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Whether they have monitored the performance of local authorities regarding the guidance from the Department of Health on the services which deafblind people are entitled to receive; and what were the results; and[HL1321]
How many local authorities have agreed the Department of Health guidelines about the services deafblind people are entitled to receive; and which authorities have done so; and[HL1322]
What is their assessment of the improvement of services to deafblind people arising from Department of Health guidance in 2001; and[HL1323]
Whether they intend to give further guidance to local authorities following their guidelines on services to deafblind people in 2001.[HL1324]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): Since the Department of Health issued guidance in 2001 on social services for deafblind children and adults, the Social Services Inspectorate has been monitoring local authorities' performance through its delivery and improvement statements. We are not able to provide detailed comparisons with previous years but the statements for autumn 2003 show that the general quality of service has improved since 2001. We recognise that there is still room for improvement. We hope to see further improvements during 2004. We currently have no plans to issue further guidance.
Lord Warner: The recently announced hepatitis C ex gratia payment scheme will be administered by a new independent operation that will be called the Skipton Fund. Although the management of the fund will be associated with that of the Macfarlane Trust, the schemes are distinct and have been established for different purposes.
The underlying principle behind the Skipton Fund is to help alleviate the suffering of people living with inadvertent hepatitis C infection. That is where the money available has been concentrated. These payments are not compensation for bereavement, although we recognise the pain and hardship suffered by widows and families.
What action they plan to take over the next five years to reduce the incidence of malignant melanomas in the United Kingdom; and[HL1424]
Whether they will commit to providing long-term funding for skin cancer prevention campaigns.[HL1425]
Lord Warner: The SunSmart campaign was launched in March 2003, funded by the United Kingdom health departments and run by Cancer Research UK. The campaign has received funding of £50,000 this year from the United Kingdom health departments. Decisions on further funding for SunSmart will be made in due course.
Many skin cancers, including malignant melanomas, take many years to develop and show clinically, in some cases up to 20 years. Therefore, the current incidence reflected many years ago, and incidence in the immediate years, will be reflected in years to come. The new SunSmart campaign, along with other Department of Health initiatives, aims to reduce unsafe exposure to the sun over the coming years. Examples are the continued funding of the National Radiological Protection Board, which has expertise on ultra-violet radiation issues relevant to the public health aspects of the prevention of skin cancer and also funding of the ultra-violet index in the media (TV, radio, Meteorological Office website). The successful campaign in Australia on which SunSmart is based produced demonstrable health benefits some 20 years after the campaign began.
Lord Warner: Current European Union food labelling rules do not require pre-packaged foods containing salt to carry health warnings and there are no proposals to introduce such a requirement. Information on sodium (not salt) content is only required when certain nutrition claims are made.
The consultation will enable a wide range of stakeholders to contribute to the debate on overweight and obesity. The consultation will also take account of the recommendations from Derek Wanless's recent report, Securing Good Health for the Whole Population.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is currently awaiting the result of an investigation into claims made against the Chechen Information Centre. The OSCE cannot accredit any non-governmental organisations that "resort to the use of violence or publicly condone terrorism or the use of violence" (Helsinki Document 1992, Chapter 4).
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are in close contact with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Khartoum, and we support its work financially. The acting High Commissioner is well aware of the issues raised in the Channel 4 report. Indeed he issued a statement on the situation in Darfur on 29 January, a copy of which is available on the UNHCHR website (www.unhchr.ch/huricane).
On 25 February the EU issued a statement appealing to all the parties to ensure protection of the civilian population and to allow for unhindered humanitarian access for the population in need, and expressing alarm at reports that Janjaweed militias continue to systematically target civilians. The EU strongly condemns the attacks and calls upon the Government of Sudan to put an end to Janjaweed atrocities. The EU also calls on the Government of Sudan to investigate thoroughly the attacks carried out and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: On 25 February the EU issued a statement on the situation in Darfur calling on the Government of Sudan to investigate thoroughly the attacks carried out and to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Sudan has signed but not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UK is one of the ICC's strongest supporters. We continue to work for an effective court, and to encourage other states to become parties to it.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have raised the situation in Darfur at the highest levels in Khartoum, and our ambassador discussed the matter with the First Vice-President on 24 February. We are urging the Government of Sudan to negotiate a cease-fire, facilitate humanitarian access to all those in need, and resume talks to find a peaceful solution to Darfur's problems.
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