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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 13 June 2005


Finance Bill

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Ivan Lewis): Clause 17 of the Finance Bill entitled, "authorised unit trusts and open-ended investment companies", contains powers to make regulations relating to the taxation of authorised investment funds. In order to inform discussion in Committee of the measures contained in clauses 17 to 19 of the Bill, I am arranging for a description of what these regulations will cover to be placed in the Library of the House.


Gulf Veterans' Illnesses

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): It has been a key principle of the Government's approach to dealing with the concerns of 1990–91 Gulf veterans that the Ministry of Defence will fund appropriate research into Gulf veterans' illnesses issues. In 2003, at MOD's request, the Medical Research Council (MRC) undertook a review of research into Gulf veterans' illnesses and provided recommendations about where future studies should focus. One recommendation was that MOD should pursue research to replicate preliminary US neuro-imaging studies in the UK. The MRC subsequently hosted meetings of experts in order to consider what research might be carried out in the UK. Among the conclusions reached by the expert group was that a major study now underway in the US is likely to be definitive, and that there is no need to replicate the preliminary work in the UK. The group were also unable to identify a specific way in which neuro-imaging studies could provide clear benefit to UK veterans. On 8 June 2005 the MRC advised that based on current evidence they do not recommend that this area of work be taken forward. Taking that advice into account, MOD has decided that it will not now proceed with neuro-imaging studies, although it would not close off the possibility of looking again at this once ongoing US studies have reported. The MOD continues to work with the MRC to take forward other recommendations of the MRC's 2003 review particularly in the area aimed at improving the long term health of veterans with persistent symptoms.


Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 2–3 June. I represented
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the United Kingdom. Items on the agenda relating to health were covered on 3 June. Items for discussion were: European Commission proposals for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on medicinal products for paediatric use; and the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on nutrition and health claims made on foods; the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the addition of vitamins, minerals and other substances to food; the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a programme of community action in health and consumer protection; obesity, nutrition and physical activity; combatting HIV/AIDS; and community mental health action.

On the paediatric medicines regulation, the UK supported the European Commission on the length of the supplementary protection certificate extension. The Commission was content with the proposal to incorporate a review mechanism specifically aimed at studying the reward mechanism. The UK spoke in favour of public access to the paediatric clinical trials database. This issue will need to be discussed further by the Council.

All member states voted in favour of a political agreement to the proposed regulation on nutrition and health claims made on food. The UK secured an amendment that safeguarded the development of "signpost" labelling for nutrients. The UK also made statements for the minutes concerning its disagreement on the choice of legal base and the need to ensure that opportunities were taken to reduce authorisation burdens in the next stages of the negotiation.

There was a qualified majority in favour of a political agreement to the proposed regulation on the addition of vitamins, minerals and other substances to foods.

The Council had its first discussion of the Commission's proposed health and consumer protection programme for 2007–13. The Council's exchange of views was structured around presidency questions focused on the health objectives of the proposal. The UK gave its support for the general direction of the new programme but stressed that it would be important to ensure that the programme respected the scope of the treaty.

Ministers unanimously adopted three sets of council conclusions on obesity, nutrition and physical activity, HIV/AIDS and mental health.

Ministers took note of presidency information on: the proposal to amend the council regulation on fees payable to the European Medicines Agency; the international health regulations; the framework convention on tobacco control; the proposal on additives other than colourings and sweeteners to food; and conferences held during the Luxembourg presidency.

Member states also took note of information from the Commission on: the follow-up to the G10 pharmaceuticals process; pandemic preparedness planning; the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control; environment and health; the high level group on health care and medical services; and follow-up to the tobacco products directive.
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On the follow-up to the tobacco products directive, the UK undertook to take forward any work from the Commission and the World Health Organisation that emerged on this issue during the UK presidency of the European Union.

Ministers also discussed the health response to the tsunami in South Asia.


Sudan (African Union Mission)

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): The African Union mission in Darfur is doing an important job in trying to provide security for the people of Darfur who have suffered too long from this terrible conflict.

Where the AU troops are deployed, there has been a significant improvement in the security situation. But the impact of 3,000 troops is inevitably limited, which is why we fully support their decision to expand the force to more than 7,700. At the same time, we recognise the essentially political nature of the crisis in Darfur and will be supporting fully the Abuja peace talks process.

The UK has played a leading role in assisting the AU mission and I am announcing today that the UK will increase our contribution to the expansion of the mission to £19 million, from the £6.6 million contribution we announced at the AU donors' conference in Addis Ababa on 26 May. This brings our total contribution to AMIS since its inception to almost £32 million.

We will use this money to purchase up to 500 additional vehicles and further rapid deployment equipment. As part of NATO's efforts to assist AMIS expansion, the UK is also ready—subject to AU requirements and other donors' contributions—to support the airlift, co-ordinated by NATO, of up to three battalions into Darfur. The Defence Secretary has also agreed to provide a mobile air movements team of up to 15 people if required. The UK is also keen to provide the AU with technical expertise, and will be talking to the AU secretariat and others about this.

We are also keen to support the civilian police part of the mission. We will support the EU's efforts to offer the AU a package of support, including training for the AU police and technical experts and advisers. We will also build accommodation for AU civilian police in camps for internally displaced people and villages, so that they can be deployed where they are needed most.

The Foreign Secretary and I also wish to announce the appointment of Mr. Alan Goulty as the UK special representative for Darfur. He will support the African Union-led work to achieve a durable political settlement of the Darfur conflict, keeping in regular contact with all the main parties.

Mr. Goulty has an unparalleled knowledge of Sudan, deriving from his previous appointments as British ambassador to Khartoum, director for the middle east and north Africa in the FCO, and, from 2002 to 2004, as the United Kingdom's special representative for Sudan, where he played a key role in the successful negotiations of the comprehensive peace agreement, which ended the
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21 year civil war in Sudan. He will perform his new role in addition to his current responsibilities as British ambassador to Tunis.

This appointment marks the UK's continuing commitment to achieving lasting peace throughout Sudan, including in Darfur. This cannot happen without a political settlement in Darfur.

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