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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 3 February 2005


Courts Boards

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie): Section 5(5) of the Courts Act 2003 requires the Lord Chancellor to prepare and issue the courts boards with guidance about their functions. In accordance with this provision the courts boards guidance has been prepared and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor has today placed copies in the Libraries of both Houses.


National Service Framework for Renal Services

The Secretary of State for Health (Dr. John Reid): I am publishing today "The National Service Framework for Renal Services, Part Two: Chronic Kidney Disease, Acute Renal Failure and End of Life Care".

The national service framework (NSF) programme is a major part of our agenda to tackle health inequalities and to drive up the quality of care across the national health service. Part two of this NSF sets out a programme for the prevention and early treatment of chronic kidney disease, the management of acute renal failure and the extension of palliative care to people with established renal failure who are near the end of their lives. Together with part one, which was published in January 2004, it completes a 10-year framework for the improvement of services for people with kidney problems.

This is an important part of our modernisation programme to improve renal services over the next 10 years. Part two sets out four quality requirements to provide a more responsive service for people with kidney problems, delivered when and where they are needed. It identifies 23 markers of good practice drawn from national and international evidence and National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance. It builds on the programme of modernisation set out in the NHS Improvement Plan and is in keeping with our public health White Paper's aspirations to promote healthier lifestyles and reflects the policies of "Shifting the Balance of Power, Building on the Best and National Standards Local Action". Furthermore, it supports previously published national service frameworks for diabetes, for coronary heart disease, for older people and for children.

NHS organisations need to aim to deliver these quality requirements over the next 10 years, at a pace they determine. The four quality requirements in part two of the NSF support self-care, better diagnostics and treatment, as well as choice, and are closely correlated
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with the public service agreement (PSA) targets for long term conditions, specifically care planning and reducing emergency admissions and for reducing cardiovascular deaths.

The NSF identifies six steps that local health communities can take to support the delivery of local service improvements:

In addition, five modernisation programmes are being established to support the implementation and delivery of the NSF. Two action-learning sets will tackle issues linked to patient information and the prevention of chronic kidney disease and two others will address problems associated with the extension of palliative care to people with established renal failure who are near the end of their lives. A fifth programme aims to support primary care staff in measuring kidney function.

Copies of "The National Service Framework for Renal Services, Part Two: Chronic Kidney Disease, Acute Renal Failure and End of Life Care" have been placed in the Library.


Road Traffic Offences Review

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): I am today publishing a consultation paper setting out the Government's proposals for reform of the framework of offences dealing with bad driving, particularly where death or injury occurs.

Following a comprehensive review, announced by my predecessor, across the whole range of offences the paper puts forward for public consultation a set of proposals, some of them radical. Our aim is to put in place a sensible and effective framework to deal with this area of offending, which causes so much misery to individual victims and their families and which damages our communities at large.

We have made great advances in recent years in reducing deaths and injuries but if we are to continue to improve the safety of our roads we need to ensure that the criminal law plays an effective role. To neglect our duties to other road users by driving dangerously or carelessly so as to cause suffering to others is a serious crime and rightly perceived by the public as such. Too many people are seriously injured as a result and the consequences are all too often fatal. We have already increased the maximum penalty for the causing death offences to 14 years. We now propose a new offence of
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causing death by careless driving carrying a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. We also propose an obligation on the courts to take injuries into account when sentencing for bad driving. In order to provide the courts with sufficient powers we also intend to implement the previously recommended increase in the maximum penalty for dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking from two to five years imprisonment.

Too many of those who have been disqualified from driving by a court or who drive without an appropriate licence put other road users at risk by taking a vehicle out on the road in clear breach of both the law and their responsibilities to other road users. It is right that a person who takes to the roads unlawfully in this manner should be held accountable for any untoward consequences that may result irrespective of the standard of the driving involved. Accordingly, we are proposing a new offence dealing with the fatal consequences of illegal driving of this kind with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

The full proposals are set out in the consultation paper. We believe these should provide a solid and practicable basis for the courts more effectively to address offending of this kind and thereby help make our roads safer for all.

Copies of the consultation paper have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.


Beagle 2

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Patricia Hewitt): An inquiry was launched on 11 February 2004 by my noble Friend the Minister for Science and Technology and Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), to investigate the circumstances and possible reasons that prevented completion of the Beagle 2 mission.

The report was always seen by BNSC and ESA as an internal inquiry. Its purpose was to learn lessons for the future. There were also concerns about the confidentiality of commercial information. The organisations involved were given a strong indication that the information they supplied was only for the use of the inquiry.

For these reasons the report was not published. ESA and the UK did however think it right that the recommendations of the report should be published as
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these covered the most important issues. The Science and Technology Select Committee was also confidentially given a copy of the full report.

Subsequently, in view of the Committee's strongly held view that the report should be published in full, we have discussed the issue again with ESA and have persuaded them that the report should be published. We have also had further discussions with the other organisations involved about now publishing the report and they are aware that the report is being published today. The contents of the report have not been agreed with the parties.

The report of the inquiry is today being placed on the BNSC website at http://www.bnsc.gov.uk/assets/channels/resources/press/report.pdf

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