HC Deb 16 April 1996 vol 275 c499
7. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the funding of health surveillance committees. [23470]

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Stephen Dorrell)

Most health surveillance committees require funding only to cover the expenses incurred by members in carrying out their committee duties.

Mrs. Gorman

Will my right hon. Friend give the House more details of the funding of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease surveillance unit, which has been behind the current scare about beef that we are experiencing? Does he agree that when we had a similar scare about eggs and salmonella some years ago, the public health laboratory service—especially the Bristol unit, as I remember—was behind much of the data that caused that scare? The unit alleged that the data was scientifically based, but it had to back down. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important to shield such investigative units from too much public funding which may mean that political or commercial pressure is put on them to publish their results prematurely?

Mr. Dorrell

My hon. Friend puts the spotlight on the CJD surveillance unit in Edinburgh. That is funded by the Government to put resources into a better understanding of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. I do not believe that the public expect us to do anything other than ensure that research into a proper understanding of that disease is properly financed. I restated that commitment in the statements that I made to the House just before Easter.

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