The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service and Science (Mr. Robert G. Hughes)
It is for the Medical Research Council to allocate its spending according to its own priorities and the funding proposals it receives. Currently, it spends £3.1 million on breast cancer research.
§ Ms Lynne
Is the Minister aware that more than 300 women die each week from breast cancer and that it is the biggest killer of women between 35 and 54? Does not he realise that more money must be spent on medical research and that there is no point in the Government just washing their hands of that?
I am also aware that the United Kingdom was the first country in the European Community and, indeed, one of the first in the world to introduce breast cancer screening for women between 50 and 64. As I am sure the hon. Lady is aware, the Forrest report showed that there was insufficient evidence to support mass screening for women under 50. To confirm that, the MRC is conducting research to assess the effects on breast cancer prevention of screening from age 40.
§ Dr. Goodson-Wickes
Speaking as co-chairman of Friends of Medical Research, a body in this House, may I welcome the comments that my hon. Friend has just made? Will he endorse the importance of the United Kingdom co-ordinating committee, of which the MRC is a member, in ensuring that there is no duplication of research within the cancer bodies? Such duplication is not only nonsense per se, but it creates confusion in the perception of generous donors to cancer bodies.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is no doubt that the collaborative effort between the MRC and cancer charities, each playing its part, is absolutely vital. After all, £90 million, a third of the total budget, is currently spent by the MRC on areas relevant to cancer. It would be very easy to duplicate and to waste money, and none of us wants that.