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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, what will be the position if matters deteriorate in the way that has

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been suggested and many local pharmacies are lost, but pharmacies are set up in supermarkets? Will the Minister and the Department of Health then be able to ensure that all the provisions that he said were so important, such as having a private, confidential area in which to consult patients, will apply, rather than simply have the Department of Trade and Industry deciding the matter on a non-medical basis?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I have already told the House that the Government will need to take a great many factors into account. It is the Government who will respond to the OFT report. The DTI is the lead department, but my department will play a full part in the discussions.

On the interesting point about private consulting areas, the noble Baroness knows that I especially support that prospect. Some pharmacies have now built separate, private facilities. However, that falls much more under the implementation of our pharmacy plan than under consideration of the OFT report.

Post-mortems: Retained Organs

2.58 p.m.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked Her Majesty's Government:>

    When permission will be given by the Retained Organs Commission for the respectful disposal of unclaimed residual human material retained at post-mortem examination.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the Retained Organs Commission is analysing the findings of its consultation into unclaimed and unidentifiable organs and tissue retained after post-mortem examinations. I understand that it aims to complete that process and provide advice to the Government by 31st March. We shall then be able to assess what further action may be required.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Is the Retained Organs Commission also defining respectful disposal? If cremation is deemed to be the mode of respectful disposal, how will that be effected with unclaimed organs, when no relative or executor is available to complete Form AA to comply with the Cremation (Amendment) Regulations 2000?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, on the latter point, we will await the advice of the Retained Organs Commission. On the former point, I can reassure the noble Baroness that we will shortly publish a comprehensive interim package of guidance for the NHS. It will pick up the point that the noble Baroness raised about treating such matters with respect.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, inevitably, the Alder Hey report and other inquiries have had a

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damaging effect on public confidence in the post-mortem system. Can the Minister outline what is being done by the Department of Health and the Retained Organs Commission to increase public understanding of the post-mortem system, something that many parents of affected children are calling for?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to refer to the Alder Hey report, which highlighted many weaknesses in the system and the need for advice to be given to parents, in particular, and the public, in general, about post-mortem procedures. Advice has already been given to NHS trusts in the interim. We are producing an interim package of guidance, under the leadership of the Chief Medical Officer.

When parliamentary time allows, we seek to bring forward new legislation on human tissues and make amendments to the Human Tissue Act 1961. In addition, there will be ongoing work with the NHS to make sure that doctors, in particular, receive guidance on the law and issues to do with consent and on the way in which such matters should be approached—that is, as sensitively as possible.

Lord Turnberg: My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister as concerned as I am about the deleterious effect of continuing uncertainty about retained tissue, such as microscope slides, on medical research, on the one hand, and on the recruitment of the pathologists who are so essential to clinical diagnosis, on the other?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I understand those concerns. It is important that we get it right. That is why the Retained Organs Commission has undertaken two consultations on the matters that the noble Lord raised. We await eagerly its advice, which we hope to receive by the end of March. I understand the need to proceed sensibly and sensitively, without inhibiting properly governed research with proper consent.

I accept that several cases have provoked fears that medical students will not be attracted into pathology specialisms. I hope that that will not be the case. We have seen an increase in pathology workforce figures since 1997, but we cannot be complacent. The interim guidance that we will issue shortly and the future legislation will provide greater certainty. In itself, that will boost confidence in the pathology profession.

Middle East

3.3 p.m.

Lord Hooson asked Her Majesty's Government:>

    Whether it is their view that the United Nations, the European Union and others should take an even-handed approach to the Middle East conflict, and what would be their definition of the basic requirements of such an approach in present circumstances.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government believe that an even-handed

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approach is the best way to tackle the disputes between Israel and her Arab neighbours. Israel and the Palestinian Authority have a responsibility to prevent further bloodshed and to return to substantive negotiations. All parties must abide by international law.

The Government support the Quartet's efforts to agree a road-map leading to a comprehensive settlement based on two viable states within secure borders and at peace with their neighbours in the region by 2005.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, the noble Baroness has referred to the Government's present policy, as I understand it. However, she will have recognised the words that I used in my Question as emanating directly from the Prime Minister.

That policy referred to other states. The Prime Minister has undoubted influence on President Bush. Has he drawn to his attention the need for the United States, in particular, to take an even-handed approach to the problems between the Palestinians and Israel? It is widely perceived that the United States has not done so and that it is the largest player in the problem.

The influence that the United States could bring to bear would have more effect than anything that the European Union or any other body could do. At a time when we are likely to be involved in a war with Iraq, is it not important that that running sore in the Middle East should be dealt with effectively by the United States? Otherwise, the credibility of the United States in the Arab world and elsewhere will be undermined.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister believes that the issue of Israel and the Palestinian Authority is important in itself. We should be clear about that. It is not important just because it is linked in some people's mind to a possible conflict with Iraq; it is a long-standing difficulty. My right honourable friend believes that, in its own terms, it must be prioritised.

My right honourable friend does discuss the issue with the President of the United States. I refer the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, to an interesting speech made by Secretary of State Powell shortly before Christmas. That speech addressed some of the outstanding issues relating to Palestine. For example, it went into some detail about building a Palestinian state for the future and talked about the infrastructure that would be necessary in such a state. I regret to say that the speech did not get a great deal of attention in the press in this country, but it was an interesting speech, and I commend it to the noble Lord.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, is the Minister aware of a speech made by the Israeli Defence Minister yesterday to American Jewish organisations? He said:

    "The United States should generate political, economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran, after the Iraq war has been determined".

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Can the Minister say on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that we have no quarrel of that kind with Iran and would not see any issue as justifying a further military attack on any country, following the Iraq crisis, whatever its outcome?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have a number of outstanding issues with Iran. However, I do not recognise Her Majesty's Government's policy in the quotation that the noble Baroness used a moment ago.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, has the noble Baroness seen reports that Saddam Hussein may seek to involve Israel at an early stage, widening the war in a desperate attempt to divert attention from himself? He will do that by helping to arm Hezbollah, which has Iranian connections as well, in southern Lebanon, with the aim of opening an attack on Israel from the north.

Does the Minister agree that, in such circumstances, we must keep a clear mind about where the dangers and priorities lie? It could be, as the Prime Minister said this morning, I think, that, far from saying that the priority is Israel and Palestine or Iraq or ensuring that Iran does not get up to more trouble, we should tackle all those things simultaneously with the greatest vigour.

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