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Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 11 and 12 together.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


Children and Young Persons

Question agreed to.

European Union Documents

Management of EU Funds in Bulgaria and Romanian and Bulgarian EU Accession .

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 11 9 ( 11 )),

Question agreed to.


Pharmacy Services (Gloucestershire)

6.40 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): In April, the Government produced a White Paper entitled “Pharmacy in England: Building on Strengths”. In response to that White Paper, the Dispensing Doctors’ Association carried out a survey of 6,000 of its patients. It had two key findings. The first was that 95 per cent. of the surveyed patients would find it difficult or inconvenient if their surgeries stopped dispensing. The second was that half of the surveyed households include at least one person over 65. It was unsurprising, therefore, that hundreds of my constituents wrote to me to oppose the proposals.

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In a very welcome announcement yesterday, the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Corby (Phil Hope), did a complete U-turn on the proposals and announced that there would be no change. My constituents, along with the millions of people up and down the country who were upset by the proposals, have had an early Christmas present. My constituents have therefore had a prescient victory in their campaign, but nevertheless I shall present their petition.

The petition states:


Dangerous Drivers

6.43 pm

John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) (Lab): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to present a petition signed by almost 25,000 people on the topic of the horrendous, appalling and often tragic consequences of drink-driving. It is particularly pertinent now with Christmas so close.

The petition states:


Health Services (Wycombe)

6.45 pm

Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): I rise to present a petition, the contents of which are self-explanatory and require no elucidation by me.


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Cervical Cancer Screening

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —(Helen Jones.)

6.45 pm

Mr. Fraser Kemp (Houghton and Washington, East) (Lab): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I am grateful to Mr. Speaker for giving me permission to hold this debate on the Floor of the House of Commons.

I shall begin by praising the success over the past few decades of the cervical cancer screening programme, and all those who have worked in it. They have saved many lives but, despite that success, cervical cancer still kills 1,100 women every year. Another 2,800 women are diagnosed with it each year, but I want to speak specifically about the screening of young women under the age of 25.

I bring this matter to the House because a young constituent of mine called Claire Walker tragically died on 18 September, a few days after her 23rd birthday. Claire was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 21, and she died leaving a two-year-old son, a husband, a brother, a sister, a mam and dad, and a grandma. Claire worked at the Washington child benefit centre, where I once worked, as did her mother. I remember when I was the trade union branch secretary 30 years ago that, along with many others, I negotiated for on-site screening for the 2,000 women who worked there. That was one of the first such initiatives anywhere in the UK.

Despite having this devastating illness, as well as a young family to care for and all the pressures that that brings, Claire Walker found the courage and determination to help others, even in her dying days. She found the strength that she needed through Jo’s Trust, a charity that helps support cervical cancer sufferers, and she also took part in television programmes and appeared in women’s magazines and in newspapers—always with the aim of warning others of the danger, and to provide help and support.

On the day of her funeral, her dad Bob said, “She will always be the real angel of the North.” She was a remarkable woman, whose family and friends are determined that her death should not be in vain. They have campaigned courageously and vigorously about the need for cervical screening of women under 25. They have had the support of many in the local community in Washington, and a petition was organised by the Sunderland Echo to ensure that other families do not have to go through what they have faced. Claire would have had that screening had she been born a few years earlier, or 80 miles up the road and over the border in Scotland.

Many women under 25 are still diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. The latest figures that I could get from the Office for National Statistics only go up to 2005, but they show that the number of women so diagnosed totalled 42 in 2001 and 2002, 63 in 2003, 48 in 2004 and 43 in 2005. They were all young women diagnosed under the age of 25, and many health professionals believe that the figures could be much higher.

In 2004, the routine screening age in England was raised from 20 to 25. Scotland and Wales did not raise the age. The reason given at the time was the report
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issued by Drs. Sasieni and Cuzick and colleagues, which the Department of Health considered. However, many feel that the data sample used in the report was relatively small—about 3,700—given that 4.3 million women a year are eligible for screening. There are differences of view within the medical profession and I shall give a couple of examples.

A report recently published in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care stated:

In the same journal, Professor Fiander, in an article entitled “Cervical screening in young women aged 20-24 years”, wrote:

Another article dealing with lowering the age concluded:

There are differences of opinion and the view expressed in the report considered by the Department is not universally shared by the English medical profession, by the chief medical officers in Scotland and Wales, or in a host of other European countries. That view has not been taken in Australia and many other parts of the world. Many people feel that the report did not look at interval analysis and that it was not designed to test the theory it used and the conclusions it reached.

Many people feel that responsibility for the burden of proof lies with those who advocate change, yet many of us feel that the case is not proven. I have talked to people in the profession over the past few weeks and many consultants and others accept that there was an element of over-treatment, but they say that the pendulum has swung the other way and there is a change of attitude in the medical profession. Some of the arguments about over-treatment are no longer made.

The argument has been used that early screening does more harm than good, but, with greater safeguards, why should it be different for a 24-year old or a 25 or 26-year old? As my quotes from eminent medical journals showed, that argument sends out the wrong message—that cervical cancer does not affect young women. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of women aged between 20 and 29 who turned up for routine screening went down from 77 per cent. to 71.6 per cent.

I readily accept that I am not a medical expert, but I have talked to the families and to people in the profession. I feel confident that a case needs to be answered and that an analysis needs to be performed. I have been a
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Member long enough to recognise that the Minister will not stand at the Dispatch Box and say, “We will alter the procedure and take the age back to 20”, but I ask for recognition that eminent figures in the medical profession have expressed genuine and serious differences of opinion about how we approach the issue, particularly within our neighbouring nations of the UK.

Obviously—this is connected in many ways—I welcome the recently announced vaccine programme, together with the catch-up initiative, but it will still leave a group of young women who are not covered by routine screening or vaccination. I respect the Minister. She is a former health service professional. She will want to be reassured that what we are doing is absolutely right and in the best interests of young women. I should like simply to put it to her that we should analyse the available data, and that view is supported by other hon. Members. Early-day motion 195, which I submitted, has support from Conservative, Liberal and Labour Members, all of whom feel that this issue seriously needs to be revisited.

When we look at the data, we see that we have a unique opportunity for the first time. Two different systems have been operating in England and Northern Ireland and in Scotland and Wales. If the argument of harm exists and if damage is done to young women, that would be presumably demonstrated by looking at the data on those young women under 25 who are routinely screened in Scotland and Wales. One way or the other, the argument can now be proved. We can analyse what the difference is, because we have had similar populations with similar genetic make-ups for the past few years—so there is an opportunity.

A point that has been made to me is that the data used in the Sasieni report show that big changes have taken place. The age at which young women become sexually active has reduced. Such differences need to be assessed. In my dealings with the Department of Health, it has always argued on the basis of medical advice. Some people have suggested that cost is an issue, but the average cost of screening is between £30 and £40. The life chances that that has given to tens of thousands of women in Britain are quite phenomenal. Apart from the obvious cost-benefit analysis—screening has saved the health service money, as well as greatly benefiting the women who have been helped—to save someone’s life is clearly a great advantage. The re-examination needs to take place urgently, on the basis of different age limits, as that will provide a proper opportunity.

Some people feel that, when the Sasieni report came out a few years ago, the Department considered that other groups were not sufficiently involved. If the Minister is prepared to look at the evidence and data, she will see that the consultation should include other organisations that have a view. I could mention many of them, but I will cite one that has advised me in the preparation of my speech: Jo’s Trust, which is a cervical cancer charity. The question that needs to be asked is what is the effective age of the first invitation in order to prevent incidence and mortality in young women in their 20s. That is the basis on which we should approach this issue.

At the weekend I spoke to Claire’s mother Lyn, and she told me of another young woman who, after reading about Claire’s story and Claire’s death, discovered that she had cervical cancer.

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7 pm

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —(Helen Jones.)

Mr. Kemp: Let me repeat that I spoke to Claire’s mother, Lyn, over the weekend, and she told me the very moving story of a young woman who, after reading about what Claire had gone through and about Claire’s death, discovered that she herself had cervical cancer, and she is now receiving treatment for it.

Even in death, Claire Walker continues to do what she did in life, and that is to help others. With that, I conclude, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

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