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Mr. Hood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held in Brussels on 19 January; and if he will make a statement. [147159]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Chancellor attended the meeting of the Economic and Finance Council of Ministers.

In open debate, the Presidency set out its work programme. The Presidency stressed the priority it attached to achieving the Lisbon goals on employment and said it wanted ECOFIN to play a key role in preparing for enlargement. There was broad support for its priorities, particularly on continued labour market reform.

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The Chancellor made a strong appeal for completion of the single market, investment in research and development and trade liberalisation.

The Presidency circulated a new compromise proposal on excise duties and mineral oils. The Council invited Coreper to discuss the specific detail further. The intention is to reach agreement at ECOFIN on 12 February.

The contribution of public finances to growth and employment was discussed on the basis of the Commission's Communication. A joint Council- Commission report will be submitted to the Stockholm European Council in March. A draft will be submitted to ECOFIN for agreement on 12 March.

The Council examined and agreed conclusions on Sweden's Convergence Report.

The Economic and Finance Committee (EFC) presented a paper reviewing progress on the action plan on EMU statistical requirements. The aim is to improve the quality of statistics and speed up their provision. The Presidency welcomed progress made so far but noted that further work was planned.

Interest Rates

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if the Treasury has used its econometric model of the UK economy within the last year to estimate the likely size of tax increase needed to reduce interest rates by one percentage point relative to base and the likely cut in public spending needed to achieve this end; [147623]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Treasury economic model plays a role in economic forecasting and informing policy advice. Simulations of fiscal and monetary policy changes are used, but the recording of detailed information on model use in the form requested is not practical.


Hepatitis C

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of whether there are sufficient practising hepatologists to cope with the increasing numbers of patients with hepatitis C. [142247]

Mr. Denham: At national level, we do not plan centrally the numbers of consultants who specialise in hepatology. We plan the numbers of consultants in

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gastroenterology, taking into account information gathered from a range of sources, including the medical Royal Colleges, regional postgraduate medical deans and National Health Service management, which includes information about consultants specialising in hepatology.

At local level, it is for National Health Service trusts and health authorities, who are accountable for the quality of the services they provide, to determine how their services are configured and delivered, in the light of local circumstances, in order to provide quality services to patients. This includes deciding on the number and grades of posts in their locality.

We are satisfied that there are enough training opportunities in gastroenterology for there to be sufficient candidates qualifying for consultant posts over the next few years. With the current numbers in higher specialist training, it will be possible for the numbers of consultants to increase from around 390 in 1999, to around 610 by 2004.

We will continue to engage in discussions with the Royal College of Physicians and the regional postgraduate medical deans and others responsible for training and career prospects, with the aim of ensuring that all services relating to hepatology are fully supported.


Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what advice the Chief Medical Officer of Health has provided regarding the time traces of (a) cannabis, (b) marijuana, (c) Ecstasy, (d) cocaine, (e) heroin, (f) tobacco and (g) alcohol remain in the body and cause impairment; and what the estimate of the degree of impairment in each case is of a comparable input after 24 hours. [146463]

Ms Stuart [holding answer 22 January 2001]: The Department's publication "Drug Misuse and Dependence--Guidelines on Clinical Management" contains information on the approximate duration of detectability of a range of substances in urine, which gives an indication of how rapidly substances are metabolised. Information on the risks and effects of substances, including alcohol and tobacco, is included in several publications produced on behalf of the Department, such as "The Score: Facts About Drugs."

It is not possible to determine with any degree of accuracy a comparable dose of the substances named in order to estimate degree of impairment. But, in general, nervous system depressant-type substances (such as heroin) will tend to impair motor functions and the ability to carry out tasks. Hallucinogenic and stimulant-type substances have problematic effects of their own, which may or may not cause impairment in the short-term.

Impairment in an individual will vary according to a range of factors including metabolism, dose, route of administration, regularity of use, and whether taken in combination with other substances.

Copies of "Drug Misuse and Dependence--Guidelines on Clinical Management" are available in the Library. "The Score: Facts About Drugs" is available from the National Drugs Helpline 0800 776600.

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Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects NICE to give advice on new drugs and therapies for the management of schizophrenia. [147031]

Mr. Denham: On 4 November 1999, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) would produce guidance on schizophrenia. More recently, on 16 November 2000, NICE were asked to conduct an appraisal of anti-psychotic drugs. NICE sets its own timetable and the expected dates of completion for the guideline and appraisal have yet to be announced. Further announcements and NICE's current timetable are available on their website at

Breast Cancer

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average cost to the National Health Service is of a mastectomy to treat breast cancer. [145598]

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Yvette Cooper: In 1999-2000 the average cost of a mastectomy can be classified in a number of ways dependent on whether the mastectomy performed is partial, full, etc. Not all mastectomies are performed due to breast cancer, and no differentiation is made for the reason behind the surgery.

In activity terms, this can be classified using a number of Office of Population, Censuses, and Survey codes, such as

In cost terms, these OPCS codes map to Healthcare Resource Groups (HRGs), which put these procedures into clinically similar bands. For the 1999-2000 financial year, the national average cost of the groups, including mastectomy, are:

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HRG Code HRG narrativeNational average (£)
Elective inpatient costs (from waiting lists)
JO2Major breast surgery including plastic procedures less than 49 or with complications or comorbidities2,126
JO3Major breast surgery including plastic procedures greater than 50 without complications or comorbidities1,559
Non-elective inpatient costs (urgent/emergencies)
JO2Major breast surgery including plastic procedures less than 49 or with complications or comorbidities2,126
JO3Major breast surgery including plastic procedures greater than 50 without comorbidities1,724

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Multiple Sclerosis

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if (1) NICE consulted Ministers before the announcement on 22 December 2000 of further research into the cost effectiveness of drugs for multiple sclerosis; [147038]

Mr. Denham: There were no discussions between Ministers and the Chief Executive of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence and there was no prior discussion between the Department and NICE about the latter's decision to commission further research into the cost effectiveness of beta interferon and glatiramer following their appraisal committee meeting on 13 December. NICE informed departmental officials of their intentions on 20 December. NICE were advised to make an early announcement in view of the interest and concern surrounding the appraisal.

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