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The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government submitted their proposals for Objective 2 areas to the Commission in October. In December, the European Commission agreed in principle the UK's proposed areas for Objective 2 coverage. We expect the Commission to approve the map formally early in February, after the Committees on the Development and Conversion of the Regions; Structures for Fisheries and Aquaculture; and Agricultural Structures and Rural Development have been consulted.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): There are no accident and emergency facilities located in the City of London. However, there is a minor injuries unit at St Bartholomew's Hospital in West Smithfield. This unit has close links with the accident and emergency department at the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel.
Patients within the City of London requiring accident and emergency treatment can attend the Royal London Hospital, University College Hospital or St Thomas' Hospital, where full accident and emergency facilities are available within easy travelling distance.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: There is no system of national penalties imposed on National Health Service trusts with regard to waiting list performance. Performance management by regional offices covers waiting lists and other aspects of trust performance.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The epidemiological definition of an epidemic is an increase in the frequency of occurrence of a disease in a population above its baseline level for a specified period of time. The term epidemic can be used when describing the pattern of either infectious or chronic diseases in the population.
Administrative definitions can be set for different diseases in which an arbitrary threshold is selected above which the term "epidemic" is applied. In the case of influenza, the Department of Health introduced in 1996 an administrative definition of an "epidemic" for a rate of consultation (with a sample of general practices) of 400 per 100,000 population in a week.
Such influenza activity in England is thus monitored through the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) sentinel surveillance scheme. This records the number of first visits to a general practitioner with influenza-illness. Other respiratory illnesses prevalent at this time of year are recorded separately.
This system does not and cannot measure the real incidence of influenza, since it is restricted to those people who visit their general practitioner. In the present winter, the GP consultations avoided by patients consulting their pharmacists, using NHS Direct or self-medicating (as a result of special campaigns) are thought to have led to a substantial hidden element to the epidemic not revealed by the official figures. The serious nature of the illness amongst elderly people (reflected in the rates of acute bronchitis) and usage of hospitals reinforces the reality of the assessment of the severity of this winter's epidemic.
The severity of the disease itself can also vary from year to year. This year the elderly have been particularly affected by the complications of influenza. The level of cases of acute bronchitis, a serious complication of influenza, is the highest the RCGP surveillance system has seen for 15 years. In describing epidemics, some other countries formally include measures of severity in the definition of an epidemic.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: This information is not available centrally. In preparing plans for this winter, Local Winter Planning Groups were advised to liaise with local private sector partners about the contribution the private sector might make at times of pressure. The availability and use of private sector intensive care beds would be agreed locally.
Whether they have consulted the Commission for Racial Equality, the Society of Black Lawyers and ethnic minority organisations about the effects of the proposals contained in the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill upon confidence among members of ethnic minorities in the fair administration of criminal justice; if so, what are the results of the consultation; and, if not, why no such consultation has been undertaken before the decision to introduce the Bill.[HL547]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): A copy of the consultation document Determining Mode of Trial in Either-Way Cases, which sought views on these reforms, was sent to the Commission for Racial Equality. No response was received from the Commission. The Government have given careful consideration to the concerns that the changes could adversely affect black defendants. They are satisfied that this is not the case. Home Office data published on 9 December 1999 show a higher conviction rate for white defendants than black defendants in the magistrates' courts (67 per cent for white defendants and 57 per cent for black defendants). A separate study
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government are satisfied that the Bill is compatible with Convention rights. The right to a fair trial under Article 6 does not extend to providing a right to a certain sort of trial. The Bill merely provides judicial discretion to decide mode of trial. It also provides an unfettered right of appeal against the magistrates' decision on mode of trial. A briefing note on the Bill, including the racial aspects, has been placed in the Library.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Home Office has undertaken or commissioned a number of pieces of research which have included consideration of issues of ethnicity in the criminal justice system and the operation of the criminal justice system in relation to ethnic minorities.
All commissioned research is published as a matter of course. Ministers receive regular advice from officials in the form of submissions and briefing papers about the research and statistical data available in the department.
The Home Office has published the following research of relevance: Ethnic Minorities: Victimisation and Racial Harassment: Findings from the 1988 and 1992 British Crime Surveys, Home Office Research Study 154 (1996); Ethnicity and Contacts with the Police: Latest Findings from the British Crime Survey, Home Office Research Findings Number 59 (1997);
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