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European Rapid Reaction Force

39. Mr. Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the command structure of the European rapid reaction force. [152736]

Mr. Hoon: There is no standing European rapid reaction force. There is no plan for the EU to have a permanent military command structure.

Community Involvement (Armed Forces)

40. Mr. Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for increasing the Army's role in the community. [152737]

Mr. Spellar: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner), Official Report, columns 1-2.

Helicopter Squadrons

Mr. David Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future disposition of helicopter squadrons in UK bases. [152709]

Mr. Spellar: The only firm plan to change the location of helicopter squadrons in the UK is the relocation of some of the Royal Navy Sea King Anti-Submarine Warfare helicopters from Royal Naval Air Station Prestwick to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose by April 2002.

Further changes may take place in the location of Joint Helicopter Command helicopter squadrons as a result of a strategic estate rationalisation study, which is due to report in autumn 2001. Until the study reports, it would be inappropriate for me to speculate on the outcome.

Ministerial Meetings (Turkey)

Mr. Walter: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent meetings he has had with his Turkish counterpart to discuss European security. [152718]

Mr. Hoon: I last had a meeting with my Turkish counterpart, Mr. Cakmakoglu, at the NATO Informal Defence Ministers meeting in Birmingham in October last year, and our discussions included European security. Additionally, I expect to visit Turkey next week and to call on Mr. Cakmakoglu to discuss a range of defence issues.

Meteor Missile Programme

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Meteor missile programme indicating how many missiles each meteor partner is committed to purchase; what estimate his

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Department has made of the development costs; and if the timetable and supply of test aircraft has been agreed by all the partner nations. [154163]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 16 March 2001]: Subject to conclusion of a memorandum of understanding with our partner nations, and of satisfactory contractual terms and conditions with Matra BAe Dynamics (MBD) as prime contractor, we hope to be able to place a demonstration and manufacture contract for Meteor in the summer. The total cost of Meteor demonstration is estimated in the region of £600 million.

I am withholding information on missile numbers under exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. Missile numbers of our partner nations are also classified, and withheld under the same exemption.

Time scales of the Meteor trials programme and the provision of the test aircraft to support the programme are currently being negotiated with MBD. The final programme, once agreed with MBD, will be subject to approval by the partner nations.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about military aid to the civil community in respect of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. [153994]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 16 March 2001]: Management of the current outbreak of foot and mouth disease is a matter for the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I would therefore refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement made by my right hon. Friend in the House on 15 March 2001, Official Report, columns 1199-1226.


Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the effect of a reduction of 40 planes in the German order of Eurofighter on (a) the unit cost and (b) the in-service date of the aircraft in the UK. [154165]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 16 March 2001]: Germany has not announced any reduction in its commitment to Eurofighter. The memoranda of understanding that underpin the programme contain the principle that any costs resulting from a reduction in quantity by one of the nations shall be met by that nation. The aircraft to meet the in-service date are already in production.


Patient Representation

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will place in the Library an organisation chart showing the lines of accountability, appointment, communication and authority between the NHS bodies overview and scrutiny committees, patient forums, PALS, independent local advisory forums and the Secretary of State, as set out in clauses 7 to 15 of the Health and Social Care Bill. [148533]

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Mr. Denham: The final form of the new system of patient representation, empowerment and scrutiny will not be detailed until the Bill has completed its passage through both Houses.

MMR Vaccine

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when his Department received the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's review of the abstract presented to the American Association of Immunologists and Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology meeting in San Francisco in 1998 by Dr. V. K. Singh on autism and the MMR vaccine; and what the conclusions of this review were. [149343]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 8 February 2001]:The abstract by Dr. V. K. Singh entitled "Positive titers of measles and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) antibody are related to myelin basic protein autoantibody in autism", which he had forwarded to the annual meeting of the American Association of Immunologists/Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology held in San Francisco on 22 April 1998, was considered by the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) at its meeting held in October 1998.

The JCVI concluded that the abstract did not provide any information to alter its views on the safety of MMR vaccine.

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what seroconversion rates occur with MMR in relation to (a) measles, (b) mumps and (c) rubella after (i) the first (ii) the second dose. [153674]

Yvette Cooper: Taking seroconversion to mean the percentage of children with detectable antibodies against that infection shortly after vaccination, the usual proportion of individuals with detectable antibodies after the first dose of measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine is as follows:

However, the proportion of children with detectable antibodies against infection declines over time so that just before the age of school entry the proportions are lower. The proportion of children with detectable antibodies some years after MMR correlates much better with the actual efficacy of the vaccines (that is the ability to protect against the disease) and is as follows:

The second dose of MMR vaccine, given just before school entry, boosts the proportions of children with detectable antibody for each of the three diseases to around 99 per cent. for measles and mumps and virtually 100 per cent. for rubella. Although antibody levels do decline after the second dose of MMR vaccine, the vaccine's clinical efficacy against each of the diseases after the second dose is 99-100 per cent. This shows the importance of children receiving both doses of MMR vaccine.

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Bed Numbers

Mr. Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many hospital beds in NHS hospitals there were in each year since 1979; and if he will make a statement. [151522]

Mr. Denham: [holding answer 27 February 2001]: The average daily number of available beds in wards open overnight (ie 24 hours) in National Health Service hospitals in England in each year since 1979 is given in the table.

YearTotal Number of available beds


SH3/KH03 Department of Health.

Information on the numbers of available beds in NHS hospitals is published annually in "Bed Availability and Occupancy--England", which is in the Library. The latest published figures are for the financial year 1999-2000.

The number of available beds in NHS hospitals has been declining for the past 40 years. However, a special bed census, set up to inform the winter planning process, counted the number of available general and acute and critical care beds on 1 December 1999 and 1 December 2000. A table showing the number of beds in these categories is available in the Library. These figures show an increase of 1,788 in the number of general and acute beds, in the year to December 2000, which indicates that the downward trend in bed numbers in these categories has started to be reversed. As a result of the NHS plan, there will be an extra 7,000 beds, including 2,100 general and acute beds and 5,000 intermediate care beds, by 2003-04.

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