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15 Dec 2005 : Column 2230W—continued

Victims of Rape

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance on dealing with victims of rape has been given to police forces in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. [34802]

Paul Goggins: Guidance on investigating serious sexual offences was produced in 2005 on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) by the National Centre for policing excellence. National police training on serious sexual offences is now being developed, based around the guidance. Furthermore national service guidelines for developing sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) were produced in October 2005, jointly developed by Department of Health and the Home Office.


Parliamentary Process (Initiatives)

Mr. Harper: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make a statement on the findings of user research commissioned by the Commission to inform future initiatives on involving citizens in the political process and informing them of the work of Parliament. [36779]

Nick Harvey: In December 2004 the House of Commons Commission asked the Group on Information for the Public to commission research into users' experiences of the parliamentary website. The findings of the qualitative research identified scope for improvement in several respects, and have closely informed the proposals for a radical redesign of the site.
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In March 2005 the House of Commons Commission confirmed that it wished to fund the production and distribution of a guide on voting to be sent to all new voters on or around their eighteenth birthday. Officials commissioned qualitative research to inform the selection of material to appear in the guide. Research will be undertaken to ensure the effectiveness of the draft guide before its production and further research will be undertaken once the guide has been issued to assess its impact.

Further user research is currently under way to measure the potential interest in a new visitor centre, and to identify the expectations and requirements of those who might visit. The Parliamentary Education Unit has also recently commissioned research into users' experiences of its work.

The House partly funds some projects run by the Hansard Society. The Connecting Communities" project completed in early 2005 aimed to build stronger links between Parliament and members of the public through a series of structured visits to Parliament supported by an educational pack. The findings of this project informed the planning of a number of House services, and were reflected in the Modernisation Committee's report on Connecting Parliament with the Public. The project also led to a booklet entitled Your Parliament", a valuable addition to the House's publicly-available information sources. A second project, Enhancing Engagement", built on this programme and developed practical proposals to bring Parliament closer to the public, especially those least engaged in the political process. Further research by the Hansard Society to inform future developments has recently been commissioned.

Public Gallery

Andrew Stunell: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what measures will be taken to remedy the loss of visibility from the Public Gallery of the southern portion of the Chamber as a result of the erection of the permanent screen; and if he will make a statement. [36881]

Nick Harvey: In July 2004 the House of Commons Commission agreed that a permanent screen should be installed in front of the front row of the Public Gallery. In the course of subsequent detailed planning for erection of the screen, it became clear that it would have to be located some 40 centimetres in front of the line of the existing gallery front panel so that it would be aligned with the stone window mullion and wall panelling on the side walls as well as being aligned with the ceiling decorative ribbing. This resulted in the need to install a horizontal timber shelf to connect the new glass screen to the front panel, thus reducing the proportion of Members' seats which are visible from the Public Gallery.

Following representations from the hon. Member, a wide-angle shot of the Chamber from the southern end will be shown on one of the three monitors already provided on each side of the Public Gallery. As a result, those in the Public Gallery will for the first time have a view of that portion of the Chamber hitherto outside their line of sight.
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Serjeant at Arms' Residence

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission which company is used to clean the Serjeant at Arms' residence; and how many people are employed for this purpose. [37728]

Nick Harvey: Apart from the exterior of the windows, which are cleaned by MITIE as part of the cleaning contract for the Parliament Street block, the Serjeant at Arms makes his own arrangements for cleaning.


Anti-retroviral Drugs

Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment his Department has made of the role of charities in the distribution of anti-retroviral drugs in developing countries. [37629]

Mr. Thomas: The role of charities in anti-retroviral treatment (ART) provision reflects the strength of charities in health services more generally, including as a health provider and in improving demand. DFID has funded two reviews recently, suggesting that charities and other civil society organisations make up a large proportion of the service provision in health in many countries. They are also often the provider of choice of the poor even if they have to pay. Charities have a particular role in fragile states or states emerging from conflict. Many charities working in the field of HIV and AIDS are able to reach marginalised groups that Governments do not, such as intravenous drug users. They have also shown ability in reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with AIDS.

DFID recognises that increased delivery of health services and drugs, including anti-retroviral treatment, needs to be matched by investments in poor and vulnerable people's ability to demand services and hold service providers to account. Charities and other civil society organisations have a role in promoting an open debate about treatment and care, and in increasing the accountability of Governments. DFID also recognise that these organisations have an important role to play in advocacy and in giving communities a greater voice in ensuring the delivery of quality services. They are also critical for communicating information about services to communities, which increase people's access, ensure people understand the requirements of treatment (treatment literacy) and the importance of adhering to drug regimes.

While recognising the primary role of Government in ensuring that health services are provided to people, DFID is exploring ways to better support charities and other civil society groups. In 2000, we supported the Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN), an organisation focused on co-ordinating the network of Christian voluntary health services in the country, and giving people access to health care that was previously unobtainable. DFID supported CHAN to improve CHAN's organisational effectiveness, resulting in the
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establishment of CHAN Pharm to procure and distribute drugs including anti-retroviral treatment (ART).

In Malawi, where DFID is a major funder of the health sector, the Ministry of Health is developing contracts with mission hospitals and other charities to provide essential health services free at point of delivery. This will include the provision of HIV counselling and testing and the provision of anti-retroviral therapy. Already, the Government uses the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) facilities to provide ART free of charge.

Chronic Back Pain

Mr. Pelling: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken in his Department to help civil servants with chronic back pain. [33873]

Mr. Thomas: DFID has an ongoing assessment process in place to identify the risk of musculoskeletal disorders and provides information, instruction and training to staff on workstation ergonomics and manual handling.

DFID offers staff a range of equipment including appropriate ergonomic seating, ergonomic keyboards and adjustable work stations and we work with our occupational health team to educate employees on good workstation ergonomics. The Department also provides on-site fitness and wellbeing centres and subsidised health club membership.

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