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Prison Inmates: Dental Treatment

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Prison Health has recently begun to collect data on waiting times for urgent and routine dental treatment in Prison Service establishments in England and Wales. However, it does not yet have sufficient information to show whether the improvements in prison dentistry now being introduced have yet led to any reduction in average waiting times across the prison estate.

Youth Offending Teams

Baroness Whitaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they intend to make for the inspection of youth offending teams.[HL816]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: To provide regular external scrutiny of youth offending teams (YOTs) a new joint inspection programme has been developed by Her Majesty's Inspectorates of Probation, Constabulary and Prisons, the Social Services Inspectorate (England and Wales) and the education inspectorates, (OFSTED for England and ESTYN for Wales) in consultation with the Home Office and the Youth Justice Board.

The programme is expected to start in April 2003. Its purpose will be to:

    "report to the Secretary of State and through him, Parliament and the public, on the effectiveness of YOTs in fulfilling their statutory duties to prevent offending by children and young people and thereby protect the public, whilst safeguarding their rights and promoting their welfare".

It will assess the impact YOTs and partner organisations have on offending, help to improve their performance and inform the further development of the YJB's effective practice and quality assurance strategy.

Led by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation, the inspection team will include representatives from the full range of inspectorates concerned with YOTs work. They will aim to inspect all YOTs in England and Wales over a five to six-year cycle.

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002: Appointed Person under Section 29

Baroness Gale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to appoint the appointed person under Section 290 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.[HL817]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton : My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has appointed Mr Andrew Clarke as the Appointed Person under Section 290 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. He will act as an

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independent person to oversee searches conducted under new cash seizure powers where no prior judicial authority is obtained. He will also prepare and submit an annual report on the operation of the search power to the Secretary of State, a copy of which will be laid before Parliament. Mr Clarke's appointment will commence on 30 December 2002 to coincide with the introduction of the cash seizure powers under the Act.

Independent Schools: Charitable Status

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of paragraph 4.26 of the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit report Private Action, Public Benefit: A Review of Charities and the Wider Not-For-Profit Sector (September 2002) which states that "to maintain their charitable status, independent schools which charge high fees have to make significant provision for those who cannot pay full fees", what is meant by (i) "high fees"; and (ii)"significant provision".[HL468]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): The Strategy Unit report, Private Action, Public Benefit, was published on 25 September 2002 as a consultation document. Its 61 recommendations set out a package of measures which aim to modernise the law and enable a wide range of organisations to be more effective and innovative.

Paragraph 4.26 describes what happens now when those charities that charge fees which serve to exclude large sections of the population have to make provision for wider access for those who would be excluded because of the fees.

At present there is no systematic programme in place to check the public character of charities. The report recommends that an on-going review programme run by the Charity Commission should check the public character of such organisations. It proposes that the commission would identify charities likely to charge high fees and undertake a rolling programme to check that provision was made for wider access. This programme, it suggests, would be designed to minimise red tape and would not focus on any particular sector. Short returns would be issued which ask charities what they do in terms of widening access, such as making provision for sharing facilities. It is envisaged that for the majority of cases no further inquiry would be necessary beyond the initial return.

The report proposes that the Charity Commission, in consultation with charities likely to be affected and their umbrella bodies, would issue guidelines as to the level of access appropriate in particular circumstances.

Of course at the moment these are only proposals. The report is out for consultation until 31 December 2002, and we shall consider the responses to this, and all the other matters addressed in the report, very carefully.

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Racial Incidents

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many racist incidents were reported to third party reporting centres before being reported to the police within the past 12 months. [HL604]

Lord Filkin: No information is collected centrally on racial incidents being reported to third party reporting centres.

Prison Service: CRE Report

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the timetable for the publication of the Commission for Racial Equality's formal investigation of the Prison Service. [HL638]

Lord Filkin: The draft report on the formal investigation into HM Prison Service was served on the respondent under the provisons of Section 58 of the Race Relations Act 1976 on Monday 9 December. The Commission for Racial Equality will publish the final report early in the New Year.

Biodiesel Processing Plants

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much public money has been spent in 2002 to date by way of grants to establish biodiesel processing plants; and how many grants were made. [HL524]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): No such grants were issued in 2002 by government departments in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland's Department of Environment, Environmental Heritage Service set aside £1 million and, in conjunction with InvestNI, launched a Waste Industry Fund. This has been set up to help establish waste infrastructure in Northern Ireland. Two projects in the biodiesel sector have been awarded funding in principle: £120,000 in principle to Capital Oils Ltd for the manufacture of biodiesel using waste from cooking oils and fats; £11,000 in principle to Grease Trap Services for the manufacture of biodiesel from waste food/fat, oil and grease collected from catering drainage systems.

Funding may be available from regional or local funding bodies, such as the regional development agencies in England, depending on the priorities they identify for the use of their resources. Central records are not kept of the grants issued.

Waste Incinerators

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have to make it possible for people adversely affected by centralised waste recycling facilities to be offered compensating benefits, such as cheaper electricity from a power-generating incinerator. [HL592]

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Lord Whitty: Waste Strategy 2000 states that developers of proposed waste incinerators should consider the potential for incorporating combined heat and power technology, which would provide heating to the local community.

Any electricity produced by such plants feeds into the National Grid and since the opening up of the electricity supply market householders in a specific community could potentially be receiving their electricity from any number of suppliers. It is not government policy to determine what those suppliers should be charging their customers.

Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will report progress on the Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy.[HL717]

Lord Whitty: I am pleased to report to the House that the Government launched a Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food on Thursday 12th December. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs met farmers and leaders of the food industry, rural, environmental and consumer bodies to discuss the new strategy and hear examples of good practice from across the food chain after the launch.

The strategy is further evidence of this Government's commitment to help to deliver innovative and practical solutions to the challenges faced by those involved in the food chain. We do not underestimate the scale of these challenges: farm incomes remain under pressure and the foot and mouth disease outbreak also added to the momentum for change.

This strategy builds on the invaluable work conducted by the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food to chart a way through these challenges. It sets out how industry, government and consumers can work together to secure a profitable and internationally competitive future for our industries, whilst contributing to a better environment, improving nutrition and public health and prosperous communities.

The strategy is backed by £500 million from government over the next three years. Subject to clearance under the usual EU procedures, this will provide:

    a new entry-level agri-environment scheme: developing a simple scheme, suitable for all farmers which will pay them to farm in a more sustainable way, a core Curry Commission recommendation. Subject to successful piloting, this would be rolled out nationally in 2005;

    continued expansion of premium rural and environmental schemes like Countryside Stewardship: further work to improve the targeting of these schemes and make them simpler to applicants;

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    a new "whole farm" approach to management and regulation: helping farmers to plan their business as a whole to meet commercial and regulatory needs. The Government also plan to develop an audit-based approach to identify a farm's strengths and weaknesses as a basis for cutting red tape and the number of inspections required;

    the new agricultural development scheme: to improve competitiveness and marketing, including the priority areas of co-operation, farm assurance and spreading best practice;

    new funding to assist small regional food producers: extra money chanelled through Food from Britain will enable it to work with regional development agencies and the regional food groups to expand this sector;

    more money for skills and training: knowing how to make a profit is fundamental, but respecting the environment and marketing require different skills and knowledge. We are reviewing training and advice services to help farmers develop and to exploit new opportunities;

    a Food and Health Action Plan: led by the Department of Health, to build on existing work to improve diet and nutrition, working with industry and consumers. The plan will address food production and access as well as consumer information.

A network of demonstration farms: in early 2003 a pilot network of farms will open their doors to share best practice and experiences.

Improving animal health and combating diseases: government is drawing up a new animal health and welfare strategy, has strengthened our emergency preparations and efforts to combat illegal meat imports.

In addition, the Government will ask the Institute of Grocery Distribution, in conjunction with the Food Chain Centre, to undertake analysis of the impact of nutrition initiatives such as the National School Fruit Scheme and the five-a-day programme, on the food chain. This will highlight the commercial opportunities for English farmers and growers and other sectors of the food industry.

The strategy, which builds on the work of the Curry commission, also underlines the need for farming to reconnect with its markets, better co-operation with the food chain, investment in people and technology and the adoption of environmental best practice. There are many examples of good practice to build upon:

    more than 25,000 farm holdings in existing government environmental schemes;

    more than 400 farmers' markets offering producers the opportunity to sell direct to their markets;

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    over 78,000 farmers and growers are already members of farm assurance schemes with their produce branded under logos such as the "red tractor" and a number of industry initiatives being taken forward as part of the strategy:

The Food Chain Centre is working to improve the efficiency of the food chain through the provision of information, analysis and training and promotion of benchmarking and best practice.

The Red Meat Industry Forum is working to improve efficiency and information flow in the red meat supply chain.

English Farming and Food Partnerships, established by the industry with Defra support, will promote co-operation between farmers and between farmers and the rest of the food chain.

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Assured Food Standards is working to broaden support for farm assurance within the food chain and to consolidate and develop assurance standards.

The Government have already announced that an independent implementation group, led by Sir Don Curry, will oversee the delivery of the strategy by both government and industry.

Across England, regional delivery plans will be drawn up between government offices, regional development agencies, local farmers, rural affairs forums, regional chambers and a range of stakeholders, assisted by Sir Don Curry's implementation group.

The strategy was laid before Parliament on 12 December and copies of this and the strategy-related documents are available in the Vote Office and the Libraries of the House.

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