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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

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important in the delivery of these services in proud metropolitan boroughs and proud counties around our country. England is a country of cities and counties; it is not a country of regions. Regions are entirely artificial constructs, and they cause anger, disagreement and dissension. I have never met anyone in Liverpool who wanted to look to Manchester for their government. I have never found people in Sunderland very willing to accept the sovereignty of Newcastle. Labour Members who represent many of those cities should understand that, and realise just how unpopular—as well as expensive and undesirable—this regionalisation will be.

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—

It being Ten o'clock, Mr. Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [26 January].

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

Business Of The House

Motion made, and Question proposed,

Hon. Members: Object.

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Muscular Dystrophy (Research Funding)

10.1 pm

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 Campaign—a 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.

I wish to present a petition, which states:

To lie upon the Table.

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MMR Vaccinations and Autism

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ainger.]

10.2 pm

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 researchers—or by one or some of them—and 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:

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

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rectum right round the large intestine and into the small bowel; and spinal taps, which is passing a needle into lower back to drain some of the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. Those procedures are not trivial on consenting adults, let alone on autistic children, who must be heavily sedated or even anaesthetised. In addition to those tests, the children underwent blood tests, brain scans and monitoring of electric currents in the brain.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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