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Written Statements

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 19 April 2007

Written Statements

Thursday 19 April 2007

Health: Dentistry and vCJD

My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Caroline Flint), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Given the national interest in vCJD and its implications for the health of the nation, I report a change in healthcare practice being announced today in a letter to all dentists in England from the Chief Dental Officer. His letter is about decontamination and reuse of instruments, especially those used in endodontic treatment. This letter reflects precautionary advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee and early results of ongoing research indicating a potential risk of vCJD transmission associated with endodontic treatment.

The Chief Dental Officer advises that:

endodontic reamers and files are treated as single-use;

the highest standards of decontamination are observed for all dental instruments; and

manufacturers' decontamination instructions are followed for all instruments, and where instruments are difficult to clean, single-use instruments should be used wherever possible.

A copy of the Chief Dental Officer's letter has been placed in the Library.

Health: Venous Thromboembolism

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Ivan Lewis) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In June 2005 we published the Government's response to the second report of the House of Commons Health Committee on the prevention of venous thromboembolism in hospitals. At the same time we announced that an independent expert working group would be set up to make recommendations on developing a national strategy on the prevention and treatment of venous thromboembolism (VTE). The report and recommendations of the expert group were presented to the Chief Medical Officer in July 2006.

We have given the expert group's recommendations thorough consideration and published the report today. The report has been placed in the Library.

It is clear from the expert group's report that introducing a VTE risk assessment for all patients on admission has the potential to save thousands of lives every year. We have therefore established an implementation working group which will develop a national risk assessment tool, and will provide leadership both within the NHS and the wider healthcare sector to assess what needs to be done to ensure that a VTE risk assessment of every patient on admission to hospital becomes a reality.

Iran: UN Security Council

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Kim Howells) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 24 March 2007, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1747, on Iran’s nuclear programme. The resolution was adopted by consensus, once again underlining that the international community is united and determined to see that Iran does not acquire the means to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran has not met its legal obligation in Security Council Resolutions 1696 (2006) and 1737 (2006) to suspend without further delay all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, and take the steps required by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors. Nor has it met the additional obligations in Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006) to suspend work on all heavy water-related projects and provide such access and co-operation as the IAEA requests to verify suspension and resolve all outstanding issues.

The latest report by the IAEA director-general, Dr Mohamed El Baradei, on 22 February 2007, shows that Iran’s co-operation with the agency remains inadequate and that, far from suspending enrichment-related activities, Iran has continued to expand its enrichment operation and press ahead with construction work at the Arak heavy water research reactor.

We have therefore had little choice but to pursue a further Security Council resolution, which reaffirms the obligations imposed on Iran and adopts further appropriate measures to persuade Iran to comply with its obligations and meet the requirements of the IAEA.

The resolution imposes sanctions under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN charter, which go further than the non-proliferation measures agreed in Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006). All UN member states have a legal obligation to comply, though not all measures are mandatory. The measures include:

a strengthening of the travel restrictions, so that states are called upon to exercise vigilance and restraint regarding the entry into or transit through their territory by designated individuals;

the designation of a number of new individuals subject to the travel restrictions and individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, including Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International;

inclusion of a new sub-category for designating individuals and entities connected to the Iran Republican Guard Corps (IRGC);

a mandatory arms embargo on exports and procurement from Iran;

restrictions on the export to Iran of items included in the UN Conventional Arms Register; and

restrictions on financial assistance to the Government of Iran.

The EU intends to adopt a revised common position covering full and rigorous implementation of the measures contained in the resolution at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 23 April.

The resolution requests the IAEA director-general to submit within 60 days a further report on Iranian compliance, and affirms that the Security Council will adopt further appropriate measures under Article 41 of the UN charter in the event that the report shows that Iran has not complied with the terms of Resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007).

A copy of the resolution is available on the UN website at www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions07.htm.

We remain committed to a negotiated solution that would address the international community’s concerns. E3+3 Foreign Ministers issued a statement after the adoption of the resolution reconfirming that our June 2006 proposals, attached in Annexe II to the resolution, remained on the table. I urge Iran to take the positive path on offer by meeting in full the requirements of the Security Council and the IAEA board and beginning negotiations with the E3+3 on the basis of those proposals. As the adoption of Resolution 1747 demonstrates, that is the clear and united wish of the whole international community.

Iraq: Maysan Province

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The formal transfer of responsibility for security from UK military forces to the Iraq civil authorities in Maysan province took place yesterday. The decision to transfer to provincial Iraqi control was taken by the Iraqi Government in close consultation with the coalition, based on a thorough assessment of the local security situation and the capability of the Iraqi security forces in the province. Maysan is the fourth of Iraq's 18 provinces to be handed over to Iraqi control, and the third of the four within the UK's area of operations in Multi-national Division (South East) (MND(SE)).

This is another important milestone that demonstrates the continuing progress in building Iraq's political institutions and security capacity. It underlines the progress made by the UK forces and our partners in MND(SE) and the growing maturity of the Iraqi security forces. Establishing provincial Iraqi control does not guarantee that Maysan is a benign environment in security terms, or that future challenges may not arise, but it does mean that the Iraq security forces are judged now to be able to respond effectively to those challenges themselves. The UK will continue to support them as they do so. Other provinces across Iraq will be transferred during 2007, including Basra province in MND(SE).

UK and coalition forces, which withdrew from fixed bases in Maysan province in August 2006, will continue training and mentoring the Iraqi security forces, particularly the Department of Border Enforcement, in order to improve border security. The Prime Minister's announcement on 21 February 2007 (Official Report, cols. 261-66) that force levels will reduce to around 5,500 by June this year took into account the likely transfer of security responsibility in Maysan.

Legal Services: Pro Bono Work

The Department for Constitutional Affairs has published a consultation paper, Cost Recovery in Pro Bono Cases, on proposals for secondary legislation to implement the provisions provided for by Clause 185 of the Legal Services Bill on payments in respect of representation provided pro bono. The consultation paper was published on 16 April 2007 and will run for 12 weeks. The closing date is 9 July 2007.

The Legal Services Bill [HL], published in November 2006, is before Parliament. Clause 185 (in Part 8—“Miscellaneous provisions about lawyers etc”) is designed to amend civil costs law to enable costs to be recovered in cases where legal representation was provided pro bono.

Pro bono work provides a valuable adjunct to the other forms of legal funding. This proposal will enable costs to be recovered in civil pro bono cases and will help level what has up to now been an uneven costs playing field. Cost orders will be made at the discretion of the courts and when made will be directed to a prescribed charity that will administer and distribute the moneys to provide additional legal help and advice for those not otherwise able to afford it.

This initiative is supported by the Attorney-General's Pro Bono Co-ordinating Committee. The committee was established in 2001 to promote and encourage the ethos of pro bono in the legal professions. Its members include representatives of the Bar, the Law Society, ILEX, the major pro bono organisations (including LawWorks and the Free Representational Unit) and the not-for-profit sector (including Citizens Advice, the Law Centres Federation and AdviceUK).