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Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to offer parents a choice between separate injections of measles, mumps and rubella and the combined MMR vaccination. 
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 18 December 2000]: Delivery of measles, mumps and rubella as three separate vaccines has never been recommended in the United Kingdom. Single antigen measles and mumps vaccines are not licensed in the UK. The importation of unlicensed single antigen measles and mumps vaccines is restricted by the Medicines Control Agency under the Medicines Act 1986. There is no evidence that the use of single vaccines benefits children and evidence that their use may put children at significant disadvantage. The evidence shows that MMR remains the safest way for parents to protect their children and the Department cannot support the use of separate vaccines and has no plans to make separate vaccines available.
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 18 December 2000]: The number of children identified as having autism is increasing. Although the full explanation for this is not clear, it is at least in part due to improvement in diagnosis by the clinical professions, including child mental health specialists and community paediatricians.
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We recognise the importance of health, social services and education agencies collaborating to facilitate early identification and effective intervention. For example, these agencies are working jointly to improve the provision of high quality care and treatment for children by building up locally-based child and adolescent mental health services. We have already invested £50 million of central funds towards these developments.
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 18 December 2000]: Establishing the cause of autism will help in preventing, identifying and treating this distressing condition. The Medical Research Council (which is largely funded by Government) has recently invested £344,000 in one of the largest studies of the causes of autism ever attempted. The researchers will study whether autistic children have a history of other conditions or medical problems such as problems during birth and whether viral infections in the womb or soon after birth appear to play a role in producing autism. They will look at a representative sample of health records drawn from over 2 million people.
Mr. Hutton: Both the Department and the Medical Research Council (MRC) take ethnic minority issues very seriously. The MRC, which receives its funding via the Department of Trade and Industry, is entirely independent in its day-to-day research funding decisions. These take account of both health needs and scientific vision and opportunity including advice from the Department on our priorities. However, the Department does not as a matter of course seek to influence the design of particular MRC-funded research projects. As part of its strategy for research into inequalities in health, the MRC encourages all applicants to consider the feasibility of collecting information on ethnic origin, socio-economic status, gender, etc. in exploring the factors influencing health.
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recipient of funds from his Department's coronary heart disease budget and the total sum to be received by each. 
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 19 December 2000]: In 1999-2000, coronary heart disease services were funded from the health authority unified allocations. For 2000-01, in addition to funding within unified allocations, funds were allocated specifically for heart disease. Recipients of these funds are as listed. We have also received £120 million from the Treasury Capital Modernisation Fund over two years to 2002, and a separate announcement on this will be made shortly.
Mrs. Ray Michie: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he plans to publish the agreement reached between his Department and the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union on equal value pay for speech and language therapists; if he will place a copy in the Library; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Denham [holding answer 19 December 2000]: An out-of-court settlement was reached for all speech and language therapists' equal pay claims, following decisions of the employment tribunal in three cases, and announced on 7 May 2000. The settlement also provided a new pay and grade structure for speech and language therapists which was notified to the National Health Service on 19 May 2000. The settlement was negotiated between the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union on behalf of the speech and language therapists and my officials.
Retrospective payment is based on (i) the decisions of the employment tribunal and findings of the independent experts (this applies to the 1980s cases only); (ii) an assessment of the job weight carried out by work assessment experts; (iii) a formula agreed by negotiators to provide a reasonable and fair payment (individuals were not equalised with their individual comparators for many reasons); (iv) the length of relevant claim.
Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what additional financial funding will be made available to voluntary sector homes towards the payment of the increase in the London weighting allowance to take place in April 2001; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Hutton: Independent sector residential care homes and nursing homes are responsible for negotiating their own contract rates with local authorities and other purchasers of their services. Local authorities are receiving a real terms increase in funding for personal social services for 2001-02 of 3.6 per cent.
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 20 December 2000]: The Department does not keep a national register of practices which offer 'exercise on prescription' or 'exercise referral' schemes. However, details of existing schemes are held locally by health authorities or local authorities.
The Department has funded two reviews by the former Health Education Authority that documented the progress of these schemes. The research showed that better designed general practitioner referral schemes can lead to small levels of increased participation in activity, but that practice across the country was highly variable.
The Department will publish a National Quality Assurance Framework on GP referrals in early 2001. The Framework will aim to raise the standards and consistency of GP referral schemes, and help to make them more effective and self-sustaining.
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