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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I want to ask the Minister about the other end of the spectrum—children's teeth and oral health. Can he tell me whether there has been any progress? Even in the days when school inspections were routine, not all children had an inspection for dental health. Can he tell us what proportion of children have an assessment of dental health?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not have the figures with me. I shall certainly find them and let the noble Baroness know. Dental health is very important for young people. As the noble Baroness will know, in the dental strategy that we published a year ago, some emphasis was given to the role of the community dental service in relation to young people. We are sponsoring preventive programmes. We encourage local primary care trusts to take an active

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role in engaging with young people. We are very keen to involve the dentistry profession in those programmes.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords—

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords—

Baroness Gale: My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, perhaps we could hear from the Cross Benches first and then from the Labour Benches.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, bearing in mind that 98 per cent of looked-after children in residential care have mental health problems, 66 per cent of looked-after children in foster care have mental health problems, according to the children's mental health charity Young Minds, and 90 per cent of young offenders have mental health problems, according to the Office for National Statistics, can the Minister confirm that there is a serious shortfall in the number of child and adolescent psychiatrist consultants? Can he say what is being done to address that, particularly with regard to the training of medical students?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, for many years the health service has had a problem with recruitment of psychiatrists and consultants across the whole mental health field. Partly as a result of the national service framework in relation to mental health and the work of the department as regards medical workforce planning for the future, we are tackling the issues, one of which is to attract young medical students into this particularly important field. I am not sure whether we agree entirely with all the figures quoted by the noble Lord, but there is no doubt that if we take looked-after children as an example, many suffer from mental health problems. While it is absolutely right that the NHS needs to improve those services and is beginning to do so, we also need to improve our efforts generally for looked-after children. I think that the fairly recent Act dealing with looked-after children is one of the foundations for improving the support given to such children.

Baroness Gale: My Lords, can my noble friend say what further measures the Government will take to prevent children under the age of 16 starting to smoke? Further, can he say whether there are any plans to strengthen the law to ensure that sales of cigarettes to children under the age of 16 are more successfully prevented?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this is a worrying problem. The latest figure for regular smokers between the ages of 11 to 15 is 10 per cent. That shows an improvement on the figures in 1996 of 13 per cent and in 1998 of 11 per cent. We are of course taking measures to tackle young people smoking. The passing of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill through both Houses will be very helpful in

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banning advertising. We are taking tough enforcement measures on under-age sales. On 13th September 2000 we launched an enforcement protocol with local authorities. We also support proof-of-age card schemes which protect shopkeepers and children alike.

Earl Howe: My Lords, did the Minister see the rather shocking statement made by David Wood, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Charing Cross Hospital? He said that, by the age of 20, atherosclerosis may be present in as many as one in three young people. Sir Alexander Macara, chairman of the National Heart Foundation, said that,

    "public health initiatives aimed at the young lack the priority and resources given to adult interventions".

What are the Minister and the Government doing about public health initiatives aimed at young people so as to achieve a less piecemeal approach to the various problems that beset the young?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, a preventive programme for children, bearing in mind all the areas that it would have to cover, would be extremely wide. However, we have major cross-government programmes of work to ensure that, for instance, children have access to a healthy diet and, crucial to the noble Earl's point, opportunities to be physically active. That includes, for instance, the national school fruit scheme which encourages primary school children to eat one piece of fruit per day. We also have a Food in Schools programme.

We need to give more emphasis to encouraging young people to take exercise. We know that 10 per cent of children are obese at six years of age, rising to 17 per cent at 16. We must tackle that problem. Hence the importance of the funding for schools to encourage sport and physical activity. Local NHS trusts should engage in partnerships with schools to encourage children towards a more healthy and, if I may say so, a more enjoyable lifestyle.

Asylum Accommodation Centres

3.52 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith, and at his request, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

    To ask Her Majesty's Government what criteria they use to determine the locations of their proposed accommodation centres for asylum seekers.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): My Lords, the criteria are based on a number of factors. They include the availability of land, site capacity to cater for several hundred residents in either new build or converted accommodation and our policy to relieve the pressure on London and Kent.

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Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. However, does he agree that if the normal planning procedures were followed in respect of those centres it is unlikely that planning permission would be granted? Can he tell us, therefore, what process of consultation is being undertaken with the relevant local authorities and, most importantly, with local people?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, as the House will know, the Crown, as the proposer of the applications for the centres, is not able to submit under the normal planning process. Instead it applies under the relevant circular, which follows a procedure similar to the normal planning process. Planning applications are lodged with the local authority, which has eight weeks in which to make its determination. In all cases we are holding discussions with the relevant local authorities to try to ensure that we have full, proper consultation with local residents and other local interests in respect of the applications.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, does the Minister think that such large numbers of people in such isolated communities is compatible with the Government's aim of integration and inclusion? Does he also accept that at least 30 per cent of people who appeal against the initial decisions are granted leave to remain in the United Kingdom? Is it not better, therefore, for people to be part of the mainstream education, healthcare and service provision—as happens in other European countries—rather than isolating them in remote areas?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, the Government believe that those who are accepted for asylum in this country should be offered full friendship and support from the nation to integrate into the community as early as possible. However, that is very different from saying that the 70,000 or 80,000 people who currently apply each year for asylum should be integrated into the community until such time as their cases have been heard. That is where accommodation centres come in. They provide good support and educational facilities to asylum claimants while their applications are processed. It is our intent that claims will be heard within two months or so of the applicant residing at the centre.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that isolated centres make it difficult for refugee organisations—for example, the Refugee Legal Centre and the Immigration Advisory Service—to provide advice and support to newly-arrived asylum seekers? If the centres are to be isolated, can the Government do something to facilitate access for those groups, on whom many newly-arrived asylum seekers depend?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, the centres will not be too isolated. They will be positioned in rural areas. That is not the same as saying that they will be in the remote extremes of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, I take my noble friend's point. The Government believe it is important that proper advice, including legal advice, is

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available to people in accommodation centres so that they understand the process and the timetables. We shall certainly look at the point to ensure that access is available for all relevant services.

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