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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am aware of the comments made by the doctor who my noble friend mentioned. Currently we have 100,000 courses of antiviral drugs available and it is correct to say that although we have put in an order to purchase 14.6 million courses, they will not be available immediately. But I am informed that they will be available by the end of 2006 rather than 2007.

Given my noble friend's fine record in the field of disability, he will know well the vital importance of both prevention and the minimisation of impact. That is exactly what the Government are striving to do in respect of an influenza pandemic; it is also why the contingency plan is in place, why it is continually updated and why we are buying these additional courses of antiviral treatment.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, are the Government giving any advice on what steps people should take not to catch this disease? Will they be affected by something they eat? What steps have the Government taken in terms of giving such advice?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, advice of this kind is part of the contingency plan I mentioned.
 
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It is being prepared and at the moment the department deems it necessary, people will have the information to enable them to deal with a pandemic of influenza. I assure the noble Baroness that that is the case.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, is the Minister aware that wild geese can carry the virus? Domestic fowl then get ill while the wild ones remain well. It is a complex situation, but what progress is being made on a vaccine for this condition?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I was not aware of the situation relating to geese, but I know that it is a very complex issue. On the preparations for a vaccine, the noble Baroness will know that it is not possible to produce an exact vaccine to deal with a pandemic until we know which strain of influenza is involved. I am pleased to say that we are currently tendering to buy certain vaccines which may possibly deal with a pandemic. We are taking all the necessary action, but until we know which strain of influenza is involved in a pandemic, we cannot make a decision on the most appropriate vaccine.

Baroness Barker: My Lords, on 14 June the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in another place said that the contingency plan would be updated and published within the next few months. When will that be done? Can she also tell us whether the department is working with the travel industry to bring to the attention of travellers to places such as China, Vietnam and Cambodia the potential risks they face in those countries from HPAI?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct to say that the plan is being updated and that it will be published within the next few months. I regret that I cannot be more specific than that. On the part of her question relating to the travel industry, I am afraid that I do not have a specific answer either, but I shall certainly write to her and place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, while it is essential that we put our house in order on the domestic front, does my noble friend agree with the suggestion made by some scientists that what we need is a planned global response to avian flu if we are to avoid a catastrophe?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I agree absolutely with my noble friend. Of course we must take action in the UK, but there must also be a global response. That is why the UK is working closely with the World Health Organisation. Recently we have put additional money into the WHO towards surveillance in south-east Asia. Also, together with the US, we co-chair the Global Health Security Action Group which comprises the G7 countries and Mexico. We are working closely with the European Union and the issue is discussed at meetings of the Health Council. Moreover, noble Lords may be interested to hear that
 
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an important step is being taken at EU level; that is, the preparation of a dossier relating to a new licence for vaccines so that once the strain has been identified, the necessary licence can be granted without delay. That is an important step forward.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, on the 14.6 million courses on order and the existing supplies, can the noble Baroness say whether these are to be stored centrally or whether there will be a regional distribution? In particular, what courses might be available in Wales?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I understand and share the noble Lord's preoccupation with Wales, but I do not know whether the antiviral drugs are going to be stored centrally or not. However, I undertake to find out and I shall notify him.

People Trafficking

11.29 am

Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, initial inquiries made by the team investigating the "Adam" murder found that a number of African boys had not returned to school following the summer break in 2001. The Metropolitan Police has stated clearly that it has no evidence that any of these boys have come to any harm. There were no allegations from either families or schools that the welfare of these children was at risk.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, I know that the Minister shares my concern that if the allegations we have read in the newspapers or heard on radio programmes are correct, this is probably the most terrible act ever against children in the history of the United Kingdom. Will the Minister now thoroughly investigate this situation with all agencies, organisations, and Churches and report back to this House? Secondly, are Her Majesty's Government in continuous dialogue with the countries from which these children come?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. I do share his passion and concern for issues which involve abuse of children, because we all find them abhorrent. I reassure the noble Lord that these issues are being taken absolutely seriously. It was for that reason that the Metropolitan Police carried out the review that we spoke about on the most recent occasion that we discussed this issue. These matters are being pursued.
 
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Groups have been set up and I shall attend a meeting today with my honourable friend in another place, the Minister for Children, to discuss some of the matters that we could do together in that regard. I can assure the noble Lord that everything is being done to pursue this matter with appropriate vigour.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, how many successful prosecutions have been brought for trafficking under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I do not have those figures in relation to trafficking. Noble Lords will know that we changed the law to make such prosecutions easier and I assure noble Lords that prosecutions and the approaches taken by the authorities are appropriately vigorous. I shall write to the noble Lord in relation to the figures, if we have any.

Lord Elton: My Lords, what means of identifying trafficked children exist if they do not register at any school?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, if issues are raised in relation to any unaccompanied children who come into this country, those matters are pursued. We also respond to any information we receive. Noble Lords will know the work that Project Reflex carries out in terms of both women and children. So there is intelligence that we follow up. These issues are extremely important and it is right that this House has raised the issue of trafficked children on a number of occasions and, indeed, trafficking generally, particularly in relation to vulnerable women.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, would improved provision for private fostering enable better track to be kept of children?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I know the concern that the noble Earl and others feel in relation to fostering. The noble Earl will know that in the Children Act 2004 we strengthened the notification arrangements for protecting children who are privately fostered—I assume that it is private fostering that the noble Earl is particularly concerned about. The Government believe that this will be more effective in finding out about arrangements and making appropriate checks than a bureaucratic registration scheme. We are pursuing that, but, of course, if we find that registration is necessary, the Act provides for that.


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