIST STARTS WITH VOTING
(ROUND TWO - THE REGIONAL HALL OF FAME)

The first round of voting for The Regional Wall of Fame reached a breathtaking climax last month, as the search to find the first faces to grace the wall was concluded by the general public; who, after a close contest voted authors David Lodge and Arnold Bennett as the most renowned authors from the Midlands. Now, it’s time for round 2 to begin, as we embark upon the search to find the most famous industrialist from the regions of Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcester and the West Midlands. The shortlist has been drawn up, and the voting is about to begin! We are inviting members of the general public to participate again by calling our dedicated hotlines, and placing their vote for the person whom they think is the most renowned industrialist from the Midlands.

The list features 12 of the greatest industrialists, all of whom were either born in or resided in the Midlands area. …

Gas Balancing Alert on gasissues blog

People who are wondering why I have not commented on this blog about the Gas Balancing Alert (and probable emergency) should click on the link.

In the mean time my fingers did go rather cold on the St Patrick's day parade. I may find a photo somewhere on the web.

After that I spoke at a meeting in Digbeth. Today I have been looking at Birmingham issues and doing some preparing for the local elections (apart from looking at the Gas Supply problem).

A kitkat free advice bureau

I think today was the busiest advice bureau with 18 groups of people (some of which were one person). I had over 40 people present which made me so busy I could not find time to eat the Kit-Kat I had bought before starting.

I have had 40 people present before, but that involved three substantial groups adding to about 20 plus 20 others.

Because I don't run appointments I cannot be certain how many people I will see and some bureaux have been quite quiet.

We are trying to encourage people to phone, write or attend during the week. However, I work hard to make sure that I do the Saturday bureau myself. Officially it starts at 11 and runs for an hour. However, I normally try to start about 10.30am to clear the queue. I did manage to finish at 12.15pm which I thought was quite good.

I wanted to take my 5 year old swimming later as I have the St Patrick's day parade and a party event tomorrow which will prevent me taking her swimming.

It is looking worryingly cold tomorrow. The las…

MG Rover

The National Audit Office have produced a report that I have not as yet read about the relations between MG Rover and the DTI.

The first thing to note is that MG Rover produced good cars that themselves were produced at a profitable margin. They, however, sold too few and therefore could not maintain the number of staff they had.

Had the deal with SAIC gone ahead there would have been about 3,000 redundancies (half the plant). They could have made redundancies previously to bring the income and expenditure into line, but for whatever reason this did not happen.

The final failure of the company arose from the publicity surrounding its financial difficulties (which mainly came from the government) causing people to stop providing supplies on credit.

Were any deal to be possible through administration it would only have happened following substantial redundancies.

I do think a deal with SAIC would have been possible if the government had not withdrawn the offer of a loan.

What I find sad a…

Written Parliamentary Question: 10th March 2006

Predictive Diallers

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 30 January 2006, Official Report, column 187W, on predictive diallers, whether any public body for which her Department is responsible uses predictive dialling. (John Hemming)
A:The information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (Liam Byrne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health)

Last Minute PCT Cuts estimated at £1,280,000,000

I now know the exact total as to what is being cut from PCTs as a result of the removal of the Purchaser Protection Adjustment. That figure is £320,229,000.
If we use an estimate of 1.5% of the clawback/topslice from PCTs and assume that PCTs spend £64bn (actually £64.309 bn). Then that figure is £960M.

This gives a total last minute cut of £1.28bn,

The problem with this approach is that it puts all sorts of problems into the system whether people are well organised and cost effective or not.

Sadly I was not called to raise this at Business Questions earlier today although I did manage to raise the issue of the Aviation White Paper which is causing blight in Sheldon.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 8th March 2006

Pharmacist Fees

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 13 February 2006, Official Report, columns 1759–64W, on pharmacist fees, what the difference is between the generic reimbursement prices and the prices at which (a) Simvastatin, (b) Lisinopril and (c) Amlodipine could be purchased by pharmacists and dispensing doctors; how much would be recovered by a discount inquiry on that basis for each drug; and if she will break down the information in table one by price category for each drug.(John Hemming)
A:holding answer 28 February 2006

As stated in my reply on 13 February 2006, Official Report, columns 1760–63, simvastatin, lisinopril and amlodipine are included in the new category M in the drug tariff which was introduced in April 2005. The new arrangements for the community pharmacy contractual framework, together with category M are managed to deliver funding for the contractual framework of £1.766 billion in 2005–06. Of this sum, £0.5 billion is derived …

Another 5% cut in PCT budgets

The link is to the NHS Operating Framework 2006/7.

Section 2 is the key. This talks about achieving financial health. It basically means that Primary Care Trusts will have monies topsliced from their budgets to fund deficits elsewhere in the NHS.

In the West Midlands this is a figure of ... wait for it ... £373 Million. It ends up as about 5% of PCT budgets. This is to cover the deficits in the West Midlands.

I have just written a few questions for ministers, but I really don't think they know what they are doing.

This is, of course, a national issue.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 7th March 2006

Head Teachers

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent assessment her Department has made of the level of morale among head teachers. (John Hemming)
A:Current indicators suggest that head teacher morale is generally good. A recent independent MORI survey published in 2005, found that the majority of head teachers were positive about their leadership role: nine in 10 said they felt confident in what they did and enjoyed it. However, we know the job is challenging which is why we have the NCSL to support and develop school leaders. (Jacqui Smith, Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills)

Immigrant Children

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much funding was provided to support newly arrived immigrant children in the last year for which figures are available; and if she will take steps to increase such funding. (John Hemming)
A:Funding is available from three sources: local authority allocations…

So far so good

I am one of the people who welcomes Ming Campbell's aim to have more professionalism in the way in which the Lib Dems operate.

That, however, does not mean that I support the suggestions of requiring lone parents of children aged 11 to get jobs.

I was also uncomfortable with the proposals on the Royal Mail. We need to have an effective policy on how to maintain the network of sub-Post Offices and there was 95% agreement as to much of the resolution passed. There did, however, remain a 5% disagreement. The agreement relates to the outcomes, the disagreement relates to the process. However, this disagreement is not as great as that relating to requiring lone parents of children aged 11+ to work.

Dave's tests

The new Extra-Green "Dave" Cameron has professed his concern about all things green. He faces two key tests:

a) Will his party sabotage the microgeneration bill next week.
b) Will he accept that there can be no major expansion of air flight.

Written Parliamentary Question: 1st March 2006

Nuclear Fuels

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the market price of each category of nuclear fuel was on 13 February. (John Hemming)
A:There is no fixed market price for categories of nuclear fuel. The price is commercially confidential information and is one which is agreed between the vendor and purchaser according to the terms of the contract. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister for Energy, Department of Trade and Industry)

Nuclear Fuels

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to his answer of 7 February 2006, Official Report, column 1073W, on nuclear fuels, how many tonnes of non-spent nuclear material were imported into the UK in the latest year for which records are available, broken down by country of export.(John Hemming)
A:I am advised by British Energy that the last fabricated fuel imported into the UK was from Germany in 2004 and comprised 36.467 tonnes of uranium for Sizewell B power station. (Malcolm Wicks, Minister for Energy, Departme…