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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Prison Health has recently begun to collect data on waiting times for urgent and routine dental treatment in Prison Service establishments in England and Wales. However, it does not yet have sufficient information to show whether the improvements in prison dentistry now being introduced have yet led to any reduction in average waiting times across the prison estate.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: To provide regular external scrutiny of youth offending teams (YOTs) a new joint inspection programme has been developed by Her Majesty's Inspectorates of Probation, Constabulary and Prisons, the Social Services Inspectorate (England and Wales) and the education inspectorates, (OFSTED for England and ESTYN for Wales) in consultation with the Home Office and the Youth Justice Board.
Led by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation, the inspection team will include representatives from the full range of inspectorates concerned with YOTs work. They will aim to inspect all YOTs in England and Wales over a five to six-year cycle.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): The Strategy Unit report, Private Action, Public Benefit, was published on 25 September 2002 as a consultation document. Its 61 recommendations set out a package of measures which aim to modernise the law and enable a wide range of organisations to be more effective and innovative.
Paragraph 4.26 describes what happens now when those charities that charge fees which serve to exclude large sections of the population have to make provision for wider access for those who would be excluded because of the fees.
At present there is no systematic programme in place to check the public character of charities. The report recommends that an on-going review programme run by the Charity Commission should check the public character of such organisations. It proposes that the commission would identify charities likely to charge high fees and undertake a rolling programme to check that provision was made for wider access. This programme, it suggests, would be designed to minimise red tape and would not focus on any particular sector. Short returns would be issued which ask charities what they do in terms of widening access, such as making provision for sharing facilities. It is envisaged that for the majority of cases no further inquiry would be necessary beyond the initial return.
The report proposes that the Charity Commission, in consultation with charities likely to be affected and their umbrella bodies, would issue guidelines as to the level of access appropriate in particular circumstances.
Of course at the moment these are only proposals. The report is out for consultation until 31 December 2002, and we shall consider the responses to this, and all the other matters addressed in the report, very carefully.
Lord Filkin: The draft report on the formal investigation into HM Prison Service was served on the respondent under the provisons of Section 58 of the Race Relations Act 1976 on Monday 9 December. The Commission for Racial Equality will publish the final report early in the New Year.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): No such grants were issued in 2002 by government departments in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland's Department of Environment, Environmental Heritage Service set aside £1 million and, in conjunction with InvestNI, launched a Waste Industry Fund. This has been set up to help establish waste infrastructure in Northern Ireland. Two projects in the biodiesel sector have been awarded funding in principle: £120,000 in principle to Capital Oils Ltd for the manufacture of biodiesel using waste from cooking oils and fats; £11,000 in principle to Grease Trap Services for the manufacture of biodiesel from waste food/fat, oil and grease collected from catering drainage systems.
Funding may be available from regional or local funding bodies, such as the regional development agencies in England, depending on the priorities they identify for the use of their resources. Central records are not kept of the grants issued.
Lord Whitty: Waste Strategy 2000 states that developers of proposed waste incinerators should consider the potential for incorporating combined heat and power technology, which would provide heating to the local community.
Any electricity produced by such plants feeds into the National Grid and since the opening up of the electricity supply market householders in a specific community could potentially be receiving their electricity from any number of suppliers. It is not government policy to determine what those suppliers should be charging their customers.
Lord Whitty: I am pleased to report to the House that the Government launched a Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food on Thursday 12th December. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs met farmers and leaders of the food industry, rural, environmental and consumer bodies to discuss the new strategy and hear examples of good practice from across the food chain after the launch.
The strategy is further evidence of this Government's commitment to help to deliver innovative and practical solutions to the challenges faced by those involved in the food chain. We do not underestimate the scale of these challenges: farm incomes remain under pressure and the foot and mouth disease outbreak also added to the momentum for change.
This strategy builds on the invaluable work conducted by the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food to chart a way through these challenges. It sets out how industry, government and consumers can work together to secure a profitable and internationally competitive future for our industries, whilst contributing to a better environment, improving nutrition and public health and prosperous communities.
Improving animal health and combating diseases: government is drawing up a new animal health and welfare strategy, has strengthened our emergency preparations and efforts to combat illegal meat imports.
In addition, the Government will ask the Institute of Grocery Distribution, in conjunction with the Food Chain Centre, to undertake analysis of the impact of nutrition initiatives such as the National School Fruit Scheme and the five-a-day programme, on the food chain. This will highlight the commercial opportunities for English farmers and growers and other sectors of the food industry.
The strategy, which builds on the work of the Curry commission, also underlines the need for farming to reconnect with its markets, better co-operation with the food chain, investment in people and technology and the adoption of environmental best practice. There are many examples of good practice to build upon:
Across England, regional delivery plans will be drawn up between government offices, regional development agencies, local farmers, rural affairs forums, regional chambers and a range of stakeholders, assisted by Sir Don Curry's implementation group.
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