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Lord Chan: My Lords, does the Minister agree that a disproportionately high number of suspended doctors are from ethnic minority groups? Has that been investigated by the NCAA or the Department of Health?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, the noble Lord has told me something I did not know. There has been no attempt to look at the suspension of ethnic minority doctors separately from that of anyone else, but I will write to the noble Lord and give him whatever information the department holds on that.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, as I understand it, there is an appeal procedure for general practitioners who have been suspended and, I believe, for hospital doctors. I will have to write to the noble Lord, as I am not familiar with the details.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware that some cases have lasted much longer than the four years that has been quoted today? When I was on a regional health authority, one doctor had been suspended on what I suppose could be called gardening leave for over a decade on full pay. It is wrong that there is no employment procedure. We have heard about the hardship for doctors, but there is also hardship for the National Health Service and for patients if someone cannot be reinstated in that period. There should be some way of terminating the employment.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I believe the noble Baroness was referring to a case that was notorious in the mid to late 1990s. The new procedures to manage suspension came in as a result of that. I agree that we must look carefully to ensure that nothing like that happens again.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley for the Question, although I hope that he agrees that it is a wildly unsuitable subject for simply a Starred Question. I want to tell the House about all the 37 policies in the Social Exclusion Unit report. All that I have time to say is that the Department for Transport will co-ordinate work on local transport plans to improve accessibility to work and local services. Other departments will contribute work on, among other matters, land use planning issues, school transport, access to healthcare, local food shops and safer streets, especially for the one in three households without a car.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am not sure whether I thank my noble friend for that backhanded compliment, but I am grateful for what he said because I too think it a good report. Children from the lowest socio-economic groups are five times more likely than those from the highest groups to be killed on the roads. The report says that that is dealt with through local transport plans. As my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister recently told the best performing local authorities that they did not need to produce local transport plans in future, how will this serious issue be dealt with by those lucky councils?
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, will the Government take into account all the various categories of disabled people and their disabilities, which make ordinary transport very difficult for some disabled citizens? They should not be a reason for excluding those people.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords, that is why the Social Exclusion Unit is so called. It is not simply about poor familiesalthough it concerns them. It is about those who have disadvantages that make accessibility difficult for them. That includes the whole range of people with disabilities. A considerable part of the Social Exclusion Unit's report is devoted to that. I commend it to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, another significant amount of money£900 million a yearis spent on specialist transport for schools, hospitals and social services. Again, it is necessary and possible to ensure that, in making plans, local authorities take particular account of people in need who are socially excluded. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, is entirely right.
The Earl of Listowal: My Lords, is the Minister aware that Shelter, the national homelessness charity, estimates that there are 100,000 children homeless in this country? Is he further aware that homeless families are often placed in accommodation away from their children's schools and away from their family, friends and community? How does the Government's strategy address their needs? Is consideration being given to reducing bus fares for that group, given the recent rises in those fares?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes indeed, my Lords. The homelessness directorate, which is concerned with people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation and with rough sleepers, is giving guidance to local authorities to seek to ensure that such families are placed as locally as possible, and certainly within the same borough. There are no legal powers to subsidise or provide concessionary travel for homeless people, but some experiments are being carried out. For example, Blackpool Borough
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, the report makes clear that the link between land use planning and transport planning is essential if we are to combat social exclusion. In their forthcoming planning legislation, why do the Government propose to separate those powers for county councils? Is this an example of the joined-up thinking we hear so much about?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the trend of land use for many years has been against people in positions of social exclusion. As car ownership has risen, there have been strong commercial pressures to move to, for example, larger and more remote shopping centres. We have to make strong efforts to ensure that local shops, particularly local food shops, are still available. Under no plans is there going to be any diminution of land use planning. There are differences in the responsibilities between different tiers of local government.
Viscount Simon: My Lords, will my noble friend expand slightly on the original question that my noble friend Lord Berkeley posed about the differences in the number of road deaths among different socio-economic groups? Does not that highlight the problems of enforcement and of inappropriate speed limits, which could be reduced?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sure that that is one of the issues that can be considered. It would certainly be a responsibility of the Department for Transport. Local authorities have considerable powers to reduce speed limits. Anyone who drives in London will have seen a great proliferation of 20 miles- an-hour speed limits. I hope they are doing some good.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, at this moment, my colleague Elliot Morley is winging his way to Japan to take part in the forum in Kyoto. He will take the message from the UK Government that Kyoto will be an important opportunity to focus on implementing
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