HC Deb 08 December 1958 vol 597 cc6-8
7. Mr. H. Hynd

asked the Minister of Health, as representing the Lord President of the Council, what new steps he is taking to tackle the disease of cancer; how much he has spent from public funds on research into this disease during the last twelve months; and what amount has been contributed from other sources for this research in institutions for which he is responsible.

13. Mr. Atkins

asked the Minister of Health, as representing the Lord President of the Council, what is the total of public funds to be spent on cancer research in this financial year, including both the block grant to the Institute of Cancer Research and any part of the general grant in aid to the Medical Research Council which is used for this purpose.

Mr. Walker-Smith

In the current financial year the Council's estimated expenditure on cancer research from public funds is £472,470; in addition, it is estimated that some £26,500 from other sources will be expended by the Council, approximately half of which will be in the Council's own research units and groups.

In addition to the Council's expenditure in this field, further research is supported from public funds in the National Health Service in the course of the treatment of patients; and in various university and medical school departments from University Grant Committee funds. It is. however, not possible to make a separate estimate of this expenditure.

Every effort is constantly being made to achieve a break-through in this very difficult field, and the Medical Research Council will continue to develop its programme and to follow up every promising new approach.

Mr. Hynd

I appreciate what is being done in this very important matter, but is the Minister happy about the fact that appeals have been made for private charitable contributions to such an important project? As American experience seems to prove that this disease can be cured if it is treated in the early stages, what is the Minister doing to encourage people to have an early check-up?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I see nothing improper or unacceptable about private organisations and private funds supplementing the public effort in this context. It seems that cancer research is the sort of thing which ought to attract private as well as public support, and there is close co-ordination regarding the common objects of research.

Mr. Atkins

Is the Minister aware that expenditure of this nature is an investment in the future and will pay extremely good dividends? Will he so represent the matter when he asks—as I hope he will—his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for an increased grant next year?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The amount of money available is such that cancer research is not handicapped by lack of funds. It is the intractable nature of the problem which prevents progress being as fast as we would wish.

Dr. Summerskill

Hon. Members will agree with the Minister that certain aspects of the increase of the incidence of cancer have proved intractable, but would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that something could be done in one sphere with which he is closely associated, the relationship between cancer of the lung and pollution of the air? Will the Minister collaborate more closely with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to press those who are not implementing the Clean Air Act?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend regarding schemes under the Clean Air Act, and I certainly have regard to the importance of air pollution in this context.

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