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The Minister for the Cabinet Office and for the Olympics, and Paymaster General (Tessa Jowell): I shall answer speedily, Mr. Speaker. The cost of staging the games will primarily be met from the £2 billion budget of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, which was raised principally from the private sector. The costs of additional wider security and policing, and a £66 million public sector contribution towards the Paralympic games, are contained in the £9.3 billion public sector funding package.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: Sport transcends politics. Every party in the House wants the 2012 Olympic games to be an outstanding success for the benefit of our great country. Can the Minister give any further details about which operations may be scaled back if there is a shortfall in sponsorship and revenue from the private sector? That is important: we want a success, but we also want the facts.
Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman is right that the Olympic games are being planned and delivered on a cross-party basis as far as humanly possible. The second point, however, is that as the development of the park has proceeded, decisions have been taken to put in further public sector investment where private sector financing has not been forthcoming. In staging the event, the organising committee will take full account of the likelihood of meeting its budget, which it expects to do. It is also worth the House recording that the committee is already substantially ahead of its private sponsorship-raising activities, so we have cause for confidence on that point.
The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): We are determined to ensure that there is full equivalence between the Paralympics and the summer games and that the Paralympics are fully integrated into the organising committee's plans, with a cross-Government Paralympic legacy plan, which will identify how we are going to use the power of the Paralympics to increase opportunities for disabled people more widely.
Mr. Borrow: A couple of weeks ago I attended a leavers assembly at Ashbridge school in my constituency, at which a presentation was made by Shelly Woods from Blackpool. Shelly won a silver medal and a bronze medal at the Beijing Paralympics and made a truly inspirational presentation. What opportunities will exist to celebrate the Paralympics, as well as the Olympics, in the forthcoming open weekend?
Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend and join him in congratulating Shelly on her contribution. The forthcoming open weekend, which will mark three years to go until the opening of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, will be marked across the country. Some 750 events are already registered, and I encourage hon. Members from all parts of the House to take part. In the north-west, my hon. Friend can go to one of many events, which include the academy cup at Greenbank sports academy and many others besides. The open weekend will be a great moment to celebrate achievements so far, and Olympic and Paralympic sports will both feature.
Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): This weekend a great Olympian became the world boxing champion. Amir Khan is a great role model for young people in this country, yet small boxing clubs where people like him will come from in future are struggling. I wonder whether the Minister or the sports Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe), would like to visit a new boxing club in my constituency and see not only the great young people coming forward, but the financial problems that they face.
Tessa Jowell: I am sure that the House will want to congratulate Amir Khan. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about his dedication to providing leadership to young men-and, indeed, young women-right across the country as they take up boxing. As my hon. Friend the sports Minister has pointed out, investment is going into boxing clubs because of Amir Khan's advocacy and the evident benefits to young people.
Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): What progress is being made on the recruitment of thousands of volunteers from right across the United Kingdom to ensure that the Paralympics and the Olympics in 2012 are the outstanding success that we all want them to be?
The plans for volunteer recruitment will be announced next year and recruitment will start shortly thereafter. However, the scale of public enthusiasm for the forthcoming Olympics can be measured by the fact that although some 70,000 volunteers will be recruited by the organising committee, more than 250,000 people
have already registered their interest. We in Government are absolutely determined to ensure that all volunteers who offer themselves for the games have an opportunity to get involved in their community in one way or another.
The Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the AH1Nl swine flu pandemic. I wish to do three things today: to update the House on the spread of the virus, to provide additional details about the launch of the national pandemic flu service, and to set out how Members in all parts of the House will be kept informed during the summer recess.
In recent weeks, we have discovered a great deal more about the swine flu virus. While it has spread quickly, the virus has not become more dangerous. For the vast majority, swine flu remains a mild and self-limiting illness-and let me be clear: our advice to the public about dealing with it has not changed. However, as the number of cases rises, it is understandable that people are becoming more concerned, and all organisations have a role to play in providing reassuring, consistent and clear advice.
First, I wish to deal directly with advice to pregnant women, which, again, has not changed since the outbreak began. The chief medical officer says that most pregnant women with swine flu will get only mild symptoms, but pregnancy brings a higher risk of complications. Bearing these risks in mind, at present mothers-to-be are advised to continue normal activities such as going to work, travelling on public transport, and attending events and family gatherings. However, they are advised to take the following steps to reduce their risk of infection and complications: first, to observe good hand hygiene, with frequent use of soap and water; secondly, wherever possible, to avoid contact with someone who is known or suspected to have swine flu; and thirdly, if they have flu-like symptoms, to make early contact with a general practitioner, who may advise treatment with antiviral drugs. If in doubt, pregnant women should seek advice, and if they think they have symptoms, they need to contact their GP as soon as possible for antiviral treatment. The chief medical officer will be reissuing this advice later today.
I also understand that families with small children have concerns. The key characteristic of swine flu is fever. The first thing that parents should do is check whether their child has a temperature at or over 38° C. They should then contact the national pandemic flu service, once it has launched, or their GP, if their child has a high temperature and any one of the following symptoms: tiredness, headache, sore throat, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea, aching muscles, or limb and joint pain.
Since my last statement to the House, the daily reported figures from the Health Protection Agency have been replaced by weekly estimates based on the numbers reporting flu-like illness to their GPs. The latest figures published on Thursday show how the number of cases has grown, with 55,000 new cases of swine flu reported last week alone. There were 652 people in hospital, 53 of whom were in critical care. There had been 26 deaths in England.
The figures also confirm that the virus has now taken hold around the country, rather than in isolated pockets, and show how quickly this has happened. On 8 July, just six primary care trusts reported exceptional levels
of flu-like illness. By 15 July, this had increased to 110 PCTs-hence our immediate decision last week to activate the national pandemic flu service. The latest figures show that nine out of 10 NHS regions are now showing exceptional levels of flu-like illness, based on GP consultations.
GPs are on the front line in this pandemic. They are coping admirably with the increased work load, and I am sure that the House will want to extend its thanks to them, to their staff and to everybody working so hard throughout the health service, the Health Protection Agency and the Department of Health. All professionals deserve our full support, and the best way to do this is to find new ways to relieve pressure on the front line.
The technology to launch the national pandemic flu service has been available for some time, but given the latest HPA figures, and drawing on advice from the field, we have now reached a point where the service is required. I can therefore confirm that the service will go live in England by the end of this week, subject to testing. It will be accompanied by a major public information campaign. After the launch, people will no longer need to ring their GP: they can either answer questions online via the new website or ring the call centre service, where trained staff will be able to assess them over the phone. If swine flu is confirmed, they will then get an authorisation number, which their flu friend can use to pick up antivirals from local antiviral collection points. I will ensure that all Members receive information on the location and number of collection points in their area before the launch of the service later this week.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the situation is different. We have not seen the same rate of spread, and, as a result, the service will not be in operation in those countries this week, but they may choose to opt in at a later date. People in those regions should, therefore, continue checking their symptoms on the NHS website, or via the swine flu information line, and then call their GP for diagnosis over the phone.
The Government must be as open as possible about the potential scale of the threat, so that organisations in the public and private sectors can plan effectively. Last week's planning assumptions set out reasonable "worst case scenarios" for them to plan against. We published a range of figures covering the numbers who could get swine flu; experience complications, and be hospitalised or die. The assumptions also cover the number who could be absent from work because they or their family get swine flu.
Let me stress again that those are worst case scenarios, not predictions-and we need the media to play their part in reporting them as such. For the NHS, the assumptions mean that it can now step up its preparations to cope with a sudden surge in swine flu cases, and it already has detailed plans in place. Similarly, infrastructure providers and other essential operators, such as food suppliers and electricity, gas and water companies, already have continuity plans to maintain services. However, organisations of all kinds should now establish plans to reduce the threat that swine flu poses to the economy.
The Government have published guidance documents on continuity planning, and we have also set up a new business advisory network for flu to provide a single source of information and advice. Full details are available on the business link website-www.businesslink.gov.uk.
Let me now update the House on vaccines. The Department of Health has already signed contracts with two manufacturers to supply enough vaccine for the whole population. According to their delivery schedules, we should begin receiving supplies from August, with enough becoming available for at least 30 million people by the end of the year. Clearly, we want the vaccine to be available as soon as possible, but we cannot compromise on safety. We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the vaccine is appropriately tested.
We are also now planning the vaccination programme so that we can start administering vaccines to priority groups, including NHS and social care staff, as soon as we get the green light to proceed. We will continue to take the best independent scientific advice on all questions about vaccination.
Finally, I recognise that hon. Members must be updated during the parliamentary recess. I have therefore asked strategic health authorities to provide weekly briefings for MPs coinciding with the HPA's national updates. They will cover local information on the number of diagnosed and confirmed cases and hospitalisations, as well as updates on antiviral collection points, local information on any clusters or other specific developments, and a hotline number for hon. Members to use to contact their local strategic health authority.
In addition, the civil contingencies committee will meet weekly, and Ministers and officials will be in close contact throughout the summer months to respond to emerging issues. This evening, there will be a briefing session open to all Members with the chief medical officer.
I am also grateful to the hon. Members for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) and for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) for the constructive conversations that we have had. I will of course keep Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benchers updated over the summer, and we will continue regular discussions with Health Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure a consistent UK-wide response.
In conclusion, concern has risen and there is increasing pressure on services, but there is no change to the advice or to Government plans. It is because we have planned carefully for this eventuality that we have large quantities of antivirals, a national pandemic flu service about to launch, and a vaccine on the way. That constitutes a solid base on which to deal with future challenges. I commend the statement to the House.
Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire) (Con): The House will be grateful to the Secretary of State for his further update on the flu pandemic response. I am sure that hon. Members also wish to offer our condolences to the families of those who have died as a result of contracting the H1N1 virus. Again, I join the Secretary of State in expressing our gratitude to all the NHS staff, particularly in primary care, for their response to the growing pressures arising from the virus.
The House will know that we supported the containment strategy and the shift to a treatment-only policy. In time, it will be important to understand how effective the containment strategy was in practice. There is some evidence to suggest that a significant number of people who might have been given antiviral treatment while the containment strategy was being pursued, or given prophylactic access to antiviral drugs, did not in fact
receive it. Will the Secretary of State agree to a review of that in due course, although obviously not at this stage?
It is clear that there is still a considerable degree of confusion about what people should and should not do about this flu. Publishing planning assumptions and preparing for the worst is one thing, but we really do need the Government more effectively to explain that, up to now, we are not experiencing the worst-case scenario, and that we can therefore take a "business as usual" approach, except for those who have symptoms or contract this influenza. Can the Secretary of State confirm that from later this week, everyone who needs to will be able to access diagnosis and antiviral treatment via the pandemic flu line? Will he say what are the maximum distances to what he describes as local antiviral collection points? Can he explain why pharmacists are being used in some areas but not in others? Why cannot they be used more generally for now, while the numbers involved remain limited?
Over the weekend, conflicting advice was issued to expectant mothers. Consistent and accurate advice is paramount in a situation in which we are trying to maintain public confidence, so can the Secretary of State tell the House what steps he is taking to ensure that the chief medical officer liaises with the royal colleges and other associations to achieve consistency and clarity of advice to the public?
An interim solution for the national pandemic flu line is to be put in place. We know that the Treasury delayed until December signing the contract for a full solution with BT. Even so, this March, the Secretary of State's Department said that it could be available by April or May. It should, according to the plan, have been activated in mid-June, when the pandemic alert was declared, but it was not. To that extent, it is a month late. It is clear that much of the confusion that we have seen in that month could have been avoided if the Government had delivered the pandemic flu line on time. BT says that it did all that was asked of it. Who and what caused the delay?
The Secretary of State still maintains that vaccination could begin by September. There is a great deal of public interest in a potential new vaccine, so it is vital that the Government set out clearly the process for licensing and implementation. Clearly, the fact that a vaccine has been manufactured does not mean that it has been licensed by the European Medicines Agency, the EMEA. We do not yet know whether the EMEA will be able to fast-track licensing based on the mock-up dossier, or whether it will need additional clinical data. We do know that in 1976, the US authorities began a vaccination programme with an unlicensed vaccine that had damaging side-effects. Can the Secretary of State therefore confirm that it is the Government's intention to proceed only with a licensed vaccine?
I have asked the Secretary of State and his predecessors several times for a debate on vaccine prioritisation. Will he publish the advice on the criteria for that, and on the benefit of vaccinating young adults compared with vaccinating the elderly, who appear to have some acquired immunity? Can he tell us how many people aged 55-plus are estimated to have contracted the virus? Of course, we need also to know who he anticipates will fall into the at-risk category groups for vaccination, coming immediately after health and social care workers.
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