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Lord Rea: My Lords, the Minister is aware that the all-party group on this issue gives equal weight to the words "population" and "development". Does she agree that her successful population programmes go hand in hand with social or human development, particularly the development of primary care and education, especially of girls? Does she agree also that population activities which neglect that aspect and are funded at the expense of such programmes are likely to be ineffective?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, not for the first time on this important subject the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and I are in a considerable degree of agreement. It is critical that, in addition to making available access to family planning advice, we ensure

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that all people, especially women, have access to better opportunities for education so that they can make and maintain responsible choices. We know that we cannot be as successful in helping families without education and the ability to read to choose and determine the number of children that they have.

Lord Winston: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their commendable record with population control in the world generally. However, is not the Minister concerned that we give proportionately more of our gross national product than any other country? Is it possible that we can persuade the Americans to be as generous as we are in helping this problem which, out of self-interest, they should consider seriously?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will not use the word "control" again because nothing in our policy smacks of it. We talk about children by choice and not chance. There is a real reason for that: that couples should decide how many children they are going to have; they should never be controlled by any government. As regards the United States, we very much hope that it will be more realistic. We know full well that all the most successful programmes to look after the needs of women in the developing world begin in the villages. They are very much based where the family is situated. If more of that work can be done through USAID, I believe that the United States will see the value of the sort of work of which we know the complete value.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is a large body of scientific evidence available now indicating that perhaps the women involved will not need to have the choice? There are something like 25 million pesticide poisoning incidents in the undeveloped countries each year. There is an increasing body of evidence that pesticides in small quantities are affecting the reproductive health of these young women and that eventually they will be unable to have babies. Many of the pesticides have been found in the United Kingdom--

Noble Lords: Order!

The Countess of Mar: --and other developed countries. Can the noble Baroness say what she proposes to do about it?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, this matter is very wide of the Question. I shall look at what the noble Countess has said. We try to improve health wherever we are working.

The Duke of Norfolk: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Next Question!

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, I wonder whether we might proceed to the next Question. I apologise to my noble friend. With the leave of the House, I believe that we should give time to the final Question.

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ME Sufferers: Treatment

3.1 p.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take to ensure consistent and adequate treatment for the 150,000 men, women and children in Britain who suffer from the debilitating illness ME.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): My Lords, the Government have commissioned the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to provide us with advice about the nature and wider clinical aspects of the condition. The chapter on chronic fatigue syndrome in the Disability Handbook is being revised and will be published in September this year. The Chief Medical Adviser to the Department of Social Security has set up an expert group to advise on chronic fatigue syndrome.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Will she ask her department to consider distributing the report that has been brought out by the national task force to doctors and the Department for Social Security so that people who suffer from this terrible disease may discover whether they are eligible for a disability living allowance?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, yes. I understand that this report came out in 1994. It was distributed to the Department for Social Security and all family health service authorities. Copies were sent to health professionals in hospitals and universities. They were also made available free of charge to those who asked for them.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley: My Lords, the national task force has been referred to and also the report of the Royal Colleges. Can the noble Baroness tell us when the report of the Royal Colleges is expected, and when we are likely to be able to read it? Will she also join in condemning the kind of ill-informed press report that appeared in the Daily Mirror on 11th May under the heading,

    "It is just posh bosh",
which can only add to the pain of ME sufferers?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, we expect to receive the report of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges soon. As to its publication, that will depend on the Chief Medical Officer. He is a very open person who on the whole likes to publish reports.

I did not see the press report of 11th May. However, I know that there is a consensus in the country that there is this condition which is called either ME or CFS. It is not fully understood and more research needs to be done into its causes, its diagnosis and its treatment.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, on Thursday the Minister announced that she was convening a special group to study people suffering from organophosphate poisoning, which is another

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condition where treatment is often said to be somewhat inappropriate and inconsistent. Will she take similar action as regards ME? Does she agree that if the internal market did not prevent the pooling of specialist knowledge between consultants and hospitals, the need for these specific initiatives would be much less?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, before another group is set up we need to see the report from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and from the group set up by the Chief Medical Adviser. As regards the internal market, there is no setback at all in pooling information, advice and research.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the Department for Social Security is taking the problem of ME and chronic fatigue syndrome very seriously and now has a committee looking into the problem with a view to informing the doctors in the medical service of the Benefits Agency of the symptoms and the signs to look for?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I did refer to that in my initial Answer.


3.5 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lady Denton of Wakefield will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the recent events in Northern Ireland.

Henry Johnson, Sons & Co., Limited Bill

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I am sorry to delay the House on what I believe to be a comparatively minor matter, although it has the importance of appearing on your Lordships' Order Paper and it asks for the consent of your Lordships to pass it. But can the noble Lord give us some idea of what this Bill is about?

I observe that at paragraph (4) it says:

    "Having regard to the fact that the area of operation of the Company is and has been for many years wholly in the Republic of France, certain advantages would accrue to the company if it were incorporated under the laws of the Republic of France instead of under the laws of England".
We are talking at a time when the advantages of being in the United Kingdom, owing largely to the photogenic qualities of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, have been widely advertised. Therefore, it is a little unusual to find a company that wants to leave these shores.

This company is on the shipping and forwarding agency side of commercial transactions. It was incorporated in the United Kingdom in 1907. From the

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inquiries I have made it has net assets at the moment of between 50 million and 60 million dollars, which is not an inconsiderable amount. There may be a perfectly good reason why this company should decide to be incorporated in France. Can the noble Lord tell me what advantages are anticipated, because, as I say, they are mentioned in the Bill? In particular, are there any taxation implications in this matter, not only for the company itself but for the subsidiary companies and as regards the interests of the directors, the names of whom I have here and who appear to be associated with English companies or companies which have not yet applied to go abroad? These are Three Keys Properties Limited, Leasecon Engineering Associates Ltd., Five Oak Leisure Ltd., Climax Chemicals Ltd. and Tele-Units (Service) Limited.

As I say, I am quite sure that all is in order, but I would like to be reassured on the various matters that I have raised, following which I have no doubt that, unless there is something which obviously requires further inquiry, the House will be pleased to allow the matter to proceed in the normal manner.

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