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5 Jul 2005 : Column 352W—continued

Malarial Infections

Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on the use of fungal spores in reducing malarial infections. [7738]

Caroline Flint: We welcome this new development in the fight against malaria, which continues to claim the lives of one to two million people world-wide each year. Reducing morbidity and mortality due to malaria depends on a coordinated attack on the mosquito vector by personal protective measures, for example, insecticide-impregnated bed nets, and community mosquito control programmes, on prompt diagnosis and treatment of malaria in individual patients with antimalarial drugs. Vaccines are under development but will not be available in the short to medium term.

Recent reports have shown that adult Anopheles mosquitoes can be infected and killed by several species of fungi. The fungi can be sprayed on surfaces, cloths or netting.
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Recent laboratory studies have shown that exposing adult Anopheles Stephens! mosquitoes that have been infected with rodent malaria to the fungus reduces the number of mosquitoes that are able to transmit infection by a factor of 80 1 .

A recent trial in houses in a rural area of Tanzania showed that the fungus killed wild adult Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, which are the major vector of malaria in Africa, and suggests that this method could significantly reduce the intensity of malaria transmission 2 .

Further studies are required to assess the potential of this method of controlling mosquitoes for inclusion in a coordinated programme against malaria.

Meat Inspectors

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to encourage the employment of plant inspection assistants (PIAs) for the red meat industry; and when she is expecting to evaluate the effectiveness of the use of PIAs in the white meat industry; and if she will make a statement. [8594]

Caroline Flint: I am advised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that EU Regulation 854/2004 on the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin does not provide for the employment of plant inspection assistants (PIAs), except in slaughterhouses for poultry and lagomorphs. The employment of PIAs in red meat slaughterhouses could only be provided for by an amendment to that Regulation by the European Parliament and the Council using the codecision procedure on a proposal from the Commission.

Regulation 854/2004 requires the official veterinarian to carry out regular performance tests on the work of the PIAs. If these show that the work is unsatisfactory or affects the hygiene of the establishment, the PIAs must be replaced by official meat inspectors.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many meat inspectors were in employment in each of the last three years for which figures are available; and what the establishment was for each year. [8595]

Caroline Flint: The table shows the numbers of staff employed as meat hygiene inspectors (MHIs) and senior MHIs in the Meat Hygiene Service in each of the last three years as at 1 April.
Meat hygiene inspectors1,0231,014981
Senior meat hygiene inspectors159151137

1.MHI figures include a total of 25 full-time equivalent casual employees at April 2003 and 2004 and 30 in 2005, who work on an ad hoc basis.
2.Senior MHIs include the old senior grades, the supernumerary senior grades and the enhanced senior grades.
3.Also included are 65 full-time equivalent contract staff at April 2003, 43 at April 2004 and 42 at April 2005.

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The figures shown are actual numbers employed to meet fluctuating service requirements. There is no formal establishment figure and staff are recruited to address staff turnover and to meet additional service requirements where necessary.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on the future of the Meat Hygiene Service, with particular reference to training levels for (a) inspectors and (b) plant inspection assistants. [8596]

Caroline Flint: I am advised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that the training requirements which apply from 1 January 2006 for both meat inspectors and plant inspection assistants are set out in European Union Regulation 854/2004, subject to any transitional measures that the Commission may adopt. The FSA intends to ensure that these requirements are complied with.

The FSA has no plans to change the current role of the Meat Hygiene Service.

Monsanto Maize

Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 26 May 2005, Official Report, column 633W, on Monsanto's maize, what the effects were on rats fed on Monsanto's GM corn MON 863 in respect of (a) kidney size, (b) blood cell levels and (c) lymphocytes. [8600]

Caroline Flint: Monsanto conducted a standard 90-day feeding study in rats given diets containing 11 percent. or 33 per cent. of MON 863 maize grain, or equivalent amounts of non-genetically modified (GM) maize grain. The results revealed a small difference in the parameters mentioned in the question between the animals fed the highest amount of MON 863 maize, compared with those in one given one of the diets containing non-GM maize. Such findings are not unusual in studies of this type, where several dozen parameters are being evaluated across a number of treatment groups and interpretation of the results requires expert analysis of the statistical basis for the apparent differences and their biological significance. These data have been analysed independently by expert groups in the United Kingdom and at the European Food Safety Authority, who have concluded that the results of the study are not indicative of adverse effects due to the consumption of MON 863 maize.

MRI Scans (Durham)

Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the annual running cost is of the NHS scanner at the University Hospital North Durham was in 2004–05. [9396]

Mr. Byrne [holding answer 4 July 2005]: This information is not held centrally.
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NHS Acute Hospital Trusts

Frank Dobson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether NHS acute hospital trusts can (a) close beds, (b) close wards and (c) withdraw services without her consent. [7013]

Mr. Byrne [holding answer 27 June 2005]: Guidance on service change, Keeping the NHS Local—A New Direction of Travel", was published on 14 February 2003. It sets out core principles for service change that the national health service must follow.

NHS Direct

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the 10 most common reasons for calls to NHS Direct were during the last 12 months for which information is available. [8088]

Mr. Byrne: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gaveto the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr.Burstow) on 28 June 2005, Official Report, column 1521W.

NHS Staff

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many and what proportion of people contracted to work within the NHS are not entitled to (a) sick pay and (b) holiday pay. [7601]

Mr. Byrne [holding answer 27 June 2005]: All staff working in the national health service are entitled to the statutory requirements for sick leave and holiday leave.

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the staff turnover is among (a) all medical staff, (b) all non-medical clinical staff and (c) all other staff in the NHS in the most recent period for which figures are available; and if she will estimate the current national average for staff turnover. [3433]

Mr. Byrne: The information requested is currently not held centrally.
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