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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate raises the choice between protection and prosecution. When that choice is being made, is not one primary consideration a destination for such children that will free them from the temptation to take drugs? Is that not one of the major factors in child prostitution?

Baroness Blatch: No, my Lords, it is not the main factor. Certainly children get into activities on the streets for many different reasons. We saw graphic illustrations of the abuse and exploitation of children on our television screens last night. It is not only a question of drugs. It is important that those with responsibility for children, particularly of primary school age and 10 to 13 year-olds--their parents, guardians or those who have responsibility for them when they are in care--are first in the front line to protect them and keep them at home at night, not on the streets.

Baroness Faithfull: My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister not agree that the Children Act 1989 needs amendment? So many children who are on the streets as prostitutes have been in residential care and have no home. Should not social services have a duty to look after such children after they have left care?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. Children who are vulnerable when they leave care should be protected. But there are many agencies other than social services. Social services have responsibility for people of all ages in the community. It is those who work with children in care who have a particular responsibility until the young person is deemed to be of adult age.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, would it be possible for consideration to be given to the idea that our very able police might be encouraged to participate in relation to this incredibly difficult matter with parent-teacher associations? A triumvirate of police, parents and teachers could assist in eradicating this awful problem.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, we continue to do everything we can to encourage all agencies, especially those directly involved with the care of children;

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teachers, parents, guardians, social care homes, children's homes and the police. The police have gone a very long way, not only specifically to train staff who work with children but to set up special units within forces, so that any child who comes under their auspices and who is suspected of any criminal activity, particularly of this kind, can be dealt with. Collaboration between all the agencies is very important.

Lord Renton: My Lords, has it come to the notice of the Government that in recent years there has been the tragedy of children being taken abroad, apparently for holidays, and being sold into prostitution? Although the practice is difficult to detect or prevent, will the Government bear it in mind and take whatever steps are necessary to try to reduce it?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I hope my noble friend will be comforted by some of the measures that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is to take. We are seeking the greatest possible collaboration with other countries to do what we can to put an end to this evil trade.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, can the Minister explain why, after 16 years of Conservative government boasting of so many investments in social policy, these horrendous social problems are now manifesting themselves on the streets of the United Kingdom?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is very unfortunate that the noble Lord has sought to introduce party politics. This question concerns everybody and it is very important to get it into perspective. The report claims as fact but quite erroneously--I make the point only because of the noble Lord's remarks--that children of primary school age are being cautioned and convicted of these crimes. It is not true. The main area of cautions and conviction relates to 15, 16 and 17 year-olds. Those are young people who should know better than to be out on the street engaging in these activities. It is a message to the whole community, and particularly to parents, to take much more of an interest in what children are doing, where they are, and what activities they are involved in outside the home.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, the Minister referred to the previous questioner introducing party politics into the debate. All of us in this House can understand why that charge is wounding. However, can the Minister advise the House as to the situation 20 years ago? It seems that the problem has got worse over the past few years. The House would welcome information about its prevalence 10 years and 20 years ago.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, bringing party politics to this subject was not wounding; it was inappropriate. The Government have made parents more responsible for their children before the court; it is now possible to bind over parents in court. We continue to make it easier for young people to come forward, tell us what is going on in their lives and talk about abuse. The police are making it easier for children to talk about these matters; social services departments and other departments are working with children. The chances are that many of

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these activities were going on but we did not know too much about them. We have to continue to flush out these evil activities. All of us, all in this Chamber, should do what we can to root them out.


3.18 p.m.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which is the main route of absorption into the human body of the organophosphate malathion.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): My Lords, there are many hundreds of organophosphates. Malathion is widely used as it is one of the least toxic. When used as a medication or pesticide, there is a very limited amount of absorption, mainly through the skin.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Why do we pour malathion on the heads of small children when we do not know what are the effects of low-level applications over a long period of time on the immune system and central nervous system, which are not fully developed in such children? We also allow it to be used by pregnant mothers. We know that malathion passes into the foetus. There have been reports of deformities in young children. Is the Minister aware of the work of Rodgers and Ellefson, indicating that:

    "an allergic-type response was occurring within four hours after exposure to malathion at concentrations over a thousand times lower than levels known to produce inhibition of acetylcholinesterase"?
I wonder whether that could account for the increase in allergies and behavioural problems in young children. Will the Minister instigate research into this matter?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I understand that there have been a number of studies undertaken in order to license the medicines and pesticides, which would include shampoos and lotions. I draw the attention of the noble Countess in particular to the one published in the IARC monograph of 1983. They include lifetime studies on animals, which is usual for data supplied for registration. However, I can assure the noble Countess that we are absolutely confident that there is no danger to children from using shampoos and lotions containing malathion.

Lord Carter: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the articles in the journal Pesticide Reform, a reputable scientific journal, which underline the dangers to human beings of the use of malathion? Is she also aware of a recent report by the Agriculture Committee in another place which recommended that organophosphates used on animals should be on a "prescription only" basis? Does she agree that, in view of the known dangers of malathion, the recommendation should also apply to its use on humans?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I understand that the intensity of malathion for human use in terms of shampoos and lotions is absolutely minuscule compared

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with that used for pesticides. The noble Lord is right in that we have taken action with regard to pesticides. However, I am assured that there is no need to do so with regard to shampoos and lotions. Of course, there are two products on the market which do not contain malathion.

Lady Kinloss: My Lords, can the Minister say whether the Government are actively promoting the bug busting campaign? If not, would they consider doing so, especially as it does not promote any of the apparently damaging chemicals?

Baroness Cumberlege: Yes, my Lords, we support Community Hygiene Concern which runs that campaign. Over the three years starting this year we are giving it £25,000 in order to help it take forward its programme.

Bosnia Peace Conference

3.22 p.m.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be the terms of reference of the peace implementation conference for Bosnia, to be held in London on 8th and 9th December.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, there are no fixed terms of reference for the conference. However, it may assist the noble Lord and the House if I advise them that the aim of the London peace implementation conference is to agree structures for the civilian implementation and ensure that those mesh with the framework for the military implementation force (IFOR) for which planning within NATO is well advanced. The London conference will open with a briefing on IFOR and thereafter focus on civilian implementation structures and the high representative; humanitarian issues, refugees and displaced persons; political institutions and elections; and reconstruction and development.

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