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Mr. Peter Robinson: I would certainly not walk out of this House if Sinn Fein came into it, and I doubt whether any other hon. Member would do so.

The Minister asked about an alternative. I am not sure whether he heard the view that was belatedly expressed by the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble),

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who said earlier that it is only pressure that has forced Sinn Fein to change its view. Of course, there is no pressure, because, as he conceded, he gave in to everything, and that has always been his position. If pressure is the way to achieve progress, could not the utmost pressure be applied to Sinn Fein simply by saying, "You don't get into government until you have decommissioned", rather than by putting it into government first and then asking it to decommission?

Mr. Ingram: The hon. Gentleman does not support the Good Friday agreement; he is therefore out of synch with the majority who supported it. The Good Friday agreement did not make the requirement that he outlined, and the people did not sign up to such a requirement. A series of iterative processes had to be undergone. Some were required of the Government and the Irish Government; others were required of other parties. They are all being taken forward.

Does the hon. Gentleman have a blueprint instead of the Good Friday agreement other than being resolute or saying "No" at a time when republicanism is writ large in the form of the dissident Real IRA? We have never hidden from the fact that violence exists, but we must determine the way in which to overcome it. All of us who are taking forward the Good Friday agreement are trying to achieve that. It would help the process of moving towards a different, better Northern Ireland immeasurably if members of the Democratic Unionist party found it in their hearts to be inclusive, and acknowledged that they might have to sit round a table with those who have opposed them in the past.

Absolutism will not succeed in Northern Ireland; it has not succeeded in the past, and it will not succeed in future. That is why the people of Northern Ireland voted for the Good Friday agreement in such large numbers. They knew the difficulties and problems.

Mr. William Ross: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ingram: No, I have only a few more minutes.

We have said time and again since May last year that June remains our target date. We are set on that course, which was decided at our last engagement with Sinn Fein at Hillsborough. It remains our position. The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning reported on 22 March that progress had been made. Much more needs to be made.

I set out the reasoning behind extending the amnesty until February next year. It does not alter the target date; it simply takes the amnesty period to the point at which the five years outlined in the Act expire. As I tried to explain earlier, it avoids our returning to the House time and again to renew the amnesty.

I also pointed out that some so-called loyalist groups said that they would begin their decommissioning only after they witnessed some tangible movement from the IRA. There is therefore a requirement for a period that extends beyond 19 May and the few weeks after that, which some hon. Members requested.

I accept that the order may not be wholly welcome, but we must agree to differ on that. The Government have shown that we can move forward. We have a much more peaceful Northern Ireland with an economic position that makes it stand out from many other regions of the United

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Kingdom. That would not have happened without the Good Friday agreement and without basing our economic approach on what the agreement will achieve. I therefore ask hon. Members to accept the order, which provides a framework for moving forward.

Question put:--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think the Ayes have it.

Hon. Members: No.

Division deferred till Wednesday 4 April, pursuant to Order [7 November 2000].


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With permission, I shall put together motions 8 and 9.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Rating and Valuation

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(9) (European Standing Committees),

Olive Oil

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(9) (European Standing Committees),

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think the Ayes have it.

Hon. Members: No.

Division deferred till Wednesday 4 April, pursuant to Order [7 November 2000].

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

12 midnight

Mrs. Janet Dean (Burton): I am delighted to have been successful in securing this Adjournment debate. Several weeks ago, I tried without success to secure a debate on brewing, which is important to my constituency. Tonight, I am pleased to address the House on an important issue, about which people's awareness needs to be raised.

We are all familiar with awareness weeks as they seem to occur for one thing or another throughout the year, and we wear our ribbons and badges with pride. Lupus awareness week, which is between 14 and 21 April this year, is special because awareness of lupus needs to be raised. It needs to become more well known than it is.

I want to pay tribute to Lupus UK for its work in trying to raise the profile of systemic lupus erythematosus, which is the name of the condition. I also pay tribute to Cheryl Marcus, who founded the British SLE Group--the forerunner of Lupus UK--in 1978. The current chairman, Ronnie Gourley, and the vice-chairman, Yvonne Norton, work hard to make the general public and the medical profession more aware of the condition. They were also a great help in supporting the formation of the all-party group approximately a year ago.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is difficult to say, and difficult to live with. It is an auto-immune disease. "Systemic" means throughout the system. My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (Mr. Taylor) just asked me what the derivation of "lupus" was. It is the Latin word for "wolf". Some people with the condition have a wolf-like rash across their cheeks. "Erythematosus" simply means a reddening, or an inflammation. People with systemic lupus erythematosus can have inflammations of many parts of the body--a few parts or a lot--with organs such as the heart, the brain and the kidneys being affected. The skin and the joints can also be affected--you name it, and it will probably be involved in some cases, although not in others.

There are some interesting facts about lupus. One in 750 women in the UK have the condition. Worldwide, lupus is more common in some races than in others. It affects about one in 1,000 white women. In black women, the figure is as high as one in 200. Asian races have a higher tendency to lupus as well. It predominantly attacks women of childbearing age, but young children and men can also be affected, and 10 per cent. of lupus patients are male.

Although the disease is little known in this country, it is better known elsewhere. Worldwide, it is more prevalent than leukaemia, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. It is estimated that some 50,000 people in the UK have lupus, many of whom have not yet been diagnosed. Twenty per cent. of recurrent miscarriages have a direct link with lupus and the associated Hughes syndrome.

When I first heard of lupus, back in 1970, I had to write it down on a piece of paper to remember it. Very few people seemed to have heard of it in those days. Sadly, I heard about the disease because my mother was diagnosed with it. For many years--probably from the time of my birth--she had had such illnesses as arthritis,

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pleurisy, Raynaud's syndrome and severe headaches, but nobody had put all that together. It was 21 years later, in 1970, that her illness was diagnosed when it began to affect her heart--I suppose that it had to be diagnosed.

Ironically, in 1978, my husband Alan also developed lupus. We sometimes hear of siblings or a mother and daughter who have it, because there is an hereditary tendency to the disease, but it is unusual to have such an illness on both sides of a family. Alan was seriously ill with cerebral and kidney complications and I pay tribute to Dr. George Cochrane and Dr. Christian Murray-Leslie, who treated him. It is essential that people with such a chronic and severe illness have a good relationship with consultants.

I do not want my speech to be all doom and gloom and it is important to recognise that, at one time, only the severe cases were found. Nowadays, doctors find more cases because, thankfully, they are looking for them. Tonight, I want to ensure that even more people are assessed and, if they have lupus, diagnosed correctly.

For those with severe illness, steroids and immuno-suppressants are often used. Those who have milder lupus can be treated with aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Nowadays, more cases, including mild ones, are being diagnosed and a lot of people are treated, recover from the illness and go on to live a full life, so there is good hope for them. However, we must also acknowledge that lupus can kill. It is a severe illness, which is a reason why diagnoses must take place.

Besides my family involvement, I have attended constituency functions in aid of lupus and have been involved in helping to set up the all-party lupus group, so I have become even more aware of how lonely a condition it is. Some sufferers who have come to coffee mornings in aid of lupus have told me, "I have never met anyone else with it." They perhaps do not know about Lupus UK, nor do they know how to get information, so it is critical that that knowledge is conveyed to the general public.

It is also important that knowledge of lupus is conveyed to general practitioners and consultants throughout the medical profession. Lupus is a great mimic of other conditions, which is a reason why it is not always recognised, so I pay tribute to Lupus UK for recently publishing a guide for nurses. Last November, at the reception we held here at the House of Commons, it launched a guide for GPs.

I urge the Government to ensure that there is sufficient training of doctors in many of the rheumatic conditions, because lupus is often treated by rheumatologists. The Government must also ensure that awareness of lupus is raised and that there are enough specialists to concentrate on the disease. Sufficient resources must go towards research to continue to develop better treatments and to increase knowledge of this and other auto-immune diseases.

I pay tribute to Dr. Graham Hughes, whose name has been given to the associated condition of anti-phospholipid syndrome, or Hughes syndrome. Across the river is St. Thomas's, which has a famous lupus clinic and is also a centre of excellence. Doctors throughout the country refer patients to that world-renowned clinic, and I understand that it currently treats some 2,500 people with lupus.

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I think that the clinic will be pleased about the Government's bed review. There have been difficulties in the past, but I believe that a couple of beds are now reserved for lupus patients. That means that the clinic can be sure of admitting people from regions throughout the country. We would not want people to think they were going into hospital when, in fact, there were no beds for them. It seems that there has been some improvement, but I hope that the Government and the health authority involved will keep the position under review.

Another issue that I urge the Government to keep under review is charging for prescriptions in relation to chronic diseases such as lupus. I know that if the glands no longer produce cortisone because of steroid treatment, a test can show that and prescription charges can cease; but because lupus affects various parts of the body, many different drugs are often needed at any one time. Dressings may also be needed if there are skin lesions. As a consultant once said to me, people should not have to pay to be ill.

I thank members of all parties for the support that they have given to the formation of the all-party group that we set up last year. There seem to be all-party groups for everything, but we felt that there was a real need to ensure that lupus was more readily known about, and I think that the all-party group will bring that about.

We decided at an early stage to conduct a survey of Members to establish how much they knew about lupus. I think that they may be more aware of the condition than people outside. I am pleased to say that 23 per cent. of Members, including interested peers, replied, which is quite a good response here. It was probably better than normal because we asked only four questions. Perhaps there is a message there for anyone who surveys Members of Parliament: if the questions are kept to a minimum, we are more likely to fill at the forms. The responses were interesting. Of the 153 who replied, 128 had heard of lupus, 51 were aware of constituents with the disease, five had family members affected by it, and 24 had friends who suffered from it.

I hope that the debate will add to the knowledge and awareness of this chronic, debilitating condition, which can devastate families.

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