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Mr. Hammond: Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as the responsible level of management is moved further from local communities to regional tiers, it is likely that local people will become more sceptical about whether the integrated risk management plan changes that are being introduced on the ground are really changes for the better and not just cuts? The further away they are, the more likely people are to be sceptical.
Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend is right. These measures involve cuts in local democracy and accountability and in certain local jobs that need doing, coupled with the massive expansion of a new alien bureaucracy at regional level, which will be dearer, worse and less efficient, and without that sense of place, presence, tradition, efficiency and loyalty that is so
Unfortunately, once again, there is not enough time to debate the intricacies of the Bill. I would, however, like to make a few comments on charging. We had a very unsatisfactory response from the Minister in our interesting mini-debate on this subject earlier today. At one stage, I thought that he was using his intelligence and common sense to accept our proposition that it would be quite wrong to start charging people who had been damaged in a serious motor accident, when the fire service turned up to rescue them. At one point, he seemed to have rejoined the human race and to be saying, "Yes, that would be inhuman, it would be wrong. I will give the House a guarantee that people will not have to reach for their credit card when the fire service turns up." I then asked him whether he would put that on the face of the Bill, but he said that there was no need, as he had given his word.
My hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge then tried to make the words clearer, so that he could then withdraw his amendment that would have prevented such charging, and the Minister backed off. He said that the Bill gave powers, but there was no present plan, and that after the next general election, if the Government were still in office, they might want to look at the matter again, and that perhaps studies would soon emerge that would mean that they would want to do that. He suggested that the power was there, but that perhaps local discretion had to be exercised.
The Minister used weasel words. He left open the possibility that people will be charged when they have had a serious accident. I would be happy to give way if the Minister wants to revise his view and categorically state that that there was never any intention whatever to charge people when they had been involved in accidents in their cars. I see from the Minister's
(1) consideration of any Lords Message relating to a Government Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour; and
(2) the Speaker shall not adjourn the House until any Lords Message relating to such a Bill has been received or any Reasons Committee appointed at that sitting has reported.[Mr. Ainger.]
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): A bid submitted to the Department of Health for research funding could provide treatment that would substantially extend life and improve the quality of life of those who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The bid was co-ordinated by the Right to Survive Campaigna coalition of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, Parent Project UK and the Duchenne Family Support Group. Hon. Members will be aware of the terrible impact of the disease on individuals and their families, and they will understand my constituent's motives for compiling a petition.
The Humble Petition of Mr. and Mrs. Luxton and others of like disposition sheweth
That a consortium bid to the Department of Health for "molecular patch" Duchenne research, in the amount of £2.4 million, for funds under the White Paper on genetics for research into gene therapy for single gene disorders, has been submitted in October 2003.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Government to bring pressure on the Secretary of State for Health to support the bid, but in any event, to ensure that the research is funded and goes forward.
And our Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): I wish to discuss issues around clinical ethics and research ethics in the work done at the Royal Free hospital by the inflammatory bowel disease group since 1995. Before I start, I would like to declare my interests. I was a member of an all-party group that recently visited the American society of clinical oncology conference for four days in Chicago, which was organised and funded by the pharmaceutical company Aventis. I am a member of the British Medical Association medical ethics committee, although I am not speaking for that body. I also spent a number of years as a member of the central Oxford research ethics committee, which gave me direct experience of many of the issues that I will deal with tonight. I am a member of the all-party group on autism, and my father is a recently retired professor of paediatrics.
Autism is a serious condition, and all of us in the House need to be aware of how distressing it is to parents and other family members and how challenging and troubling autistic spectrum disorders are to the children and their families. The controversy surrounding the work of the inflammatory bowel disease group at the Royal Free should not detract from the need to improve the health and social care provided to the children or the need for more research into causation, diagnosis and treatment of developmental delay or regression in children. None of the criticisms that I make of the researchers, the ethical regulators and the Legal Services Commission should be taken to extend to the parents who gave their consent and co-operation to those studies in good faith. As we know, many of them still support the individuals involved and perhaps see no problem in what they did.
In the scandal over Dr. Andrew Wakefield's failure to declare financial and conflicts of interest when his research group's article was published in The Lancet six years ago, the welfare of the children who were his research subjects seems to have been forgotten. Documents revealed by the investigative journalist Brian Deer and by The Sunday Times raise major doubts about a far more serious matter than publication misconduct. By that, I mean doubts and allegations about whether children were exposed to unacceptable risks and unnecessary procedures.
I do not make those allegations lightly, conscious as I am of the need to avoid the abuse of parliamentary privilege, but there is very clear evidence pointing towards unethical conduct by the researchersor by one or some of themand equally strong evidence of failure and incompetence by the research ethics committee. The papers to which I refer are published on Brian Deer's website: www.briandeer.com
In 1996, and subsequently, researchers in the inflammatory bowel disease study group subjected children to a battery of invasive tests. Those included upper GI endoscopy, which is passing a flexible telescope down the throat into the stomach and upper gut through the mouth or nose; ileo-colonoscopy, which is passing a flexible telescope through the anus and