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Clostridium Difficile Outbreaks at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and Publication of Data on Healthcare

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): The Healthcare Commission has today published its investigation into outbreaks of clostridium difficile at Stoke Mandeville hospital (Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust). Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State commissioned this report to establish:

The Healthcare Commission's report identified the factors involved in the first outbreak and concluded that a failure to implement appropriately the lessons learnt from this, combined with an inadequate governance system led to a delay in controlling the second outbreak. Since the outbreaks, the trust has improved infection control practice and consequently strengthened patient safety.

My right hon. Friend has today written to Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission to accept the conclusions of the report. This letter also asks that the Commission use the powers available to it to ensure that trusts are following the good practice set out in the new Code of Practice on Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infection and to use their powers of intervention where trusts fail to do so.

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The Department will work closely with the trust, the strategic health authority, the Health Protection Agency and the local primary care trusts in addressing the recommendations in the report. As the conclusions have a wider applicability to the health service, the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer will consider this report over the summer and assess how the lessons learned be implemented both locally and nationally to reduce the risk from this infection. The Department will also ensure that the report's conclusions inform the review of the current C. difficile guidance.

Today also sees the publication of the latest information from the Department of Health's mandatory healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) surveillance system. This information, which has been placed in the Library, brings together data on MRSA blood stream infections, clostridium difficile associated disease, glycopeptide resistant enterococci blood stream infections and orthopaedic surgical site infections to help assess trends in HCAIs.

This statistical report has been prepared by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and is a part of our new approach to publication of HCAI data, where the HPA both manages the surveillance programme and publishes the data. An annual report will be produced every July to help evaluate trends and facilitate access to all the data.

Mandatory surveillance has shown a clear need to improve NHS performance and we believe that upgrading the level of surveillance and more rapid feedback of results will help performance. Therefore we intend to move to quarterly publication as soon as it is feasible to do so.

Expert group on phase 1 clinical trials - interim report

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): On 25 May 2006 I informed the House that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had published its final report on the investigations into the incident that occurred with the phase 1 clinical trial for a drug in development known as TON 1412, Official Report, Column 95WS. I also announced the membership of the expert group established by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State under the chairmanship of Professor Gordon Duff, to consider what the incident revealed about the underlying science, and how clinical trials involving these types of products should be managed in the future. I promised a further report to the House when the expert group provided its interim report.

That interim report is being published tomorrow, 25 July, together with the minutes of all its meetings, the documents submitted for its consideration and details of the evidence given by a wide range of stakeholders, all of which have contributed to its preliminary findings. A copy of the interim report will be placed in the Library.

It is important to recognise that this is an interim report, that a public consultation will take place on its proposals, and further opportunities for interested parties to give evidence will be available in the autumn.

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The Government are very grateful for the great deal of progress already made on this important issue by the expert group in the two months since it first met. The group anticipates completing its work in the autumn and I will provide a further report to the House when this report is available.

Home Department

Criminal Records Bureau (Annual Reports and Accounts 2005-06)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): I announce that the 2005-06 annual report and accounts for the Criminal Records Bureau have been laid before Parliament. Arrangements are now in hand for their publication and copies will be placed in the House Library.

Justice and Home Affairs Council 24 July 2006

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): The Justice and Home Affairs Council will be held today, 24 July 2006, in Brussels. I am attending on behalf of the Home Office. I thought it would be useful if I were to outline the main issues I expect to be discussed.

The Council will take an initial presentation by the Commission on the Hague programme review. There will also be discussion of migration issues and, in the Mixed Committee format, the second generation Schengen Information System. On the first of these, the Commission will present four communications: the future direction of the Hague programme which includes a proposed use of Article 42 TEU (the passerelle clause); reviewing the implementation of the Hague programme to date (the scorecard); options for better evaluation of the impact of EU policies in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA); and a legislative proposal based on Article 67(2) TEC adapting the provisions of the European Court of Justice under Title IV (immigration, asylum and civil law matters). The presidency has indicated that they will focus on procedure and handling and is not looking for substantive discussion on these items at this Council. Detailed discussion, including in relation to the more controversial aspects, such as the possible use of Article 42 TEU (the passarelle clause) and Article 67(2) TEC (adapting the remit of the ECJ in Title IV) will take place later in the year, including at the September Informal JHA Council in Finland. Those aspects aside, the Governments initial view is to welcome the focus on implementation and more effective evaluation contained in the communications.

There will be information items on the EU preparations for the UN high-level dialogue on international migration and development and the report on the outcome of the Euro African ministerial conference on migration and development held in Rabat on 10-11 July 2006. The Government welcome the adoption of the EU common position at the General Affairs and External Relations Council last week, 13 July; we will continue to feed into preparations for the UN High Level Dialogues on
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International Migration and Development, which takes place in September. There will also be a presentation by the Commission and Frontex (EU Border Agency) on the situation in the Mediterranean and Africa. We expect there to be a focus on the continuing influx of illegal immigrants to the Canaries and Malta. The UK strongly supports EU joint operational activity in the Mediterranean and has offered technical assistance to the Spanish and Maltese authorities.

There will be discussion on the management of migration flows; specifically on the two Commission Communications on: a policy plan for legal migration; and a common policy on illegal immigration. The presidency will be seeking a first exchange of views on both items. The UK will be encouraging solutions of sharing best practice and establishing common principles, while advising against inflexible, detailed prescription, especially in the form of legislative measures on labour access.

The Government are fully committed to tackling the problem of illegal immigration of third country nationals and notes with interest the Commission’s Communication; we will examine concrete proposals for measures when they are tabled in due course.

In the mixed committee format the presidency will be hoping to agree a general approach on the key outstanding issues in the three legal instruments establishing SIS II—a regulation covering immigration aspects, a Council decision covering law enforcement aspects and a regulation covering access by vehicle registration authorities—with a view to reaching a First Reading deal with the European Parliament in September. This is the last opportunity to resolve the major outstanding issues within the Council before the expected EP vote in September. The UK will not participate in the regulation covering immigration but will participate in the other two legal instruments.

Two further presentations by the Commission are expected in the margins of the meeting. These are on: i) a proposal for a regulation setting up the powers and the financing of teams of national border control experts of member states (Rapid Border Intervention Teams) to provide joint EU technical and operational assistance at the external EU Border, co-ordinated by Frontex and ii) a proposal for a community code on visas—a Schengen measure in which the UK will not participate. Although the UK will not participate in the first proposal, we support the concept of nominated experts deployed at short notice to respond to emergencies to help enhance the security of the EU external border, but will wish to look carefully at the detail.

Finally there is likely to be a lunch time presentation by Commissioner Franco Frattini on the issue of CIA rendition flights.

Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living animals - Great Britain, 2005

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): I wish to announce that the publication entitled Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals—Great Britain—2005 is being presented as a Command Paper (6877) today. Copies will be placed in the House Library.

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This annual report meets the requirement in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 to keep Parliament informed about the use of animals for experimental or other purposes. It also forms the basis for meeting periodic reporting requirements at EU level. There has been criticism in previous years, including from a House of Lords Select Committee, for providing too much detail and not being very digestible or reader-friendly. Therefore some changes have been made to improve the contents and layout of this publication with the intention of making the publication easier to comprehend and follow.

The report shows an overall increase over the previous year of 1.4 per cent. in the number of procedures undertaken. The total number of procedures was 2.9 million, an increase of 41,300 over the previous year. Although this is the highest total since 1992, it does not necessarily signal an established upwards trend in animal use. A number of factors, including the economic climate and global trends in scientific endeavour, determine the overall level of scientific procedures.

Non-toxicological procedures accounted for about 86 per cent. of the procedures carried out in 2005. These included studies for fundamental biological or applied research in human and veterinary medicine, with the main areas of use being for immunological studies, pharmaceutical research and development, and cancer research.

Procedures for toxicological purposes accounted for the remaining 14 per cent. of all procedures. About 73 per cent. of these were for testing the safety and efficacy of new drugs and medicines.

In keeping with previous years, those procedures that used mice or rats (or other rodents) were the great majority at 84 per cent. Those using fish amounted to 8 per cent. and those using birds, 4 per cent. The total of all procedures using dogs, cats, horses and non-human primates, that is, those species offered special protection by the Act, was less than 1 per cent. of the total.

Genetically normal animals were used in about 1.65 million regulated procedures, representing 57 per cent. of all procedures for 2005 (compared with 59 per cent. in 2004 and 84 per cent. in 1995). Genetically modified animals (nearly all rodents) were used in 957,500 regulated procedures representing, 33 per cent. of all procedures for 2005 (compared with 32 per cent. in 2003 and 8 per cent. in 1995).

These trends have been evident over recent years, reflecting the changing balance in use between genetically normal and modified animals, and are set to continue as advances in genetic science open up new and promising avenues of research.

I should point out in relation to the statistics that the Home Office, as regulatory authority under the 1986 Act, does not control the overall amount of animal research and testing which takes place, the imperative being to minimise the numbers of animals used for justifiable purposes. We ensure, in carrying out our licensing function, that the provisions of the Act are rigorously applied in each programme of work. All animal use must be justified, and that for each particular programme of work the number of animals used, and the suffering caused must be minimised.

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Passport Fees

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): The Privy Council has made an Order in Council, the Consular Fees (Amendment) Order 2006, which gives authority for a revision in passport fees. The revision will take effect on 5 October 2006. The fee for a standard 32 page passport will increase from £51 to £66 while the fee for a 48 page passport will increase from £62.50 to £77. The fee for a passport for a child will increase from £34 to £45. The fee for an adult using the guaranteed one week counter service for a standard 32 page passport will increase from £77.50 to £91, for a child from £70 to £80 and a 48 page jumbo from £87 to £97. The fee for an adult using the guaranteed same day service for a standard 32 page passport will increase from £96.50 to £108, for a child from £83 to £93 and for a 48 page passport from £104.50 to £114.50. The fee for a collective passport, for organised trips for schools and youth groups, will remain unchanged at £39.

This increase represents the second stage of the two year fee agreement reached with HM Treasury last year. This followed a stringent review of costs to ensure that the fee for each type of passport service closely reflects the production costs accrued by that service and bear its share of the cost of consular protection services. This increase will deliver extensive improvements required in the ongoing efforts to combat passport and identity fraud.

United Kingdom Passport Service (Annual Report and Accounts 2005-06)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): The UK Passport Service annual report and accounts 2005-06 have been laid before parliament today and will be published shortly. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House on publication. This will be the last annual report and accounts issued by UKPS whose activities were transferred to the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) from 1 April 2006.

International Development

Gaza and Lebanon

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I am deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Lebanon and in the Gaza Strip.

In Lebanon, the crisis has led the UN to estimate that at least 500,000 people have been displaced. Insecurity and damaged infrastructure is making it difficult to reach those in need of medical care, food and water supplies. The supply of electricity has stopped to most villages and towns in southern Lebanon. Stocks of fuel will be exhausted in two weeks. Factories producing medicines, milk, wood, and housing supplies have been destroyed. It is clear from
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aid agencies that they need immediate and safe access to the displaced and the wounded and those requiring humanitarian assistance. I support the proposals by the UN and ICRC for safe humanitarian access, but ultimately the security situation needs to stabilise in order to ensure that vital assistance can get where it is needed.

We have responded to international appeals for humanitarian aid. Following the initial response I announced last week, I am today committing a further £2.2 million to support humanitarian relief, including for the UN Flash appeal, which has been launched today. The UN Central Emergency Response Fund is also providing an initial contribution of $5 million (of which the UK share is $1.4 million [£770,000]). This brings the total UK commitment to £5 million, and we stand ready to do more as needed. DFID is deploying two humanitarian advisers to the region. Two stabilisation and recovery advisers will join them shortly. The Post Conflict Reconstruction Unit is helping cross-government planning for the UK’s contribution to stabilisation and recovery, immediately hostilities cease.

The situation in Gaza is also very difficult. Following the Israeli attack on Gaza’s only power station, electricity is limited to supplies received from Israel. Households receive six to eight hours’ electricity per day. Electricity is vital for hospitals and clinics, which need constant supplies of power to run medical equipment and keep drugs at constant temperatures. It is needed to pump fresh water to houses and to treat sewage. It is essential for the safe storage of food and for processing flour to make bread. Most households in Gaza are receiving two hours of water per day. This means they do not have reliable access to water for drinking, personal hygiene and washing clothes. According to the World Health Organisation, cases for diarrhoea among refugee children in Gaza in early July were 50 per cent. higher than the same period last year. Humanitarian supplies are vital. The Rafah crossing was opened temporarily on 18 July to allow those stranded at the crossing in desperate conditions to enter, and the Karni crossing was temporarily open for humanitarian and commercial imports. But both are now closed again. Action is needed to ensure unrestricted humanitarian access, including the supply of medical equipment, fuel, food and electricity.

The UK made a contribution of £15 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in April, which provides basic services for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Middle East. This is helping UNRWA provide healthcare and other basic services to Palestinian refugees, which comprise 70 per cent. of Gaza’s population. The EU collectively provides over half of UNRWA’s funding, and the UK last year was the third largest bilateral donor.

The European Union has established a temporary international mechanism to support the basic needs of the Palestinian people. The mechanism will provide support to health, education and social affairs, help to pay for utilities and assist the very poorest Palestinians. The UK stands ready to allocate up to £12 million to the mechanism, plus our share of the European Community contribution, giving a total of up to £25 million. The mechanism has already enabled much
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needed fuel supplies for emergency generators after Gaza’s only power station was damaged by military action. These fuel deliveries are keeping hospitals open, water pumps going and waste treatment plants open. The mechanism will soon start making payments to health workers in both Gaza and the West Bank to ensure they can continue to provide essential medical care. We welcome the decision of G8 leaders to immediately expand the mechanism to provide wider assistance to the people of Gaza, we are working closely with the quartet and others to ensure that this happens.

The UK is also providing assistance to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs to enable it to monitor closely the humanitarian situation in Gaza to assist donors and others to make sure help gets to those who need it most.

It is particularly important for the humanitarian welfare of innocent civilians in Lebanon, Israel, and Gaza that there is an end to the violence on all sides. The UK Government support efforts to put in place a durable ceasefire.

Northern Ireland


The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): On 15 May, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly were recalled to participate in a process to secure the full restoration of the institutions in Northern Ireland on or before 24 November. The Assembly rose on 7 July for summer recess and will reconvene on 4 September.

Following their discussions, with the Northern Ireland political parties in Parliament Buildings, Stormont on 29 June, the Prime Minister and Taoiseach issued a statement which again reiterated their commitment to the November deadline and called for all sides to commit to a period of genuine and frank political engagement on the outstanding issues in the months ahead.

A work plan was also published alongside the statement in order to assist the parties in their work between now and the November deadline. Both the statement and the work plan have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

The plan allows for the Preparation for Government Committee to continue its valuable work during the summer recess and I have recently provided for the creation of sub-groups within the Committee to deal with the issues of devolution of justice and policing, changes to the institutions and the economic challenges facing Northern Ireland.

I have made clear previously that, in the event that devolved government is not restored on or before 24 November, all MLAs' salaries and allowances will be cancelled with immediate effect. I have repeatedly stressed that it remains the Government's firm hope that devolution can and will be restored by that deadline but I wish to ensure that MLAs have the fullest of opportunities to arrange their affairs in advance. My officials have therefore written to all
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MLAs explaining the implications of the termination of allowances for MLAs' in respect of their responsibilities as employers of their staff and for their constituency offices. A copy of this letter has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Prime Minister

Ministerial Gifts 2005-06

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I have today published a list of gifts received by Ministers. The list provides details of gifts received by Ministers valued at more than £140 for the period 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2006. Copies of the list have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

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