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The Queen's Speech -
New Health Initiatives for 2005

Today's Queen's speech holds the promise of a wide range of health initiatives for 2005, going well beyond what is promised in the recent White Paper. The government intends to bring forward measures on:

Drugs were conspicuously absent from the White Paper on public health and our concern is that the criminal justice agenda will be pursued to the exclusion of a public health approach. We will continue to advocate the latter when detailed proposals emerge next year.

Clean Neighbourhoods
The Society contributed to the consultation on this legislation earlier in the year. There is much in it that we welcome - our major concern is that local authorities should have adequate funding streams to resource their new powers.

Anti-Social Behaviour
In our response to the 'Choosing Health' consultation we strongly supported the view that feeling secure is a vital element in people's well-being. We advocated measures to encourage local authorities to make wider use of anti-social behaviour orders to help tackle activities which have a considerable impact on public health.

Corporate Manslaughter
This is long overdue, as we have argued in the past. We look forward to robust measures to ensure employees and the public are properly protected.

Mental Health
The Society believes that the policy debate about mental health has for too long been dominated by the public safety agenda and acute cases. We live in a society where many people face chronic problems of well-being and the White Paper goes some way towards addressing these more effectively.

School Transport
The school run is a major contributor to road congestion and urban pollution, as well as having an impact on the physical activity levels of many children. There are interesting schemes being piloted at a local level to provide alternatives to the ubiquitous mum in the SUV, and we look forward to some constructive proposals at national level which build on these.

Road Safety
It is thought that the government intends to toughen up measures against using a phone while driving. We advocated making this an offence and were pleased when, a year ago, it became one. Since then the enforcement of the new law has not been at all satisfactory in our view and we be looking for a considerable strengthening of the punishments for this kind of dangerous driving.

Animal Welfare
The BSE outbreak has reminded us all that health problems in animals can sometimes have an impact on human health. The illegal bushmeat trade brings large quantities of carcases into the human food chain from Africa every week and there is no means of assessing the health risks this carries; there is also an underground market for illegally slaughtered meat, often involving unhealthy animals. We will continue to advocate improved animal welfare measures where these have a direct bearing on human health.

Taken together with the measures headlined in the White paper 'Choosing Health: Making Healthy Choices Easier' the government will have a very full programme of health-related measures for the first half of next year. Early expectations that the legislative programme would be completely dominated by Home Office security measures have not been borne out. We will continue to advocate policies which promote public health across the whole range of government legislation and look forward to another busy year in 2005.

The Royal Society for the Promotion of Health is the largest and longest-established public health organisation in the UK. We were founded in 1876 to promote joined up thinking between health professionals and we are a networking organisation that cuts across traditional professional boundaries.

23 November 2004