Embargo: Immediate Monday 10 December 2007

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659


A new House of Lords Select Committee has today launched a Call for Evidence at the start of an inquiry into the effectiveness of action by intergovernmental organisations to control the spread of infectious diseases. Its primary focus will be on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Avian Influenza.

The new committee, the House of Lords Ad Hoc Committee on Intergovernmental Organisations, has been set up to examine how cross-border policy issues are being addressed through UK membership of intergovernmental bodies. The Committee, which is chaired by Lord Soley, has chosen for its first inquiry to examine how effectively the global spread of communicable diseases is being controlled through action by intergovernmental organisations. The Committee will be looking not only at what medical agencies, such as the World Health Organisation, are doing but also at how other bodies, such as the UN Children's Fund and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, are involved and will be assessing, among other things, whether there is adequate synergy between the various participants.

The field of Communicable Diseases is very wide and new infections are emerging. The Committee has decided, however, to focus its main attention on four actual or potential killers - HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Avian Influenza.

  • Some 40 million people are already infected worldwide with HIV, which in parts of Africa infects 1 in 4 of the population.

  • There has been recent transmission of the H5N1 strain of Influenza from birds to humans and assessments suggest that an Influenza Pandemic could be just around the corner.

  • Tuberculosis and Malaria each kill more than 1 million people every year worldwide. The incidence of tuberculosis in the UK has increased by 25% over the last 10 years, with over 300 deaths annually.

  • While Britain is not at the moment greatly affected by Malaria, there are concerns that this could change if global warming encourages mosquito migration northwards.

The Committee aims to publish its report in the Summer of 2008

Commenting, Lord Soley, Chairman of the new Committee, said:

"Infectious diseases are no respecters of national frontiers. Much good work to prevent or control them is being done by a range of intergovernmental organisations of which the UK is a member.

"Our Committee wishes to assess how effective these efforts are proving to be and how well coordinated they are. We also want to see what intergovernmental preparations are being made to cope with emerging diseases.

"We will be focusing initially on HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis and Avian Influenza, all of them actual or potential killers on a large scale. Our Call for Evidence has gone to a wide range of bodies with acknowledged expertise in the subject, but we would welcome evidence from anyone who feels he or she can contribute".

Notes for Editors

1. The Members of the Committee are:

Lord Avebury, Lord Bowness, Lord Desai, Baroness Falkner of Margravine, Baroness Flather, Lord Geddes, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, Lord Howarth of Newport, Lord Jay of Ewelme, Lord Soley (Chairman), Lord Steinberg and Baroness Whitaker.

2. The Call for Evidence can be found at:

3. The deadline for the submission of written evidence is 21 January 2008.