Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

29 Mar 1999 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 29th March 1999.

Arms Embargoes

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in light of evidence about the supply of arms to the perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda, they will ensure that future legislation bringing a United Nations arms embargo into effect covers all British dependencies as well as the United Kingdom.[HL1542]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Procedures are in place to ensure that immediate steps are taken to implement United Nations arms embargoes in the Crown dependencies as well as in the UK and the Overseas Territories.

EU: Procedures for Choosing Presidentand Commissioners

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Under the provisions of the European treaties as amended by the Amsterdam Treaty, what will be changed in the procedures for choosing the next President of the European Commission and other Commissioners; and what procedures will be adopted in appointing the Council's new spokesman, the High Representative, on matters covered by the Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy.[HL1571]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Under the provisions of the European treaties as amended by the Amsterdam Treaty, the procedures for choosing the President of the European Commission and other Commissioners will change in two ways: the EP will have to approve the nomination for President of the Commission instead of being consulted on it; the other members of the Commission will be nominated by the governments of the member states by common accord with the nominee for President rather than in consultation with the nominee for President.

The High Representative on matters covered by the Union's common foreign and security policy will be the Secretary-General of the Council. He or she will be appointed by the Council acting unanimously.

British Council: Grants to Artists

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What amount of funding has been allotted to the British Council's Grants to Artists Scheme for

29 Mar 1999 : Column WA2

    1999-2000; and how that amount compares with funding for the three previous years.[HL1586]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Council's Grants to Artists Scheme has been allocated £25,000 to cover the first three months of financial year 1999-2000. The council hopes that underspends in other budgets will provide funding for the remaining nine months. Funding for the scheme for the three previous years amounted to £67,565 in 1998-99, £120,618 in 1997-98 and £127,568 in 1996-97.


Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will restore diplomatic relations with Sudan.[HL1610]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Following the Sudanese request that we withdraw our ambassador and his deputy, we have no British staff permanently in Khartoum. But we have not broken diplomatic relations with Sudan.

We continue to have regular contact with the Sudanese authorities and hope that conditions will be right for the return of British staff to Khartoum soon.

Sudan: British Council Budget

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the British Council's budget for its work in the Sudan.[HL1611]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Council's budget for its work in Sudan is £450,000 grant-in-aid--reduced to £408,000 following the withdrawal of the UK-based director in August 1998--and £84,000 locally-generated income for 1998-99 and £302,000 grant-in-aid and £77,000 locally-generated income for 1999-2000.

European Commission: Membership

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the role of the United Kingdom Parliament would be enhanced by giving the House of Commons the opportunity to approve the appointment of the United Kingdom's European Commissioners.[HL1624]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We see no reason to change the current system for nominating UK members of the European Commission, which has worked satisfactorily under successive governments.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether (a) they consider that the Amsterdam Treaty shifted the balance of power in the European Union away from nation states and intergovernmental control towards a political Commission led by a

29 Mar 1999 : Column WA3

    political President, in which the Commissioners work under the political guidance of the President, who has the power to veto Commissioners nominated by member states; and (b) if so, whether that is in the UK's interest.[HL1625]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Amsterdam Treaty does not shift the balance of power in the European Union towards a political Commission. Commissioners will continue to be appointed, rather than elected, and to propose and implement rather than decide on European policy. The treaty gives the President a role in the nomination of the College of Commissioners and a greater authority over the work of the Commission. These developments will increase the Commission's efficiency. The UK supports them.

Iraq: UN Sanctions

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they will take on allegations that three Russian firms broke United Nations sanctions on Iraq by selling components for the manufacture of surface-to-surface missiles and navigation equipment for fighters and anti-aircraft missiles.[HL1627]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are aware of recent press allegations of Russian arms deals with Iraq but have seen no evidence to support these claims. We have discussed them with the Russians. They have denied the allegations and restated their commitment to upholding Security Council resolutions on Iraq.

Rwanda: International Criminal Tribunal

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have evaluated the evidence collected by African Rights, London, of the alleged lead role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide played by Callixte Nzabonimana, who held the position of Minister of Youth in the regime of April-July 1994; whether they will draw this evidence to the attention of the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda; and whether they are satisfied that investigations by the tribunal are being conducted with efficiency and speed.[HL1632]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have informed the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda of the allegations against Mr. Nzabonimana by African Rights; it is for the tribunal to evaluate this and any other evidence against him. The tribunal has already indicted various senior officials of the April-July 1994 regime. The tribunal has experienced administrative problems and it has a large number of vacant posts. We have made clear our willingness to assist and are funding a task force to help recruit the staff it needs.

29 Mar 1999 : Column WA4

Russia: Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the recent discussions between the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Georgyi Mamedov, and Mr. David Manning of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the relation between the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and a possible non-strategic anti-ballistic missile system for Western Europe.[HL1638]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Mr. Manning led a joint team of Foreign and Commonwealth and Ministry of Defence officials for strategic stability talks with Mr. Mamedov, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, in Moscow on 16 March. There was a useful exchange of views on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. There was no discussion of any possible non-strategic anti-ballistic missile system for Western Europe.

Prisoners' Healthcare

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the joint Prison Service and NHS Executive review on the future organisation of prisoners' healthcare.[HL1798]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): A copy of the report by the joint Prison Service and National Health Service (NHS) Executive working group on the future organisation of prisoners' healthcare has been placed in the Library.

The report identifies a range of weaknesses with the current organisation and provision of healthcare to prisoners. While there is good work being done, looked at as a whole, there is considerable variation in the organisation, funding, delivery and quality of prisoner healthcare, with variable links to the NHS. The report makes clear that this situation is largely the product of a historic legacy of ad hoc development and relative isolation from the NHS. This means that, on the whole, prison healthcare is reactive rather than proactive; and well developed primary care teams, health needs assessments and appropriately planned services are the exception rather than the rule.

The Government reaffirm the existing aim of prison healthcare to give prisoners access to the same quality and range of health services as the general public receives from the NHS. The reform of prison healthcare poses problems and issues of a complex nature and will take place against the background of NHS reform. This means that change must be carried out in stages. The Government's response combines immediate action to improve service delivery, with a joint approach to future policy development and further work on identification of prisoner needs, priorities, timescales for improvement and organisation.

First, the report has identified a number of areas where priority action is needed and which can begin to be addressed within the existing comprehensive spending settlement. As a start the Government intend

29 Mar 1999 : Column WA5

that, by the end of 1999, work will have been carried out to pilot a new prison reception health screening tool. This will help staff more effectively to identify the health needs and status of each individual prisoner and plan how to meet their individual treatment needs. In parallel with this work a health needs assessment template will be developed to help prisons and health authorities determine the health needs of their prison population.

With immediate effect, doctors newly appointed to undertake any kind of primary care in prisons will be required to hold a certificate from the Joint Committee on Postgraduate Training for General Practice (JCPTGP) or have recognised equivalent accreditation to practise primary care medicine. Doctors currently providing primary care services who do not hold the JCPTGP certificate will be encouraged to work towards obtaining it. The Government also accept the case made in the report that nursing care in prisons should be under the direction of registered nurses. Where this is not the case, Prison Service establishments will work towards achieving it as soon as possible.

The report draws particular attention to the needs of the large number of prisoners with mental health problems. Within the framework of radical reform set out in the Government's White Paper Modernising Mental Health Services--Safe, sound and supportive, published in December 1998, the needs of prisons will be taken into account when planning all inpatient mental health services including high and medium secure services. And, in order to support prisoners for whom a transfer to hospital would not be appropriate, health authorities will ensure that service agreements with NHS trusts include outreach services for prisoners. These services will aim to provide appropriate mental healthcare for persons in prison custody and to achieve continuity of care when moving between secure prison accommodation and community mental health services.

Secondly, the Government in particular welcome the proposal for greater joint working between the Prison Service and the NHS. This is in keeping with the Government's broader policy initiative, modernising government, by removing barriers and disincentives to cross-departmental working where that is necessary to the delivery of better and more effective services.

Ministerial and departmental accountabilities will remain as now, the Prison Service being accountable for the provision of primary care and the NHS for specialist services and for care provided in NHS hospitals. But future planning and delivery of prisoner healthcare will be underpinned by joint working and planning at national, regional and local levels. Practical benefits on the ground are likely to include the proper integration of health promotion and healthcare into prison regimes, and arrangements to ensure continuity of healthcare on receipt into custody, transfer to hospital or on release back to the community. Health improvement programmes will be expected to reflect these objectives.

29 Mar 1999 : Column WA6

In order to put the joint organisation and planning of prison healthcare on a firm footing, the Chief Executive of the NHS Executive and the Director General of the Prison Service will, as recommended in the report, establish in the course of 1999 a joint prison health policy unit and a joint prison healthcare task force. These units, working with the Prison Service and the NHS, will lead and manage the process of change.

The joint prison health policy unit will be expected to set overall standards and policy, to provide clear strategic direction for prison healthcare and to advise both Home Office and health Ministers. This unit will replace the current Prison Service Directorate of Healthcare and will be physically located in the NHS Executive in the Department of Health. The prison healthcare task force will draw on staff of appropriate experience from the Prison Service, the NHS and other organisations. Its principal roles will be to offer expert advice and support the joint work that prisons and health authorities will need to do in identifying and implementing plans to improve health services to prisoners and in making the best use of available resources. The publication of this report signals the importance that the Government attach to establishing joint working arrangements between each prison and their local health authority. Prisons and health authorities will be asked to start their joint work in the course of this summer.

Thirdly, this reorganisation will not only greatly strengthen the co-ordination of prison healthcare, but form the basis for further work, including an assessment of how budget-setting might best reinforce effective care, the identification of prisoner health needs, the formulation of improvement plans and consequent financial implications, and advice on priorities so as to achieve the effective use of resources.

The report notes that the scale of the problem with prison healthcare will not become clear until health authorities and prisons have jointly assessed the local health needs and have formulated improvement plans. It is not therefore possible at this stage to say when all the objectives set out in the working group's report can be achieved. However, the Government will be taking steps to identify the scale of the problem and the resources needed to improve performance against standards comparable to those available in the community. The task force will aim to provide advice on good practice. Also through pilots and in other ways it will help to identify different organisational models of local delivery that meet the primary health needs of prisoners and that are cost-effective. In the course of next year a formal review will be carried out to assess structural issues, priorities, timescales and future possible resource requirements.

While the arrangements set out above will apply to England, there is a need to ensure consistency throughout the Prison Service, including the four prisons in Wales. The Secretary of State for Wales fully endorses the principles behind the report's

29 Mar 1999 : Column WA7

recommendations. The Welsh Office, and in due course the Welsh Assembly, will be working with the Department of Health and Prison Service to implement proposals to improve prison healthcare in ways compatible with Welsh circumstances.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page