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Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Group

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Donoughue: The terms of reference of the ad hoc expert group on vitamins and minerals are to:
establish principles on which controls for ensuring the safety of vitamin and mineral supplements sold under food law can be based;
review the levels of individual vitamins and minerals associated with adverse effects;
recommend maximum levels of vitamins and minerals in supplements if appropriate; and
report to the FAC.

The group will also be able to advise on the levels of vitamins and minerals in fortified foods, if it is felt appropriate.

No appointments have yet been made. It is envisaged that the group will take two years in which to complete its work and report to the Food Advisory Committee. Information on the group's deliberations and recommendations will be published.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Donoughue to the Baroness Lestor of Eccles on 12 January (WA 181), whether they will publish the list of those persons who are members of the ad hoc expert group.[HL217]

Lord Donoughue: No appointments have yet been made to the new ad hoc expert group. A list of members will be published when appointments have been made.

BSE Inquiry: Members

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in appointing experts to support Lord Justice Phillips in the inquiry into the emergence of BSE and new variant CJD.[HL277]

Lord Donoughue: The Government have now appointed Mrs. June Bridgeman, CB, a retired senior civil servant and formerly deputy chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission to be the member of the inquiry with experience in public administration and Professor Malcolm Ferguson-Smith, Professor of Pathology at the University of Cambridge, as the scientific member of the inquiry.

Chocolate Products: Directive

Lord Willoughby de Brooke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will oppose in the Council of Ministers the European Parliament's amendments to the proposed directive relating to cocoa and chocolate products for human consumption.[HL310]

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Lord Donoughue: The Government are opposed to those amendments which would discriminate against chocolate containing small amounts of vegetable fat or against high quality UK milk chocolate. We will continue to resist any proposals which do not fully recognise the types of chocolate traditionally made in this country and which have been enjoyed by British consumers for many decades. The European Parliament's amendment deleting the derogation which allows the UK to continue to use the term "milk chocolate" for its milkier product sold in this country is unwarranted discrimination against a product for which our consumers have expressed a preference for over 90 years. The proposal for front-labelling of chocolate containing vegetable fats will not help consumers and would damage the image of all chocolate. It is also unacceptable and will be opposed. During our presidency, every effort will be made to reach agreement on a new directive which would allow different chocolate-making traditions to co-exist in a genuinely harmonised market leaving EU consumers free to choose from a wide range of chocolate products.

ESRC: Research into Informal Economic Activities

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Economic and Social Research Council is to fund a five-year programme to study the "structure and dynamics of irregular activities such as tax evasion, fraud, drug peddling and prostitution and other informal economic activities including work carried out in the household . . . and voluntary work"; and, if so, why it is thought that "work carried out in the household . . . and voluntary work" can appropriately be studied along with criminal activities.[HL40]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is funding a four-year programme of research into Informal Economic Activities commencing in October 1998. The principal focus of the programme is the measurement and better understanding of the extent and nature of such activities. It does not seek to equate legal and illegal activities within the informal sector, but to understand the dynamics and relationships involved in all such informal economic activities.

There are many forms of production and exchange that are either not recorded or recorded only indirectly. Informal activities such as housework, childcare, barter and exchange of goods and services are difficult to measure because they are not regulated by government. Other activities such as prostitution, drug peddling and cash transactions designed to avoid tax, are deliberately concealed from government. In all these cases the cash transfer will eventually be recorded in national economic activity when it is spent. This will result in discrepancies between income and expenditure measures of economic activity.

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The research programme intends to look at issues such as the extent of informal activity, and how requirements and aspirations are satisfied by such means. Other parts of the study will look at how transactions divide between market, barter, and internal supply, and how human production activity divides into paid work, self-employment and unpaid work. Of particular interest are activities that straddle the formal and informal sectors or move from one to the other.

Renewable Technologies

The Earl of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have conducted research into the potential of all domestic, commercial, ecclesiastical and industrial roof areas for the collection of solar power and rainwater; and, if so, what are their findings.[HL127]

Lord Clinton-Davis: The Department of Trade and Industry's new and renewable energy programme has been looking at the potential for electricity generation from photovoltaic (PV) panels installed on buildings for several years. The latest published overall assessment of renewable technologies was the 1994 Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU) report R-82, An Assessment of Renewable Energy for the UK. Studies indicate that if PV were installed on all suitable wall and roof surfaces in the UK, this would result in the equivalent generating capacity of between 70 and 110 Gigawatts (GW), depending on the technology used. This might produce between 200 and 360 Terrawatts (TWh) of electricity per year--total current electricity demand in the UK is around 300 TWh. However, any exploitation of this resource would have to take account of the cost, interaction with the utility networks, match of availability to demand, shading, storage, planning laws and building regulations.

The most important of these is cost, because although the price of PV modules has been falling, the cost of PV-generated electricity is still 5-10 times more expensive than that from conventional sources. Industry estimates that PV as an energy source will not be able to compete on price in UK building integrated applications for at least another 10 years.

The Department of the Environment commissioned research from the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) on water conservation: implications of using recycled greywater and stored rainwater in the UK. The final report was published in March 1997. The research concluded that at current water charges, systems for using rainwater either internally for flushing toilets or externally were not generally economic, with the exception of hotels which appeared to yield the best pay-back period. The research also revealed some potential deleterious effects, for example reduced replenishment of local acquifers and rivers.

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The Earl of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have conducted research into the renewable energy potential for the United Kingdom of:
    (a) river based hydropower;
    (b) inshore tidal power;
    (c) offshore wave, tidal and wind power;
    (d) solar power for both commercial and domestic purposes for the United Kingdom;

    and, if so, what are their findings.[HL126]

Lord Clinton-Davis: Overall assessments summarising work across all technologies were last published in 1994 as Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU) report R-82, An Assessment of Renewable Energy for the UK and Energy Paper 62, entitled New and Renewable Energy Technology: Future Prospects for the UK. Subsequently, numerous individual research projects have been undertaken and have reported. Summary lists of recent publications have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

This Government propose to undertake a new and strong drive to develop renewable energy sources. DTI Ministers are engaged in reviewing policy, including considerations of what would be necessary and practicable to achieve 10 per cent. of UK electricity needs from renewables by the year 2010 and how renewables can make an effective contribution to meeting requirements for future greenhouse gas reduction commitments. The outcome of that review will be announced later this year. It is expected that a new overall assessment of the technologies will be published later this year.

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