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Local Authority Public Health Responsibilities

Volume 559: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2013

2. What support his Department has given to local authorities in respect of their new public health responsibilities. (144337)

The Department has continued to work with all its partners to ensure that there is a swift and effective transition of public health responsibilities to where they should be—back with local authorities. We have made available £15 million to ensure that the transition is successful and complies with all the requirements that we have laid down.

I thank the Minister for that answer. I invited the Silver Star charity to my constituency on Friday, where it offered free diabetes tests to all residents. Will local authorities be encouraged to work with such charities to improve public health?

The Silver Star bus is making many journeys because as well as going to my hon. Friend’s constituency, it is coming to mine on Saturday. It is an outstanding charity that provides diagnosis at a local level. I pay tribute in particular to the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) because the charity goes to communities that are often hard to reach, such as the Asian community, where we need to do good work to reduce the level of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. I look forward to local authorities working with outstanding charities such as Silver Star.

Why is the public health grant for next year £58 per person in Barnsley and £53 per person in Rotherham, but £130 per person in Westminster and in Kensington and Chelsea, especially given that deprivation is less and life expectancy at least seven years longer in those wealthy, Tory London boroughs?

I do not accept that for one moment. I am exceptionally proud of this Government’s commitment to public health which, in the difficult times that we have inherited, has ensured that local authorities are in some cases receiving an increase of some 10% in spending on public health. That is a record that I am proud of and that the Labour Government could not have matched.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the local authorities and the Food Standards Agency have a public health responsibility to ensure that food entering schools and hospitals is appropriately labelled and is safe and healthy to eat. Does she have absolute confidence in the procedures that have been followed in that regard or might she be prepared to review them?

I am grateful for that question. I pay tribute to all my hon. Friend’s work on this matter, especially as Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. This has been a difficult time for all concerned. We need to ensure that all food is what it says on the label. Important work needs to be done to ensure that that is the case and to restore confidence to all consumers. We are very mindful of that in the Department.

I thank the Minister for her very kind comments. I know that the charity Silver Star is looking forward to visiting her constituency on Saturday and testing her for diabetes. I am sure that we will find her in perfect health. I remind her that, according to the national health service, it will take five years before all diabetics have access to the full nine checks. Will she consider issuing guidelines to local health and wellbeing boards to ensure that they raise awareness of diabetes?

I am concerned, as we all are, about diabetes and about the recent report. We have accepted all but one of its recommendations and a lot more work needs to be done. I pay tribute to Silver Star and to the work of Diabetes UK, for example in Boots. I was happy to go to the launch of a new system whereby people can go to clinics at Boots and get the sort of checks that Silver Star is doing. We recognise that there is a lot more work to be done and are making every effort to ensure that there is a huge improvement in the diagnosis and outcomes of everybody who is affected by diabetes.