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Children Act 1989

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will introduce legislation to amend section 4 of Children Act 1989 to provide for a duty to assist. [74726]

Mr. Hutton: As announced in the Response to the Children's Safeguards Review on 5 November 1998, the Government intend legislating to replace the current power to assist under Section 24 of the Children Act 1989 with a duty to assess and meet the needs of care leavers up to the age of 18 and will study the costs, limitations and affordability of extending this duty until the young person reaches the age of 21.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will assess the impact of Quality Protects plans on inter-departmental co-ordination between housing and social services departments; and if he will make a statement on the enforcement of existing rules under the Children Act 1989. [74723]

Mr. Hutton: The Quality Protects programme is directed at the local authority as a whole, including housing and social services departments, and is intended to promote corporate commitment to delivering improved services for children. Management Action Plans submitted to the Department by local authorities are currently being evaluated, and progress in implementation will be monitored by the Government. The Government have also stated in the White Paper "Modernising Social Services" their intention to place a duty on the local authority as a whole in planning children's services and for all parties to participate in and take responsibility for their delivery.

Post-care Provision

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure local authorities provide written guidance to persons leaving care. [74724]

Mr. Hutton: Every local authority should provide an easy to read guide to its services for young people when they leave care. The Government will address this subject in the guidance on leaving care they intend issuing later this year.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what (a) advice and (b) amenities are available to persons leaving care at 18 years; and if he will make a statement. [74725]

Mr. Hutton: Local authorities have duties and powers under the Children Act 1989 to advise, befriend and assist care leavers up to the age of 21. Extensive guidance on the exercise of these responsibilities was issued to accompany the Children Act but further guidance will be issued later this year, as announced in the Government's Response to the Children's Safeguards Review.

Quality Protects Action Plans

Mr. Dawson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the Quality Protects action plans submitted by local authorities; and if he will make a statement. [75299]

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Mr. Hutton: All local authorities submitted their Quality Protects Management Action Plans by the closing date of 31 January 1999. These are currently being evaluated by the Department's Social Services Inspectorate. The Department will publish a national overview report of the Management Action Plans when these evaluations have been completed.

Foster Care

Mr. Dawson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if, following the review of safeguards for children living away from home, he will ensure that children in all forms of foster care are protected from corporal punishment. [75156]

Mr. Hutton: Corporal punishment is not permitted by law, with the exception that a parent or someone acting in loco parentis is entitled to administer corporal punishment that is reasonable in all the circumstances. Legislation prohibits corporal punishment in children's homes, foster care and registered care homes.

Current legislation does not prevent the use of corporal punishment by private foster carers. Children Act guidance on assessing the suitability of private foster carers states that social workers should explore the (private) foster carers' views on discipline, including their preparedness to accept that corporal punishment is inappropriate for children who are privately fostered. A consultation document will be issued shortly on how the law can be improved in order to better protect children.

Medicines (Children)

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment the Government have made under the licensing process of the side-effects of medicines used on children; [75473]

Ms Jowell: There is no centrally held record of suspected adverse reactions to medicines and the incidence is not therefore known. However, the Yellow Card Scheme exists for health professionals to report suspected adverse reactions to the Medicines Control Agency and Committee on Safety of Medicines on a voluntary basis. This scheme has been successful in identifying new hazards to medicines so that prescribers may be informed about the safe use of medicines. In addition, a pilot scheme has been set up in the Trent Region, with funding from the Medicines Control Agency, to monitor the safety of medicines in children. This includes suspected adverse reaction reports associated with unlicensed and off-label usage of medicines in children.

When an application is made for a licence for a medicine for use in children, the evidence submitted in

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support of the quality, safety and efficacy of the medicine is evaluated. The side-effects occurring during the paediatric clinical trials are assessed as part of this evaluation. A final decision regarding the grant of a licence for use in children is made after weighing the potential benefits of the proposed treatment against the potential risks.

Currently in the United Kingdom the decision to undertake appropriate trials to support an application for a licence for use of a medicine in the treatment of children rests with pharmaceutical companies. A recently adopted European guideline encourages the pharmaceutical industry to undertake appropriate clinical trials on products with anticipated therapeutic benefits in children. However, if the guidance does not have the effect of increasing the availability of appropriate medicinal products for children, there is scope for the UK and other Member States to raise with the European Commission the question of whether legislation similar to that in operation in the United States should be introduced to strengthen the European regulatory framework.

Nurses (Training)

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what perecentage of nurses' training takes place in hospital wards; and if he will make a statement. [75009]

Mr. Denham: Pre-registration nurse education programmes consist of a minimum of 4,600 hours theoretical and practical instruction of which no less than 50 per cent., or 2,300 hours, are spent in clinical placements dealing directly with patients. The large majority of placements will take place in hospital wards although community, primary care and other clinical settings are also used.

Residential and Nursing Care

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the cost to (a) nursing and (b) residential home owners of the implementation of the new national required standards for residential and nursing homes over the next five year period. [74565]

Mr. Hutton: We intend to publish the proposed standards for older people in residential care, produced by the Centre for Policy on Ageing, for consultation shortly. We will also consider the detailed cost implications for nursing home and residential care home owners of introducing the standards prior to taking any decision about their implementation.

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what provision will be made in National Health Service funding 1999-2000 to independent providers of residential and nursing care to meet the cost of pay increases awarded to nurses and auxiliary nurses; and if he will make a statement. [73981]

Mr. Hutton: None. Independent providers of residential and nursing care homes are free to decide on the pay rates for their staff according to their particular requirements and circumstances.

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Agenda 2000

Mr. David Heath: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the effect on the British rebate under the Fontainebleau Agreement of the implementation of the Agenda 2000 proposals for co-financing the Common Agricultural Policy in the event of (a) an increase in overall support to British agriculture and (b) an increase in agricultural support provided from UK domestic funds. [71648]

Ms Hewitt: Cofinancing of the CAP would not affect overall support to agriculture, in the UK or other member states. It would increase support provided directly by member states, but reduce the support provided by the EC.

Any increase in agricultural support from UK domestic funds would, of itself, have no effect on the UK rebate. Any such increase which resulted from cofinancing would be more than matched--even after the abatement--by a reduction in UK contributions to the EU. The Commission has estimated (in its report on Own Resources) that cofinancing of 25 per cent. of CAP direct aids would reduce the UK net contribution by £146 million in 2006.

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