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Health

NHS Dental Services

The Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham): Today the Department of Health is publishing Professor Jimmy Steele’s report on the future of NHS dental services. The report sets out a clear vision for the future of NHS dental services which are accessible to all, provided to a high quality and focused on prevention and improving oral health.

Professor Steele was asked by my predecessor to conduct an independent and comprehensive review of NHS dental services in December 2008, and to provide advice on some of the specific issues raised in the Health Select Committee’s report on NHS dental services published last July.

Professor Steele acknowledges the current problems that some people have in accessing NHS dental services and agrees that the NHS should continue to address specific capacity shortages through the current dental access programme.


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Further, Professor Steele notes specific concerns that patients have about NHS dentistry, and makes recommendations on improving the provision of information to patients to help them find an NHS dentist, as well as improving support for NHS dentists to provide high quality care for more patients, as dentists themselves wish to do.

The report highlights many of the complexities in NHS dentistry and therefore recommends that all proposed changes to dentists’ contracts should be piloted thoroughly, and that the recommended changes to the pathway of the dental patient through care should be evaluated carefully. It also recommends much more effective collection and use of information to help monitor and develop the quality and effectiveness of the care patients receive. The Government accept the recommendations in principle, subject to working through the detail of their financial implications. The report recognises the more difficult future fiscal environment, and rightly puts an emphasis on piloting, cost containment and more efficient ways of working. With that in mind, we will begin work immediately to set up the pilots and develop plans for further implementation, working closely with the profession as we do so.

I wish to put on record my thanks to Professor Steele and his team for an excellent report that will provide a way forward to improve NHS dentistry over the next decade.

This report has been placed in the Library of the House and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Olympics

Olympic Delivery Authority

The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has entered into agreements for Triathlon Homes LLP (Triathlon) to purchase 1,379 affordable homes on the Olympic village development. I have given a guarantee, as Minister for the Olympics, in support of those agreements.

Triathlon is a consortium of First Base and the registered social landlords Southern and East Thames. The principal agreements are between Triathlon, its debt funders and Stratford Village Development (GP) Limited (Stratford Village Development), a wholly owned subsidiary of the ODA which is developing the village on the ODA’s behalf.

As Stratford Village Development is a newly established company, with minimal financial strength, the ODA has guaranteed its obligations under the terms of those agreements and has also undertaken to Triathlon, and its debt funders, to perform certain obligations which fall directly on the ODA.

The ODA itself has no significant sources of funding independent of Government and is expected to have a limited life span that many of Stratford Village Development’s obligations are expected to exceed. In such circumstances, and given that the obligations go beyond the lifetime of the 2012 games, I have agreed to a ministerial guarantee of the ODA in support of its guarantees of Stratford Village Development and the
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ODA’s direct obligations. Such a guarantee is provided for under the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006.

The guarantee essentially covers the ODA contracting to build and convert the units from athletes’ use at games time to affordable housing specification and the ODA delivering its scope for the wider Olympic park infrastructure.

All Stratford Village Development’s and the ODA’s obligations to Triathlon and its funders are within the ODA’s existing scope and budget—therefore no additional funding is required. As with the rest of the ODA’s programme, there would be access to programme and funders’ contingency, if it became necessary, from within the existing public sector funding package.

The obligations do not constitute additional contingent liabilities because the obligations covered by the guarantees can be funded within the overall public sector funding package for which a contingent liability was announced to Parliament in March 2007.

At the point at which the ODA is wound up, any remaining rights and obligations under its guarantees and direct undertakings will be managed and considered as part of the Government’s decision at the time on the allocation of the ODA’s remaining assets and liabilities.

Transport

Impounding Regime

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark): The Local Transport Act 2008 includes powers for the Secretary of State to make provision, in secondary legislation, to establish a new regime for the impounding of illegally-operated public service vehicles (PSVs). A similar existing regime in the goods vehicle sector has contributed to a significant reduction in illegal operations.

The Government have consulted on proposals to establish a new impounding regime for PSVs, and to make some minor amendments to the existing goods vehicle regime. A response to the consultation is being published today, confirming the Government’s intention to proceed with the proposals. Copies are available in the Libraries of the House, and on the Department for Transport’s website.

Work and Pensions

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw): Following our ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 8 June, I am pleased to announce that the explanatory memorandum and Command Paper for ratification of the optional protocol to the convention will be laid before Parliament later today.

Ratification of the optional protocol is an important step and underlines the messages in the convention about respect for the human rights of disabled people.


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As my statements of 3 and 27 February indicated, the optional protocol builds on the convention by establishing two additional procedures in respect of implementation and monitoring of the convention itself.

The first is a procedural avenue that, subject to meeting conditions set out in the optional protocol, will enable individuals or groups of individuals to bring petitions
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to the UN Committee that has been established to monitor implementation of the disability convention if they believe that their rights under that convention have been breached. The second is an inquiry procedure giving the Committee authority to undertake inquiries when reliable information is received into allegations of grave or systematic violations of convention rights.


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