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Objective 2 Areas

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government submitted their proposals for Objective 2 areas to the Commission in October. In December, the European Commission agreed in principle the UK's proposed areas for Objective 2 coverage. We expect the Commission to approve the map formally early in February, after the Committees on the Development and Conversion of the Regions; Structures for Fisheries and Aquaculture; and Agricultural Structures and Rural Development have been consulted.

A & E Facilities, City of London

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): There are no accident and emergency facilities located in the City of London. However, there is a minor injuries unit at St Bartholomew's Hospital in West Smithfield. This unit has close links with the accident and emergency department at the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel.

Patients within the City of London requiring accident and emergency treatment can attend the Royal London Hospital, University College Hospital or St Thomas' Hospital, where full accident and emergency facilities are available within easy travelling distance.

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NHS Trusts: Waiting List Reduction

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will impose penalties on NHS Trusts which fail to meet their waiting list reduction targets by April of this year because of pressures arising from the current influenza outbreak.[HL556]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: There is no system of national penalties imposed on National Health Service trusts with regard to waiting list performance. Performance management by regional offices covers waiting lists and other aspects of trust performance.

"Epidemic": Definition

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the officially accepted definition of an epidemic.[HL559]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The epidemiological definition of an epidemic is an increase in the frequency of occurrence of a disease in a population above its baseline level for a specified period of time. The term epidemic can be used when describing the pattern of either infectious or chronic diseases in the population.

Administrative definitions can be set for different diseases in which an arbitrary threshold is selected above which the term "epidemic" is applied. In the case of influenza, the Department of Health introduced in 1996 an administrative definition of an "epidemic" for a rate of consultation (with a sample of general practices) of 400 per 100,000 population in a week.

Such influenza activity in England is thus monitored through the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) sentinel surveillance scheme. This records the number of first visits to a general practitioner with influenza-illness. Other respiratory illnesses prevalent at this time of year are recorded separately.

This system does not and cannot measure the real incidence of influenza, since it is restricted to those people who visit their general practitioner. In the present winter, the GP consultations avoided by patients consulting their pharmacists, using NHS Direct or self-medicating (as a result of special campaigns) are thought to have led to a substantial hidden element to the epidemic not revealed by the official figures. The serious nature of the illness amongst elderly people (reflected in the rates of acute bronchitis) and usage of hospitals reinforces the reality of the assessment of the severity of this winter's epidemic.

The severity of the disease itself can also vary from year to year. This year the elderly have been particularly affected by the complications of influenza. The level of cases of acute bronchitis, a serious complication of influenza, is the highest the RCGP surveillance system has seen for 15 years. In describing epidemics, some other countries formally include measures of severity in the definition of an epidemic.

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For example, the United States declares an epidemic when the proportion of deaths due to pneumonia and influenza passes a certain threshold.

The department has not introduced administrative definitions of an epidemic for diseases other than influenza.

Private Intensive Care Beds Available to NHS Trusts

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any private hospitals in London had intensive care beds available for use by NHS Trusts at any time during the seven days from 5 to 12 January; and, if so, how many beds were available on which days.[HL560]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: This information is not available centrally. In preparing plans for this winter, Local Winter Planning Groups were advised to liaise with local private sector partners about the contribution the private sector might make at times of pressure. The availability and use of private sector intensive care beds would be agreed locally.

Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have undertaken a study of whether the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill is likely to have a disproportionate adverse impact upon members of ethnic minorities; if so, what are the results of the study; and, if not, why no such study has been undertaken before the decision to introduce the Bill; and[HL546]

    Whether they have consulted the Commission for Racial Equality, the Society of Black Lawyers and ethnic minority organisations about the effects of the proposals contained in the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill upon confidence among members of ethnic minorities in the fair administration of criminal justice; if so, what are the results of the consultation; and, if not, why no such consultation has been undertaken before the decision to introduce the Bill.[HL547]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): A copy of the consultation document Determining Mode of Trial in Either-Way Cases, which sought views on these reforms, was sent to the Commission for Racial Equality. No response was received from the Commission. The Government have given careful consideration to the concerns that the changes could adversely affect black defendants. They are satisfied that this is not the case. Home Office data published on 9 December 1999 show a higher conviction rate for white defendants than black defendants in the magistrates' courts (67 per cent for white defendants and 57 per cent for black defendants). A separate study

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(not yet published) of race and the Crown Prosecution Service by Dr Mhlanga also shows that white defendants are more likely to be convicted than black defendants in both magistrates' courts and the Crown Court. In both courts white defendants are about six percentage points more likely to be convicted than black defendants.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, before the Committee stage of the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill, they will disclose their reasons in support of their Section 19 statement of compatibility of the Bill with the right of access to a fair trial without direct or indirect racial discrimination, guaranteed by Article 6 read with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[HL548]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government are satisfied that the Bill is compatible with Convention rights. The right to a fair trial under Article 6 does not extend to providing a right to a certain sort of trial. The Bill merely provides judicial discretion to decide mode of trial. It also provides an unfettered right of appeal against the magistrates' decision on mode of trial. A briefing note on the Bill, including the racial aspects, has been placed in the Library.

Criminal Justice System and Ethnicity

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have conducted research into the extent to which members of the ethnic minority community suffer discrimination within the criminal justice system, as recommended by the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (Cm 2263, July 1993, paragraph 25); if so, whether they will publish such research; and, if not, why not.[HL549]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Home Office has undertaken or commissioned a number of pieces of research which have included consideration of issues of ethnicity in the criminal justice system and the operation of the criminal justice system in relation to ethnic minorities.

All commissioned research is published as a matter of course. Ministers receive regular advice from officials in the form of submissions and briefing papers about the research and statistical data available in the department.

The Home Office has published the following research of relevance: Ethnic Minorities: Victimisation and Racial Harassment: Findings from the 1988 and 1992 British Crime Surveys, Home Office Research Study 154 (1996); Ethnicity and Contacts with the Police: Latest Findings from the British Crime Survey, Home Office Research Findings Number 59 (1997);

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Ethnic Monitoring in Police Forces: A beginning, Home Office Research Study 173 (1997); Statistics on race and the Criminal Justice System 1997, Published under Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (December 1997); Sentencing Practice: an examination of decisions in magistrates' courts and the Crown Court in the mid-1990s, Home Office Research Study 180 (July 1998); Entry into the criminal justice system: a survey of police arrests and their outcome, Home Office Research Study 185 (August 1998); Statistics on race and the Criminal Justice System 1998, Published under Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (December 1998); and Statistics on race and the Criminal Justice System 1999, Published under Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (December 1999).


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