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Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that many of us take the view that these attacks on the scientific community by so-called "animal rights activists" are wholly outrageous and that every possible step must be taken to deal with them? Is he aware, following the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that it would be helpful if the Government could get some information from the Crown Prosecution Service and ACPO on the figures for arrests outside the county of Cambridgeshire?
We, of course, design our processes and procedures so that we collect information effectively through the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, which works with the Metropolitan Police and very closely with the ACPO steering group to collate information about arrests of the kind that the noble Lord mentioned. It is important that we collect such information. People need to know that the police are taking a firm grip of the situation; they certainly have done so in places such as Cambridgeshire. As I said earlier, the police deserve our sympathy and support. They have a difficult job to do sometimes in trying circumstances.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is not just those who are carrying out research on animals who are threatened? I have just come from the National Farmers Union conference. Many farmers are worried about the intimidation that they and their families are subjected to. What are the Government doing about that? The difficulty is that most of these farmers live in rural areas and the Government have failed to provide enough policemen in those areas.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we greatly sympathise with the position of farmers. We want to ensure that they are well protected. Where there are problems, I am sure that farmers make detailed notes of the situation and ensure that their local constabularies are well informed. It is worth reflecting that this Government have done more to ensure that rural police forces are supported than any previous government.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there is an important distinction between donation of organs for immediate use in life-saving transplants when family agreement is always sought and keeping organs for retention following post mortem. We are shortly holding a summit to reinforce this distinction and to consider how to boost organ donation rates for transplantation.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I agree that we need to draw the clearest distinction between organ retention and organ transplantation. I am sure my noble friend will agree that it would be a tragedy if the natural anger and concern felt over the events at Alder Hey were to lead to a fall in the number of organs for transplantation given that 6,000 patients are awaiting transplants.
Will the summit meeting consider all the aspects concerning donors, in particular whether there are new ways in which people can make clear a wish to leave their organs for transplantation? Can the noble Lord
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, yes, we want to encourage as many people as possible to put forward their names for membership of the organ donor register and, as importantly, to inform their relatives that they would be prepared to be a donor should the circumstances arise.
We shall consider a number of initiatives. In the past year there have been some good initiatives. I refer to Boots charge cards and the Goldfish credit card. The Sun is again launching a campaign which has resulted in many more thousands of people signing on to the register. At present, we have 8.3 million people on the register. That figure is impressive but it would be marvellous if we could encourage millions more.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I believe that the steps taken by the Government over the past three years go a long way towards ensuring the effective monitoring of the clinical performance of doctors. Specifically, clinical governance lays down a corporate responsibility on the boards of NHS trusts. In addition, we have to tackle the issue of poorly performing doctors. The assessment centres to be established will be able to tackle poor performance as soon as problems are identified, dealing with poor performance in a more effective and sensitive way.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, as someone who has donated the organ of a loved one for transplantation, I welcome the summit and wish it well. However, will the Minister further inform the House of the proper procedures for returning to bereaved parents the babies' organs which have been kept at Alder Hey for research? If what one heard from one of the parents on the "Kilroy" programme last Friday is true, at present the procedure lacks sensitivity for the feelings of the bereaved parents.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, in addition to the trauma suffered because of the activities of Professor Van Velzen, one of the conclusions of the Redfern report was that over the past year, the return of organs should have been handled more sensitively. Some parents have had the trauma of being misinformed. Some parents have endured the trauma of having to attend three to four funerals of their child.
In publishing the Redfern report, one of the Government's most important conclusions was the establishment of the retained organs commission. It will have an important role: advising NHS trusts on how to handle organ returns sensitively, effectively and efficiently in the future. There may now be some delay regarding return of organs because it is important that NHS trusts first receive that advice.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the House has been informed previously that even with the existence of a donor card, when one dies, one's body--even that of an adult--is not one's own at the time of death. The consent of relatives still has to be sought. Is that still the position or has there been any change?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am happy to confirm that the consent of relatives must be sought. I believe that that is done, particularly through transplant co-ordinators, in the most sensitive way possible. That is why, when people sign on to the organ donor register, they are encouraged at the same time to tell their relatives of their action so that relatives know of their intention.
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