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Asylum Applications from Citizens of Council of Europe States

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: We will consider such applications on their merits, as the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees requires us to do. Those which are unfounded will be refused, and those which are manifestly unfounded or fall under one of the other grounds in paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to the Asylum and Immigration Act 1993 will be certified, with the consequence that any appeal against the refusal is accelerated.

Airguns Used in Commission of Offences: Forfeiture

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Under Section 43 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973, courts are empowered to make an order of forfeiture of property (including, if relevant, an airgun). This power is available where the court is satisfied of a limited set of circumstances:

    where the possession of the property was itself the offence.

Exercise of this power is entirely at the discretion of the court in the light of the circumstances of the offence and the offender.

Prison Chaplaincy: Mission Statement

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the Prison Chaplaincy's official policy or mission statement.[HL1591]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The policy of the Prison Chaplaincy is to support the Prison Service's objectives of protecting the public by holding those

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committed by the courts in a safe, decent and healthy environment and to reduce crime by providing constructive regimes which address offending behaviour, improve educational and work skills and promote law abiding behaviour in custody and after release.

Its Mission Statement is that the Prison Chaplaincy serves the Kingdom of God and society through the pastoral care of all who live and work in prison, by proclaiming the Gospel, celebrating the sacrament and furthering moral and spiritual values. This pastoral role includes facilitating the observance of religious practice by prisoners of other faiths.

Prison Chaplain General

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have decided not to appoint a successor when the present Prison Chaplain General retires; and what role the Bishop to Prisons will then play.[HL1592]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: No. The appointment of a successor to the current Chaplain General is being considered.

Armed Forces Pensions Scheme: Widows' and Widowers' Pensions

Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many post-1973 Ministry of Defence non-attributable widows are currently in receipt of Forces Family Pensions; and [HL1470]

    How many new post-1973 Ministry of Defence non-attributable widows there have been in each of the last 10 years.[HL1471]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): About 76,000 widows and widowers are currently being paid pensions from the Armed Forces Pensions Scheme. Our records do not break this figure down by year of retirement or between widows/widowers whose husbands retired before and after 1973. To attempt to do so would require a manual search of all 76,000 pensions files, and that would incur disproportionate cost. Some 2,500 attributable widows' and widowers' pensions are being paid from the AFPS, all of them to the widows and widowers of individuals who retired or died in service after 1973.

Hospices and Palliative Care

Lord Hayhoe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the debate on hospices on 1 March (H.L. Deb., cols. 605-628) when the present decline in their financial support for independent hospices is expected to be arrested and reversed; and[HL1566]

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    What specific attention they give to issues concerning the financial support of independent hospices in their regular review meetings with regional health authorities; and[HL1567]

    How many health improvement programmes incorporating appropriate strategies for hospices and palliative care have been agreed; and how many are outstanding; and[HL1568]

    What action is in hand to increase the number of health authorities with agreed palliative care strategies in place; and[HL1569]

    When the current work referred to by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 1 March (H.L. Deb., Cols. 624-628) to establish performance standards and education concerning palliative care is expected to be completed; and what action is then proposed to ensure their adoption and implementation.[HL1570]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): At present, the National Health Service contribution to hospices is about 31 per cent or a third of their running costs. Specifying centrally what the proportion of NHS funding should be is not sensible, given the extent of local diversity both of services provided and alternative sources of local support. Therefore issues concerning the financial support for hospices are for local discussion and agreement.

The Health Improvement Programme (HimP) is and will continue to be the funding mechanism for palliative care services. Further HimPs will be set in the context of the priorities set in the National Priorities Guidance and Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, and will support the implementaion of National Service Frameworks at local level. These frameworks, together with the recommendations contained within Calman/Hine for cancer services, set out the way in which palliative care is addressed in each area as part of the Health Improvement Programme process. Voluntary healthcare providers are viewed as important players in the planning and provision of services and should be involved in this. From this should flow more detailed plans for commissioning services, which will include arrangements for palliative care and the funding to be made available, giving hospices some long-term financial stability.

Health Improvement Programmes for the period April 2000 to March 2003 are due to be agreed and published by local health communities by the end of March 2000. It is too early to tell how many of these will address the need for hospice and palliative care. It is vital that all stakeholders are offered the opportunity to engage in the HimP process and influence strategy. Regional offices of the NHS Executive will monitor this process to ensure that all are actively contributing.

Health Service Circular 1998/99 stated that commissioners, including primary health care groups, need to work together with providers to develop a palliative care strategy which is right for their population based on health needs assessment. From the recent national survey of palliative care provision we know that at present about 50 per cent of health

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authorities have developed strategies for palliative care. We believe that a more comprehensive strategy is needed. This is currently being worked on within the wider cancer strategy and encompasses the Supportive Care Strategy, being developed by Professor Mike Richards, which has palliative care as one of the key components. Together these will lay the foundation for a tightly managed implementation programme.

An essential part of the Supportive Care Strategy is to develop standards and performance indicators for palliative care. This work is being taken forward as part of a quality improvement framework for cancer services and is being developed with the National Council for Hospices and Specialist Palliative Care Services. The standards and performance indicators will be piloted within a number of health authorities/regions over the coming months and will be rolled out nationally in April 2001. We are currently looking at what data items need to be collected to measure access and to develop a project plan for quality measurement of palliative care services. The Commission for Health Improvement will be the champion of high quality standards through a rolling programme of visits to NHS trusts and will also act as a "trouble-shooter" where necessary.

Domiciliary Oxygen Therapy Services

Baroness Serota asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will review the Domiciliary Oxygen Service in England in the light of the Royal College of Physicians' guidance Domiciliary oxygen therapy services.[HL1714]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Following the publication of the Royal College of Physicians' guidance Domiciliary oxygen therapy services, we will be reviewing a number of aspects of the Domiciliary Oxygen Service under the following terms of reference:

To review the scope and organisation of the Domiciliary Oxygen Service in England in the light of the 1999 guidance of the Royal College of Physicians, including:

    Whether, and if so to what extent, patient access to the service should continue to be via general practitioner prescribing or otherwise,

    the availability of alternative forms of oxygen delivery (cylinder, concentrator, and liquid) and associated equipment, and the circumstances in which one form might be preferable to another,

    whether the current supply arrangements, including the arrangements for setting prices should be maintained or altered,

    the cost effectiveness and affordability of any changes,

    other relevant matters.

We have placed in the Library a copy of a letter to interested companies and organisations inviting them to let us have their views as a first step in the review.

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