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Vitamin B6 Supplements: Studies

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government take expert medical advice on the level of nutrients required by the population from the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA). COMA's report "Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom" published in 1991 details the studies which led to the recommendations. A copy of the report is available in the Library.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government are aware that there are circumstances, defined in the British National Formulary, in which individuals with metabolic deficiencies require dosage with vitamin B6. A peripheral neuritis may occur in cases of vitamin B6 deficiency.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: Studies of the intake of vitamin B6 have been undertaken as part of the

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Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults, which was published in 1990 and is available in the Library. The report demonstrates that very few persons would have intakes lower than the lower reference nutrient intake (LRNI) for vitamin B6.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House a list of the "over 100 scientific papers published in national and international journals", reviewed by the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food as a basis for their recommendation that the sale of non-prescription vitamin B6 should be restricted to doses of a maximum of 10mg (Letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, the Welsh Office to Dr. Alan Williams, MP, 5 September 1997); and whether they will indicate which of those papers demonstrated toxic reactions which occurred as a result of excessive doses of vitamin B6.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) made their recommendations after considering the totality of the published literature on vitamin B6 toxicity and submissions from industry and other interested parties on vitamin B6. Lists of the scientific papers considered by the COT have already been placed in the Library. The COT statement, published on 4 July, included examples of papers which demonstrated toxic reactions to excessive doses of vitamin B6. A copy of the statement is also available in the Library.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the results of the study by Berger, Schaumberg et al Dose response, coasting and differential fiber vulnerability in human toxic neuropathy: A prospective study of pyridoxine neurotoxicity (July 1992 Neurology 42 1367), would justify further research on a larger population.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The paper by Berger, Schaumburg, Schroeder, Apfel and Reynolds (1992, Neurology, 42, 1367-1370) was one of those considered by the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment in its review of vitamin B6 toxicity. The authors' conclusions that the results confirm earlier experimental and clinical reports that vitamin B6 produces a peripheral neuropathy contributed to the development of the committee's view. The study used a valuable combination of objective measures and subjective observations but it would be difficult to apply these to larger populations.

Child Protection: Royal Commission Proposal

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider child protection to be a subject suited to a Royal Commission.

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Baroness Jay of Paddington: We do not believe that a Royal Commission on child protection is required at present. The Government are firmly committed to high quality child protection services and research shows that the child protection system generally works effectively in dealing with serious cases of abuse. However, we believe that more emphasis needs to be given to meeting the needs of the most deprived children and their families, and to intervening at an earlier stage to support families experiencing difficulties. The welfare of children needs to be placed at the centre of the work of all agencies involved--social services, health, education, the voluntary sector, police, probation and the courts--and that services are directed to support those children and families whose needs are greatest. We are also firmly committed to breaking down the barriers which sometimes seem to have existed in the past between the work of agencies and between the work of Government departments. The National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse last year produced a wide-ranging and thought provoking report and we are giving careful consideration to its recommendations. In the light of these, and other work taken forward by the Department of Health, we are in the process of developing a number of strategies to ensure that children are protected from all forms of abuse.

Firearm Certificate Additional Conditions: Appeals

The Earl of Lytton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether an applicant has the right of appeal against additional conditions (as opposed to mandatory conditions) imposed on the grant, renewal or variation of a firearm certificate and if not, why not; and whether they intend to ensure that in future certificate holders will be able to appeal against such conditions imposed by chief constables.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): A recent court decision held that conditions imposed by a chief constable cannot be varied on application and that no right of appeal existed. The court noted that in law there was a distinction between variation of conditions subject to which a certificate is held, and variation of the certificate. It concluded that Section 29(1) of the Firearms Act 1968, as amended, contains provisions for amending the conditions subject to which the certificate is held, while Section 29(2) contains provision for the amendment of the certificate itself. In the first case a chief constable has an unfettered right to vary a condition; only in the latter case has the applicant a right of appeal to the Crown Court if he is in disagreement with the chief constable's decision. We have no plans at present to amend the law on this issue.

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Firearms Law: Police Guidance

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House drafts of the proposed memorandum of guidance on the administration of the firearms Acts up to 1997, for the purposes of clarity and open consultation before final versions are published.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I do not believe that placing drafts of individual Home Office circulars and guidance in the Library will be helpful and could even cause confusion about the status of any particular piece of guidance. Only final versions of guidance that are actually issued to police forces are placed in the Library. Next year we plan to revise the comprehensive document, Firearms Law: Guidance to the Police issued in 1989. We shall be consulting the main interested parties about this before it is eventually published.


Viscount Exmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentages of all those applicants granted asylum in the United Kingdom relates to requests for political asylum.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The criteria for recognition as a refugee, and hence the granting of asylum, are set out in the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees. The convention defines a refugee as a person who has "a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country".

A breakdown of asylum grants, according to the basis of the application, is not available as such information is not centrally recorded.

Export Licences: Information Processing System

Lord Gallacher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the statistics on export licences issued and refused for the second half of 1996 will be placed in the Library of the House.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): It has been normal practice for statistics relating to decisions on applications for standard individual export licences for strategic goods to be placed periodically in the Library. However, a number of problems have been identified with the Export Control Licence Information Processing System, (ECLIPS), which came into operation in March 1995, on which details of such applications are recorded.

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It should be made clear that the problems identified relate to the accuracy of recording and subsequent retrieval of information from the databases; they have not affected the processing of, and decision-making on, individual export licence applications. They fall into three main categories:

    (i) In general, over the last few years, where a single application has involved a range of goods only the major item of goods on the application has been recorded on ECLIPS, together with the entry in the legislation under which this item is controlled (known as the "rating"). Any other goods on the application have been considered in the licensing process, but not recorded on the computer system.

    (ii) Conversion and input errors have been found in data transferred to ECLIPS from earlier computer systems.

    (iii) Errors and omissions have been found in the entry and updating of information on ECLIPS since it came into operation.

The House will be aware that it has been necessary in the past to correct a number of answers to questions, for example the question asked by the honourable member for Linlithgow, Official Report 13 June 1996 col. 263.

Data integrity problems also arise with the separately recorded data on applications for open individual export licences, on which information has not been included in the statistics placed in the Library.

Having identified these problems, this Government have taken urgent steps to improve the situation.

Checks have been made on all answers given to parliamentary questions since this Government took office.

New procedures have been put in place to ensure that all goods listed on export licence applications and their ratings will be recorded for all applications in future, and this work will be backdated to cover all applications on which a decision has been taken since 2 May.

Data input procedures and their enforcement have been reviewed and strengthened.

In order to assist industry and minimise input errors work is in hand to allow companies to complete standard individual export licence applications electronically and it is hoped that this will be ready for testing in the New Year; and, in the same timescale, a new database is being developed to hold the data.

All this work is being undertaken in a rigorous timetable and the result will be a significant advance on the present situation. However, some goods on an application may be listed under a range of different terms or even brand names. While these can be searched by rating, comparison with a generic or specific description may only be possible in some cases by examining the original paper records.

As a result of checking answers given to parliamentary questions since this Government took office, three errors have now been identified affecting the answer to five separate questions; four asked by the honourable Member for Cynon Valley and one by the

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honourable Member for Westbury. Both have been informed by letter, copies of which have been placed in the Library of both Houses. Apart from this, however, as it is now clear that the databases do not provide a fully accurate record, some previous answers, using information obtained from the databases, could be proved wrong if recourse were made to the original paper records, of which there are some 280,000. In the light of this, all information given by this and previous Administrations--either in answer to parliamentary questions, or in correspondence, or elsewhere--relying on data obtained from these databases should be read in conjunction with the following caveat. "This information is based on data retrieved from computer databases that have been found not to be fully comprehensive. It should therefore be treated as indicative only. For any single application involving a range of goods, all of the entries in the legislation under which all of these goods were controlled may not have been recorded. Additionally, there may have been errors and omissions in recording some information. The information could only be verified by undertaking a complete search of all paper records, which would entail excessive cost".

However, while it would not be cost-effective to seek to correct all the data available in the Library, the data for the second half of 1996 is being corrected by examination of the paper records. This work will be completed as soon as possible and the aim is to place in the Library before the end of the year statistics covering this period, albeit subject to the above caveat. For the first time, these will include statistics on open individual export licences granted; copies of all current open general export licences will also be provided.

This Government are committed, in a spirit of openness, to reporting annually on the state of strategic export controls and their application.

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