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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we certainly accept that the research was useful and that the trial was encouraging. However, it must be placed in context. The sample was small: 231 prisoners. Sadly, the study could not be continued and its parameters extended to consider whether the reduced re-offending continued once the offenders had left prison and were no longer subject to the dietary reˇgime. We accept that recent articles have highlighted considerable interest among the scientific community in the influence of diet. Obviously, we understand the benefits that a good, healthy diet may have on the otherwise often chaotic lifestyles of young offenders.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Environmental Medicine Foundation. Does the Minister not find it extraordinary that although those of us in the agricultural community are very aware of dietary deficiencies in our animalscattle, pigs, sheep and goats, in my caseand are willing to replenish the diets of those animals to bring them up to peak condition, the Department of Health seems reluctant to accept that there may be dietary deficiencies in the community not because people are eating an unbalanced dietalthough it is well proven that they arebut because they cannot absorb nutrients from straightforward foods as they can from dietary supplements? Will he co-operate with the Department of Health to consider what is happening to the human
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, obviously, I cannot speak for the Department of Health, but I am aware that in the NHS Plan 2000 a wide-ranging series of proposals were aimed at improving children's diets: for instance, the national school fruit scheme and the promotion of the "five a day" programme to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, which especially targets those children with the lowest intakes. The Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency are working with the food industrymanufacturers and caterersto improve the overall balance of diet, including reducing fat and sugar. So the Government have an extensive programme and the Department of Health offers a great deal of advice on such matters and has encouraged schools to play an active part in encouraging a healthy diet from a young age.
Lord Addington: My Lords, as there is clear evidence that certain types of food allergy lead not only to adverse physical reactions but to adverse emotional reactions, are the Government considering the cases of people who have bouts of violent behaviour that are unrelated to alcohol or substance misuse? Could not those cases be related to some form of food allergy? If so, that would provide an easy way to reduce criminal activity.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, obviously, such cases are important. I am sure that the prison health service will readily provide the advice that people who suffer from such problems need and give them access to the right sort of advice, support and encouragement.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one man's meat may be another man's poison? What efforts were made to continue the studies that, he said, it had not been possible to continue? It shows a defeatist attitude to say that.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not accept the noble Baroness's second point; her first point goes without saying. There wasiscontinued dialogue, and I understand that Natural Justice is interested in doing some continued work with children in the juvenile estate. That may prove to be a profitable course of action, but it is likely that the research will need to extend beyond offender institutions. As I said, one fundamental deficiency of the study was that it did not examine whether the reduced offending rates inside the institution continued outside it. In the longer term, that might be a better test.
Lord Elton: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Home Office has considered evidence on the influence of diet on prisoners' behaviour for, at least, 20 years? Many of us are convinced that there is a direct causal link; one need only consider the effect of a sugar-free
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we all acceptI, too, have young childrenthat a child's diet fundamentally affects the way in which he or she behaves. That is why I drew attention to the important work going on in schools. We should consider not only the prison population or those in young offender institutions but all our children. We must ensure that they have the right diet, and, if that has a beneficial influence on their behaviour, it will be to the greater social good.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the fact that we were unable to carry out the work on prisoners after release has no bearing whatsoever on the significance of the research for the management of prisons? If we can reduce offending behaviour in prisons, there will be a reduction in costs and the management of prisons will be made very much easier. That is the point.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a respectable point. I am sure that the study had value of itself; we recognise and acknowledge that.
The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, sub-Saharan Africa is the worst affected region in the world, with an average HIV prevalence rate of 9 per cent, compared to a global prevalence rate of 1.2 per cent. The figures are rising. However, successes in reducing prevalence rates in Uganda and Zambia provide us with much to learn and much to hope for. The Department for International Development continues to work throughout Africa, including Uganda and Zambia, to combat HIV/AIDS. We have committed over £180 million to direct programme funding in 2000-01 and considerable additional funding to support non-governmental organisations and international institutions such as UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation in the fight against AIDS in Africa.
There is no magic bullet. Prevalence rates generally are still climbing, and the sheer scale of the epidemic means that HIV/AIDS is and will continue to be one of the biggest threats to development in Africa.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. She implied, I think, that it was only through long-term education and raising awareness that countries will defeat this terrible
There is a tremendous need for political will, above all in sub-Saharan Africa. Does the Minister agree that it is only in countries such as Uganda, where there is a degree of political control and national unity, that the campaign can succeed? Why, if the Government have such political commitment, is their contributiondrawn from existing aid budgets, not new onesstill so small?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl that political will is important. However, it is not sufficient in itself. In countries such as Uganda and Senegal, we have seen political leadership of the highest order in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In those countries, we have also seen a demonstration of the importance and effectiveness of supporting strategies to promote awareness and behaviour change through information, education and community mobilisation. Those countries have also supported the prevention of infection through condom promotion and the treatment of sexually transmitted infections. There has also been support and encouragement for voluntary counselling and testing.
It is significant that, in those countries, there has been a real effort to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and the denial that goes with it, both of which lead to a greater problem.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the importance of sexual and reproductive health in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Can she reaffirm the Government's commitment to providing sexual and reproductive health services in sub-Saharan Africa? Which non-governmental agencies do the Government use to promote better standards of sexual and reproductive health in Africa?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I confirm that the Government support sexual and reproductive health programmes in southern Africa. We contribute to programmes organised by the WHO, UNAIDS and the UN Family Planning Association, among others.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, can the Minister say whether it is true that, of the 28.5 million people in Africa affected by HIV/AIDS, 58 per cent are women? What implications does that fact have for programmes of intervention?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, my noble friend is right. Throughout Africa, women are more vulnerable to HIV than men and are affected at an earlier age. The prevalence among teenage girls in some countries of sub-Saharan Africa is five times greater than among boys. Girls are more vulnerable because they become sexually active at a younger age and are often unable to negotiate safe sex or to stop coercive sex. In some communities, girls must sell sex to make a living.
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