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Labour Statistics

Mr. Opik: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of households (a) in each region and (b) in total have no one in full-time employment; and if he will make a statement. [4854]

Mrs. Liddell [holding answer 24 June 1997]: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Chief Executive of the Office for National Statistics. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given. Letter from Tom Holt to Mr. Lembit Opik, dated 25 June 1997:

Debt Relief

Mr. Wareing: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the economic reform programmes agreed between low-income countries and the IMF as a condition for debt relief; what plans he has to press for a review of these requirements; and if will make a statement. [3877]

Mrs. Liddell: It is essential that countries which benefit from debt relief should have a track record of economic reform, and a commitment to continue with

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sound economic policies, as part of a wider commitment by debtors to balanced transparent economic reform programmes which encourage economic and social development and thus create the conditions in which poverty can be alleviated. We review the suitability of each country's proposed economic reform programme as a prerequisite for debt relief prior to participating in decisions on each case.

Windfall Tax

Ms Lawrence: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the windfall tax will be a one-off levy. [5656]

Mr. Gordon Brown: As I explained to the House, the legislation will be for a one-off levy. The intention is that the legislation will enact this financial year, in one Bill and will not form a recurring part of the legislative programme.

Expenditure Control

Mr. Timms: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proposals he has for improving co-operation between the European Commission and Government Departments in the United Kingdom in the control of expenditure by United Kingdom Government Departments which is financed by the EC Budget. [5655]

Mrs. Liddell: I am very pleased to announce that agreement has been reached between the European Commission and the Government on the signature of Protocols between the Financial Controller of the European Commission and the Accounting Officer and Heads of Internal Audit of UK Departments with responsibilities for Structural Fund expenditure. These Protocols provide for an enhanced level of co-operation between the Commission's Financial Control and the Internal Audit Units of UK Departments in the control and auditing of Structural Fund expenditure. This will lead to a better use of the resources available for this purpose, agreement on common standards, and the exchange of relevant reports, without prejudicing the independence or statutory responsibilities of either party.

This is an important contribution to the improvement of the Community's financial management systems within the context of the Commission's strategy for improving and modernising financial management, Sound and Efficiency Management (SEM) 2000, which the Government strongly supports. Similar Protocols have already been agreed between the Commission and a number of other Member States, and I understand that discussions are under way between the Commission and further Member States.

Child Cash Allowance

Mr. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to announce changes in the level of the child cash allowance for under 16s. [3965]

Mr. Bradley: I have been asked to reply.

Modernising the Social Security system to reduce poverty and strengthen family life is one of our key priorities. We are committed to retaining universal Child Benefit from birth to age 16, and to uprate it at least in line with prices. The rates of Child Benefit are reviewed and announced annually.

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St. Bartholomew's Hospital

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will place an immediate moratorium on the downgrading, reduction and loss of services provided by St. Bartholomew's hospital. [3040]

Mr. Milburn: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 20 June 1997 the establishment of a review of London's health services to be conducted by an independent advisory panel chaired by Sir Leslie Turnberg, President of the Royal College of Physicians. During the review there is a moratorium on all hospital closures in London. The review panel will be advising in particular on the future of St. Bartholomew's hospital.

Hospitals (Capital Charges)

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if the calculation and implementation of capital charges on hospitals will be included in his review of the funding of the NHS. [4899]

Mr. Milburn: The comprehensive spending review announced on 11 June will look at all areas of spending. The Government's election manifesto made clear our commitment to a national health service based on need not on ability to pay. Every aspect of the Department of Health's comprehensive spending review will be judged against that commitment.

Devonshire Royal Hospital, Buxton

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what are the terms of reference of the current review of the Devonshire Royal hospital, Buxton, currently being carried out by NHS Estates, Leeds. [4900]

Mr. Milburn: The terms of reference for the review of the Devonshire Royal hospital, Buxton are:

    to explore, with English Heritage, the possibility that the Devonshire Royal hospital be transferred to a heritage trust, and if so what arrangements would need to be put in place, and if this would enable the building to remain in continued National Health Service use; and
    to explore, with English Heritage and the local planning authority, what alternative uses the Devonshire Royal hospital might be put to if it becomes surplus to NHS requirements, and if early steps can be taken to identify a purchaser.


Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements exist for the long-term safety monitoring of MMR vaccines. [4920]

Ms Jowell: Before measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination was introduced into the United Kingdom immunisation programme in 1988, there was extensive experience of its use in many other industrialised countries. The United States had been using MMR routinely since the early 1970s and around 100 million doses have been administered. By the time a two dose programme was introduced in the UK, in 1996, there was extensive experience of two dose programmes in many other countries. For example, a two dose programme of MMR in place in Finland since 1982 has

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led to the elimination of these diseases from that country. The vaccine was reported to have an excellent safety record.

In the UK the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) collects information from many different sources to monitor the safety of all medicines, including vaccines, in clinical practice worldwide. Spontaneous reports of suspected adverse drug reactions are submitted to the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) and MCA by doctors, pharmacists, coroners and dentists under the voluntary 'yellow card' scheme in the UK. There is a statutory requirement for pharmaceutical companies to report reactions to their products on a world-wide basis. Companies also provide regular safety updates for their products to the MCA. The number and pattern of suspected adverse reactions reports from all data sources are regularly reviewed, and appropriate action initiated if there is any indication of a safety hazard. The safety of vaccines is carefully monitored both by the CSM and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation which advise UK Health Ministers.

Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on progress made in work, funded by his Department, by the Public Health Laboratory Service in respect of vaccine safety. [4924]

Ms Jowell: The Public Health Laboratory Service is investigating adverse events associated with immunisation in children under two years of age, using hospital admissions data and child health immunisation records. Pilot studies in single districts have been published and copies of this paper have been placed in the Library. Their latest work, using regional data, will shortly be submitted for publication. Unfortunately, the results from studies using general practitioners' records do not so far suggest that this will be a useful source of data for identifying adverse reactions to vaccines.

Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will set out the criteria used for the testing of vaccines for immunogenicity and reactogenicity; what discussions his Department has had with the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control over the product licensing of vaccines; and when he next plans to meet the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to discuss the administration of the MMR vaccine. [4921]

Ms Jowell: Before a new vaccine is licensed in the United Kingdom all of the information on its safety, quality and efficacy is evaluated by the Government's Medicines Control Agency and by the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM), an independent advisory committee. For a vaccine this will include assessment of clinical trials investigating the immunogenicity and reactogenicity of the product. There are no specific criteria laid out for the clinical testing of vaccines and each application for licensing by the MCA is taken on a case by case basis, depending on the type of vaccine.

The National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), as a European Official Medicines Control Laboratory, carries out the batch release testing for certain biologicals, including vaccines, which is required as a condition of the European or United Kingdom licence granted for the product in question. Such testing is aimed at assessing the purity and potency of each batch of the product against specifications defined in

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the product licence. NIBSC also reviews manufacturing protocols as part of the evaluation of batch release. NIBSC also provides expert advice on vaccines and some of its staff are members of the biologicals sub-committee of the Committee on Safety of Medicines. The Director of the NIBSC is a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI); any concerns NIBSC may have would be brought to the attention of that committee.

We have no plans to meet the JCVI, but, as with all vaccines, the JCVI will keep the benefits and risks of MMR vaccination under review. We have asked to be kept informed of any developments.

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