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Vitamin B6

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The Government's decision to restrict the level of Vitamin B6 in dietary supplements sold under food law was based in part on advice from the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Product and the Environment (COT). Members of the COT include internationally recognised experts in a range of disciplines, including nutrition.

In considering the safety of Vitamin B6, the COT took account of the nutritional requirements for this vitamin that had been established by the Committee on

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Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) as part of its review of food energy and nutrient requirements of groups of people in the United Kingdom. Those carrying out this review included a number of nutritionists of international standing. International experts representing the EU Scientific Committee for Food and other experts from the European Community acted as observers.

The Government have no plans to seek further advice on the safety of Vitamin B6.

BSE and Mammalian Blood Products

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Donoughue on 4 December (WA 199), whether they accept that there are a number of diseases, including BSE, which may be transmitted by feeding mammalian blood products to animals of the same species; whether they accept it as a lesson of the BSE epidemic that such practices should be avoided; and whether they will now prohibit this practice.

Lord Donoughue: Dried plasma and other blood products are excluded from the scope of the prohibition on the inclusion of mammalian protein in ruminant feed under both EC and domestic legislation.

We are not aware of any evidence to show that BSE may be transmitted by feeding mammalian blood products to animals of the same species. If the noble Lord maintains that evidence exists for such transmission, I would be grateful for further details.

Cod Stocks

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they have taken to avert a collapse of North Sea cod stocks since the 4th Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on Sustainable Management of North Sea Fisheries (Session 1996-97, H.L. Paper 63).

Lord Donoughue: In November 1997 the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advised that fishing mortality for North Sea cod has declined from record levels over the past two years and, if the current level of fishing mortality is maintained, the spawning stock biomass is expected to increase to within safe biological limits. Because of a large year class joining the fishery, maintaining the current level of fishing mortality would have resulted in a total allowable catch (TAC) of 153,000 tonnes in 1998. However, in order to continue the rebuilding of the North Sea cod stock, the Government pressed for the TAC to be set at the lower level of 140,000 tonnes and this figure has since been agreed in the annual consultations between the Community and Norway over the management of this and other North Sea stocks.

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The Government have also urged, and will continue to urge, the European Commission to bring forward proposals for the protection of exceptional concentrations of juvenile North Sea cod in fishing grounds. Such proposals could help to conserve the particularly large numbers of juvenile cod currently in the North Sea and ensure that greater numbers reach maturity.

Farm Incomes

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they propose to take to assist farmers suffering from falling incomes as a result of the strong pound and the BSE crisis.

Lord Donoughue: We are considering what further action might be necessary to alleviate the position of farmers affected by currency movements and other developments affecting income.

Offering new funds to farmers--even with reimbursement from the EU budget--carries significant implications for UK public expenditure.

BSE: US Export of Specified Risk Material

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United States contends that under the provisions enforceable by the World Trade Organisation the European Union may not ban the import into Europe from the United States of "specified risk material" (that is, material at possible risk of BSE infection).

Lord Donoughue: Yes. But their position on the Specified Risk Material legislation is based on the assumption that the United States can safely be regarded as a "BSE free" country. Their case for such treatment has not been accepted by the EU Commission's Scientific Veterinary Committee.

CJD: Research

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they believe a post mortem examination of a sample of all deceased people would help to establish the extent of human infection with CJD in the United Kingdom.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): As part of the comprehensive research strategy into the human health aspects of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies we have commissioned a retrospective analysis of previous deaths from dementia-like diseases and a systematic survey of all autopsies performed in the Oxford area over a three-year period beginning in July 1997. The aim of the survey is to validate the current

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national surveillance protocols by ensuring that no cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) are being missed.

In the meantime the government-funded National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh will continue to investigate cases of suspected CJD. Since the unit was established in 1990 72 per cent. of all cases referred who subsequently died have been subjected to post-mortem examination. Eighty-two per cent. of new variant CJD (nvCJD) cases have been subjected to post-mortem examination.

There is at present no test which can be carried out before or after death which enables CJD infectivity to be detected before the appearance of clinical symptoms.

Smoking-related Deaths

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the 300 daily deaths alleged by Dr. Jacky Chambers (Deputy Chief Executive of the Health Education Authority) in 1993 to be caused by smoking occur among each of the following age groups. (a) 64 and over;
    (b) 75 and over;
    (c) under 55.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Health Education Authority estimated that, in the United Kingdom in 1988, 110,000 people died as a result of their smoking--on average 300 people per day. These were estimates for the whole population, and were not broken down by age.

MoD and DTI Budget Reductions

Lord Borrie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will clarify the position on reductions in the Department of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Defence budgets announced earlier this year.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The Ministry of Defence budget for 1997-1998 was reduced by £168 million as a result of the department overspending in the previous financial year. This overspend was largely a result of goods and services being delivered and paid for earlier than expected. The Department of Trade and Industry budget for this financial year was reduced by £102 million because the nuclear industry no longer requires the funds; it was not a fine for overspending.

Coal: Movement by Rail Contracts

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the power-generating companies are required to comply with European Directive 93/38/EEC on Procurement Procedures when the

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    existing contracts for movement of coal by rail, inherited from British Rail, come up for renewal.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): Under the UK regulations which implement this directive (The Utilities Contracts Regulations 1996, SI 1996 No. 2911), it is for utility operators themselves to determine whether they must comply in respect of particular contracts. Having made enquiries of the power generating companies, I am advised that contracts for the movement of coal by rail are subject to these regulations.

Remand Delay Reduction: Consultation

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many responses to the consultation document Reducing Remand Delays were received during the consultation period, and whether they will set out, in a summary, those responses.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Twenty-one responses were received. A summary of the main points has been placed in the Library.

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