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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, as I said to my noble friend, in relation to the overall sexual health strategy, the Government are keen to ensure that the risks of having under-age, unprotected sex should be

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brought home to young people. We seek to do that. At the same time, I believe that when unprotected sex has taken place it is absolutely right that contraceptive advice is available to those young people, as long as the legal framework is followed.

Baroness Uddin: My Lords, can the Minister inform the House what data are kept in relation to women taking the morning after pill, not only in respect of the age of the children and women but also in respect of their ethnicity and race?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that it is important that we keep as much information as possible in order to inform our future polices and programmes. The Government's sexual health strategy, which will be launched in due course, will focus on information requirements.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the Minister will remember from our debate at the end of January that one of my concerns in relation to the morning after pill being available in pharmacies is that continuity of healthcare can be compromised. What is the situation in the health action zones where a young person under the age of 16 requests the morning after pill from a pharmacist? Does the pharmacist have an obligation to refer that young person to a GP? What transfer of information takes place?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: No, my Lords, I do not believe that a pharmacist has an obligation to refer such a young person to a general practitioner. But whatever conversation takes place between the pharmacist and the young person, that provides an opportunity for information to be imparted about safe sexual health practices. I believe that that happens.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, does the Minister agree with the observation made once in this House by a distinguished member of the party opposite, Lady Summerskill, that the best contraceptive was the word "No"?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there are those who believe that "Just say no" policies will lead to a reduction in sexual activity among young people and reduce teenage pregnancy rates. I do not believe that there is any evidence to show that.

Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer

3.22 p.m.

Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for further research into the association between electricity pylons and an increased risk of childhood leukaemia, in the light of the National Radiological Protection Board's study published on 6th March.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the NRPB's advisory group on non-ionising radiation has assessed

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the potential risks of cancer from electromagnetic fields. The NRPB state, that the question of whether exposure to electromagnetic fields can influence the development of cancer cannot at present be completely resolved. However, the NRPB consider, that the report provides no additional scientific evidence to require a change in the guidelines to limit exposure to electromagnetic fields. The Government will consider carefully the recommendations of the NRPB and commission appropriate research in the light of that which is already under way.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Sir Richard Doll's report concludes:


    "the possibility remains that intense and prolonged exposures to magnetic fields can increase the risk of leukaemia in children".

Does the Minister agree that an increase of one case is one too many and that questions must now arise about the safety of pylons near homes and schools? Does he also agree that that research shows how vital it is that Britain's cancer registries have access to all information on every cancer case? Can the Minister assure the House that further research, here and in the EU, as requested by Sir Richard Doll, will now be undertaken as a matter of urgency?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I looked with great interest at the work undertaken by Sir Richard Doll, but the conclusion of the report was that the epidemiological evidence is currently not strong enough to justify a firm conclusion that such fields cause leukaemia in children. Therefore, it is clearly important that we redouble our efforts in relation to research, which I can confirm is being done. In discussions with the DTI and the Department of Health, we are looking at work on how homes with a high EMF level can be identified. On the point about information for the cancer registries, I agree with the noble Baroness. That is the purpose of Clause 67 of the Health and Social Care Bill.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether the Government will look at research connecting air pollution and electricity pylons, as suggested by work at the University of Bristol? Will they also assess the risk and cost of alternative measures and review practice in other countries which have stronger regulations with regard to planning and pylons?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am aware of the work to which my noble friend refers. My understanding is that that was considered as part of this study. I shall certainly ensure that the remarks of my noble friend are drawn to the attention of the officials taking work forward in research. Based on the evidence so far, we do not believe that that warrants any change in terms of the planning controls and

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regulations in regard to the erection of overhead power lines. All of that revolves back to the availability of robust research. At the moment I believe our focus must be in relation to developing more research in this area.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, following on what the Minister has just said, Sir Richard Doll is no mean epidemiologist. Many years ago he established the link between cancer and smoking; therefore, it is right to take this report seriously. Can the Minister say whether he intends to have discussions, based on this report, with the DETR, the DTI and the relevant electricity companies as a precautionary step? In the circumstances, would that not be wise?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I have already referred to discussions with the DTI in relation to further research. Of course, we are happy to have discussions with the undertakers as well. I agree with the noble Lord about the quite outstanding contribution that Sir Richard Doll has made over many years. However, his report says that at the moment there is no evidence to warrant any change in current guidelines, but we are certainly not complacent and that is why we want to focus on more research.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether there is an increase in childhood leukaemia and can he give an assurance to the House that there are adequate specialised places of treatment for them?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the figures that I have available come from a study undertaken by the United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study, which found that there is no evidence of an association between childhood cancer and residential proximity to power lines. In relation to services in the NHS generally, we are concerned to see that they are of the highest order and that is why we recently published the national cancer plan.

Baroness Hogg: My Lords, does the Minister understand the blight that such uncertainty inflicts on all properties in the neighbourhood of pylons? What does the Government propose to do to help those areas of the country affected by this issue?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I have already said that from the evidence available at the moment, there does not appear to be any evidence at all in this country of a direct link between living near pylons and suffering from cancer. That is why the recommendation that we have received is that there should be no change to current guidelines.

It is also worth pointing out that people living in homes that are large distances away from pylons may well suffer from higher levels of what is called EMF, which is the risk factor. The reality is that as yet we do not know enough to draw firm conclusions, and that is why at this stage it is surely right to focus on research.

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Foot and Mouth Disease

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice, namely:

    What is the latest development in the foot and mouth epidemic?

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, it might assist the House if I answer the Question in the same terms as my right honourable friend answered a similar Question earlier today in another place.

At noon today, there were 104 confirmed cases in the United Kingdom--103 in Great Britain and one in Northern Ireland--with a number still under investigation. The pattern is still consistent with Heddon-on-the-Wall as the oldest known outbreak, with subsequent spread mainly through movement of animals, particularly sheep. About 90,000 animals have been identified for slaughter, of which 61,000 have been killed so far. Plans are in hand to render some of the carcasses as an alternative to burning on farm.

More than 260 abattoirs have been approved for the scheme by the Meat Hygiene Service as licensed to slaughter. Of those, 168 were operating yesterday. The Meat and Livestock Commission estimated yesterday that British pork production was back to 50 per cent of normal, with beef at 40 per cent and lamb at 30 per cent.

In order to relieve animal welfare problems, officials are urgently working on arrangements to allow licensed local movement of animals within farms in uninfected areas only, where this would not increase disease risk. We hope to have proposals prepared very shortly.

The EU Standing Veterinary Committee met on 6th March. The ban on UK exports of animals and products has been extended to Tuesday 27th March, but from 9th March the UK will be able to export unpasteurized cheeses to some countries.

The SVC also imposed a ban on all livestock markets and assembly points in the EU for two weeks, and a ban on animal movements except to slaughter or from farm to farm authorised by the competent authority. All vehicles leaving the UK will have to pass over a disinfectant bath. The Commission remains very supportive of UK action against the disease.


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