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Mr. Laurence Robertson: May I stress that ME can lead to a patient being unable to walk?

Mr. Lammy: I am sympathetic, and assessments are made relating to such factors as mobility. The hon. Gentleman may be aware, however—I know this from the report, which I have with me and which I read at some length in the Library earlier today—that there is a spectrum of diagnosis. It is therefore right for a proper

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benefit analysis to be made, and for full account to be taken of the variety of debilitating effects that the disease can have.

Clinicians face challenges, and we agree that the working group has provided an evidence base from which to start. We fully support the need for more research on a wide range of aspects of ME, and we have asked the Medical Research Council to develop a strategy; I have mentioned the terms of reference. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware of a long-standing and important principle of successive Governments—that Governments should not prescribe the details of what research councils should do. The Department is considering the benefit aspects in depth, but benefit will rather depend on the spectrum of complaints that an individual may have.

Mr. Bercow: I understand the Minister's point of view, but does he accept that, historically, the bias of research projects has tended to be towards psychiatric explanations of the disease rather than its physical causes?

Mr. Lammy: I think it would be wrong for me to comment on the science of what is a complex disease. I am not a physician. We have a working report, which is being studied.

As I have said, there are many views on this complex complaint. What is important is that the Government take it seriously, that clinicians, general practitioners, primary care trusts and strategic health authorities—among others—take it seriously, and that consultation takes place with NICE. I hope to return to the hon. Gentleman in due course with news of that. Moreover, the Medical Research Council is engaged in a strategic study of the issues.

The motion having been made after Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Madam Deputy Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

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