Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Warner: My Lords, it is not for me to comment, other than to say that I am always pleased to answer Questions from my noble friend on this subject.

17 Jul 2003 : Column 972

As regards the quote that the noble Lord read out, I do not think that we can duck out of the fact that smoking, as the Government's Chief Medical Officer has said, is a great danger to health. That is an inescapable fact and it would be an irresponsible government who were not taking forward a range of programmes to make the public aware of these dangers and to deal with issues around tobacco advertising. I do not think that the Government feel in any way repentant about that particular issue. We are aware of some of the issues surrounding a ban, but we think that increasing public awareness of the dangers of second-hand smoke exposure is a significant way forward.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the chemicals to which people are exposed through second-hand smoke include arsenic, DDT, formaldehyde—which they say is used as a preservative for dead bodies—hydrogen cyanide—which is referred to as a gas chamber poison—Polonium 210, which is a radioactive compound, and toluene, which is an industrial solvent? If these facts were more widely known, would people not give up of their own accord?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I bow to my noble friend's knowledge in this area. He is of course right that cigarettes carry very dangerous compounds and we know that smoking kills over 120,000 people in the UK each year. The good news is that there has been a rise in the number of people quitting since 1999, and about 270,000 people have quit.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, I take the Minister back to the reply he gave when the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked when the Government were going to give their official position on the ACOP. I remind the Minister that the Health and Safety Executive finished consultation in 1999 and we have still not had the Government's official position on the implementation or acceptance of the ACOP. When will he tell us?

Lord Warner: My Lords, we are still carefully considering this report. As I have already said, work is in hand on a large number of other initiatives which are tackling the problems of smoking.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: Will the Minister inform us whether the contractors working in government departments and on the Parliamentary Estate are being advised that smoking is not acceptable, given the dangers to themselves, quite apart from the dangers of passive smoking to other people working in government areas?

Lord Warner: My Lords, as I recall, matters for the Parliamentary Estate are for the parliamentary authorities, not for the department. On the wider issue

17 Jul 2003 : Column 973

it is, of course, the responsibility of employers to make sure that their employees are not exposed to unnecessary dangers.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, is the Minister not surprised, following all the gloomy information which has been imparted to us, that there are so many old people still surviving in this Chamber?

Lord Warner: My Lords, it has been suggested that the formaldehyde might play a part in this.

NHS: Working Time Directive

11.28 a.m.

Lord Skelmersdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the impact on the National Health Service of the coming into force of the European Working Time Directive in August 2004.

Lord Warner: My Lords, we move seamlessly from smoking to the Working Time Directive. The directive already applies to all NHS staff except doctors in training, to whom it will be extended from August 2004. The Department of Health is actively working with the NHS and the medical profession to implement this change in ways which will benefit both patients and staff. Solutions will vary from NHS trust to NHS trust, but will include using staff differently by, for example, creating night teams to staff hospitals out of hours.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I am grateful for that Answer. If I were of a suspicious frame of mind, I would wonder whether I had left my prepared supplementary lying around in the Library. The Minister's honourable friend, Mr Hutton, stated in a press release today:


    "Further measures were announced today by the Department of Health to ensure that the NHS complies with its obligations".

The directive goes on to say much of what the Minister has already said. This, very sensibly, involves talking to the strategic health authorities. Is the Minister aware that the department has only seven months before the eagle eye of the Commission will be directed at this country on that particular matter? At the end of that time, he will have run out of time to use the derogation for extending the time limit beyond August next year for another two years.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I have not seen the noble Lord's prepared supplementary, but I reassure him that we have not been sitting idly by. He may not be aware that some time ago we set up a Working Time Directive expert group, which had on it people from the Royal Colleges, the JCCs, the NHS Confederation and other key stakeholders, who have been working together on the issue. There are 19 Working Time

17 Jul 2003 : Column 974

Directive pilots that have been going on for some time, which are working out new ways of working locally that will help to deal with the implementation. A great deal of action is taking place in that area, and we have been putting aside money for the pilot sites and to help trusts to implement the Working Time Directive when it comes into force.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, the Minister talks about actions being taken, pilots, discussions and so on and so forth. Is it not the fact that the NHS is not yet ready for the introduction of the Working Time Directive in the particular area identified? Why does he not accept the suggestion of the Royal College of Physicians that the introduction of the Working Time Directive be delayed?

Lord Warner: My Lords, we are not convinced that the Working Time Directive does need to be delayed. I can certainly write to the noble Lord. I shall not bore noble Lords with all the details, but I can refer to the 19 pilot sites, where some very interesting work is going on about the way in which pressure can be taken off senior house officers, for example. We can reorganise the work so that out-of-hours services are producing benefits for patients as well as coping with the Working Time Directive.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, can the Minister tell us how he can reconcile his remarks that he is quite confident that everything will be all right in 2004 with the press reports which indicate that many accident and emergency wards might have to close because there will simply not be enough junior trainee doctors to handle the work?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I wish the noble Baroness a happy birthday. As part of her birthday gift, I assure her that we do not accept that services will close as a result of implementing the Working Time Directive. I draw the House's attention to the fact that we have implemented the Working Time Directive for other NHS staff—for a much larger group of people. That came into force in 1998.

Lord Elton: My Lords, will the Minister tell us what the cost of the introduction will be, and whether it is already included in the public expenditure forecasts in the Red Book?

Lord Warner: My Lords, what I can say is that we know that the Government have committed themselves to increasing NHS funding by on average 7.4 per cent in real terms in England over the next five years. That includes provision for the impact of the Working Time Directive. We have also set aside 46 million over the next three years to help trusts to implement the directive. More than 5 million has already been dispersed so far this year to the 19 Working Time Directive pilot sites that are trialing new and better ways in which to work.

17 Jul 2003 : Column 975

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, will the Minister inform us what action the Government are taking to manage the tension between the local delivery of services and the need for a critical mass of specialists to manage very sick patients on a 24x7 basis?

Lord Warner: My Lords, the Government have already put in place a large increase of well over 1,000 extra specialist registrars. They will be concentrating the allocation of those posts in the trusts that might have the greatest difficulty in tackling the problems around the Working Time Directive.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that the Working Time Directive also applies to railway workers. My noble friend Lord Sainsbury recently told the industry, through this House, that it had known about that since 1999 and should have been fully prepared. Presumably my noble friend the Minister has taken that advice himself, and will be fully prepared for the extra year that the medical workers have been given, beyond those on the railways, so that everything will be in order by next August.

Lord Warner: My Lords, you will be astonished to know that I am not briefed on the question of railway workers. That subject is a little wide of the Question.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page