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Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am delighted to hear that she still considers it is necessary to improve the health of the nation. That is definitely marked on the envelope I have in front of me. However, that is rather peculiar when one considers that one of the main planks on which this Government were elected was national health. Can the Minister give the House an assurance that the Government are doing everything possible to reduce waiting lists, which have now increased by 100,000 when the Government said they would cut waiting lists by 100,000? Will she take

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this opportunity to advise us of the average waiting time for treatment which is important? Has that increased or decreased?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the noble Lord's questions are rather wide of the Question on the Order Paper. The answer to his first question is yes. The answer to the second is, "It varies".

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, what logo will the new stationery have, if any?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as regards stationery that is used by Ministers, letter paper will contain the relevant Minister's name. That is convenient and usual. I do not think even those most concerned about public expenditure would have expected the incoming Government to have tippexed out, for example, Mr. Dorrell's name to replace it with Mr. Dobson's name. The envelopes will be plain.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the Minister has not made clear whether the policy remains to improve the nation's health. It has been said that the old logo has been removed from the stationery as it equated to the internal market. However, there is no parallel whatsoever between the internal market and improving the nation's health.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the Minister must agree that through the internal market we discovered which procedures were unnecessarily expensive or badly carried out. That was a valuable form of clinical audit which--as we have discussed at Question Time in the past few days--is to be replaced next year.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I hope I made it clear in my response to the Question that improving the overall health of the nation is the Government's continuing policy. The slogan has been replaced by the title of the new public health document, Our Healthier Nation. I reassure the Opposition Front Bench that this decision was taken collectively by all the health Ministers.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, was not this slogan dropped out of deference to the record of the previous government, who far from improving the health of the nation increased wide-ranging inequalities?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, my noble friend has given me the opportunity to expand my original Answer. The public health document of this Government, Our Healthier Nation, devotes much attention to reducing inequalities of health. That is an important subject.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, is the Government's policy of improving the health of the nation not rather stultified by the Chancellor's policy of conserving the wealth of the nation?

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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, if the noble Lord looked at the increases in public expenditure directed towards the Health Service in the two Budgets of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, he could not possibly ask that question.

Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, does the Minister realise that this question arose because she sent me a letter on the back of which the words, "Improving the Health of the Nation", were scored out. I asked the department why it had scored the words out. I was told simply: "It is no longer government policy".

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am afraid that I should need to know the source of that scoring out. I think that it is at about the same level as the tippexing out of the Secretary of State's name to which I referred in answering a previous question from the other side.

Lord Acton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware how delightful it is to see the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, in his place in such obviously good health?

Local Government: Public Participation

2.50 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they welcome the steps that local authorities are taking to encourage greater participation by the public in local government.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the Government very much welcome the creative and innovative steps taken by many local authorities, including that led by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, to increase public participation in local government. As set out in a recent consultation paper on local democracy and community leadership, the Government want every local authority to be closely in touch with the needs and aspirations of those they serve.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the range of activities undertaken by local authorities last week as part of Local Government Democracy Week? Does she agree that public participation schemes may do much to improve the level of turn-out at local elections?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the Government are aware of the very wide range of opportunities being taken by local authorities across the country. The week has been immensely successful. We wish publicly to congratulate the Local Government Association for what it has done to underpin the work of individual member authorities.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, does the Minister agree that often it is common sense which dictates people's attitude to the way in which local government performs?

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If the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, would allow me 10 minutes of his time, I could give him any number of examples of how the population of Brighton is very discontented with its current Labour rulers.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, it would not be reasonable for me to answer for my noble friend as to the amount of time he has available for discussion of the matter. Suffice it to say from my own contact with local government and my experience as a councillor, it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time, as the previous Conservative Government found.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I welcome the innovative and exciting steps taken by many local authorities which, I agree, have not required any change to the legislative structure. However, do the Government accept the recent findings of a Local Government Association survey which indicated that 36 per cent. of people do not believe that voting in local elections makes any difference to the levels of local taxation or services? Do they further accept that the only way to encourage greater participation in local government is to return real power and financial freedom to our town halls?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, it is precisely because of the Government's concern about the pattern of treatment of local government they inherited--matters had reached an all-time low ebb--that they initiated wide-ranging consultations on the role of local government and the powers necessary to local government to enable it to meet the wishes of the people it represents.

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, how do the Government view the introduction of an executive mayor and cabinet-style government in Hammersmith and Fulham? When considering the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, they appeared to accept that legislative changes were needed before such a system could be introduced.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the Government welcome the developments in Hammersmith and Fulham. We welcome the fact that many local authorities are developing innovative management structures and seeking to change the way they work without legislation. However, legislation is necessary. Hammersmith and Fulham is going as far as it believes it can within the current legislative framework to adopt a modern decision-making structure and policy. It is essential that the opportunity is provided as soon as possible to broaden the scope of those decisions.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, will the Minister assure the House that it is still part of government policy to encourage democratic participation through the development of regional assemblies?

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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I assume that the right reverend Prelate refers to the issue of assemblies in the English regions. It is government policy to move initially through regional development agencies and then towards directly elected regional assemblies as it is demonstrated that the people in those regions desire them.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, in view of her welcome for the new pay structure for the leader of Hammersmith council, is the Minister saying that she would like to see all authorities move towards a situation in which there is a well-paid elected executive instead of the system that has existed for so long?


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