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EU: Council of Ministers

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The Government became aware on 15 June 2006, following the noble Lord’s Question, that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, had understood my intervention in the debate in the House of 6 June differently from the way in which I had. As I said on 6 June, there is a strong desire under the provisions for subsidiarity to see our Parliament take as many decisions as it can, and we have argued strenuously that those decisions that we regard as being within our sovereign right should remain in the UK. We will continue to do so. My reference to the “ebb and flow” of decisions had, of course, to be understood in the context that I provided in the debate and which I have repeated here and in my Answer to the noble Lord on 18 July (WA 173).

EU: Legal Basis of Initiatives

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The information requested could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

In assessing the legal basis of proposals brought forward by the Commission, the Government follow tests laid down by the European Court of Justice in case law dating back to the 1980s and consider the proposal as a whole, and in particular its aim and content. In the case of Article 308 and in order for it to be used as a legal base for action, the article requires that a proposal be necessary for the attainment of a Community objective, and have unanimous support at the Council. The Government have given an undertaking that where the Commission puts forward a legislative proposal citing Article 308 as its legal base, the Commission’s justification of this choice of legal base will be provided to the Scrutiny Committee.

European Court of Human Rights

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not hold the information which the noble Lord has requested. Some of this information is, however, available from the annual reports of the European Court of Human Rights, which can be found on the Court's website at: http://www.echr.coe.int/ECHR/EN/Header/Reports+and+Statistics/Reports/Annual+surveys+of+activity/.

Extradition

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): As I explained in my Written Answer of 12 July, the position is that the legal systems of the UK and US are broadly comparable for the purposes of extradition.

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: From the records available, seven extradition requests were made to the United States authorities in respect of persons wanted in connection with allegations of terrorist crimes connected with Northern Ireland. Of these seven requests, three were granted. None of these requests, however, was in the past 11 years.

Extradition: Human Rights

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Yes. The powers conferred upon the Secretary of State by the Extradition Act 2003 must be exercised compatibly with Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Family Breakdown

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Government recognise that family breakdown is a serious matter and can be a major cause of deprivation or disadvantage. We have policies in place to help tackle the consequences. But while it can be a driver of other forms of deprivation, it is not a direct measure of deprivation in its own right. Family breakdown may have negative effects on family members but conversely it may have positive effects (such as if the relationship involved violence). Measuring the negative effects of family breakdown and expressing these at an area level is therefore not possible.

Firearms: Licensing

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Live pilot testing has been successfully completed and rollout to all forces has now begun. The National Firearms Licensing Management System is currently operational in three forces and the aim is to complete the rollout by March 2007.

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The National Firearms Licensing Management System is currently being rolled out to all forces. The aim is to complete this process by March 2007. The data cleansing exercise which is needed before an interface with PNC can be successfully made will be carried out on a force by force basis after each has been migrated to NFLMS.

First Aid

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): There is scope in the non-statutory personal social and health education framework for schools to explore safety and emergency procedures as part of the curriculum. At key stage 3, the framework suggests pupils should be taught “basic emergency procedures and where to get help and support”. At key stage 4, pupils should be taught to “develop basic skills to cope with emergency situations that require basic aid procedures, including resuscitation techniques”.

As personal social and health education is non-statutory, the implementation of the subject is decided by schools on an individual basis. However, we welcome the development of the “Life. Live it” resources by the British Red Cross, which will help teachers in addressing these areas of the framework.

Fish

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): It is not this department’s policy to pay compensation to fish farmers affected by movement restrictions due to an outbreak of serious fish disease. When viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) was confirmed on a farm in North Yorkshire on 26 May, movement controls were placed on the area we considered initially to be at risk from the spread of the disease. Following an extensive round of sampling and testing of farmed and wild fish and other epidemiological investigations, we were able to announce a reduction in the size of the area under restriction on 10 August. The immediate effect of this was to enable the majority of the 33 farms originally affected by the controls to resume normal trade in live fish. Throughout this period we worked closely with fish farmers and their representatives to minimise the impact of controls by allowing certain movements where scientific evidence suggested that it was safe to do so.

As a general policy on animal health issues, we are moving towards greater cost-sharing with industry. In line with this principle, we have asked industry to consider the establishment of a hardship fund to assist farmers most acutely affected by disease control arrangements. We will look closely at any such initiative, including the possibility of providing some form of assistance to help pump prime a fund.

Fluoridation

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The report Bioavailability of fluoride in drinking-water—a human experimental study, Report for the UK Department of Health, June 2004 was published on the website of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In line with normal practice, a more succinct account of the principal results of the study was prepared by the authors as a scientific paper and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Dental Research in November 2005: Maguire A, Zohouri FV, Mathers JC, Steen IN, Hindmarch PN, Moynihan PJ. Bioavailability of fluoride in drinking water: a human experimental study. J Dent Res. 2005 Nov;84(11):989-93. This paper acknowledged the funding from the Department of Health. These are the only published reports of this study. The Department of Health believes that they are consistent and accurate reports of the study and its findings. We accept the authors’ conclusions stated in the full report that; “There was no statistically significant difference between artificially fluoridated and naturally fluoridated water, or between hard and soft water for Tmax, Cmax, or Area under the Curve for plasma fluoride concentration following water ingestion in healthy young adults. Based on the power of the study to detect differences, some caution is necessary when interpreting the results, but within the limits imposed by the small number of subjects, this study found no evidence for any differences between the absorption of fluoride ingested in artificially fluoridated drinking water, and in drinking water in which the fluoride is present naturally, or between the absorption of fluoride from hard and soft waters, at fluoride concentrations close to 1 part per million”. We also accept the conclusion reached in the paper published in the Journal of Dental research that: “any differences in bioavailability of fluoride between drinking waters in which the fluoride is present naturally or added artificially, or the waters are hard or soft, are small compared with the large within-and between-subject variation in F absorption following ingestion of drinking waters with F concentrations close to 1 part per million”.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Warner: Section 90A(1) (a) of the Water Industry Act 1991, as inserted by Section 58 of the Water Industry Act 2003, requires strategic health authorities (SHAs) with fluoridation schemes to monitor the effects on the health of persons living in their areas. Section 90A(3) requires an SHA to publish a report on their findings within the period of four years from the commencement of this section of the Act. We will be issuing guidance during 2007, which we intend should involve the monitoring of appropriate health indices in relation to water fluoridation.

Food: Polluted Whale and Dolphin Meat

Lord Ashcroft asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Her Majesty's Government have made no assessment of the effects to human health of consuming polluted whale and dolphin products. Nevertheless, we are aware that the presence of organochlorines (such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and dioxin) and heavy metals (such as methylmercury) in whales have led to several Japanese and other international toxicologists voicing concerns about the health risks associated with eating contaminated whale meat.

It is widely known that north Atlantic minke whales caught by Norway have such high levels of PCBs in their blubber that, under Japanese law, it would be illegal for Japan to import and sell them for human consumption.

Norway's Food Safety Authority and Iceland's Directorate of Health have advised pregnant and nursing women to reduce, or stop eating whale meat because of high levels of contaminants.

The negative effects on human health through consumption of cetacean products is an emerging issue that the UK believes the International Whaling Commission is wholly competent to address.

Foot and Mouth Disease

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Local authorities have responsibility for erecting road signs under the Foot and Mouth Disease Order. Although local authorities will have to work within their existing budgets during any animal disease outbreak, central government may finance any additional resource or equipment requirements. The process to support this is subject to ongoing discussion.

Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Service (LACORS) have produced guidance on the erection of road signs during a notifiable disease situation, in consultation with Defra, the State Veterinary Service and the Department for Transport. The guidance was produced as a result of the recent focus on avian influenza.

The broad aspects referred to in the Question are already covered within the following guidance: guidance on public rights of way and other access signs in a disease situation; Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 animal disease template (Diagram 574 of Schedule 1); additional guidance on the animal disease template; public rights of way sign template; template for restricting access to land other than public rights of way.

Copies of these have been left in the House Library.

Forced Marriages

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): We have made clear, as the Times article cited by the noble Lord acknowledges, that forced marriage is an unacceptable abuse of fundamental rights and a form of domestic violence.

While we have decided, at this point, not to create a specific criminal offence of forcing someone into marriage, we have not ruled out the possibility of developing new legislation to tackle the issue in the future. We believe, however, that this should only be done if gaps are identified where existing legislation is not sufficient to deal with specific aspects of forced marriage. We shall look carefully at this issue.


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