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Baroness Hayman: Set out below is the information which is available centrally. Comprehensive information could only be collected at disproportionate cost. The list excludes directives the implementation of which is not yet required. If the noble Lord has a particular directive in mind, and indicates this, we would be happy to write with details.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) has considered the safety of Vitamin B6 on two separate occasions and we are confident that it has reviewed all the relevant papers on toxicity of Vitamin B6 as well as those unpublished papers supplied by interested parties.
(a) smoking and
(b) passive smoking on a female child aged two where
(i) the mother smokes in her home in front of the child; and
(ii) the child is taken into a public house;
and whether they will place in the Library of the House any studies which show the effects of
(aa) smoking and
(bb) passive smoking on the health of a two year-old child.[HL183]
Baroness Jay of Paddington: We are not aware of any studies on the effect of passive smoking on the health of a female two year-old. However, we understand that the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH), which will be publishing its report to the Chief Medical Officer in the spring, will set out the scientific assessment of the risks to children from passive smoking. The relevant section of the report will be based on Department of Health sponsored research overviews of passive smoking and childhood respiratory disease, and these papers are currently being published in the journal Thorax.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: There are no comprehensive data on the number of children with asthma. On the basis of all the information available, it has been estimated that "the prevalence of asthma sufficiently severe to require regular medical supervision is from 4-6 per cent. in children". This estimate is quoted in Asthma: An Epidemiological Overview (Central Health Monitoring Unit, 1995), which brought together a broad range of the best statistics on asthma. Copies are available in the Library.
According to the report of the Health Survey for England 1996, which was published on 12 January, 21 per cent. of children at some time in the past had been diagnosed as suffering from asthma. Copies of this report are also available in the Library. Similarly, in a study of asthma in Great Britain among children aged 12 to 14 years, carried out as part of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) and recently published in the British Medical Journal, 20 per cent. of the children surveyed had had a diagnosis of asthma at some time.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government have no basis on which to estimate the number of children whose asthma may have been caused by their parent's smoking. It is recognised that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke causes asthma attacks and exacerbates the symptoms of asthma. The scientific evidence to support environmental tobacco smoke being a cause of asthma is still being assessed, and this topic will be considered in the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH)'s report to the Chief Medical Officer, to be published in the spring.
How they reconcile the closure of the speech therapy course at the Central School for Speech and Drama with their statement in the recently published Green Paper Excellence for All Children on special educational needs (October 1997) that speech and language therapy is now recognised as a key player in the education of children with special needs and the growing proportion of elderly people who have difficulty communicating due to conditions such as Parkinson's disease and strokes; and[HL244]
How they propose that the increased demand for speech and language therapy will be met if the trend towards closure of courses continues and what plans they have to ensure there is no further reduction in the limited number of courses available.[HL245]
Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Department of Health values the contribution that speech and language therapy services make to the health and education of children with special needs and to the rehabilitation and support of people with disabilities affecting their ability to communicate.
There is no evidence to suggest that the announcement of the closure of the speech and therapy course at the Central School for Speech and Drama is directly connected with the funding changes which will take place in response to the Dearing Report.
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, which validates all speech and language therapy courses, and Department of Health officials are aware of the withdrawal of this course and discussions will be taking place to make sure that existing students' needs have been taken into account and that the supply of speech and language therapy graduates to the National Health Service is not affected.
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