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Monsanto's Toxin

Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment has been made of the health effects of Monsanto's toxin MON863. [3066]

Caroline Flint: MON863 is a genetically modified maize line, not a toxin.

Each genetically modified food is assessed for safety on a case by case basis before it is approved for marketing. This includes a consideration of the genetic modification itself and resulting protein and toxicology, nutrition and allergenicity studies. A wide range of safety data on GM maize MON863 was assessed by the European Food Safety Authority's genetically modified organism panel, which concluded that the maize would have no adverse effect on human health. This conclusion was endorsed by the United Kingdom advisory committee on novel foods and processes.

Parkinson's Disease

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment her Department has made of whether there is a link between pesticide use and the risk of contracting Parkinson's Disease. [3127]

Caroline Flint: The independent advisory committee on pesticides (ACP) provides authoritative advice to government on all aspects of pesticides. Last November,
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the ACP considered a report produced by its medical and toxicology panel on the possible links between pesticides and Parkinson's disease. At its meeting, the ACP concluded that, although this review indicated a correlation between recalled pesticide exposure and Parkinson's disease, it did not point to a particular toxic mechanism or a hazard from a specific compound or group of compounds.

However, the ACP did advise that further mechanistic and epidemiological research be carried out on the association between pesticide exposure and Parkinson's disease. The tender process has been organised by the pesticides safety directorate and has now finished. The research proposals are currently being peer reviewed with a view to the work being commissioned later this year.

School Meals

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions her Department has had with the Department for Education and Skills on the setting of higher nutritional standards for school meals. [2752]

Caroline Flint: The Department for Education and Skills is leading on work to improve the school meals standards. The Department is supporting this work and Ministers and officials from both Departments have met regularly to discuss the setting of higher nutritional standards for school meals.

Second-hand Smoke

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to deal with the effect of second-hand smoke in the workplace. [3738]

Caroline Flint: Our plans were set out in the Queen's Speech for legislation to make the vast majority of enclosed public places and workplaces smoke-free within the next four years.

Soya Milk

Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to introduce milk tokens for soya milk. [3104]

Caroline Flint: There are no plans to extend the scope of the current welfare food scheme tokens or the new healthy start vouchers to include soya based milk products. Expert advice from the committee on medical aspects of food policy concludes that soya milk is not as nutritionally adequate for infants and young children as cow's milk.

This is because soya based milk products are lower in energy than cow's milk, lack sufficient amounts of several vitamins and minerals, especially iron and zinc and are particularly low in calcium unless fortified.

Where a child has a diagnosed intolerance to cows milk a doctor may prescribe a suitable alternative. Prescriptions are, of course, free for children and those in receipt of income support.
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With the inclusion of fresh fruit and vegetables to healthy start the scheme will, as well as providing greater nutritional choice, accommodate the needs of those with an intolerance to cow's milk and the dietary choices of vegetarians and vegans.


Breast Cancer

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what targets have been set for (a) assessment and (b) treatment for breast cancer in Northern Ireland. [1443]

Mr. Woodward: In Northern Ireland, patients with suspected breast cancer are expected to be assessed by a specialist within two weeks of urgent referral by their GP. This two-week target for breast cancer patients has been in place since 1 August 2000. There are no formal targets for treatment time, but on the basis of the latest available information the vast majority of breast cancer patients receive treatment within six weeks of their diagnosis.

The Regional Cancer Services Framework is considering waiting times for cancer patients and is developing recommendations, which aim to improve the treatment and care for all people with cancer.

British-Irish Summit

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the outcome of the seventh British-Irish summit held on the Isle of Man on 20 May. [2194]

Angela E. Smith: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was very pleased, so early in his new role, to have the opportunity to meet the Taoiseach and the Heads of the other BIC Administrations. They considered the subject of
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Telemedicine and its potential to assist in the delivery of health and social care across all member administrations.

The summit was highly successful and a copy of the official communique" detailing the discussions which occurred at the meeting has been placed in the Library of the House. It is also available at the following website address;

Cardiac Surgery

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many patients from Northern Ireland had cardiac surgery performed outside the Province in each of the last five years. [1426]

Mr. Woodward: The number of patients from Northern Ireland who had cardiac surgery performed outside the Province in each of the last five years is detailed in the following table.
Number of patients treated outside Northern Ireland

1. Figures are not available for 1999–2000 or 2000–01.
2. Figures relate to patients whose treatment was purchased by Health and Social Services Boards.

Civil Servants

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people are employed within the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland, broken down by area of responsibility. [1422]

Mr. Woodward: The total number of staff employed by the Department, including Health Estates Agency is 1,037. A table showing the breakdown of staff, per area of responsibility, is as follows.
Staff in post at 25 May 2005

Head of groupArea of responsibilityNumber of staff
Permanent SecretaryOffice of the Permanent Secretary13
Deputy Secretary, Resources and Performance Management GroupInternal Audit Hyponatraemia Inquiry18
Personnel and Corporate Services141
Information and Analysis26
Planning and Performance Management27
Deputy Secretary, Strategic Planning and Modernisation Group2
Modernisation Directorate18
Regional Strategy and Public Safety Directorate30
Human Resources72
Directorate of Information Systems202
Deputy Secretary, Primary, Secondary and Community Care Group2
Primary Care29
Secondary Care22
Mental Health and Disability Services24
Family and Elderly Care Directorate27
Chief Medical OfficerMedical and Allied Services26
Public Health1
Health Services1
Health Development35
Medical Support Services4
Occupational Health Service29
Specific Services4
Employment Medical Advice1
Workforce Acute Services1
Chief Nursing OfficerNursing and Midwifery Advisory Group12
Social Services InspectorateSocial Services Inspectorate22
Chief Dental OfficerDental Services Group9
Chief Pharmaceutical OfficerPharmaceutical Advice and Services Group11
Chief Executive, Health Estates AgencyChief Executive and Corporate Services17
Estate Development82
Estate Policy38
Mental Health Commission10
Seconded Officers2

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