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Written Answers

Friday, 27th March 1998.

Internet: Addiction

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, bearing in mind recent press reports concerning so-called Internet Addiction Syndrome and the implicit dangers of addiction to the Internet, they remain committed to their policy of introducing Internet access to every school in the land.[HL1087]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): Yes. The ability to engage with the new technologies and use them in lifelong learning, at work and at play is essential to the prosperity of future generations. But we are determined that our children will be protected from undesirable aspects of the web, ensuring that they see the Internet for what it is: a tool to help people and businesses in their everyday lives; not an end in itself. We support the work of the Internet Watch Foundation, including their efforts to develop a system for rating the content of Internet sites, and encourage the use of filtering tools by parents. Further guidance is available to schools and parents from the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA). This includes information on health and safety issues.

Northern Ireland: Rehabilitation of Offenders Legislation

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consult organisations in Northern Ireland concerned with the resettlement and employment of ex-offenders concerning possible amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (S.I. 1978/1908 (N.I.27)), in order to make that legislation better adapted to special local conditions.[HL1044]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): While the Government have no immediate plans to review the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, consultation with non-government organisations would naturally form part of that process. However, the legislation must continue to ensure that there are neither so many categories of exemptions as to undermine its purpose, nor so few as to jeopardise public interest on welfare of vulnerable members of society. Similarly, the period of rehabilitation must not be disproportionate to the seriousness of the offence.

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Northern Ireland: Gun Club Members' Weapons

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many target (a) pistols and (b) revolvers belonging to members of licensed gun clubs have been used in terrorist incidents in each of the past five years in Northern Ireland.[HL999]

Lord Dubs: There is no evidence to indicate that weapons belonging to members of licensed gun clubs have been used in terrorist incidents within the last five years.

Northern Ireland: Stolen Weapons

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which of the weapons stolen from, or unaccounted for by, the British police in the last 10 years, and subsequently recovered in Northern Ireland, were known to be in the possession of:

    (a) Loyalists

    (b) Republicans

    (c) others; and

    what was the total number of weapons recovered.[HL997]

Lord Dubs: In the last 10 years, 86 weapons have been stolen from the RUC, or were unaccounted for, of which 65 have subsequently been recovered:

    15 were recovered from Loyalist sources;

    11 were recovered from Republican sources;

    and 39 were recovered from other sources.

Note: No information is held centrally about other constabularies and this answer can therefore only refer to weapons stolen, or otherwise unaccounted for in Northern Ireland.

Children Act Day Care Provisions: Transfer of Responsibility

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they have made to fulfil the manifesto commitment to transfer responsibility for day care policy under the Children Act 1989 from the Department of Health to the Department for Education and Employment.[HL1285]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): The Government set out their intention to transfer responsibility for policy and the regulation of day care under Sections 18 and 19 and Part X of the Children Act from the Department of Health to the Department for Education and Employment before the election. The Government are able to announce today that this transfer will take place on 1 April 1998. We recognise that it is

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increasingly difficult to make a distinction between day care and education, and we must integrate the two if we are to meet fully the needs of young children and their parents. The Department of Health will retain responsibility for the provision of day care for children in need under Sections 18(1) and 18(5) as part of family support services, as well as other social care duties, such as child protection, outside these parts of the Act. This transfer of responsibilities between central government departments does not directly affect the way local authorities may organise their functions. The responsibility for services and regulation through the Children Act remains a function of the social services committee under existing statutory requirements but this may change as policy in this area develops.


Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the safety of canthaxanthin for use in animal feed in so far as it affects eggs and farmed fish consumed by the public.[HL1191]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): We are grateful for the Food Advisory Committee's advice that there are no consumer safety concerns associated with the use of this pigment in animal feed. My honourable friend the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has concluded that it may therefore continue to be used in accordance with its long-standing authorisation in Directive 70/524/EEC concerning additives in feedingstuffs.

We nevertheless propose to seek a reduction under the directive to the maximum permitted level (MPL) for use of the substance in feed for laying hens. The levels used are, for technological reasons, far below the current MPL.

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food also intends to ask the new Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs, when it is established, to consider whether, despite the lack of current safety concerns, it would be prudent to monitor the degree to which this colourant is used in the future.

Finally, my honourable friend the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food notes that the FAC wishes to review the need for labelling of animal products coloured in this way. He believes this is an important matter for consumer information and we look forward to receiving the FAC's advice in due course.

BSE: Transmission

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are now satisfied that bovine spongiform encephalopathy is not maternally transmitted.[HL1155]

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Lord Donoughue: In published scientific trials, the offspring of cows with BSE are more likely to develop BSE than are other cattle raised in similar conditions. This could be due to maternal transmission or to a genetic effect--differences in susceptibility to infection--or a combination of the two. The scientific evidence does not allow a definitive conclusion to be drawn, but further work is in progress or planned in an attempt to resolve the issue.

BSE Cattle: On-farm Disposal

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they have received concerning the unofficial disposal of cattle infected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy; and whether they consider that such disposal is due to the reduction in compensation and the wish to ensure that herds are certified as free of the disease.[HL1108]

Lord Donoughue: We have received no evidence that BSE suspects are being disposed of unofficially. There have been allegations that farmers are burying BSE suspects on-farm because there is no financial incentive for them to report such cases to the Government. But these cattle are worth between £546 and £682 in compensation to the farmer. If such cattle are buried on-farm, the farmer will receive nothing and will be committing an offence.

CAP Reform

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What specific proposals they have put forward for reform of the common agricultural policy as part of their programme for the British Presidency.[HL1099]

Lord Donoughue: Proposals for the reform of the common agricultural policy will be presented to the Agriculture Council by the European Commission on 31 March. The Government will progress discussion of these proposals as far as possible during the United Kingdom Presidency and will seek to negotiate an outcome which reflects UK priorities.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which of the member states of the European Union support the reforms of the common agricultural policy as put forward by Agenda 2000.[HL1098]

Lord Donoughue: In adopting conclusions on the Agenda 2000 proposals on agriculture at the November

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Agriculture Council, all member states accepted the need for reform of the common agriculture policy. Negotiations on the Commission's legislative proposals for reform will begin at a Special Agriculture Council on 31 March.

Missing Army Weapons

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many weapons were stolen from, or were unaccounted for by, the Army in: (a) England; (b) Wales; (c) Scotland; (d) Northern Ireland, in each of the past 10 years.[HL 994]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Details of the number of Army weapons, reported to the Royal Military Police (RMP) as stolen or missing, worldwide, by members of the Regular Army and Territorial Army in each of the last 10 years, are set out in the table below, which includes losses in

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Northern Ireland. A number of these weapons have subsequently been recovered.

Records of the country in which individual weapons were lost are not held, and this information could only be provided by manual review of each record and at disproportionate cost.

YearAll Weapons stolen/missing


Includes: pistols, rifles, light machine guns and sub-machine guns.

Excludes: Army Cadet and Combined Cadet Force weapons, air rifles, weapons rendered safe, imitations and ammunition.

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