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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 28 April 2008


EU Health Ministers

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): The informal meeting of European Union Health Ministers took place on 17 and 18 April in Brdo, Slovenia. I represented the UK. Items on the agenda were: reducing the burden of cancer; information on the conclusions of the third European conference on alcohol policies; implementation of the EU health strategy; and antimicrobial resistance.

On reducing the burden of cancer, the European Commission noted that a report on the implementation of the 2003 Council recommendation on cancer screening was nearly finalised: this would say that there was still some way to go before the recommendation was fully implemented. Potential areas for future action on cancer included: work on screening; collecting comparable health information and data on the cancer burden; and sharing best practice. A 2009 Commission action plan on cancer would cover these. I emphasised the value of high quality EU level data and combining resources on cancer research. Belgium and Denmark agreed with the UK that greater co-operation on research would add real value at EU level.

On alcohol, the presidency noted that a recent conference, “Building Capacity for Action” had taken place in Barcelona on 2 to 4 April. Sweden then emphasised that alcohol-related harm and ill health would be a key theme of their presidency (during the second half of 2009) and that they would place a special emphasis on examining commercial communications and advertising.

On the implementation mechanism for the EU health strategy, the presidency introduced their proposal for revising the mandate of the senior level working party on health. The presidency proposal received wide-ranging support from member states, including France, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Denmark and Malta. I also emphasised that the “health in all policies” approach proposed in the strategy and the focus on health inequalities meant that the Council needed to take an interest in the work of other Commission Directorate-Generals, as well as DG SANCO.

On antimicrobial resistance, the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) gave a presentation on the growing problem and burden of this health issue. The
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ECDC also highlighted the increasing problem of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, concluding that better implementation of the 2001 Council recommendation was needed. France indicated that they would carry on work on antimicrobial resistance during its presidency.


Anthony Leon Peart

The Solicitor-General (Vera Baird): On 22 November, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garstang (Maria Eagle) and I invited HM chief inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, HM chief inspector of constabulary, HM chief inspector of courts administration and HM chief inspector of prisons jointly to undertake a review into the circumstances which led to Anthony Leon Peart being at liberty on 29 July 2005, when Richard Whelan was fatally stabbed by him.

Richard Whelan was unlawfully killed on the day that Peart had been released from Forest Bank prison—a privately run prison—in Pendlebury, Greater Manchester. At the time of his release there was a warrant outstanding from Liverpool Crown court for his immediate arrest.

I have today placed a copy of the report of the review in the Library of both Houses and published it on the Attorney-General’s office website.

The Government very much regret the death of Richard Whelan and thank the chief inspectors for their work, and we are determined to learn lessons from this.

The report makes clear there was nothing in this individual’s offending history that would have suggested him to be capable of the extreme, spontaneous violence that took place on 29 July 2005 and which resulted in the death of Richard Whelan. However, the report makes clear that agencies in the criminal justice system must work together more closely to address the more general issues identified in the review, including the management of accused persons whilst on bail.

The report makes a number of detailed recommendations, most of which the Government are able to accept immediately. The CPS—Crown Prosecution Service—has revised its legal guidance to prosecutors on post-conviction bail, as recommended. The Government are reviewing bail and murder and will issue a consultation paper shortly. A cross-agency working group has been convened and will be responsible for taking forward the detailed work, and a further statement on progress will be made in due course.

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