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Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, the Treasury has a permanent representative or permanent staff in the budget department of the European Commission. Will the Minister confirm that the figures that she has given include all capital expenditure on new buildings, whether obtained by loan from the EIB or by virtue of guarantees? Will she confirm that the entire expenditure is accounted for in the European budget? For the year 1994, that budget contained a number of blanks against expenditure on new buildings. As the noble Baroness knows, some of that was incurred illegally and in breach of the financial regulations applicable to the institutions.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble Lord knows that illegal expenditure is being investigated at present. The point is that since the Community has increased from six membersfor whose Council the Charlemagne building was builtto 15 members, it obviously needs additional houseroom. In order that that new building should not be found too small with further expansion to the east, provision has been made for more than 15 members. Therefore, at the moment the building may seem a little large but I am confident that the new Council building has been properly built. I am also confident that the contract was on terms favourable to the Council: there is only a peppercorn rent of one Belgian franc, the equivalent of 2p, to be paid on the land which is available; the Council will become the owner of the land and there will be no rent. The parliament buildings are another matter which is under close control and will remain so.
Lord Peston: My Lords, the noble Baroness said that the figures were within the agreed limits. Can she clarify that? Is it the nominal figure that is within the agreed limit or is it the real figure? Is the 8 per cent. per annum the real agreed limit? For how long has the figure been agreed? Within that, can the noble Baroness assure us that the value of what the office does is increasing at least at 8 per cent. per annum in real terms?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am afraid that it is not for me to answer yes to the noble Lord's last question. I can, however, assure him that the figures are real. They have been calculated in real terms, and I believe that they cover all the costs involved.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, apart from office accommodation, do we now have to envisage expenditure on interpreters into 15 languages and the translation of all documents into 15 languages; or is there a limited area of language choice, for instance into five languages?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I find that, now, with not 15 but 11 languages used in the Community, there are something over 100 manners of translation. Documents have to be in all 11 languages, and that is obviously one of the increased costs with which we have to cope.
Lord Shaw of Northstead: My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the reflection group is considering how far the Commission and others are seeking to bring greater responsibility to national governments to look after the grants, and the proper application of grants, within their own countries?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there is no reason why the reflection group, which began its processes only on Saturday, should not so look. There is a very long way to go. One thing, with the help of the new commissioner, we have been able to do is to make many other countries as aware of the need for tight budgeting and the proper auditing of all expenditure; and we shall continue to do so.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, can the noble Baroness clarify this matter for me? When I was in Brussels with the IGC sub-committee, I saw the enormous edifice that was being built for the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Obviously, it will cost hundreds of millions of pounds. Did the figures that the Minister gave at the outset include a projection of the costs of that great edifice; and, if not, are there any estimates of what the new offices will cost the taxpayers of Europe?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the figures I gave at the beginning were in answer to my noble friend's Question about the costs of the buildings of the European Union in Brussels on an annual basis. I gave the figure for five years ago and the figures for 1993. The figures that we have for the 19 buildings that the European Parliament rents are not included so far as I know beyond that for 1998. As I gave an annual figure, I am obviously not giving a total for the next five years or for any other single period.
Lord Whaddon: My Lords, will the noble Baroness clarify this point? I believe that she said earlier that the buildings were being constructed with more accommodation than is needed for the present membership. For how many members are they being constructed?
The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe): The Government are pleased that this report has now been published and welcome the contribution it makes to the body of information on organophosphate dips. The Veterinary Products Committee was immediately asked to consider the report and its advice has now been received. Health and agriculture Ministers will wish to consider that advice carefully before making any announcement.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that reply. But does he appreciate that the results of this research indicate that subtle damage is being done to ostensibly healthy farmers? Does he accept that anyone who had only a sign of illness was cut out from the research study? In view of the fact that large numbers of farmers complain of gross damage to their central and peripheral nervous systems, will the Minister ask his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health whether she will consider setting up regional centres with multi-disciplinary teams with an expertise in toxicology so that GPs can report patients to those teams since GPs themselves have very little training in toxicology? Does he agree that in that way those patients could be helped? At the moment they are receiving no help at all.
Earl Howe: My Lords, clearly I cannot comment on the substance of the report until the Government's response has been published. With regard to the second part of the noble Countess's question, I shall be happy to consider, with my noble friend and my right honourable friend, whether there are more effective ways of co-ordinating reports of suspected adverse reactions, and I shall write to the noble Countess.
Lord Gallacher: My Lords, in view of previous and continuing concern about organophosphate pesticides, which now includes levels of OP in insecticides found in some carrotsI emphasise "some"will the
Earl Howe: My Lords, the key principle in matters such as this is that the Government should make decisions based on scientific advice. In many cases it is a matter not just for agriculture Ministers but for Ministers in the Department of Health as well. The Veterinary Products Committee is a mechanism that has served us well over the years. In this instance it has examined the question of OP dips at considerable length with the advice of medical specialists. It concluded that there was no justification for a ban. As the noble Lord will be aware, the Government have sought an urgent review by the VPC of the latest findings from the IoH. As I have said, the Government's official response will be published as soon as possible. There is effective co-ordination already.
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