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Microbial Antibiotic Resistance

Ms Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what conclusions he has reached on the recommendations made by the Advisory Committee for the Microbiological Safety of Food in their report on Microbial Antibiotic Resistance in relation to food safety which was published in August 1999. [116483]

Ms Stuart: The Government have given careful consideration to all the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food and have accepted those that call for Government action. For the other recommendations, the regulations that are already in place or the activities that are under way have been outlined in the Government's response.

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The response to the report highlights the importance the Government attach to the issue of antimicrobial resistance. Additionally, it indicates the considerable amount of work that is already under way in this field to prevent, reduce or delay the development of antimicrobial resistance in food-producing animals. This includes a number of research and development projects in this area, funding for which will amount to £3.7 million over the next three years. The results from these projects will direct future policy decisions and thus further minimise the risk to public health.

Copies of the Government's response have been placed in the Library.

Breast Cancer

Mrs. Mahon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on genetic testing relating to women who may be pre-disposed to develop breast cancer; and to what extent the results of such tests will be confidential. [115938]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 23 March 2000]: Gene testing is only appropriate for the small minority of women who have a strong family history of breast cancer. Less than 5 per cent. of cases of breast cancer are linked to known genes. Counselling by National Health Service regional genetics centres, in liaison with other specialities, will enable women and their clinicians to determine whether genetic testing is required. In 1998-99, 15 regional genetic centres undertook a total of just under 1,200 tests for the predisposition to breast cancer.

Genetic test results are an important part of the clinical record and, as such, are covered by normal restrictions on the storage and release of confidential medical records. The Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing has issued guidance on the requirements for genetic testing for breast cancer and other disorders which appear later in life.

Chelation Therapy

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to authorise the use of chelation therapy in the National Health Service. [99274]

Yvette Cooper: Various forms of chelation therapy are licensed for use in this country for the treatment of a number of different diseases, eg Wilson's disease (a form of liver disease) and some forms of metal poisoning.

There are some proponents of the use of a particular intravenous form of this drug, called Ethylene diamine tetra acetic chelation therapy, for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. There is no objective evidence from large research trials that this therapy helps in general in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. At present chelating drugs licensed under the Medicines Act are licensed for various indications but none are licensed for use in treating heart and arterial disease, apart from in clinical trials. In the absence of good evidence of clinical effectiveness it would not be appropriate for the Department to recommend the use of chelation therapy for the treatment of coronary heart disease within the National Health Service.

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Staff Bonuses

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much his Department, its agencies and associated public bodies spent in total on extra bonuses above usual payments for staff working over the new year period; what were the (a) maximum and (b) minimum bonuses paid; how many people received the (i) maximum and (ii) minimum payments; and if he will make a statement. [104481]

Yvette Cooper: The Department, its agencies and associated public bodies have to date authorised a total of £13,350 on payments to staff who worked over the new year period; the maximum bonus paid was £150 and the minimum £75. Fifty-one people received the maximum and 76 the minimum.



Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to ascertain whether, (1) prior to the conclusion of an internationally recognised final settlement ending Israel's occupation of the territories it has occupied since 1967, parties to international agreements with Israel can permit their agreements to be implemented in a manner which treats any part of those occupied territories as falling within the territory of the State of Israel without themselves contravening public international law; [115194]

Mr. Hain: Great care is taken to avoid contravening international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Exports (Sudan)

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to restrict further exports to Sudan by Weir Pumps Ltd. and Allen Engineering until a peace agreement is reached there; and if he will make a statement. [116035]

Mr. Hain: There is an EU arms embargo, which we expect to remain for as long as the civil war continues. The export of oil pipeline pumps and ancillary equipment is not generally subject to control. We will continue to give frank and full advice to interested companies in the Sudanese oil sector.

We have pressed the Government of Sudan to use its oil revenues for development projects and to show transparency in its oil accounts. It has given public assurances to that effect.

Peace in the Sudan remains a priority. The UK has been and will continue to be, active in promoting peace in the Sudan.

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Nuclear Materials (Exports)

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what correspondence has taken place between the British Embassy in Washington DC and Her Majesty's Government since October 1982 in respect of the export and import of special nuclear materials between the United Kingdom and the United States; and if he will place in the Library copies of correspondence with any national-security-sensitive information redacted. [116268]

Mr. Hain: Any correspondence of this nature is covered by Exemption 1a (Information whose disclosure would harm national security or defence), and b (Information whose disclosure would harm the conduct of international relations or affairs) and Exemption 2 (Information whose disclosure would harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. It is the long-standing practice of successive Governments that such information is not released.


Disability Living Allowance

Mr. Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how GPs' assessments for Disability Living Allowance are monitored; and what action his Department takes when dealing with general practitioners against whose decisions a high number of successful appeals are submitted. [116003]

Angela Eagle: Assessment of claimants to Disability Living Allowance is carried out at the request of Benefits Agency decision makers, by Examining Medical Practitioners (EMPs). The EMP's report forms part of the medical evidence used in making a decision on the claim.

Decisions on entitlement to Disability Living Allowance are made by Benefits Agency decision makers. In formulating their decision they take account of all the evidence before them, including the claimant's self assessment claim pack and any available evidence from the claimant's medical carer or other health professionals associated with the case. This is in addition to the consideration given to an EMP's report.

There is no direct correlation between the standard of an EMP's report and the outcome of an appeal. The Appeals Panel makes an independent judgment, again based on all the evidence before it, which may include supplementary evidence not previously submitted to the decision maker.

EMPs undertake work on behalf of Sema Group Medical Services, who hold the contract for the provision of medical services to the Benefits Agency. Doctors who work in this capacity are approved by the Chief Medical Adviser to the Department. The standard of EMP reports is monitored by experienced doctors in Medical Services. If an EMP's work is found to be below the required standard, the EMP is retrained as appropriate and further monitoring is carried out. If an EMP's work remains persistently substandard despite retraining, the Chief Medical Adviser can withdraw approval for the doctor to carry out the work.

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Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many complaints he has received during the last 12 months about the actions of medical examiners employed by Sema in cases of claims for Disability Living Allowance. [115653]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 22 March 2000]: The information is not available in the format requested. Records are not kept in a format which would identify the number of complaints received by the Secretary of State about the actions of medical examiners employed by Sema in cases of claims for Disability Living Allowance.

Such information as is available is as follows: In the period 1 December 1998 to 30 November 1999, Sema Group Medical Services received a total of 1,701 complaints concerning medical examinations undertaken in connection with claims for Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance. This figure includes those complaints made via the Secretary of State.

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