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Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to his answer of 23 October 2000, Official Report, column 16W, on the police service, on what date the Chief Constable initiated the review of the RUC appraisal system to take account of human rights performance; who was instructed to take charge of this review; what is this officer's rank; and what are the terms of reference of the review. 
Mr. Ingram: A review of the current appraisal system commenced in the autumn of 1999. Since the spring of 2000, the review has been widened to take account of Patten's recommendations. The review is proceeding in tandem with the work of the national appraisal group and the revised system will incorporate human rights issues. The Assistant Chief Constable, Personnel and Training, has overall responsibility for this work and in addition to considering the human rights issues, is undertaking periodic reviews to address the following areas:
Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to his answer of 23 October 2000, Official Report, column 13W, if he will place a copy of the revised conduct regulations for the police in the Library. 
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Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to his answer of 23 October 2000, Official Report, column 19W, what representations he has received concerning possible venues for annual conferences of police services north and south of the Border; what dates are being considered for the first such conference; and if this conference will be open to attendance by (a) the Police Ombudsman, (b) the Human Rights Commission, (c) the Equality Commission, (d) non- governmental organisations and (e) the press. 
Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the progress made by his Department since 1999 in reducing sickness absence; what targets he has agreed with the Cabinet Office; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mandelson: The Cabinet Office prepares each year an annual report of sickness absence in the civil service which includes information for each Department. The report for 1999 is currently being finalised and will be published shortly.
Details of the Department's targets for reduced sickness absence for years 2001 to 2003 against a baseline year of 1998 will be included in its service delivery agreement. This is also to be published shortly.
Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what procedures exist in his Department for a civil servant to report actions which (a) are illegal, improper, or unethical, (b) are in breach of constitutional convention or a professional code, (c) may involve possible maladministration and (d) are otherwise inconsistent with the Civil Service Code. 
Mr. Mandelson: The Civil Service Code is set out in full in the Northern Ireland Office Home Civil Service Staff Handbook. The procedures which staff should follow when they wish to report matters in the categories listed are also set out in the Staff Handbook in the section on Complaints about Personal Matters. This section includes details about the Independent Departmental Adviser with whom staff may discuss their concerns, and the circumstances in which they may write direct to the Civil Service Commissioners.
Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what research his Department has evaluated into the risk of idiopathic venous thromboembolism in users of conventional antipsychotic drugs; 
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Ms Stuart: The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) is currently evaluating an epidemiological study published in the Lancet 1 on the 7 October 2000, which suggests an increased risk of first time idiopathic venous thromboembolism in current users of anti-psychotics compared to non-users.
As well as the published medical literature, the MCA uses a number of sources of information to assess risk, including the UK spontaneous reporting scheme (the Yellow Card Scheme). Independent expert advice will be sought from the Committee on Safety of Medicines, who will be asked to advise on any guidance for health professionals including psychiatrists.
The main Government agency for research into the causes of disease is the Medical Research Council (MRC), funded via grant-in-aid from the office of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The MRC provided more than £3 million in 1999-2000 for research into movement disorders, including dystonia.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions he has had with the National Institute for Clinical Excellence about its appraisal of the cost effectiveness of beta interferon. 
Mr. Denham: The Department as one of the many stakeholders was given the opportunity to comment on National Institute for Clinical Excellence's provisional appraisal determination and draft guidance on beta interferon for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Like other stakeholders we are awaiting the outcome of the appeal which has been made against the final appraisal determination.
Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people with multiple sclerosis were part of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence review team on prescribing beta interferon. 
Mr. Denham: The Department does not hold this information; details of the appraisal process are a matter for the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). NICE has not yet published its final guidance on beta interferon for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, but will in accordance with its usual procedure have consulted interested parties including patient representative groups.
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Mr. Hutton: We consider that doctors should not prescribe cannabis until the quality, safety and efficacy of a medical form have been scientifically established and a marketing authorisation issued by the Medical Control Agency. This is a procedure that all prospective new medicines must go through.
When the benefits of a cannabis-based medicine have been scientifically demonstrated, the Government would be willing to amend the misuse of drugs controls to allow the prescribing of such a medicine.
There are currently two trials under way. The first, a three-year study to attempt to measure the therapeutic effects of cannabis in people with multiple sclerosis, is due to report early in 2004. This study has received £950,000 from the Medical Research Council.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans the Government have to review their guidelines on adoption in respect of (a) the age of the prospective adopter and (b) the ethnicity or cultural background of the prospective adopter. 
Mr. Hutton: We made clear in Local Authority Circular (98)20, copies of which are available in the Library, that although a child's ethnic origin, culture, language and religion are significant factors to be taken into account when adoption agencies are considering the most appropriate placement for a child, it is unacceptable for a child to be denied loving adoptive parents solely on the grounds that the child and adopters do not share the same racial or cultural background.
Although age is one consideration among many that is taken into account in assessing the suitability of prospective adopters, the guidance also makes it clear that there should be no upper age restriction to people applying to become adoptive parents. It is clear that for far too long children drift in the care system when suitable adopters are available.
In February, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced a review of adoption services. In July, the report by the Performance and Innovation Unit was published for consultation. We will be publishing a White Paper on adoption before the end of the year. In addition, as part of our commitment to modernising services, we will be publishing, for consultation, a draft set of evidence-based national standards for adoption.
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