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Millennium Dome

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office, (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): There are a number of means by which the public can gain information on the Millennium Experience, which incorporates the Dome at Greenwich and the linked National Programme of events. The New Millennium Experience Company's Visitor Centre has been in operation since late 1997 and is located at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. The Visitor Centre contains up to date information on the Millennium Experience, including the Dome and its contents. Since opening the Centre has been visited by over 350,000 people. The company's website (Dome2000.co.uk) also contains significant information and detail about what is happening and what will be happening at the Dome; in April the website received 1.2 million page impressions; the total number of page impressions since December 1998 is 9 million.

The Millennium Experience Dome site for which the company has responsibility is a construction site and subject to stringent health and safety requirements. The construction and fit-out programme is complex and subject to considerable time constraints and any interruption to it for the purposes of general visits would not be acceptable. The company has a facility

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at the site (the Dome Preview Centre) in which strictly controlled and limited events and promotions are held where they are judged to be in the interests of the company's business prior to opening to the general public. It is not normal practice for large construction projects to provide for general public access; nor is it normal practice for large visitor attractions to provide for public access prior to opening. NMEC does not propose to make any such provision.

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What groups of people are being allowed in to visit the Millennium Dome site prior to the official opening; and how much is being spent on such visits.[HL2360]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The New Millennium Experience Company's policy is that visits to the Dome site should support the project's business objectives and the company's accountability to Parliament and to the Millennium Commission as major funders of the project through Lottery grant. Regular visits are therefore organised for the media to promote the Millennium Experience through the regional, national and international press and broadcasters. Visits are also organised for the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee as part of their programme of inquiries into the project. In order to promote involvement in the Millennium Experience's National Programme, the company has welcomed visits by Ministers, MPs, Peers and local government representatives. Foreign government representatives have also visited the Dome and, in addition, events involving confirmed and potential sponsors are held. The costs of these visits (excluding travel costs which are usually met by the visitors) primarily involve refreshments, and, such as they are, they are met by the company from relevant budgets--such as Marketing, Commercial, or the National Programme. The overall costs to the company are minimal.

Atypical Antipsychotic Medication

Lord Rowallan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are considering increasing funding in order that "atypical" antipsychotic medicines could be more readily dispensed to those suffering from schizophrenia.[HL2582]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): Over the next three years the Government will be investing around £700 million of extra funding to improve mental health care. In 1999-2000, £40 million extra will be invested for adult mental health services, including £2.5 million allocated for new atypical antipsychotic medication. Extra investment in mental health will be made in 2000-01 and 2001-02.

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E.Coli Contamination of Vegetables

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there has been reported any incidence of human infection by E.coli 0157 resulting from eating vegetables that have been grown on land where farmyard manure or human slurry has been spread.[HL2566]

Baroness Hayman: Between 1992-98 vegetables have been implicated in two E.coli 0157 outbreaks in the United Kingdom. The conditions under which the vegetables were grown is unknown. Vegetables contaminated with cow manure were implicated as the vehicle of infection in an outbreak of E.coli 0157 in the Untied States of America.

Hearing Loss

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the effect of a 50 decibel loss on ability to hear ordinary conversation.[HL2555]

Baroness Hayman: A 50 decibel hearing loss is described in audiology as a "moderate" hearing loss--this term is part of a descriptive technical scale from "mild" to "profound". Observations of children indicate this level of loss is a significant handicap. They will understand conversation at a distance of 1 metre to 2 metres but will have difficulty in group discussion. Adults who have become hearing impaired with age may not show as much difficulty with familiar language, conversations and voices. However, these adults and children will be suitable candidates for hearing aids.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what medical evidence they rely in assessing the effects of a 50 decibel hearing loss.[HL2556]

Baroness Hayman: Often the measurement of hearing loss takes a patient straight to hearing aid fitting where the hearing ability is again assessed or a trial is made of the hearing aid. Prior to the measurement of hearing loss, the individual would have had an investigation of his or her medical condition. Patient auditory, health and injury records are vital to assessment. The auditory departments can provide an individual with a standard battery of tests. These include tests to determine hearing loss, speech discrimination and word identification. Tympanometry will assess middle ear function. In this way further diagnosis of the impairment can be made and remedial action or rehabilitation undertaken.

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Medicines (Advertising Regulations): Independent Review Panel

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the comment of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 11 May that "we are consulting with industry, professional and consumer interests on the nomination of suitably qualified people" (H.L. Deb., col. 1089), to serve on the independent review panel, why in the review decisions on advertisements to be made by the Medicines Control Agency under the new Medicines (Advertising and Monitoring of Advertising) Amendment Regulations neither the National Association of Health Stores nor the Health Food Manufacturers Association has been included among those consulted.[HL2597]

Baroness Hayman: When consulting interested parties on matters relating to medicines, the Medicines Control Agency considers which organisations are most likely to be affected by the particular proposals under consultation. The Independent Review Panel will not consider advertising for health foods or unlicensed herbal and vitamin products. I refer the noble Lord to the reply I gave the noble Baroness, Lady Wharton, on 26 April 1999 at col. WA 14. Officials at the Department of Health have now sent a copy of the letter to the organisations he mentions.

Anti-epileptic Drugs in Pregnancy

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of possible interactions between contraception and anti-epileptic drug therapy, and of the risk of causing abnormality in foetuses of material use of conventional anti-epileptic medications.[HL2592]

Baroness Hayman: It is well recognised that some anti-epileptic drugs such as phenytoin (Epanutin) and possibly carbamazepine (Tegretol) and topiramate (Topamax) cause a reduction in the effectiveness of low dose combined oral contraceptives. In contrast to this, sodium valproate (Epilim), lamotrigine (Lamictal), vigabatrin (Sabril), gabapentin (Neurontin) and tiagabine (Gabitril) do not interact with combined oral contraceptives. The product particulars for all these drugs provide clear information about such interactions. This information is produced by the manufacturers, approved by the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) and is provided to prescribing doctors as the Summary of Product Characteristics and to patients as a leaflet in each pack of the medicine.

Congenital malformations have been reported in association with conventional anti-epileptic drugs such as sodium valproate (Epilim), phenytoin (Epanutin) and carbamazepine (Tegretol). For newer anti-epileptics mentioned in the previous section, clinical experience is not as extensive. It is difficult to determine whether it is the disease itself or the anti-epileptics used in its

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treatment which are responsible for the increased malformation rate seen in children of epileptic women.

All product particulars for these medicines, give information about the safety of use during pregnancy and recommend that they are only to be used if the physician considers that the expected benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the foetus.

However, the withdrawal of anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy is not generally advisable because fetal hypoxia due to maternal seizuress is damaging and patients with severe epilepsy may develop life-threatening convulsions (status epilepticus) if treatment is stopped. Doctors, therefore, have to weigh the benefits of treating the mother's epilepsy during her pregnancy, minimising the risk of seizures, against the risk of adverse effects that the anti-epileptic drugs may have on the foetus.

The Committee on Safety of Medicines and the MCA have published relevant articles in the drug safety bulletin Current Problems in 1983 and 1993. This bulletin is routinely sent to all doctors and pharmacists in the United Kingdom.


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