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9 Dec 1997 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Tuesday, 9th December 1997.

Smoking: Prevention Measures

Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will support their anti-smoking campaign with a health education programme in all schools aimed especially at younger pupils; and, if so, whether they will ensure that during such health education programmes young girls in particular are made aware of the addictive properties of tobacco and the consequent risks to babies of smoking during pregnancy.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Education will, of course, be a key component of the overall strategy to reduce smoking. Education about smoking is already a statutory requirement as part of National Curriculum science, which requires schools at successive key stages to teach pupils: about the harmful effects of tobacco; how smoking affects breathing; and about the effects of tobacco on body functions. The department has issued guidance to schools on their contribution towards ensuring that pupils are made aware of all the health risks associated with smoking, which may include information about the possible effects of smoking on pregnant women and their babies; and has published guidance to teachers on addressing smoking within the school curriculum and on appropriate education materials related to smoking. We are continuing to support drug education, including that about smoking, through the Standards Fund in 1998-99, building on the £18 million available for such work over the last three years through the Grants for Education Support and Training programme.

School of Oriental and African Studies, Library

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the events leading to the dispute which has resulted in the withdrawal of the management from, and the subsequent student occupation of, the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University; and what proposals they have to remedy this situation.

Baroness Blackstone: Representatives of the student body at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) began their occupation of the school's library from Thursday 26 November as part of their protest against reductions in access to the University of London Library (ULL). Schools of the University of London which are directly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England subscribe to those services of the University of London, including ULL, which they wish to purchase. I understand that the ULL has increased subscription rates this year and SOAS took

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the decision to reduce the number of subscriptions to ULL rather than incur the extra cost.

In compliance with Health and Safety regulations, all staff were withdrawn from the library while it was occupied. The matter was satisfactorily resolved by negotiation and the occupation ended voluntarily on 2 December. The school has accepted the principle of open access to the library, subject to academic validation, and has undertaken to purchase a substantial number of additional ULL subscriptions.

SOAS, as a constituent college of the University of London, is an independent, autonomous body responsible for the management of its own academic and financial affairs. Ministers have no legal basis on which to intervene.

Multilateral Agreement on Investment

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What specific arrangements they have made to ensure that the business community (including small businesses), chambers of commerce, regional development agencies, local authorities, trade unions and other appropriate bodies have been fully consulted to ensure that their interests are protected in the OECD negotiations on the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment; and whether they will publish an account of the outcome of such consultations.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): There is an ongoing process of UK consultation on the MAI, including with business representatives, the TUC, professional bodies, and non-governmental organisations. It would not be appropriate to publish accounts of these consultations, which have been on a private basis.

Social Workers

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To whom social workers are ultimately responsible in child protection cases.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): Local authorities have a general duty under the Children Act 1989 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need in their area as well as a specific duty to investigate where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. Social workers are employed by authorities to make enquiries and work with children and their families, together with other child protection agencies such as the Police and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, to enable them to perform these functions.

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NHS Capital Projects Prioritisation

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will announce the NHS Capital Prioritisation Advisory Group and prioritisation of major capital schemes.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: We have announced the establishment of the National Health Service

Capital Prioritisation Advisory Group (CPAG).

The Capital Prioritisation Advisory Group will assist Ministers to prioritise on a national basis all future major NHS capital projects worth over £25 million. The terms of reference and membership of the group have been placed in the Library.

In future major capital projects will take place where they are most needed. The development of major schemes will be determined on a national basis, in response to patients' needs, as it should be, not, as it has been, on the basis of market forces, regardless of the wider interests of patients or the NHS.

The Capital Prioritisation Advisory Group's first exercise will be to prioritise those projects wishing to go forward in the next wave of the Private Finance Initiative, following on from the 15 major PFI hospital projects already given the go-ahead. Guidance is being issued today to the NHS Executive regional offices on this process, and all NHS trusts and health authorities are being informed. Over the next few months NHS regional offices will examine, with their local NHS trusts and health authorities, the major proposals in their region, to determine which meet the greatest health service need. Each regional office will then be responsible for submitting two schemes to the Capital Prioritisation Advisory Group for national prioritisation and recommendation to Ministers. We plan to announce the next wave of major PFI schemes next spring.

The prioritisation process will be as open and fair as possible. Details of the criteria for assessing health service need that will be used by the regional offices and CPAG have been placed in the Library.

Projects which meet a clear need but are not suitable for PFI will be considered, alongside other proposals, in a separate prioritisation exercise next summer for the limited amount of public capital available.

The establishment of the NHS Capital Prioritisation Advisory Group and the launch of the second tranche of major capital schemes clearly demonstrates our commitment to modernising the NHS, and to creating a genuinely national health service, with new hospitals built where they are needed most and where they will deliver the greatest benefit to patients.

Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Bill: Code of Conduct

Lord Cope of Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the North Report recommended that a code of conduct for those protesting against a parade should be prepared by the Parades Commission.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): I am grateful for this opportunity to clarify the point raised by the noble Lord in debate on the Public Processions Bill.

The Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Bill, which implements the recommendations of the North Report, would treat a counter-demonstration to a public procession as an open-air public meeting. It would therefore fall to be regulated by the police using their existing powers under the Public Order Order. The North Report recommended that the police

    "give serious consideration to preparing a code of conduct in relation to such meetings similar to that prepared for parades by the Parades Commission".

At the same time, however, the report recommended that the commission have ownership of a code of conduct covering the behaviour both of participants and protesters (Chapter 13, paragraph 40). There is therefore some ambiguity about the position of protesters, particularly as many of the features of the code of conduct make it clear that the sort of protests which might be covered would constitute organised open air public meetings which would fall to be regulated by the police rather than the commission.

NI Capitation Formula Review Group

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the status is of the Northern Ireland Regional Capitation Review Group and what authority its reports carry.

Lord Dubs: The Northern Ireland Capitation Formula Review Group is an expert group of departmental and board officers commissioned by the department to review the existing allocation formula and to recommend improvements. The group's reports are submitted to the department for consideration. Although the expert nature of the group's membership gives weight to the recommendations in its reports, final decisions on accepting or rejecting the recommendations lie with the Minister for Health and Social Services.

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