HC Deb 09 December 2002 vol 396 cc153-5W
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proposals he has to introduce legislation to give children the same legal right of protection for assaults as adults; and if he will make a statement. [83220]

Jacqui Smith

The law governing assault is the same for adults and children, except only in respect of the "reasonable chastisement" defence of the physical punishment of children. Use of this defence is now governed by the outcome of the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the case of A.v. United Kingdom, which was heard on appeal from the domestic courts. Since the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force in the UK in October 2000, the Courts have been obliged to take note of the outcome of the European Court of Human Rights ruling. Following the A. v. UK case, certain factors must be taken into account by the Courts when considering whether a punishment may be described as reasonable chastisement. These factors include the nature and duration of punishment, its physical and mental effects and the state of health and age of the child. The Government believe that parents have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to use physical punishment in bringing up their children. The law is therefore formulated to allow them to make that choice, while affording protection for children against unacceptable forms of physical punishment.

David Hamilton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children have been diagnosed obese since 1997; and what percentage of these children were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. [84544]

Ms Blears

The prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing in children in England. No exact figures on how many children are obese are available, although analyses of the Health Survey for England (1999) showed the prevalence of obesity was 10 per cent., at age six rising to 17 per cent., at age 15. There are also no figures available on the numbers of children who are obese and have Type 2 diabetes. There is however evidence to suggest that the rise in the number of children with Type 2 diabetes is in proportion to the number who are obese.

The Government are committed to tackling the rising trend in childhood obesity arid have put in place cross-Government programmes of work to improve eating habits and increase physical activity levels. One Government Department cannot tackle obesity on its own. The Department of Health is working with other Government Departments and a wide range of other partners at national, regional and local levels.

Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many representations he has received from non-Members on the reform of the child protection system; and if he will make a statement. [85138]

Jacqui Smith

We receive many representations on this important issue although exact numbers are not available.

The Government is aware that a wide range of views about the reform of child protection have been submitted for consideration by the Victoria Climbié Inquiry, and we look forward shortly to receiving Lord Laming's report. The recommendations of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry, together with those contained in the Joint Chief Inspectors report Safeguarding Children will provide the Government with an authoritative basis for any reforms to child protection that may need to be made and, if reform is necessary, the Government will implement it.

Mr. Burstow

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the introduction of the Children Act 1989 in prisons following the High Court ruling on 29 November; and what extra resources his Department will make available to social services departments to ensure its implementation. [86288]

Jacqui Smith

Mr. Justice Munby's judgment, handed down on 29 November, ruled that the Children Act 1989 applied to children in prison, subject to the requirements of imprisonment. This was the Department's own view, set out in its statement to the court.

The Department therefore sees no immediate need to revise existing guidance to councils with social services responsibilities or to review resource allocations. However, we will, together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, carefully study Mr. Justice Munby's judgment, in the context of the recommendations of the joint chief inspectors' report, "Safeguarding Children".

Mrs. Calton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children in care have access to the internet at home, broken down by local authority. [85155]

Jacqui Smith

We do not hold central information on how many children in care have access to the internet. However, £20 million has been made available from the capital modernisation fund to increase access to information and communication technology (ICT) for children in and leaving care. The majority of this money is being paid to local councils over this year and next as part of the Quality Protects programme (details in the circular LAC(2001 )28). The remainder is supporting the development of "CareZone" by the Who Cares? Trust. "CareZone" will provide a range of interactive, secure, on-line services for children in care.

Local authorities' Quality Protects management action plans, submitted in January 2002, included details of their plans for increasing access to ICT. The average position reported by councils was that just under half of their looked after children had access to a computer where they lived. This was projected to rise to three-quarters by 2004.

Mr. Paul Marsden

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of children's hospice funding was paid by his Department in each year since 1997. [85637]

Ms Blears

The information requested is not collected centrally. However, a survey conducted by the association of children's hospices indicated that children's hospices derive, on average, some 5 per cent., of their funding from national health service sources.