Although we in Dorset are delighted that the Olympic sailing venue will be in Weymouth, for my constituents in the east of Dorset, Weymouth is at least an hour’s

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drive away in normal conditions. We are not talking about a local venue, but about a venue some distance away.

The Minister and the Government have said all along that the intention is that the activities of local people and businesses should not be disrupted by the establishment of the Olympic route network. What concerns me is the interaction between these proposals and the Government’s proposals to change the layout at the Canford Bottom roundabout. There has been a long-standing campaign for a flyover at Canford Bottom, but it would cost well over £10 million and is apparently unaffordable in the present circumstances. The Government have therefore produced an alternative proposal to replace the roundabout with what is described as a hamburger junction. There was a consultation meeting in my constituency on the subject at the end of last month. A hamburger junction is something of a rarity in my part of the world, and when I asked where one could be found, I was told that the closest was in Cardiff. Replacing a roundabout with a hamburger junction is certainly a novel approach.

Mr Foster: The hon. Gentleman is teasing the House to distraction. Would he be kind enough to give a clear description of a hamburger junction, so that we all know what he is talking about?

Mr Chope: I wish that I could. When asked to describe it at the meeting, the officials said that they preferred to refer to a “plan”. However, I understand that it is a junction that looks like a hamburger. The main A31 carriageway—the meat in the hamburger, as it were—would go through the middle, and there would be light-controlled crossings for the four side roads. That is what is described by the Highways Agency as a hamburger junction. I hope that in due course the right hon. Gentleman will be able to have one in Bath, but perhaps before he commits himself he should have a look at the one in Cardiff to see whether it works.

Members’ interest in this subject is becoming apparent, but, as will be appreciated, the people who live close to the proposed junction are even more interested in knowing whether it will achieve the objective that the Highways Agency says that it will achieve, which is to improve the operation of the junction on the A31. What worries local residents is the possibility that their ability to cross from one part of the constituency to the other—into Wimborne—will be impeded by the junction, because extra priority will be given to through traffic at the expense of local traffic.

In order to tease out such issues, there would normally be a fairly long period of consultation on a major highway proposal such as this. The project will cost £5.7 million. However, the Highways Agency tells me that there will be only a three-week window of opportunity for written representations, starting immediately after the local elections. The explanation seems to be that this junction needs to be changed as part of the ODA’s remit to ensure that the Olympic route network delivers people from London to Weymouth within a specified time frame.

I am enthusiastic about clause 4 as it will enable the ODA to ensure that emergency action can be taken to deal with congestion around the Canford Bottom roundabout or anywhere else on the network without the need for major roadworks to be rushed through

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between now and the time of the Olympic games. In responding to the debate, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to assure me that the construction of this hamburger junction is not a crucial part of the Olympic route network, and that the network will be able to deliver its objectives even if this hamburger junction is not constructed. My constituents are sceptical about this solution; they think it may be the wrong one. They are concerned that it might be a cheapskate solution to a very serious problem, and that it would put back for many years, if not decades, the prospect of having a proper flyover at that junction. I hope we will get some clarity on this, and that I will be able to go back and say to my constituents with the authority of the Minister, “It doesn’t matter whether or not we have a bit of delay in the consultation process. It doesn’t matter if the construction of this hamburger junction as a replacement for the roundabout starts after the Olympics. It does not have to be completed before the Olympics.” That would remove one of the major causes of suspicion among my constituents, which is that this solution is a means of trying to ensure that a few Olympic officials can travel through Dorset more quickly than they might otherwise, at the expense of the long-term inconvenience of local people.

When my hon. Friend ably opened this debate, I noted that he kept emphasising that these traffic management measures are designed to facilitate competitors and officials getting to the venues. As he will know, Weymouth is a long way from Canford Bottom—more than an hour’s journey away—and I think a wise competitor or official will base their residence much closer to Weymouth. I therefore wonder what timetable might be put in place for the operation of this Olympic route network on the A31 during the games. Is it going to operate for 24 hours a day, or is it going to operate only when it is actually needed and competitors or officials are travelling to a venue? I ask that because at present it seems as though it is designed to enable all the Olympic organisation hangers-on to be able to travel at speed in their limos from London to Weymouth, when everybody else is being told that they will have to travel by public transport. I hope my hon. Friend will be able to give us some assurances on that.

This point is also of relevance in respect of the proposal to close off the junction at the Merley roundabout, which leads towards Poole. My hon. Friend will understand that if one closes a junction on a busy highway and prevents people from turning towards a major destination such as Poole, it will lead to considerable inconvenience for local people. It would be helpful to have an assurance that that inconvenience will be limited to times when it is absolutely essential to facilitate the transport of officials and competitors to the sailing events in Weymouth.

Paragraph 84 of the explanatory notes to the Bill states that one of the Government’s objectives is

“to ensure the safe and reliable movement of athletes, officials and other members of the Games Family”—

capital “G”, capital “F”.

What causes me a bit of concern is what we mean by the “Games Family”. Does it mean Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all, with the exception of local residents and potential spectators? Who does it mean? Paragraph (b) states that the objective of the Government is

“to deter workers and spectators from driving to the venues”.

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One way of deterring those people from driving to Weymouth is to ensure that the existing congested roads are kept around the Canford Bottom roundabout and that they are improved only after the 2012 Olympics.

The Government also clearly say that they want

“to minimise the impact of the 2012 Games on local businesses and residents going about their everyday business.”

That is why I have sought the opportunity of this debate to seek these assurances. There is an argument for saying that clause 4 should be amended in Committee to make it clear that these traffic regulation orders are to enable the objective of moving athletes and officials around on the road network to be met more easily and that the wider “Games Family” should not be used as an excuse for inconveniencing people with the orders under this clause.

When some of my colleagues saw the reference in the Bill to pedlars they thought that I might wish to direct some remarks in that direction and to ticket touting. I could easily do so, but I wish the focus to be on the constituency issue to which I have drawn the Minister’s attention. I would not want to detract from that particular matter, but I am sure that people will be able to look more closely in Committee at whether there is proportionality on the touting offences. I would like the Bill to contain something that makes it clear that people who sell their tickets, particularly any from LOCOG, will be penalised and will not be able to claim privilege when confronted by the forces of the law. I suspect that, as has happened during previous Olympic games, quite a lot of the people who are privileged to be given free tickets then sell those tickets for their own ends and the tickets get on to the secondary market. I hope that the Minister will give us an assurance that the provisions on touting will also apply to all Olympic officials and that there will be no opportunity for them to avoid the full force of the law if they are found to have contravened the Bill.

I hope that I have been able to put the Canford Bottom roundabout on the map, so to speak. This Minister is responsible for the ODA and so I hope he will realise that this is a significant issue and will be able to assure us that the best solution for the Canford Bottom roundabout is not dependent on its implementation before the Olympic games and the sailing events in Weymouth.

3.34 pm

Tessa Jowell: With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to contribute to the conclusion of this debate. Since last year’s general election, I have at no time felt a sense of relief that I am no longer the Minister responsible for the Olympics, but when I realised that I will not have to find a solution to the agony of the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) over the hamburger junctions, I may for that alone have had a small moment of gratitude.

As we conclude this excellent debate, I am sure that hon. Members from all parties will want to thank Mr Deputy Speaker—your predecessor in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker—for his patience and for the latitude he gave to so many speakers. That does not suggest any degree of indifference among Members to the small number of technical changes proposed in the Bill, but rather an appetite for further opportunities to

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debate in the House the exciting prospect of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

We have covered a wide range of important issues that will have a material bearing on public enjoyment and the enhancement of the UK’s reputation as we host these games. My hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) has developed great understanding and expertise on the subject of ticket touting. My hon. Friends the Members for West Ham (Lyn Brown) and for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali), who represent Olympic boroughs, gave moving speeches, full of passion, about the impact of the games. It is very easy to forget that impact, but they can see the faces and hear the voices of the people whose lives are diminished or enhanced by our hosting of the Olympic games. We should never forget that there are people in Newham and Tower Hamlets dealing every day with more disruption and disappointment as well as preparing for the excitement of being at the centre of this great global event. Many hon. Members also referred to the importance of maintaining confidence in the manner in which these small technical amendments will be applied in practice.

I thank the hon. Member for Croydon South (Richard Ottaway) for his leadership of the all-party group on the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. As he rightly said, it embodies the enthusiasm across the House for the prospect of the games in little over a year’s time.

We know that this event will change our country in a variety of ways, some of which we can predict, some of which we cannot. We are hosting these games because we want to see more young people—indeed, people of all ages—taking part in and competing in sport, because we want this to be a celebration for the whole of the UK, because we are proud of our city and our country, and because we think we can showcase this great event to the world. We are hosting this great event because we want to see it bring lasting change. Much of that change will be in the private experience of villages, towns and cities around the country and of individuals who resolve to do different or perhaps greater things for themselves and their families as a result of their participation in the games.

Let us not forget when we visit the Olympic park, as I hope all Members will, that we will see before us change which without the Olympics would not have happened for 30 years. The tough job of turning that into a lasting legacy and bringing in inward investment, new jobs and new confidence will begin when the last of our visitors goes in 2012.

Finally, I would like to thank the Minister, the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) for the way in which they have worked to maintain the cross-party agreement on the Olympics which it has been so clear from this debate the House wants.

3.40 pm

Hugh Robertson: With the leave of the House, I will close the debate, which has been interesting. I am extremely grateful to hon. Members for their contributions and for debating the issues in the Bill in such a helpful and constructive manner. Let me run briefly through the questions and issues that have been raised. In an intervention, the hon. Member for North Durham

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(Mr Jones) asked me to confirm that the cost of enforcement officers will be reimbursed by the ODA via contracts with local authorities, and I can confirm that.

May I thank, once again, the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) not only for her positive contribution this afternoon, both at the start and the end, but for her contribution to this process from start to finish? I think there is wide recognition inside the Olympic movement that had it not been for her championing of this event at the very beginning we might not have been standing here debating it this afternoon. For that and so much else, we thank her. The comments that have been made today should tell her all she needs to know; her efforts on this front are genuinely appreciated across the House and in the wider world.

The right hon. Lady raised a number of points, the first of which was about how the regulations are applied. I think that we are at one on this issue. Indeed, the body of opinion across the House is very clear: the regulations need to be applied sensibly and proportionately and we will look at all the ways in which we could do that. As she correctly said, communication of what is required is absolutely key to making them work. We will consider whether it will be the Secretary of State or the Mayor who has the relevant powers. In nominating the Secretary of State, we were simply following the guidance set out in the original 2006 Act. Of course, a number of the powers concern things that take place outside London, so there is that element to consider. We will certainly make sure that Transport for London and the relevant local authorities are fully consulted. On the right hon. Lady's point about the victims of 7/7, I think that all of us who were in Singapore will have that seared on our minds for ever. That point was well made.

My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) talked about a number of sports events in and around his borough. He will no doubt be delighted that next door we have also now secured the world canoe championships for 2015, which is yet another world-class event to look forward to. He asked about proportionality and the enforcement of regulations. I can confirm that the regulations will make express provision to exclude those who inadvertently wear logos to events. Clearly, there is a fine line to tread, because if a lot of people who “inadvertently” wear a logo all meet up in the middle there will be a replay of what we saw in South Africa, so the provision will require sensible application, which it will get.

The hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) as always made her case powerfully for her constituents. She was the first person to mention her local paper and I should think there is no better advertisement for the Newham Recorder than her. She asked about the £20,000 fine, which we will consider. Let me make it clear that the level of the fine was signposted in the original Act. With the £20,000 figure we are simply following the advice of the Metropolitan police and if that advice changes we will be prepared to alter the fine. The ODA will undertake an extensive campaign to publicise all the regulations for local businesses. There is already quite a lot more detail than there might originally have been on the London 2012 website. I hope that will help, but if the hon. Lady feels there is a further issue to address, I hope she will come back to me.

For the first time in the six years that we have been debating this issue I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr Foster) managed to get through

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an entire contribution without advocating Bath university over Loughborough, which is the normal course of things. I thank him for his contribution and for his support for the project. We are also grateful for the contribution that his party is making through one of its former leaders to the promotion of the school games. He emphasised the importance of communication about the Olympic route network and he was absolutely correct. Work has already been started by TfL in London and by the ODA outside it. I am told that already 60,000 letters have been distributed on the issue and 12 drop-in sessions have been held. That communication will continue as we move forward.

If the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), my favourite sparring partner on ticket touting, thought that I was a little fierce earlier, I will put her mind at rest: I have a very open mind on the matter. There are arguments on both sides, as she knows and experienced during debate on the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill she promoted in January. The key thing is the level of threat identified by the police. After the debate in January, I asked about that again. I was told that a specific threat had been identified, but that it related to specific events, of which the Olympics is one such event, hence the need for this legislation. However, we will keep an open mind on this as we move forward.

The hon. Lady asked about the timing of the Bill’s progress and of ticket re-sales. It is very difficult to give assurances on the timing. If we get it out of Committee according to the time scale currently envisaged, we hope that it will then proceed to the other place, where there is quite a legislative logjam. The plan was to try to achieve Royal Assent by the end of the year so that the preparatory work can be done to set things up, but I fear that the timings will not quite work. We will try to get the legislation through as fast as possible.

I wish to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Richard Ottaway) not only for his speech and his enthusiasm for this project from the start, but for his chairmanship of the all-party group and the sensible and helpful way in which he has supplied advice and guidance as the process has gone on. I do not know how many Members know this, but he has also personally been extraordinarily generous and helpful to potential yachtsmen and women trying to contribute in 2012 and to our rowing squads. I thank him for that as well as for his help to the British Paralympic Association. He really has been a true friend to this process.

My hon. Friend asked about the Olympic route network, among a number of other things. The idea is not to have it open any longer than is absolutely necessary. We all realise that it will be disruptive to some extent or another, so it will be open only when necessary and expedient for the efficient delivery of the games. I thank him finally for his Select Committee’s report on public diplomacy. He said that he thought that 100 Heads of State might attend, but the last estimate I saw indicated that there will be more than 150, such is the popularity of London, so there will an opportunity for considerable public diplomacy.

The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) spoke, and I am sorry, because she is absolutely key to the delivery. Huge benefits are accruing to the east end of London through the Olympics. There are 12,500 people currently working on the site who

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would not otherwise be there. Next door, in Stratford, the largest shopping centre in Europe is being built. The Olympic park will be the largest new urban park developed anywhere in Europe. There are huge training and employment benefits for people in the east end. I absolutely understand why she wants to fight as hard as she can for her constituents and get as much as she can for them, but it would help the process of delivery if she was prepared to advocate more positively the benefits it will bring.

We all know the current public funding position. The Government have fought very hard to deliver the Olympic games budget and keep it intact, and we have been successful in doing so. We will do exactly what we have promised to do, but local people must also play their part. I hope that the hon. Lady will step forward and be slightly more positive about this in future.

As far as policing is concerned, up to £600 million is available for policing the Olympics and a further £238 million is available in contingency funds, so there is, or should be, no shortage of money available.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod) talked very passionately about the legacy for sport and exercise of this whole process. That was a key part of the bid in Singapore and she is absolutely right to highlight it. She made the same point that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate made about the proportionate application of the regulations, and I hope that I have given her some reassurance on that front.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) mentioned in an earlier intervention local authorities and traffic problems. We can confirm that local authorities have such powers already, which they can use if they perceive that there is a problem. I confirm that the national lottery will be repaid on receipt of the land sales. I thank him for encouraging people to attend some of the less well-known events. Indeed, the early evidence from the ticketing process is that that is exactly what has happened, so I thank him for his advocacy of it.

My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Andrew Bingham) made the point about the resale capacity of the website, and he is absolutely right. With the exception of the relatively small blip on Tuesday night, the website has performed extraordinarily well. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South said earlier, this is the largest ticketing exercise that this country has ever undertaken, and there was one tiny minor blip at the very last minute which was quickly corrected, so it has been a fantastic success. The resale issue is crucial—the Government are absolutely clear about that—if we are to have tough ticket-touting regulations.

Finally, I turn to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) and the Canford Bottom roundabout. Despite some encouragement from both sides of the House, I am not going to get into that issue this afternoon. I am going to stick to the line that I gave him during the many interventions that he tried me with earlier, not least because I, like him, am not entirely sure about a hamburger junction. We wondered whether it might be round and where the filling might be—all the various possible permutations.

The Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers) was here earlier, and the best we can offer

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is that we will look into the issue and get back to my hon. Friend. We are not entirely clear that the Canford Bottom roundabout alterations are directly funded through the Olympic transport budget. Local authorities are carrying out a series of projects of their own accord in order better to host events, and it may well be that the Canford Bottom roundabout improvements are one such example, but we will find out and let him know.

This has been a good debate with many interesting contributions from all parts of the House. At the beginning, I said that the provisions in the Bill serve to ensure that the original intentions of the 2006 Act can be delivered. The commitments given to the International Olympic Committee on the restriction of advertising, trading, ticket touting and traffic management all play a major part in the delivery of a safe, successful and memorable games, and this Bill goes a long way to ensuring that those assurances can be effectively delivered.

I think that I speak for the whole House in putting on the record our thanks and gratitude to the many people who have worked in the many organisations that are seeking to deliver this project. The Olympic Delivery Authority has worked such wonders with the construction and, as several people said, finally laid to rest the ghost that we cannot deliver major construction projects on time and below budget.

The organising committee has met the various organisational challenges. Indeed, only fairly recently, one major media figure said to me, “It’ll be ticketing. That’s the one that’ll go wrong,” but that is yet another challenge that the games have met and—so far, as far we know—conquered.

The legacy is a difficult issue, and nobody would pretend otherwise. Everybody naturally talks it up a lot at the start of a process, but it can be quantified and formed only as we reach the end of the process. We are in the middle of the process at the moment, but I think that there is a real shape to the legacy now.

There is an enormous amount to be proud of in terms of what has been constructed on the park, what will be left on the park and in the surrounding area, and its effect on Olympic and Paralympic sport in this country, on people who play sport in their communities, on school children who will have the new schools Olympics, and crucially—we always tend to forget this—on 10 million young children in 20 countries throughout the world who have been touched by the really innovative and powerful international inspiration programme. So, to all the people who have been involved in the delivery of the project and, indeed, to our own civil servants and the Government Olympic Executive, I put on the record our thanks.

We meet at a good time in London’s Olympics: the budget has held, the construction effort has gone well and is 70% complete, the organisational challenges have thus far been met and the legacy is taking shape. The right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood was absolutely right to say that it has gone well thus far, but let nobody forget for a moment that construction is at its peak and a large number of challenges are yet to be met if we are to deliver a successful Olympics. Complacency is no part of the process, and there is a

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great deal to do, but at this moment the London 2012 project is in great shape. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill (programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill:


1. The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

2. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 19 May 2011.

3. The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Consideration and Third Reading

4. Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.

5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

6. Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading.

Other proceedings

7. Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed. —(Mr Goodwill.)

Question agreed to.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

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


That the draft Charities (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 3 March, be approved.—(Mr Goodwill.)

Question agreed to.


Coastguard Services (Falmouth)

3.55 pm

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): The petition is from more than 7,500 readers of the “Falmouth Packet” newspaper and others.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Falmouth,

Declares that the petitioners believe that Falmouth Coastguard must be retained as a 24 hour a day operation, because the experience and expertise of the Falmouth Coastguard could not safely be transferred elsewhere.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Transport to require the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to take into account the views of residents of Falmouth in the course of its consultation on the future of the Coastguard.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


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Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

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

3.56 pm

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his attendance. I know that he has been looking forward to this Thursday afternoon with two and a half hours ahead of him in a warm Chamber. Looking at his smile, he is not taking that too seriously. I need to declare an interest in case there is any knock-on effect from the debate. If the Government were kind enough to go ahead with some of the suggestions I might make, there could be a negative financial effect on me personally, as I am a very part-time dentist.

I have been interested in this issue for a number of years, and I have raised it through questions and in an Adjournment debate. I am hoping that now we have a new Government and a fresh set of eyes on the issue, we might get some progression towards a little more prevention. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease—commonly known as variant CJD, and it will be from now on so that my tongue can get round it—is a fatal neuro-degenerative disease originating from exposure to bovine-spongiform-encephalopathy-like prions. Prions are small particles of protein. Prion infections are associated with long and clinically silent incubations and cause a spongy degeneration of the brain with a horrible and untimely death. There is no cure. The number of asymptomatic individuals with vCJD prion infection is unknown. It poses a risk to others via blood transfusion, blood products, organ or tissue grafts, and contaminated medical and dental instruments.

The emergence of vCJD and the confirmation that it originates from exposure to BSE raised a glut of public health concerns affecting endoscopy, surgery, dentistry, organ transplantation and blood transfusions. Exposure of the UK population to BSE was widespread, with over 181,000 cases in cattle and estimates of total infections of 1 million to 3 million cattle beasts. About 200 people, mostly from the UK, have been infected, although many more could be. Because of this, the UK is the largest reservoir of vCJD prions in the world. Much of the UK population born before 1996 has potentially been exposed to BSE-contaminated food, and the number of people who carry the infection but remain healthy is unknown.

The issue is particularly relevant in the light of recent deaths. For example, Jonathan Simms, who died aged 26 in Belfast, was given only months to live following his diagnosis in the summer of 2001. He had won a High Court battle which enabled him to receive controversial treatment with an experimental drug called pentosan polysulfate. He remained disabled, but his family and doctors said that his condition had not declined any further, and a slight improvement was recorded. However, he finally lost his battle in March.

From 1990 to February 2011, 170 people in Britain died from vCJD. Although the current wave of vCJD is apparently fizzling out, after peaking in 2000 with 28 cases, a big worry is whether there will be further waves a considerable time in the future.

I wish to touch on three topics in this short debate, and I assure the Minister that my speech will be short. The first is the development of a new blood test for

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vCJD; the second is the approval of a red blood cell filter that can catch vCJD, which we seem to be running around in circles about without coming to a conclusion; and the third is the use of cold sterilisation solutions on surgical and dental instruments, of which three are potentially available, including Rely+On. I would like to ask why those are not being used.

First, on the new blood test, the number of asymptomatic individuals with vCJD prion infection is unknown. Because of that, it poses a risk to others via blood transfusions, blood products, organ or tissue grafts, and contaminated medical instruments. A blood test for vCJD has been an important goal of medical research laboratories and companies around the world for many years. It has been very difficult to achieve because the infectious agent that causes vCJD has unique features that mean that the sensitive methods that doctors usually use to detect the presence of a germ, or other such agents, do not work.

Professor Collinge and others at the Medical Research Council’s prion unit have recently developed a blood test to detect vCJD, or at least the prions. It exploits the powerful attraction between abnormal prion proteins and some metals, in particular some stainless steels. The test was applied to a number of patients, including those with vCJD, sporadic CJD and a number of other neurological diseases that are easily confused with vCJD, and to a number of healthy blood donors. As vCJD is rare, only a relatively small number of samples were available for testing. When the new test was run on 21 samples from different vCJD patients, 15 of the 21 samples from people with clinical CJD tested positive. So far, all samples from other neurological diseases or healthy blood donors have tested negative. The test is quite dramatic. Although it is at an early stage, it is able to correctly identify the majority of patients with symptoms of vCJD and has not yet given any false results for patients with other brain diseases or for healthy individuals. That is important both for early diagnosis of the disease in patients and for the development of a screening test that may detect silent infection in healthy individuals.

The initial studies provide a prototype blood test for diagnosis of vCJD in symptomatic individuals, which could allow development of large-scale screening tests for asymptomatic vCJD prion infection. If a screening test can be developed, it will be possible to estimate the number of infected carriers in the UK population and potentially to reduce the risk of accidental transmission of infection through medical and surgical procedures such as blood transfusions, and through dental instruments, which I must mention.

Variant CJD has predominantly been diagnosed when the patient has had the disease for some time and has developed symptoms that are coupled with extensive damage to the brain. The early symptoms of the disease, such as anxiety, depression and tingling pains in the legs, are regularly mistaken for many more common causes. Understandably, doctors do not jump to the serious conclusion of vCJD until other symptoms show forth, such as difficulty with movement or balance and loss of mental abilities.

Due to the rapid and crippling nature of the disease and the length of time it takes to carry out the series of tests required to reach a diagnosis, more often than not the patient’s symptoms are well advanced before a definitive diagnosis is reached. A blood test will enable patients to

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establish a diagnosis early, or at least earlier. Although there is no cure yet, experimental drugs are being developed at the MRC’s prion unit and elsewhere, with a view to holding clinical trials in the next few years. The unit wants to try such treatments on patients at an early stage, before irreversible brain damage has occurred. Early diagnosis would also give the patient and their family a quick and definite answer, allowing them to use the time that they have left as best they can.

Although the blood test is a monumental step forward in the fight against vCJD, it is important to be mildly cautious about the news. The results so far are encouraging, but further research needs to be taken forward. The researchers need to examine blood samples from much larger numbers of healthy people and those with other brain diseases, to get a better idea of how specific the test is in practice. That is vital before a version of the test can be considered for the routine screening of healthy blood donors.

Two steps need to be taken now that the blood test has been tested successfully in the initial study. The first is the planned testing of 5,000 American blood donors, which I understand has been set up. That will enable Professor Collinge and his team to eliminate the possibility of false positives. However, there is a stumbling block—a lack of funding. As I understand it, the Government are not keen to fund the research. There is a possibility that the MRC will fund that stage of it, but then the researchers would need to move on to seek funding for the next step, which would be to test 50,000 UK donors. That would give the Government an indication of whether vCJD was as widespread as feared, which would make it possible to consider whether the costly procedures that are currently in place to offset its spread are really necessary, or whether their use should be increased.

From the answer to a recent question by the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell), we know that the Government have taken a number of steps to offset the spread of vCJD, including the removal of white cells from donated blood; the massively expensive importation of plasma used to manufacture fractionated blood products; and disallowing recipients of blood transfusions from acting as blood donors. Those are all extremely expensive steps, and at a time of spending cuts it would make sense to spend a little bit of money to get the test that I have described moving, to discover once and for all whether vCJD is as widespread as feared, and in turn whether those expensive procedures are really necessary.

Whether the test on 50,000 UK donors shows a prevalence of vCJD prions or a lack of patients with them, it is a crucial step in the fight against vCJD and should, without doubt, be a priority for Government funding. At the moment, the test does not work on other forms of prion disease such as sporadic CJD, but there is some hope that with further work, it will be available for such conditions in future.

I move on to the issue of blood filtering. Following an anonymous study of archived tissue specimens, the Department of Health uses in its risk calculations the estimate that 1 in 4,000 individuals may be silently infected with vCJD prions. Professor Collinge and his team believe that there is considerable uncertainty about that figure, and that the true number could be significantly higher or lower. It is also unknown how many of those

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infected will actually go on to develop the disease, the problem being that the incubation period in humans can be as long as 50 years.

Those unknowingly infected individuals could be active blood donors, and they could pass on the infection to other people, including through medical and surgical instruments used on them. Although the National Blood Service has taken several actions to try to minimise that risk, such as removing white cells from blood, a process known as leucodepletion, and spending millions of pounds on importing blood serum from the US, it is uncertain how effective those methods are in reducing the risk, or indeed whether they will really be justified should the number of infected people turn out to be exceptionally small.

ProMetic and MacoPharma are two firms that strongly recommend that the Department of Health implement the CE-marked P-Capt prion reduction filter as a matter of urgency, to safeguard the UK blood supply. It is a tailor-made medical device that has been developed by the medical technology company MacoPharma. It is a blood filter that removes all infectious prion proteins that carry vCJD, thereby dramatically reducing or eliminating the risk of transmission through infectious prions and ensuring as far as possible that all blood is safe for transfusion. It has been proved safe and effective and is ready to use, with more than 350 patients having been transfused with P-Capt filtered blood with no adverse effects. The filter has been CE-marked since 2006, meaning that it has passed the EU safety and efficacy test required for it to be used in the UK. The filter has been designed to work with existing technologies and procedures used by the UK National Blood Service, and its introduction would be simple and probably cost-effective. The P-Capt filter could also be used to protect against other transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, including prion diseases that have not yet been identified and named. However, the previous Government appear to have stalled on introducing prion filtration, which is proven to protect people against vCJD transmission through blood transfusions.

Blood contamination is a disaster well known to thousands in this country. Many people with haemophilia were infected with HIV and hepatitis in the ’70s and ’80s because they received contaminated blood from the NHS that was not particularly well screened, or not screened at all, for those viruses. Not only were people infected, but they unknowingly passed the infections to their families. Nearly 2,000 individuals have died as result of that blood calamity, and the figure is increasing.

The vCJD situation is potentially a ticking time bomb—a similar blood disaster could be waiting to happen. Like those who were infected with HIV and hepatitis, those infected with vCJD could be unwittingly passing it on to others, including those who receive their donated blood. To date, at least five people have been confirmed as contracting vCJD after receiving contaminated blood and blood products.

A number of researchers in the department of haematology at Cork university hospital investigated the filter’s operational use and the quality of the filtered components, as well as whether the filtration resulted in any significant changes to blood group antigens. They found that 99% of “top-and-top” units, and 58% of “bottom-and-top” units, had a haemoglobin content of more than 40 grams. Haemolysis increased immediately

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after filtration, but units remained within UK specification throughout storage. Prion reduction resulted in the loss of 7 to 8 grams of haemoglobin, and reductions in haematocrit of 6% to 9%, due to the filter containing 40 ml of saline, adenine, glucose and mannitol. There is no evidence of any immunologic changes of clinical relevance to the red blood cells membrane after filtration.

The Cork university researchers concluded that prion filtration does not appear to have a detrimental effect on basic in-vitro measures of red blood cell quality or on blood group antigens as assessed by in-vitro methods. However, prion filtration using the P-Capt filter results in some loss of haemoglobin, as I noted. The researchers also found during their study that the filter provides encouraging data on the safety of filtration, which means that it could be used, as was planned and recommended, in adults and children, but particularly the latter.

The Health Protection Agency findings that up to 40,000 people in the UK may be incubating vCJD without knowing it highlights the ongoing threat of prion diseases and the need to filter transferred blood to ensure that donors who are carrying latent prions do not infect recipients. P-Capt has been extensively and independently tested for more than three years. It has been proven not only to work, but to be safe and effective, for a wide range of prion proteins, and its implementation has been recommended by an independent UK safety committee.

As I mentioned, deaths from vCJD continue, and I suspect that there will be more. Only last year, researchers from Case Western Reserve university in the US identified a new human prion brain disease—similar to vCJD—that is also associated with a fast-advancing form of dementia. It is now more than a year since the UK’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs—SaBTO—recommended that the Department of Health adopt the P-Capt filter. It is abundantly clear that those crucial safeguards against that vicious disease should be implemented without delay.

The SaBTO recommendation of the use of the P-Capt filter was subject to the completion of the prion-filtered versus standard red cells in surgical and multi-transfused patients study, which is known as the PRISM study. For those who are not aware, PRISM is the third safety study that has been performed on the filter. The two previous investigations, both of which demonstrated the clinical safety of P-Capt, showed absolutely no adverse events. The PRISM process was initially due to conclude in spring and summer of 2009, but it appears to have dragged on for much longer, which has caused considerable concern. The process should be progressed much more rapidly.

A recent parliamentary answer suggested that the tests would not be expected to conclude until mid-2012, although the original deadline was 2009. An interim report is due this summer and I hope that the Minister will confirm that. As the filter has been deemed safe for use since 2006, such a delay seems unnecessary and potentially dangerous for those currently receiving unfiltered, and therefore unprotected, blood.

Following the publication of SaBTO’s recommendations, the Department of Health informed MacoPharma that an impact assessment was being prepared for Ministers, to help make a quick decision on implementation. This was in October 2009, but the impact assessment appears

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never to have been published and it has been increasingly difficult to understand the decision-making process. Given the potential impact of failing to protect the blood supply from vCJD contamination, such a lack of transparency is deeply worrying.

In Ireland, P-Capt is being used routinely in one pilot hospital and is currently undergoing a health technology assessment in relation to national policy and adoption. Of all places, Macau has a blood transfusion service that has started to use P-Capt to remove vCJD from red blood cell concentrates donated by Caucasians thought to be at risk of carrying the prion. Globally, over 90 million blood units are collected annually and MacoPharma is committed to providing solutions that safeguard this blood supply. The present process of leucodepletion used on UK-donated red blood cell concentrates is not sufficient to prevent people from being infected with vCJD. It is shown to remove only 42% of the total transmissible spongiform encephalopathies infectivity.

In terms of the financial costs of the filter, full implementation to filter all donated blood would cost around £1 per person in England. I think—and I hope that the Minister agrees—that that is a small price to pay considering the consequences if the problem escalates. Despite the fact that some people’s genetic make-up may protect them from this disease, at least 89% of the population may be susceptible to vCJD if infected.

Lastly I would like to discuss briefly the situation relating to dental and surgical instruments. As we have seen recently in the news, there have been two separate incidents—one at Queen’s hospital in Essex and another in Wales—in which patients have been told they have been put at risk of contracting CJD through surgery. Details have not been released about the case in Wales. However in the Essex incident, the mother of a patient who had an operation in the same operating theatre as those who have been contacted had developed an inherited form of CJD. That patient has since been tested and found to be carrying a gene that meant that she too could go on to develop the disease. Although the risk of the individuals concerned actually developing the disease is probably very small, it is of course extremely distressing for them, and in the interest of public health safety they will not be allowed to donate blood, organs or tissue.

Professor Collinge and his team believe that such incidents are not uncommon and that although the risk to patients from contaminated surgical instruments is believed to be small, it has not yet been quantified. His research team, working with Dupont, has recently developed an effective prion deactivation soak called Rely+On. However, despite actually having a commercial partner, it is not being used in hospitals and in fact DuPont is no longer manufacturing Rely+On. This soak is one of three—another was developed at Edinburgh university and another was produced by the Government-sponsored Health Protection Agency. None has been used in a hospital setting. The reason for this is that the Government have not given hospitals or commercial partners the incentive to use and invest in these products. If the hospitals were under pressure and the cleaner was provided at a commercially viable cost, the cost would be lower because there would be a huge market to sell it to and production could recommence. The Government need to give commercial firms the green light to go ahead by explaining to the companies that they will have a commercial

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market. That will inspire them to carry out the final tests and make changes to make the product more viable for hospitals to use. I understand that a qualified clearance has been given to Rely+On. It is qualified only at the second level because it froths in washer disinfectors. If a commercial green light was given, I am sure that DuPont and others would produce a product that did not froth. A future requirement could be set through a change to health technical memorandum 01-05 or even through the dreaded Care Quality Commission.

I ask the Minister to act now on these issues and not to let this valuable research sink without trace or these products go to waste. We are lucky in that vCJD does not seem to have had an enormous effect on our generation. However, it is the next generation and the one after that we should be thinking of and trying to protect. They are the ones who could well feel the ghastly effects of this crippling disease and who will be pointing the finger at our generation—and perhaps specifically the Minister—and asking why we did not get stuck into the problem and introduce more prevention now.

4.20 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr Simon Burns): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) on securing this important debate and on his thoughtful and well-informed comments on a matter of public concern and genuine importance. I also pay tribute to his ongoing commitment to keeping the issue of variant CJD in the public consciousness, not least through his various debates on the Floor of the House and his questioning of Ministers.

My hon. Friend asked about the Government’s response to vCJD, and I am happy to have this opportunity to update the House. Thankfully, the incidence of cases of clinical vCJD in the UK remains at a very low level, with a total of 175 cases recorded. Since a peak of 29 onsets in 1999 and 28 deaths—sadly—in 2000, the trend has fortunately been continuously downward. In 2010, there was only one new case. There have been no cases presumed to be associated with surgical or dental procedures and no known transmissions presumed to be associated with blood since 1999. The reality contrasts with some predictions that surrounded early discussion of vCJD in the late 1990s. Some people forecast large numbers of infections and deaths far in excess of what has come to pass. However, this is perhaps understandable given the uncertainties that still remain around the disease.

Although we can be pleased that the worst-case scenario has not materialised, we must remain vigilant and continue to do all we can to reduce risks to patients through potential transmissions via blood or surgical procedures. Many aspects of this condition remain unknown, and because of the unusual nature of the presumed infectious agent—the prion—are likely to remain so, as my hon. Friend alluded to. Existing measures have been put in place to reduce the risk of secondary vCJD infection passed from person to person, and it is vital that these are maintained unless evidence becomes available to indicate that they are no longer necessary or are otherwise ineffective.

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Some measures put in place to protect against the transmission of vCJD also provide additional benefits to patients. One example is the continual improvement of decontamination practices across all of health care. This is vital to ensure that care is delivered safely with low levels of infection risk from all manner of infections, including vCJD, bacterial, protozoal and viral risks. The maintenance and improvement of existing, and the development of new, decontamination systems are essential for maintaining patient safety.

The Government take high-quality decontamination very seriously, and I can announce today that the Department of Health is commissioning a new programme of decontamination-related research. The Department will make available £2.4 million over the next four years to fund this research, which will include support for the development of cold plasma decontamination technologies, specifically for use in narrow channelled instruments such as endoscopes. Another study will aim to optimise the effectiveness of automated washer disinfectors used to wash and sterilise surgical instruments. Other projects will address new methods for detection of residual protein contamination on instruments following routine washing and disinfection.

In addition to decontamination, another vCJD risk-reduction measure that provides additional health benefits is the removal of white blood cells from all blood for transfusion. The removal of white blood cells not only reduces the risk of vCJD transmission, but reduces the risk of cytomegalovirus transmission, transfusion-associated lung injury and transfusion-related fever, and has other benefits. The provision of synthetic clotting factors for the treatment of all patients with bleeding disorders such as haemophilia is another measure associated with both reducing the risk of vCJD transmission and improved patient care.

Sir Paul Beresford: I thank my hon. Friend for his announcements and I note his repetition of some of the points that I have already made. Does he accept that there are already three commercially available materials that can be used for cold sterilisation—but which are not being used and to which the Government have given only semi-recognition—and could also be introduced extremely quickly? Secondly, I note his point about white cell depletion, but a filter has been available since 2006 that would take red blood cells out as well, greatly improving the restriction of the prion.

Mr Burns: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. If he bears with me, I will come to both those points. I want to outline what the Government have been doing, but towards the end of my speech I have a number of comments to make in response to some of the valid points that he raised in his speech.

As I was saying, the provision of synthetic clotting factors for the treatment of all patients with bleeding disorders such as haemophilia is another measure associated with both reducing the risk of variant CJD transmission and improved patient care. Those products, although not suitable for all patients, eliminate all variant CJD and other blood-borne infection risks to those patients.

All the health care actions taken to reduce the risks of person-to-person transmission of variant CJD have costs. Estimates of the annual cost of blood-related

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protection measures alone amount to approximately £40 million. However, many costs that are badged as variant CJD risk-reduction measures would be incurred even without that specific risk. Without a variant CJD risk, many of the blood-related measures, including leucoreduction and the use of synthetic clotting factors, would continue because of the wider safety and other benefits that they confer. The Government also continue to support payments to those affected by clinical variant CJD through the Variant CJD Trust. The trust has paid out approximately £39 million to patients and their families over the last 10 years.

In the latter part of his speech my hon. Friend talked about the risk of contamination via dentistry, which I would like to address now. There have been no known, or indeed suspected, cases of variant CJD transmission arising from dental procedures. However, there are still considerable scientific uncertainties that prevent us from quantifying the specific potential risk. The Department of Health has focused on improving standards of dental decontamination over the last decade, as the risk from blood-borne viruses—especially hepatitis B and C, and HIV—is a recognised risk in dental practices. Approximately 500,000 people in this country are infected with those viruses, and there are more than 1.5 million patient contacts every week in NHS dental practices. It is essential that the quality of local decontamination in practices must be of the highest standard.

The available equipment for and knowledge about decontamination is constantly changing, as my hon. Friend is aware. We update our policies to keep pace with those technical and scientific developments. An essential feature of the British Dental Association guidance, published in 2004, was the importance of both the sterilization and pre-sterilization cleaning components of the decontamination process. Indeed, the essential quality requirements in the Department’s guidance, as set out in “Health Technical Memorandum 01-05”, were similar to those in the British Dental Association’s original A12 document.

Guidance from the Department of Health states that all dentists should use automated washer disinfectors as part of best practice. There are three reasons for this. First, they provide a consistent and reliable cleaning and disinfection process. Secondly, they contain the washing and disinfection process within a sealed unit, which helps to minimise the risk of spreading microbiological and chemical hazards. Thirdly, there is strong evidence that automated washer disinfectors are effective in removing the worst of the contamination from dental instruments and that they deliver a much greater degree of consistency in cleaning. This will reduce the worst-case risks to subsequent patients.

Also, following the recently commissioned research on optimising the efficacy of washer disinfectors, we expect their performance to improve significantly in the coming years. Initial research indicates that the use of automated washer disinfectors can reduce general protein contamination on instruments by a factor of up to 10,000. The reduction in hydrophobic proteins, similar to prion proteins, is roughly a factor of 100. Automated washer disinfectors are therefore very useful in improving the quality of instrument cleaning and reducing risk.

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Sir Paul Beresford: I was not picking on dentistry specifically, because washer disinfectors are also used in hospitals. They are an excellent idea. They are very expensive, but we are going down the right road. The problem is, however, that the prion sticks to certain stainless steel instruments used in dentistry and elsewhere in hospital services, and the washer disinfector will not remove it. However, if the Rely+On, or one of the other two products, were utilised either in the soak beforehand or in the washer disinfector, that would make the process much more effective as far as the prion is concerned.

Mr Burns: Again, if my hon. Friend will bear with me, I will come to these points when I deal with a number of the issues that he raised in his speech.

The guidance encourages the purchase of automated washer disinfectors. However, no time frame has been stipulated and they were not part of the essential quality requirements that all practices had to meet by the end of 2010. A 2009-10 national survey on policy, equipment and procedures used by local dental practices in the decontamination of their instruments showed that more than 70% were at or above the standard required by Department of Health guidance. That figure is likely to improve further, as many other dental practices are close to the required performance level.

The British Dental Association was fully involved in the development of the guidance, and is supportive of the principles underpinning it. The guidance is also consistent with the BDA’s advice sheet A12, “Infection Control in Dentistry”, published in 2004, which states:

“CJD and related conditions raise new infection control questions because ‘prions’, the infectious agents that cause them, are much more difficult to destroy than conventional micro-organisms, so optimal decontamination standards need to be observed. As a universal precaution, all instruments should be thoroughly cleaned before autoclaving, in order to remove as much matter as possible.”

During 2006-07 and 2007-08, the Department of Health made £100 million of capital funding available through PCTs for use in primary dental care. One of the areas identified as suitable for that money was the improvement of standards of decontamination in primary dental care. Many PCTs have provided grants to practices to support the roll-out of automated washer disinfectors in primary dental care.

These and other variant CJD risk reduction measures will remain in place and we will continue to consider all other options where there is evidence of their overall efficacy, safety and cost benefit. For example, we closely follow the development by commercial and academic organisations of potential blood screening tests. While recent progress—as exemplified by the recent publication in The Lancet of the Government-funded prion unit’s development of a prototype diagnostic test—is promising, there remains no test suitable for screening blood donations.

Another possible technology is, as my hon. Friend mentioned, prion filtration, which aims to remove the presumed variant CJD infective agent from blood. In early 2012 on completion of a clinical trial, Ministers will consider the possible use of prion filtration in addition to leucoreduction to reduce further the potential risk of infection from red blood cells. I trust that that helps to answer one of my hon. Friend’s points.

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Sir Paul Beresford: I thank my right hon. Friend again for giving way, and for his tolerance. His statement is interesting, although under the previous Government there was a demand by the Department to provide an impact assessment on the P-Capt filter, which should have been ready for Ministers in October 2009. Will he inquire whether that is available, and if so have a look at it? It would speed up the decision making.

Mr Burns: I can answer my hon. Friend instantly on that. I said just before his intervention that we expect the trial results in 2012, and the impact assessment will be completed only when the trial is completed. The impact assessment, then, will not be available until 2012 when the trials have been completed. I hope that that explains it, and satisfies my hon. Friend.

I would like to enter a note of caution that, as with all new technologies, it is important to consider all the potential costs and benefits to ensure that, as far as possible, the benefits they offer and the costs they incur—both financial and clinical— are fully understood. One example was when single-use tonsillectomy instruments were introduced in 2001 to reduce the risk of variant CJD infection. The instruments were withdrawn within a year, after the death of a number of patients. This clearly shows that no matter how good the intentions, there can, sadly, sometimes be unintended consequences with the introduction of thoroughly assessed new technologies.

My hon. Friend raised a number of issues, which I would like to go through methodically. He talked knowledgeably about prion filtration and effectively asked what was the Government’s position on its use to reduce the risk of variant CJD. I can advise him that the independent Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs considers that there is evidence that a particular filter is able to reduce potential infectivity in a unit of red blood cells and has recommended—subject to satisfactory completion of the clinical trial—the introduction of filtered blood to those born since 1 January 1996. The Government are undertaking an evaluation of the costs, benefits and impacts to inform a decision on whether to implement that recommendation. As I said to my hon. Friend a few moments ago, that is expected to be completed in 2012, when we will also have an impact assessment, which could be studied.

My hon. Friend raised the issue of funding. The current funding by the Department is for studies led by Professor Collinge. Between 1996 and 2012 the Department of Health will have provided more than £18.2 million for studies led by Professor Collinge, which is in addition to his funding by the Medical Research Council. Through the RDD policy research programme, the Department currently funds two studies that underpin and are integrated with the MRC Neuropathogenesis Unit funding. The National Prion Monitoring Cohort funding is worth £3.04 million between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2012. Secondly, the development of an effective treatment for prion infection by humans is funded to the value of £7.2 million from 1 February 2006 to 30 June 2012, in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline.

Sir Paul Beresford: First, I am astonished that the PRISM trials have taken so long. They were supposed to finish in 2009, and they have dragged on for a further

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three years. We really should be worried about the potential development of infection in the intervening period.

Secondly, the Minister has delighted us with the research figures, but they pale into insignificance in comparison with the volume of expenditure by the national health service on imports of blood products and blood serum from the United States in particular. Collinge’s team have produced the test and one of the three soaks, so he has achieved positive results. It would be a mistake to stop now, rather than investing a little more funding to support the next stages of the test so that the tree that was planted initially can bear fruit.

Mr Burns: I always welcome any justified lobbying for extra funding, especially if it is for research. I do not think it appropriate for me to promise my hon. Friend the earth from the Dispatch Box this afternoon, but I will promise him that I will ensure that his request and his justification for the provision of further funds are drawn to the attention of the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Anne Milton). No doubt she will consider what he has said and write to him in due course.

Sir Paul Beresford rose—

Mr Burns: I feared that that might prompt another intervention.

Sir Paul Beresford: I thank the Minister sincerely, because it is unusual for Ministers to give way with such regularity. Perhaps it is also unusual for them to receive requests.

I understand that the Under-Secretary of State has considered the matter, and is looking to the private sector to fund the advances and further testing. The private sector is unlikely to do that because it has no incentive, but, as a Minister in the Department of Health looking after the nation’s health, my right hon. Friend has every incentive, as has the Under-Secretary of State.

Mr Burns: I admire my hon. Friend’s persistence and congratulate him on it, but I fear that it will not push me any further at this moment. I hear what he says about the meeting between my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and Professor Collinge. I cannot comment on that, but I reiterate yet again that I will draw my hon. Friend’s comments to the attention of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State so that she can reflect on them. No doubt she will be in touch with him once she has had time to do so.

My hon. Friend mentioned the three decontamination products. They have not yet been proven suitable for use in the standard decontamination cycle in health care, and we must therefore await the conclusion of the research. Once we have seen the results of that research and, in one case, the impact assessment, we shall be able to seek to make positive progress.

Let me reassure my hon. Friend that the Government take the risks of variant CJD very seriously indeed. Because of the uncertainty surrounding it, we cannot be satisfied that we can stop looking for ways of improving and enhancing the protection of members of the public, and minimising the development and

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spread of this particularly horrendous medical condition. Successive Governments have introduced a wide range of precautionary measures focused on reducing risk to protect public health. I assure my hon. Friend that we will maintain them and keep them under review as new evidence emerges, and that we will

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ensure that any new measures under consideration are effective, safe and appropriate.

Question put and agreed to.

4.45 pm

House adjourned.