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Baroness Strange: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in Scotland many hospital beds are occupied by elderly patients who cannot afford the fees to go into nursing homes and for whom no money is available to enable them to be looked after in their own homes in the community?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I always speak well of the Treasury. It is absolutely right that the future funding of the National Health Service is crucial to our modernisation programme. We have already signalled our determination to provide the required investment. That is why we were able to commission 37 new hospitals, which are currently on track; why we have been able to increase the number of nurses coming back into the health service; and why we have been able to increase the number of training places for doctors.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it was quite right for the Government to focus during their first two years on getting the economy and public finances right and on a stable footing. Having done that, the Government are committed to real, sustained, long-term growth in the National Health Service, in great contrast to the gross under-investment of the party opposite over 18 years.
Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Government have cheated by removing from the waiting lists tens of thousands of patients with varicose veins, sebaceous cysts and lipomas who have been denied surgery altogether? Those are often poor people who have to go into the private sector. That is an example of the Government grinding their heels into the faces of the poor and the disabled.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: No, my Lords, the basis of the statistics in relation to waiting lists has not changed since the Government came into power. With regard to varicose veins, I remind the noble Lord that he should go back to the introduction of the internal market. It was at that stage that operations such as those for varicose veins were listed by health authorities as excluded treatments.
Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that in terms of modernisation of the health service, the provision of advice and information to patients and their families as and when they want it is of the utmost importance and that, in that regard, the provision of NHS Direct and the plans for walk-in centres have been of extreme importance to patients and their families?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I could not agree more with my noble friend. I believe that NHS Direct has proved to be an enormous boon in the giving of sensible advice by experienced nurses. By the end of this year, the whole of the country will be covered by NHS Direct. It is but one feature of our general modernisation programme.
Lord Annan: My Lords, the other day the noble Lord rightly reminded the House that we cannot obtain more medical treatment for cancer operations until the oncologists are in place. We must expect an increase in the number of oncologists in particular, and in various other specialisms. They are to come from the medical schools. Will the Minister now tell us what he is doing to increase the output from the medical schools and perhaps which medical schools he has in mind to be expanded in this particular operation?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, did I hear the Minister say twice that the Government had dismantled the internal market? If that is the case, why did his noble friend Lord Winston say that the claim that the internal market had been dismantled was "deceitful"?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, because my noble friend was wrong. We have replaced the internal market. We have a system which is based on partnership, co-operation and working together, rather than the crude internal market which forces hospitals to compete with hospitals, nurses to fight with nurses, and doctors to compete with doctors.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, our travel advice says that the political situation remains unsettled; visitors to Burma can visit only officially designated areas; some ethnic insurgents remain active in Burma, particularly in border areas; and that visitors should seek medical advice before travelling. The full text of our latest travel advice for Burma can be found on the FCO website, on Ceefax or by telephoning our travel advice unit. We have drawn attention in Parliament, in correspondence and on our website to the views of Burmese democratic leaders that tourism to Burma is inappropriate at present. I have placed a copy of our travel advice in the Library of the House.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend very much for that reply. I am not sure how often the tabling of a Question in your Lordships' House makes an immediate difference to what a government department does, but it seems to have happened in this case. Is my noble friend aware that I tabled my Question because I was concerned that,
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can certainly confirm that my noble friend's Question caused us to look at the two sites where information about Burma was entered. It was clear that a link between those two sites would ease the situation and make it easier for people to find out the full picture. Therefore, that link was arranged. I thank my noble friend for bringing the matter to our attention. However, all the information was available to those who wished to find it.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I welcome what the Minister has said to the House, but is she aware that many of the hotels and the tourist infrastructure in Burma have been built by slave labour, often involving in particular the Kareni people and others from different ethnic minorities, who have been forcibly exploited and many of whom have even died during the creation of that tourist infrastructure? Is she further aware that in the past five years in the Karen state alone, some 30,000 Kareni people have died, 300,000 have been displaced, and that clearly that amounts to genocide? I welcome what she said to her noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester. However, in reviewing the tourist policy, will she also review Her Majesty's Government position so far as concerns economic sanctions in order to bring them into line with those of the United States Government? Will she agree that it would be better to follow the brave lead given by the young British national, James Mawdsley, in campaigning for democratic rights in Burma, rather than seeing Burma as a potential tourist destination?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, first, I join wholeheartedly with the noble Lord to say that we deplore the forced labour used in Burma. That has been a position upon which Her Majesty's Government have been consistent. Forced labour is one of a large number of human rights violations in Burma. The report in 1998 by the International Labour Organisation highlighted the use of forced labour in Burma and made three recommendations for the regime to implement. Your Lordships will know that we have continued to pursue the matter. I believe that the position taken by Her Majesty's Government in relation to unilateral financial sanctions is well known and there has been no change as far as concerns that policy. However, we have let no opportunity go by to make absolutely clear to the Burmese our revulsion at the oppressive nature of their regime. So far as
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