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Female Genital Mutilation

Ms McCafferty: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he has taken to promote health education among groups affected by the practice of female genital mutilation. [119190]

Yvette Cooper: Education is central to eradicating the brutal practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). We fund a range of educational projects in Britain. This year we have awarded the London Black Women's Health Action Project a section 64 project grant of £25,000 for 1999-2000 for their training and resource project. This project aims to educate and raise awareness of FGM among healthcare providers, facilitate training of trainers programmes and seminars, and to produce and disseminate educational materials.

The Department also provides financial support to FORWARD, the leading voluntary organisation on this issue, through the section 64 grants scheme. This support includes core grant funding of £25,000 for 1999-2000 to 2001-02, to help meet the organisation's running costs. Over the last few years, the Department has provided funds totalling nearly 280,000 for projects developed by FORWARD in the United Kingdom. Additionally, the Department for International Development has committed over £200,000 for two projects in which FORWARD are involved in Nigeria and The Gambia.

The sexual health strategy currently being developed will be looking at health promotion needs including those of particular cultural groups.

Ms McCafferty: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what mechanisms are in place to ensure that the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 is enforced. [119188]

Yvette Cooper: The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 makes it an offence to carry out the procedures known as female circumcision. It also makes it an offence for anyone to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of these procedures by any other person on her own body.

There have been no prosecutions under the Act since it came into force. The lack of prosecutions for this offence is only because of the small number of complaints made to the police and the difficulty of obtaining evidence where a complaint is made. Encouraging the education of professionals and practising communities is a more effective tool for eradicating female genital mutilation.

Ms McCafferty: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures he has taken to prevent young girls being taken out of the country for the purpose of female genital mutilation. [119189]

Yvette Cooper: The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 makes the procedure of female genital mutilation (FGM) illegal. As well as this Act, legal protection for girls is also provided by the Children Act 1989. If a local authority has reason to believe that a child is likely to suffer significant harm, it is obliged to make such inquiries as it considers necessary to enable it to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard or promote the child's welfare. Under the Act, a Prohibited Steps Order can be made to prevent parents carrying out

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a particular act without the consent of the Court (eg removing the child from the United Kingdom so that mutilation can be carried out abroad).

Further protection is offered under the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998. This Act makes it an offence for a person to conspire to commit an offence outside the United Kingdom, provided the substantive offence constitutes an offence both under the law in the UK and under the law in the country in which the act is committed. Therefore if parents take their daughters abroad to have them mutilated this would be an offence if FGM is also an offence in the country to which they are travelling.

Genetic Data

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what Code of Practice covers his Department's data matching activities; and if he will place a copy in the Library. [119525]

Ms Stuart: The Department does not have a Code of Practice governing data matching activities. However, where patients may be identified from the data held, the Department adheres to the good practice principles developed by the Caldicott Committee. A copy of the Caldicott Report, published in December 1997, is in the Library.


Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to authorise a renewal of the programme of tuberculosis vaccinations within secondary schools. [120402]

Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) on 10 February 2000, Official Report, column 261W.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the recent trend in the incidence of tuberculosis in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement. [120371]

Yvette Cooper: The United Kingdom has an excellent record of tuberculosis (TB) control and we are determined this should remain the case.

The incidence of TB is monitored by the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS). Official notifications of TB gradually fell to an all time low of 5,086 in England and Wales in 1987 from about 50,000 cases a year in the 1950s and 9,000 cases at the beginning of the 1980s. Since the early 1990s, there have been overall small year on year increases in total notified cases which are continuing. Provisional notifications for 1998 were just over 6,000. While some of this increase may be due to better ascertainment of cases, it has occurred against the backdrop of a worldwide resurgence of this disease that will, inevitably, continue to have some impact on TB in the UK through travel and immigration.

The results of the latest in a series of five-yearly detailed surveys of TB in England and Wales undertaken by the PHLS on behalf of the Department are reported in the Communicable Disease Report Vol. 9, No. 51 (17 December 1999), copies of which are available in the Library.

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Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cases of (a) human tuberculosis (mycobacterium tuberculosis), and (b) bovine tuberculosis (mycobacterium bovis), were confirmed in humans in (i) 1997, (ii) 1998 and (iii) 1999; and if he will make a statement. [120771]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 4 May 2000]: A total of 5,859 cases of tuberculosis were notified in England and Wales in 1997, 6,087 in 1998 and 6,144 in 1999. 3,232 cases were confirmed by culture in 1997 and 3,506 in 1998. Final totals for culture confirmed cases for 1999 are not yet available.

Of the culture confirmed cases, 32 were due to Mycobacterium bovis in 1997, and 29 in 1998. To date, 16 cases due to Mycobacterium bovis have been reported for 1999.

There is no evidence at present that the increase in bovine tuberculosis in cattle has led to an increase in bovine tuberculosis in the local human population.

The number of isolates of M. bovis from human cases of bovine tuberculosis in England and Wales has varied from 22 to 37 per year between 1993 and 1998 with no trend to increase or decrease. The numbers of human cases of M. bovis arising in those regions of England and Wales with the greatest increase in bovine tuberculosis in cattle (South West, Wales and West Midlands) have remained low and have also varied from year to year with no increasing or decreasing trend.

In response to the Krebs Committee report on tuberculosis in cattle and badgers, the Department undertook to continue to monitor the public health impact of M. bovis infection carefully. Measures have been taken to enhance surveillance, particularly in those areas most affected by infection in cattle, and to look at geographical and occupational variations in incidence. Department of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food officials hold regular meetings to keep matters under review with special regard to the potential for M. bovis to infect humans through the United Kingdom food chain and other zoonotic routes.

(Data from the Public Health Laboratory Service. Source: NOIDS database and Mycobnet database as at 3 May 2000 (database kept live)).

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if his Department routinely records the occupation of people identified as being infected with Bovine TB; and if he will make a statement. [120770]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 4 May 2000]: Information on the occupation of individuals notified with tuberculosis in England and Wales is sought on the standard notification form. This information is used locally.

Reports of M. bovis infections are collated by the Public Health Laboratory Service Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre as part of a scheme called the United Kingdom Mycobacterial Resistance Network (Mycobnet). On receipt of a report of M. bovis infection, a questionnaire is sent to the local Consultant in Communicable Disease Control (CCDC) inquiring, among other things, about whether the individual had an agricultural occupation (including working on a farm) or other animal contact.

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Student Nurses

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent assessment he has made of the incidence of financial hardship among student nurses; and if he will make a statement; [120412]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 3 May 2000]: Information gathered by the National Health Service Executive's Regional Offices during 1999 reported a total of 105 payments to degree level students (less than 1 per cent. of the student population) from the NHS Hardship Fund. This year's review of student support arrangements will include examination of the provision made for those unfortunate enough to suffer hardship during their training and will encompass both degree and diploma students.

We are aware of the support among student nurses regarding the proposal to award them employee status. Indeed, this issue was discussed at a recent meeting with the Head of UNISON Health Group. However, the move away from students' status as employees accompanied improvements in nurse education, which moved training from the health service to higher education, and gave students supernumerary status thereby strengthening their educational experience. These changes were, and still are, supported by the Royal College of Nursing.

We want to ensure that as many nurses as possible complete their training and go on to work in the NHS, and we recognise the need, therefore, to provide student nurses with the support they need throughout their course. That is why the NHS Bursary Scheme continues to provide more generous support than that available to other students in higher education, and why bursary rates are being increased again by the rate of inflation from September--the third successive annual increase.

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