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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress there has been on enforcing accurate labelling of pigmeat products. [151671]

Ms Stuart: Legislation on false and misleading labelling is enforced by local authorities. We have issued guidelines to help enforcement officers tackle misleading origin labelling. We have also appointed a pigmeat verification officer to investigate misuse of 'British' labels on pork and pigmeat products. He has dealt with over 20 cases considered to be misleading to the consumer; in almost all cases the retailer and processor have either removed the product from the shelves or changed their labelling policy in line with Government guidelines.

Abattoir Closures

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the proportion of abattoirs which have closed since 1 May 1997 due to costs of meat inspection. [151815]

Ms Stuart: No such estimate has been made. However, the Meat Inspection Charges Task Force says that it appeared to them that the main reason for small and medium-sized abattoirs going out of business at that time was the level of meat inspection charges.

The level of meat inspection charges has not been the only reason for business closures. Other factors, such as market changes, would be a more likely explanation for the long-term decline in the number of red meat abattoirs (which in England and Wales fell from 1,056 in 1979 to 410 in 1997 and 351 at the end of last year).

Runaway Children

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure that the needs of runaway children are provided for; and if he will make a statement. [152020]

Mr. Hutton: We will, jointly with the Home Office, shortly be issuing guidance to local authorities with social services functions and to the police, aimed at ensuring that services for children and young people who run away from home or care are developed and provided on a multi-agency basis.

NHS/Social Services Care

Mr. Best: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the further guidance on the joint NHS/social services funding for respite care, nursing care and long-term care of the elderly will be issued to health authorities. [151906]

Mr. Hutton: Revised guidance for National Health Service responsibilities on continuing health care will be issued shortly. Guidance on NHS responsibilities for nursing care in nursing homes will be issued shortly. Relevant aspects of respite care will be covered in these two pieces of guidance.

Health and Social Services Recruitment

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to publish (a) a code of practice for health authorities on the recruitment of nursing and

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medical staff from overseas and (b) guidance for local authorities on the recruitment of trained social workers from overseas. [151788]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 1 March 2001]: The Department issued guidance on international nurse recruitment in November 1999. A further code for international recruitment will be published shortly. The code will apply to the recruitment of doctors and dentists, nurses and midwives, allied health professions and scientists and technicians.

We have not issued any guidance to local authorities about the overseas recruitment of social workers. We have, however, advised the two local authorities who approached the Department for advice about the recruitment of social workers from abroad to adopt the principles of the National Health Service guidance.

Infant Mortality

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment his Department has made of the risk to children and babies of parents sharing the same bed as their children; and what guidance he issues on this matter. [151897]

Yvette Cooper: My Department provided funds for the "Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy" study. A copy of the ensuing report has been placed in the Library. The study evaluated risk factors associated with bed-sharing, the broad conclusions of which are reflected in our leaflet "Reduce the Risk of Cot Death". This advises against adults bed-sharing with a baby if one or both are smokers, take any form of drugs or medication which makes them sleep more heavily, have recently taken alcohol or are extremely tired.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps he is taking to develop an agreed protocol for the review of child deaths; [151940]

Yvette Cooper: The Department provided funding for the "Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy" study published last year. This report advocated a protocol for the review of child deaths, including those for which there is no clear organic cause for death. We are exploring the implementation of recommendations arising from this source together with those aspects of the recently available advice from the Chief Medical Officer's review of the approach to post-mortem examination, "The Removal, Retention and Use of Human Organs and Tissue from Post-mortem Examination", where this advice has a bearing on the review of death in childhood. Copies of both these documents are available in the Library.

Child Abuse

Mr. Horam: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action the social service inspectorate is taking in response to accusations of child abuse at the National Children's Home at Bourne Place and the home at Betts Way run by Bromley council and the Ravensbourne NHS trust; if the inspectorate is taking action in respect of officials employed by Bromley council; and if he will make a statement. [151996]

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Mr. Hutton: We are aware of the two separate investigations into allegations of child abuse, at Bourne Place and Betts Way. The investigation into the allegations at Bourne Place School is continuing. The Betts Way investigation is drawing to a close. We will take the appropriate action when the investigations are completed.

Porton Down

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if his Department made an assessment of the report produced by the US Institute of Medicine in 1993 entitled, "Veterans at Risk-the health effects of mustard gas and lewisite", while compiling the published message (CEM/CMO/2000/15) on the Porton Down's medical assessment programme from his Department's deputy chief medical officer on 21 November 2000. [152001]

Yvette Cooper: No assessment was made of the report from the United States Institute of Medicine (1993).

The Department's message was aimed at providing general practitioners and health professionals with urgent information on the medical assessment programme, since those seeking to use these facilities would need to be referred by their general practitioners. It was based on recent authoritative reviews, but it was not intended to provide a comprehensive review of the international literature. The names of two consultants in clinical toxicology were given as a source of direct specialist advice for health professions.

Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when universal neonatal hearing screening will be piloted; in which health authorities it will be piloted; and how long it will be piloted before the Government announce the timetable for the national implementation of UNHS. [151925]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 5 March 2001]: Universal neonatal hearing screening is due to be piloted, initially in 20 health authorities. This phase will start in March 2001 and will be staged over 12 months. An announcement will be made early next year about a timetable for national implementation taking account of the initial findings of the pilot. The first 20 health authorities are:

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Hearing Aids

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when Coventry will be included in the Modernising NHS Hearing Aid Services Project. [152323]

Mr. Hutton: The Department will study the results of the "Modernising National Health Service hearing aid services" project at the 20 participating NHS trusts to determine how changes to hearing aid services should be rolled out to the NHS. Pending the outcome of the project, other hospitals with the appropriate staff, training, equipment and experience are already able to access the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency contract for digital hearing aids.

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