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Sri Lanka

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the (a) Government of Sri Lanka and (b) Tamil forces on the resolution of the conflict in Sri Lanka. [104908]

Mr. Hain [holding answer 17 January 2000]: We remain deeply concerned about the tragic conflict in Sri Lanka and believe that a lasting solution can be reached only through a political settlement. We continue to explore with a wide range of contacts ways of achieving this.

Pursuant to my previous answer to my hon. Friend on 6 December 1999, Official Report, column 401W, we have made clear to both sides our readiness to help if asked.


Qualified Majority Voting

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list those areas identified by EU member states for discussion of extension of qualified majority voting at the next InterGovernmental Conference. [105541]

The Prime Minister: The Helsinki European Council confirmed that the possible extension of qualified majority voting will be on the agenda for the next IGC. Formal proposals for individual articles will only be made during the IGC, which will begin next month.

Iranian Foreign Minister

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister. [105340]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 17 January 2000]: I welcomed Dr. Kharrazi as the first Iranian Minister to visit the United Kingdom since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. I stressed the importance we attach to continuing the development of the relationship between the UK and Iran, as a major country in an area of strategic importance to the UK.

Dr. Kharrazi and I agreed that relations between the UK and Iran should be based on co-operation and mutual trust.

There of course remain areas of concern for both sides. I raised with Dr. Kharrazi the continued detention of 13 members of the Jewish community in Iran. Dr. Kharrazi assured me that those detained would receive a fair and open trial, including access to visitors and legal

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representation. I also mentioned our concern that Iranian commitments on Salman Rushdie's safety should be upheld.

Mike Tyson

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Prime Minister what representations he and his Office received, and from whom, about the case of Mr. Mike Tyson. [105715]

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Baillieston (Mr. Wray), asked me a Question on the floor of the House on 12 January 2000, Official Report, column 271. Neither I nor my Office have received any other representations on this matter.


House of Lords

Angela Smith: To ask the President of the Council when the report of the Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords will be published. [105603]

Mrs. Beckett: I understand that the Royal Commission proposes to publish its Report on Thursday 20 January. Copies of the Report will be placed in the Library of the House after publication.


Staff Bonuses

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much his Department, its agencies and associated public bodies spent in total on extra bonuses above usual payments for staff working over the New Year period; what were the (a) maximum and (b) minimum bonuses paid; how many people received the (i) maximum and (ii) minimum payments; and if he will make a statement. [104480]

Mr. Morley: No extra bonuses were paid to core-MAFF, Pesticides Safety Directorate, Veterinary Medicines Directorate, Farming and Rural Conservation Agency, Central Science Laboratory, Meat Hygiene Service, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and Intervention Board Executive Agency staff working over the New Year period. Staff working, or on-call, during this period received enhanced rates of overtime, travel time and on-call allowances. Claims are still being received and it is therefore not possible at this stage to say how many staff in total benefited from these arrangements.

The Veterinary Laboratory Agency also adopted the same arrangements but, in addition, paid a £100 bonus to staff working between 11.00 pm on 31 December 1999 to 4.00 am on 1 January 2000. Again, claims are still being received and it is not possible at this stage to say how many staff in total benefited from the bonus payment.


Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what assessment he has made of the health implications of the cocktail effect of exposure to several different types of biocides; [104526]

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Ms Quin [holding answer 13 January 2000]: The possibility of interactions with other pesticides is considered before approval is given to a particular pesticide. Possible synergistic effects of the joint toxicity of pesticide active ingredients are addressed by requesting data on the toxicity of new pesticide products that contain more than one active ingredient.

The pesticide regulatory authorities have also examined more broadly the possibility of synergistic effects of pesticides several times. The Advisory Committee on Pesticides considered the matter in the early 1990s and advised that possible interactions of pesticides were at worst additive rather than synergistic. In 1994 MAFF commissioned a literature review of the possible synergistic effects of mixes of active ingredients. The results of this review supported the Advisory Committee's earlier conclusion.

More recently, the interaction between the effects of chemicals was also considered by the Department of Health's Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment as part of their review of organophosphates. The Committee advised that interactions resulting from altered metabolism are, in general, only important at relatively high exposure levels, since at low levels there is usually sufficient metabolic capacity to cope with the multiple exposures with efficient detoxification and elimination of all compounds.

Beta Carotene

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent assessment he has made of the safety of the additive beta carotene, with particular reference to the concentrations available in soft drink products. [104529]

Ms Quin [holding answer 13 January 2000]: Beta carotene is naturally present in a wide variety of foods. It is also added to foods as a means of providing additional Vitamin A to consumers (it is converted to Vitamin A in the body). In addition, it may be used as a food colour.

There is no evidence that the amounts consumed by adults and children from food are harmful. However, the UK Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals will be reviewing the safety of this substance later this year as part of a wide ranging study of the safety of vitamins and minerals generally. In addition, the EU Scientific Committee for Food is currently considering the safety aspects of its use as a colour. Intakes from this latter source are however low compared to its use as a source of Vitamin A and its natural occurrence.

Food Labelling

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps his Department is taking to ensure that products that do not meet United Kingdom quality and animal welfare standards are labelled accordingly. [105111]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 17 January 2000]: Consumers who wish to support British quality and animal welfare standards tell us they actively choose foods which

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are marked as British. Following concerns that such labelling can sometimes mislead, we have consulted a wide range of interested parties on strengthened guidance aimed at ensuring that country of origin markings on food labels do not mislead consumers about the true origin of the ingredients that have been used. Officials will be discussing the responses with some of those consulted on 19 January and an announcement will be made shortly thereafter.

Organic Farming (Lancashire)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many hectares of land in Lancashire are used for organic farming. [105034]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 17 January 2000]: From the information available to us, some 2,500 hectares in Lancashire are fully organic or are in conversion to organic farming.

Abattoirs and Meat Processing Plants

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many abattoirs and meat processing plants have closed in the last year for which figures are available. [103355]

Ms Quin: The Meat Hygiene and Inspection Regulations provide for licences to be revoked for a number of different reasons. These include where premises either fail to comply with hygiene requirements or cease operating for commercial reasons; and where the nature of the business has changed. In Great Britain, 39 abattoirs and 58 cutting premises producing fresh meat or poultry meat had their licences revoked between 1 November 1998 and 30 October 1999. Details of licence revocations are published in the Meat Hygiene Enforcement Report, a copy of which is placed in the Library of the House each month.

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