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Sex Education Guidance: Meetings with Bishop of Blackburn

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blackstone: Ministers from the Department for Education and Employment met with the Bishop of Blackburn and other representatives of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham and representatives of the Catholic Education Service on a number of occasions before the Government issued the draft sex and relationship education guidance and tabled an amendment to the Learning and Skills Bill on 16 March.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State, Ministers and officials from the Department for Education and Employment also met representatives of the Free Churches and representatives from all

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major faith groups to discuss the sex and relationship guidance which is still out for official consultation until April 20.

The Bishop of Blackburn acted in his capacity as Chair of the Church of England Board of Education.

Independent Schools: Human Rights Act

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in relation to the Human Rights Act 1998, they will clarify the position of independent schools where there is a ban on heterosexual or homosexual activity among the pupils, in the event of pupils claiming a human right to disobey the ban.[HL1833]

    Whether, in relation to the Human Rights Act 1998, they will clarify the position of independent schools where attendance by pupils at church is compulsory, in the event that a pupil claims a human right not to attend.[HL1834]

Baroness Blackstone: It will ultimately be for the courts to decide whether, in relation to any complaint brought against an independent school over its rules covering pupils' sexual activity or church attendance there has been a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Independent Schools Council has expressed the view that the Act will not prevent its schools from having clear rules on these matters.

Prostate Cancer

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the findings of the study by the National Health Service Health Technology Assessment Programme in relation to prostate cancer, referred to in the Written Answer by Baroness Jay of Paddington on 23 July 1998 (WA 134).[HL1901]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Findings from the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) project referred to are not yet available. The pilot research phase has been extended for scientific reasons and results should be available in autumn 2001.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What developments there have been since the Written Answers of Baroness Jay of Paddington on 19 May 1998 (WA 165-6) and 23 July 1998 (WA 134) in government funding of research into prostate cancer; and what further expenditure is planned.[HL1903]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The latest figure available for annual government expenditure (Department of Health/National Health Service, Medical Research

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Council and other government departments--principally devolved health departments) on prostate cancer is £1.55 million. This figure underestimates the total government research and development expenditure in this area, as detailed estimates of NHS support funding are not collected routinely.

Since 1997, the Government have committed over £800,000 to new research projects on prostate cancer through the MRC and through the Department of Health. The department has actively sought to support such work in prostate cancer and has not rejected any high quality proposals for work in this area.

The Department of Health recently announced £1 million additional new funding for urgent research studies into prostate cancer as a mark of its concern over this disease.

Following the seminar last year at No. 10, a Cancer Research Funders' Forum has been established to help improve the co-ordination of cancer research in the United Kingdom. It is being run by the MRC and includes DH representatives and the major cancer research charities.

At the department's request, the forum considered the issue of prostate cancer at its first meeting on 10 January. It agreed to set up an expert group on prostate cancer which will identify gaps in current research and suggest ways of filling them. The expert group met for the first time on 25 February and expects to report within months.

The Government have recently appointed a National Cancer Director, Professor Mike Richards, who will spearhead our concerted drive on cancer. He will work in partnership with doctors, nurses, general practitioners, other health professionals and the voluntary sector to improve prevention and modernise cancer services to help ensure equitable access to high quality cancer care. This will include a close interest in the development and progression of research.

Cancer Research: Funding

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will bring up to date the table of government funding of cancer research included in the Written Answer by Baroness Jay of Paddington on 19 May 1998 (WA 166).[HL1902]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Government fund health and medical research in a number of ways. The Department of Health funds research and development to support its work on policy development and evaluation in health and social care. The department also manages the National Health Service research and development funding which is used to support research and development of relevance to the NHS in hospitals, general practice and other healthcare settings and to fund the NHS research and development programme. In addition, the Medical Research Council (MRC)--which receives most of its income via grant-in-aid from the office of my right

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honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry--funds medical research as part of the Government's funding of the science and engineering base.

The table given in col. WA 166 gave estimates of expenditure for six different cancers. The latest figures available for Department of Health and MRC expenditure in those six cancers are for financial year 1998-99. The figures are:

    Breast cancer: £9.33 million

    Lung cancer: £1.37 million

    Cervical cancer: £0.58 million

    Prostate cancer: £1.55 million

    Bowel cancer: £5.63 million

    Liver cancer: £0.34 million

Management of the research supported by NHS R&D funding in trusts is devolved and details of expenditure at project level are not collected routinely by the department. The figures provided therefore underestimate the total government investment (although they do now include support funding at the Royal Marsden NHS Trust and for bowel cancer at St. Mark's Hospital in London).

Project details of work directly funded by the department or supported through NHS R&D funding can be found on the National Research Register (NRR). This is available in the Library and most medical libraries on CD Rom and on the Internet: The NRR also contains many details of projects/trials funded by the MRC and other funders.

Mersley Farm, Isle of Wight

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Whitty on 15 December 1999 (WA 42), whether the investigations into the ill health caused by exposure to pesticides, as opposed to investigations into complaints of exposure to pesticides, of employees of Mersley Farm, Isle of Wight, included an epidemiological study and clinical investigations; and, if not, whether they will establish these studies as a matter of urgency.[HL1808]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): It is HSE policy that all allegations of ill health as a result of pesticide exposure are fully investigated. HSE has followed and continues to follow this policy with respect to the complaints regarding Mersley Farm.

HSE's Employment Medical Advisory Service has been involved with the investigations of these complaints arising from the illegal use of pesticides, also in accordance with HSE policy. Its role is to

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consider whether or not the ill- health is consistent with exposure to pesticides. As part of this process it consults with general practitioners, consultants and hospitals to evaluate the medical records of complainants. With this information, a professional decision is made as to what additional clinical investigations are warranted on an individual basis.

It is also HSE policy to refer cases of alleged pesticide related illness to the Pesticide Incidents Appraisal Panel (PIAP) which has the role of contributing to epidemiological surveillance of pesticide safety. By taking an overview of these cases, a statistical picture can be obtained which is used to inform the approvals process. The majority of Mersley Farm cases have now been referred to PIAP. All will be assessed by the panel.

More specific epidemiological studies are not a routine part of HSE's investigation work. They would not normally be appropriate in the context of complaints of this type involving usually no more than a few individuals. However, HSE is currently considering whether there would be any benefit gained from an epidemiological study relating to Mersley Farm. The feasibility of undertaking an informative epidemiological investigation will be assessed over the next six months. The findings will be made public and followed up as appropriate.

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