§ 28. Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury)
If she will make a statement on the recent report into pre-eclampsia. 
§ The Minister for Women (Ms Patricia Hewitt)
I understand that the study to which the hon. Gentleman refers suggests an association, but it does not find any direct link between working and pre-eclampsia, and that the lead researcher has commented that it would not be right to draw firm conclusions from this study. The Health and Safety Executive will undertake a detailed assessment of the report and will consider whether there is a need to provide additional guidance for employers, employees and health care providers.
§ Dr. Murrison
I thank the Minister for that response. In light of the fact that this is just one report, I wonder what discussions she is having with her colleagues in the Department of Health and the maternity working group to establish the need for further research to clarify the possibility of a link between working and pre-eclampsia. More generally, will she tell us a little about what she is doing to publicise this condition, which is poorly understood among women and health care workers?
§ Ms Hewitt
The hon. Gentleman raises an enormously important point. Eclampsia and pre-eclampsia are leading causes of maternal death and, as he says, the causes are not at all well understood. I understand that my colleagues in the Department of Health are already talking to the Health and Safety Executive, as I suggest. I am sure that they are considering the need for further research, although I will draw that point specifically to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. I would also stress to the hon. Gentleman that the Department of Health is already funding the voluntary group, Action on Pre-eclampsia, and that part of that funding is used to make information directly available to pregnant women. I believe that that information is found to be reassuring and practically very helpful.
§ Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden)
Yesterday's report that fewer than half the babies born in England have a completely natural delivery is shocking. The increasing medicalisation of maternity care is causing midwives to vote with their feet and the policy of creating ever-larger units undermines the kind of personal care that can guard 1045 against pre-eclampsia. Will the Minister for Women tell the House what will happen to the maternity units that, according to the birth-rate plus survey, cannot find enough midwives?
§ Ms Hewitt
The hon. Lady raises a very important point about ensuring that women can get the kind of care that they want in pregnancy and childbirth. For many women—I had a great experience with a midwife-assisted delivery—it is very desirable to have a midwife engaged in care throughout the pregnancy, as well as at the delivery itself. I will certainly draw the hon. Lady's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, and I will write to her further on this subject.