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22 Jul 1998 : Column WA103

Written Answers

Wednesday, 22nd July 1998.

Tobacco and Alcohol Imported for Personal Consumption

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What guidance is given to Customs and Excise officers on duty at ports of entry to the United Kingdom as to the quantities of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages brought into the United Kingdom by travellers returning from Belgium and France that can be claimed as being for personal consumption.[HL2675]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The law (European Council Directive 92/12/EEC and the Excise Duties (Personal Reliefs) Order 1992, SI No. 3155) lays down minimum indicative levels for alcohol and tobacco; travellers who import quantities in excess of these from another member state must be able to satisfy a customs officer that this is not for a commercial purpose.

Customs and Excise staff are expected to take into account a number of factors when dealing with such claims--for example, who has funded the purchase of the goods, and who it is intended will consume them.

SERPS and Tax Relief

Baroness Castle of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the cost in terms of loss of revenue of the tax relief granted on contributions to personal pensions since they were introduced; what is the current annual cost; and what would be the cost of extending such tax relief to contributions to SERPS.[HL2762]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The annual cost of income tax relief at the basic rate for the employee part of the national insurance rebate for those contracted out of SERPS into appropriate personal pensions is shown in the table below. The additional cost of tax relief if all those currently in SERPS contracted out of SERPS and into personal pensions is tentatively estimated at around £300 million each year at 1998-99 levels of earnings.

Contributions made by individuals to personal pension schemes also enjoy income tax relief, and if an employer contributes to a personal pension, the contribution is allowable as a business expense and is not regarded as income or taxable benefit of the employee. The total cost of income tax relief for contributions to personal pensions including retirement annuity premiums and FSAVCs is published annually in Inland Revenue Statistics.

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Basic rate tax relief on national insurance rebates paid to appropriate personal pension scheme administrators

Year£ million(1)

(1) Figures are rounded to the nearest £ million.

(2) Estimated outturn.

(3) Forecast.

E.coli 0157

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the food poisoning morbidity and mortality figures resulting from infection by E.coli 0157, with source of infection, for each year from 1988.[HL2489]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Chief Executive of the Office for National Statistics, who has been asked to reply.

Letter to the Countess of Mar from the Director of the Office for National Statistics, Dr. T. Holt, dated 22 July 1998.

As Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your parliamentary Question on E.coli 0157. Morbidity

The Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (CDSC), Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health and the Medical Branch of DHSS Northern Ireland provided figures for notifications of cases from clinicians and laboratories. The number of laboratory confirmed cases of food poisoning resulting from infection by E.coli 0157 in the United Kingdom were as follows:


Gastro-intestinal infection with pathological strains of E.coli (as with other organisms) may arise from a variety of sources. The source of infection can usually only be established through active epidemiological investigation of cases to identify potential exposures. A causal link must then be confirmed by comparing the exposure histories of those who became ill with others who did not and through bacteriological investigation of cases, foodstuffs and food preparation staff and sites.

In England and Wales, all laboratory isolates of E.coli 0157 from the Public Health Laboratory Service and the NHS are referred to CDSC for confirmation and further typing. In the five years 1992-1996 CDSC investigated 39 outbreaks of E.coli 0157 in England and Wales, with the following results:

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cold cooked meat7
mixed foods5
hot beef2
unidentified food6
total food-borne out breaks25
person to person outbreaks8
contact farm animals2
source not identified4
Persons affected381
of whom, deaths14

The majority of cases in the community are isolated cases or small outbreaks affecting a single household or family. These are investigated locally by health authority and/or local authority environmental health staff, but comprehensive national data on sources of infection, follow up and fatality are not available. Mortality

The source of infection is often unknown at the time a death is certified. In addition patients may die of a variety of complications, and the original infection may not be the certified cause of death. As a result, routine mortality statistics are not a reliable measure of deaths due to food poisoning.

E.coli infections may be coded to a variety of codes using the International Classification of Diseases Ninth Revision (ICD9) depending on body site and source of infection, if these are specified. None of the codes are specific to the 0157 strain. "E.coli food poisoning" would be coded to 005.8--other specified bacterial food poisoning. Scrutiny of the cause of death text would be necessary to identify the infecting organism and the strain (where this level of detail is supplied). ONS have cause of death text in electronic form for deaths in England and Wales since 1993, and Scotland since 1996. There is no cause of death text available in electronic form for Norther Ireland. Searching paper records for earlier years is not practicable given that the information which could only be retrieved at high cost would be of poor reliability.

England and Wales

There have been no deaths certified as due to E.coli food poisoning with or without mention of strain 0157 in the years 1993 to 1997 inclusive. There were 12 deaths certified as due to gastro-intestinal infections with E.coli (ICD-9 code 008.0). Of these, six mentioned the 0157 strain but none specified food as the source of the infection.

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YearICD-9 008.0of which 0157

Scotland and Northern Ireland

The recent outbreak of food poisoning by Eschericia coli 0157 in Scotland has been the subject of extensive investigation by a committee chaired by Professor Hugh Pennington. This enquiry established that there had been 18 deaths from the effects of E.coli 0157 infection acquired through the ingestion of contaminated meat. There were no recorded cases of food poisoning from E.coli 0157 in Northern Ireland between 1988 and 1997.

National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside: Pass

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what grounds the Department for Culture, Media and Sport cite the introduction of the "Ei8ht Pass" at the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside as a "success" and a "key achievement" for 1997, as stated in their annual report for 1997.[HL2678]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside's (NMGM) Ei8ht Pass was devised by the museum Trustees as the best way of reconciling the balancing of their books with maximising access. It allows unlimited visits to all eight NMGM venues for one year, for a cost of £3. Children, senior citizens, the unemployed and the disabled pay £1.50. This is a socially sensitive charging regime and the indications are that the public overwhelmingly regard the pass as excellent value for money. The funds raised have allowed NMGM to keep all eight attractions open for seven days a week.

The introduction of the pass represented a major challenge for NMGM and the remarks in the departmental annual report reflect the smooth and effective way in which the scheme was launched.

Parthenon Sculptures

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will reconsider their decision not to return the Parthenon marbles to Athens, in the light of the further information in the book Lord Elgin and the Marbles by William St. Clair, recently published by Oxford University Press.[HL2679]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No. In our view, Mr. St. Clair's book does not contain any information which requires reconsideration of the decision that the Parthenon sculptures should remain at the British Museum.

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