Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak (2007)

Following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2007, the Prime Minister and I invited Sir Iain Anderson to conduct a review to see if the lessons of the 2001 outbreak had been learned and to recommend what further steps might be taken. Sir Iain published his review in March 2008 and I am laying the Government’s response before Parliament today.

As we saw in 2007, even when confined to a small number of infected premises in the same area, the impact of an outbreak can be considerable on the livestock sector, food businesses, and the wider community.

Sir Iain commended the Government’s overall handling of the 2007 outbreak. He stated that

“many of the lessons identified in the 2002 report had been acted upon and performance, taken as a whole, was much improved”. “In analysing how the 2007 outbreak was handled, with its innumerable, interwoven decisions and actions, we found much to applaud, along with some deficiencies. On balance, the positive easily outweighs the negative”.

I am grateful to Sir Iain for his review and for the recognition of how Government and the livestock industry tackled the outbreak in partnership. However, even though most things were handled well, I acknowledge that there are always lessons to be learned and ways in which we can do better.

The Government have accepted all of Sir Iain’s 26 recommendations contained in the main body of his report. Since 2007, we have dealt with other exotic diseases by applying what we have learned from the foot and mouth outbreak, and as a result we are now better prepared. I am committed to continuing to work with the industry to ensure this remains the case.

Our response also comments on Sir Iain’s personal recommendation to reposition the Institute of Animal Health as a new National Institute of Infectious Disease. DEFRA, DIUS and BBSRC have discussed over the past year the future facilities needed for animal health in the UK and specifically the future management and arrangements at IAH Pirbright. BBSRC will continue to fund the Institute for Animal Health so that it can provide the nation with world class research facilities that underpin the livestock industries and our food security. DIUS expects BBSRC soon to submit a business case for the redevelopment of the site at Pirbright to allow the continuation of world class research there on animal diseases. DEFRA will continue to work with DIUS and BBSRC to ensure that the national provision of research, diagnosis and surveillance enables effective disease detection and response. The Institute for Animal Health and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency will continue to pursue opportunities for collaboration.

Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office and at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/fmd/2007/index.htm

Health

National Dementia Strategy

“Living Well with Dementia—a National Dementia Strategy”, which is being published today, sets out the Government’s vision for the transformation of dementia services.

The launch of “Living Well with Dementia—a National Dementia Strategy” marks the start of an important journey of improving dementia services which will involve both the NHS and social care in England. The strategy has three main aims:

to increase awareness of dementia and remove the stigma associated with it;

to ensure early diagnosis and intervention; and

to improve the quality of care that people with dementia and their carers receive.

A copy of the strategy has been placed in the Library of the House and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Home Department

Control Orders (Lord Carlile's Fourth Report)

I am pleased to say that in accordance with section 14(3), 14(4) and 14(5) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, Lord Carlile of Berriew QC has completed the report on the operation of the Act in 2008, which will be laid before the House today.

Justice

Corston Report

I am today updating Parliament on further progress made in implementing the Government’s response to the Corston Report on women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system.

In my statement to this house in December, Official Report, 10 December 2008, column 59WS, I confirmed that while significant progress had been made since the Government’s response was published in December 2007, we remain determined to do much more to divert vulnerable women who are not serious or dangerous offenders from custody.

I am therefore pleased to announce that the Ministry of Justice will provide £15.6 million of new funding over two years, to invest in the provision of additional services in the community for women offenders and women at risk of offending. The new funds will be directed towards building capacity of specialist provision for women in the community and developing bail support services. We propose that some of the funding will be used to invest in existing third sector providers, enabling them to work with courts, police, probation and other statutory agencies to provide support and services to vulnerable women in the criminal justice system.

I have asked the cross-departmental Criminal Justice Women’s Strategy Unit to lead on this new phase of capacity building and to report progress to the Ministerial Sub-Group on implementation of the Government’s response to Corston.

If we are successfully to protect the public from crime then we also need to tackle the underlying causes of crime and break cycles of disadvantage. My announcement today reaffirms the Government’s commitment to do more to ensure that there is early and effective provision for vulnerable women in the community and our continued commitment to the wider Corston agenda.

Work and Pensions

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

I am pleased to announce that the UK will sign the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as soon as practicable.

The convention will reaffirm that disabled people have—and should be able to enjoy—their human rights on an equal basis with non-disabled people. The optional protocol builds on this by establishing two additional procedures in respect of implementation and monitoring of the convention itself.

The first is a procedural avenue that, subject to meeting conditions set out in the optional protocol, will enable individuals or groups of individuals to bring petitions to the UN Committee that has been established to monitor implementation of the convention if they believe that their convention rights have been breached. The second is an inquiry procedure giving the committee authority to undertake inquiries, when reliable information, is received into allegations of grave or systematic violations of convention rights.

This is an important decision which further demonstrates the Government’s firm commitment to the convention, on which our work towards ratification is continuing, and to the principle of ensuring equality of human rights for disabled people.

The decision to sign this optional protocol does not set a precedent for similar individual complaints mechanisms. These will continue to be considered on their merits on a case by case basis.

Elbourne Review

On 22 May 2008 the then Minister for Pensions Reform announced that John Elbourne had been asked to

“examine the current arrangements for the engagement of older people and the ability of those arrangements to inform policy and actions of Government at all levels”.

Specifically, this was to include examining Better Government for Older People.

John Elbourne published his report on 18 November 2008 and the Government received comments up to 9 January 2009. The report made a range of recommendations for improving older people’s engagement with Government, which fell into three broad areas: establishing a UK advisory forum for older people, building the capacity for effective dialogue at regional and local level through regional forums and local older people’s forums; and withdrawing funding for Better Government for Older People from 1 April 2009 to support the new Government Office arrangements and thereby increasing the funds available for “on the ground” activities.

The Government are today publishing their response to this report. The Government will establish a new UK-wide forum. The forum will be known as the UK Advisory Forum on Ageing, and I will co-chair this forum with the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Phil Hope). This will bring together representative views of older people at a national level, and will build links with forums in the devolved nations, the English regions, and the local level. The Government will set up a new structure with a designated regional co-ordinator for older people’s engagement in each English region, providing advocacy and co-ordination for older people and working with older people to set up regional forums on ageing and local forums where they do not already exist. This will build on existing arrangements for engagement with older people and address weaknesses in the current structure. These new arrangements will give older people a direct line into Government at a local, regional and national level.

Better Government for Older People’s response to John Elbourne’s review has been to develop a proposal for a new independent body to carry forward their aims. The Department for Work and Pensions will support them in making a smooth transition into this new phase.

The Governments response can be found at:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/resourcecentre/ind_review_older_peoples_eng_with_govt.asp

and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.