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There are a few noteworthy written answers in the most recent copies of Hansard.

In the Lords’ answers, crossbencher Lord Laird was informed about prison costs:

"Lord Laird asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What is the average cost of keeping a person in prison in England for one week in the last year for which figures are available. [HL5847]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The latest year for which figures are available is 2007-08. I refer the noble Lord to my Answer of 15 October (Official Report, col. WA55). The overall average cost per prisoner per week in England and Wales in 2007-08 was £750. This excludes prisoners held in police and court cells under Operation Safeguard. The figure includes some estimation and is given to the nearest £50. Figures are not calculated separately for England and Wales. Expenditure met by other government departments (eg for health and education) is not included. The prisoner escort service is included."

In the Commons’ written answers David Taylor, Labour MP for North West Leicestershire, received confirmation that the Government still supports the controversial Barnett Formula for funding Scotland:

"David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on the operation of the Barnett formula; and if he will make a statement. [229811]

Ann McKechin: I have had recent discussions with the First Minister on a variety of matters. This Government believe that the Barnett formula has delivered stable and transparent settlements for Scotland under successive administrations for almost 30 years."

Shadow Treasury Minister Mark Hoban got an insight into the cost of doing Government business:

"Mr. Hoban: To ask the Prime Minister (1) what the cost was to the public purse of holding the meeting of the Cabinet in Birmingham on 8 September 2008; [229112]

(2) how much was spent on police protection for the Cabinet meeting in Birmingham held on 8 September 2008; [229113]

(3) how much was spent on (a) lunch and (b) refreshments for those attending the Cabinet meeting held in Birmingham on 8 September 2008. [229114]

The Prime Minister: The visit of the Cabinet to Birmingham was preceded by several ministerial visits across the region; a public engagement event with approximately 250 people was followed by a formal Cabinet meeting and an economic event including business leaders.

The cost of the public engagement event, the Cabinet meeting and the economic events in Birmingham was £61,920, excluding VAT. There are no separate figures for the Cabinet event, and the costs for all the events have been taken together. The figure includes the cost of hiring the venue, catering, associated security and search equipment, delegate management and rail travel for both staff and Ministers. In addition, Departments and agencies will have incurred costs in terms of staff time and other support. The cost of any security provided by the police is a matter for the relevant police force."

Another answer for Mr Hoban will interest anyone considering a career in the civil service:

"Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many civil servants in his Department were recruited through the fast stream; and what the average salary of those officials is. [229187]

Mr. Hoon: The Department and its agencies have recruited 177 fast stream employees since inception in May 2002. The current average salaries of those still employed by the Department are split by pay band as follows:

Current pay grade Current average salary (£)

PB4 and fast stream

27,942

PB6

46,373

PB7

58,935

SCS PB1

60,536

Average

34,781

Mike Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, received an extraordinary answer on NHS dentistry, showing that the Government is woefully out of touch:

"Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment he has made on the adequacy of the current level of access to NHS dentistry. [231227]

Ann Keen: The Department estimated in 2000 that there are some two million people in England who would like to access national health service dental services but are unable to do so.

Since the reforms to the dental contractual arrangements introduced in April 2006, primary care trusts (PCTs) are now responsible for assessing local need and developing services to meet this need. Increasing the number of patients seen within the NHS dental service is now a national priority in “The Operating Framework for the NHS in England 2008-09”. We have supported this with an 11 per cent. uplift in overall dental allocations to PCTs worth £2,081 million (net of patient charge income). Copies of the Operating Framework have already been placed in the Library."

Ann Winterton, a Conservative backbencher, asked about the relationship between the EU and financial services regulation:

"Ann Winterton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether financial services regulation is an exclusive competence of the European Union. [230845]

Ian Pearson: The regulation of financial services is an exclusive EU competence where the EU has adopted directives and regulations in the field and where there is general EU law that applies to financial firms, for example, the state aid rules. Member states can only legislate in the field covered by a directive (unless explicitly allowed to do so by the directive) in order to implement EU law, to provide further necessary detail or to ensure its proper enforcement, for example by adding sanctions for non-compliance.

Where permissible under a directive, a member state may go further than EU law. but only if it does not contradict EU law.

Some issues concerning regulation of financial services are not covered by EU competence, for example regulation of mortgage lending."

That last one should get the blood boiling out there!

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