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Volume 174: debated on Tuesday 12 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what resources are currently being provided by the medical research council for research into tinnitus.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science
(Mr. Robert Jackson)

In 1988–89, the latest financial year for which figures are available, the medical research council spent £149,000 on research into tinnitus.

Would not it be a good idea for research to be carried out on tinnitus caused by working in ships' engine rooms so that people such as my constituent, Mr. Harmstone, could claim industrial injury benefit? Will my hon. Friend have a word with the medical research council and put that idea to it? At the same time will he have a word with his colleagues in the Department of Social Security to see whether they can do something to rectify an extremely unfair situation?

I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security to my hon. Friend's question. The medical research council and the universities are autonomous institutions at arm's length from Government, but I shall draw their attention to the question.

Is the Minister aware that many researchers tend to shun research into intractable problems, however great the suffering may be? The suffering with tinnitus is great, because of the roaring and shrieking sounds that people have to endure. Little research is coming forward and any help that the Minister can give to the MRC would be very much appreciated.

I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The MRC has spent just over £2 million on research into hearing generally and it will see the remarks about tinnitus that the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) have made.

My hon. Friend is well aware of the depth and breadth of research carried out by the MRC. What has been the increase in the MRC's vote since 1979?

I am glad that my hon. Friend asked that question. The amount is substantial. There has been a 28 per cent. real terms increase in the MRC's funding since the Conservative party came into office.