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3 Apr 2003 : Column 859Wcontinued
Ms Blears: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Health, in his speech to the Faculty of Public Health Medicine on 20 November 2002, reaffirmed the Government's commitment to put public health and addressing health inequality at the heart of the National Health Service. Prevention and delaying the onset of disease are key priorities of the NHS Plan, Cancer Plan, and the national service frameworks (NSFs).
initiation of breastfeeding
practice-based registers to ensure that patients with or at risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes receive appropriate care and treatment in line with NSF standards, including advice on diet, physical activity and smoking.
Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether, under the National School Fruit Scheme, all four-year-olds in education are entitled to a free piece of fruit each school day; and whether this entitlement applies to children in LEA maintained nursery schools, as well as nursery classes attached to primary schools. 
Entitlement at present is restricted to children in areas where region-wide pilots for the scheme have already been introduced. Eligibility for these pilots is defined as four to six-year-olds in local education authority (LEA) maintained infant, primary and special schools and other children in the same classes. This includes nursery classes attached to these schools but not stand-alone nursery schools, whether or not they are LEA maintained.
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In 1997, the latest year for which there is data, it was estimated that treating illness and disease caused by smoking costs the national health service in England up to £1.7 billion every year in terms of general practitioner visits, prescriptions, treatment and operations 1 . No comparable information is available for the remainder of the UK.
It is not possible to provide a meaningful estimate of the cost to the NHS per smoker from these data, as costs are incurred not just for current smokers but also for ex-smokers and those affected by passive smoking.
Ms Blears: The Government wants to increase the number of smoke-free environments. We have worked closely with the hospitality trade to develop a Public Places Charter designed provide customers with clear information on the type of smoking policy operating in a particularestablishment and allow them to make an informed choice.
As part of ensuring people have the information to make an informed choice we are developing education and information resources to raise awareness and understanding of the risks associated with passive smoking.
This includes increasing the visibility of health messages highlighting to smokers the risks environmental tobacco smoke presents. This is through regulations to transpose into UnitedKingdom law the European Union directive on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products. These regulations require tobacco products to carry larger and starker health warnings, on both the front and back of the packet. The dangers of passive smoking are highlighted in two of the new warnings, which include "Smoking seriously harms you and others around you" and "Protect children: don't make them breathe your smoke" The contents of tobacco smoke are also highlighted in a warning saying, "Smoke contains benzene, nitrosomines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide".
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We are also encouraging all employers to introduce smoke-free work places. This year the Department is funding local tobacco control alliances across England to carry out projects in close co-operation with local employers to tackle passive smoking and to increase the number of smoke-free environments. These projects vary in nature from the production of smoke-free guides to pubs and restaurants to the provision of advice and support to managers wishing to introduce policies. We hope that many will be suitable for national application.
Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to his answer of 20 February 2003, Official Report, column 38W, on telephone helplines, how many calls were made to each helpline charged at national rate in the last year for which records are available; and what the average duration of these calls was. 
1. Figures are the amount of time lost through absences as a percentage of staff time available.
2. The survey for 2002 has not yet been completed.
Department of Health survey of sickness absence.
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Ms Blears: The Public Health Laboratory Service will be transferring to national health service trusts 31 of its laboratories that carry out general clinical diagnostic microbiology. We are advised that these transfers will not affect their accreditation by the United Kingdom Accreditation Scheme (UKAS).
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what guidance his Department has issued to ambulance trusts on the vetting of taxi drivers used as sub-contractors to transport patients on behalf of the trust; 
(3) what duty ambulance trusts have to ensure that drivers employed as sub-contractors are persons who can be trusted with the safety of their passengers; 
(4) what guidance his Department has issued to ambulance trusts on the employment of taxi firms without an operator's licence as sub-contractors to transport patients on behalf of the trust; 
(5) what duty ambulance trusts have to ensure that vehicles used by taxi firms as sub-contractors are in a condition to transport patients safely; 
(6) what duty ambulance trusts have to ensure that firms employed as sub-contractors to transport patients on behalf of the trust hold an operator's licence; 
(7) what recent discussions his Department has had with Essex Ambulance Trust on the use of sub-contractors to transport patients on behalf of the Trust. 
All national health service bodies, including ambulance trusts, have to meet the control assurance standards contained in the following document, issued December 2001, "Management of Purchasing and Supply, Incorporating Control of Contracts and Contractors". A copy of this will be placed in the Library.
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