§ Mr. Wigley
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the estimated expenditure is in the current year on research work aimed at funding a drug or vaccine to control variant CJD; and what plans he has to increase his expenditure next year. 
§ Yvette Cooper
The Department has allocated some £100,000 of funding in each of the financial years 200001 and 2001–02 to research projects specifically to address the development of drugs for the treatment or control of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. The Medical Research Council, together with the Department, remains ready to consider proposals for funding suitable research in this field.532W
Last year we dedicated some £31.5 million into research into transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Of this, some £4 million was dedicated to diagnostics, treatment and prevention.
§ Yvette Cooper
[holding answer 8 January 2001]: The Government rely on the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) for advice on matters concerning BSE and variant Creutzfeld Jakob Disease (vCJD). SEAC has concluded that BSE and vCJD are caused by prion strains that are currently indistinguishable, and considers vCJD to be an acquired prion disease caused by exposure to BSE or a BSE-like agent.
The Government are prepared to consider the funding of any proposals for research into possible explanations for BSE and vCJD, which should be submitted for consideration through the normal channels. Experiments are currently under way to look further into the theoretical possibility of transmission of vCJD via surgical instruments, or via blood. A hypothesis that BSE might be caused by an abnormal immune response is also being investigated. In addition, the Department of Health-funded National CJD Surveillance Unit follows up medical, immunological, occupational and residential histories of vCJD patients, as well as their dietary habits, on an ongoing basis to identify any common factors. The results are published in the unit's annual report.