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Holy Loch: Removal of Debris

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: The total cost of the UK clearance activity for Holy Loch is currently projected to be in the order of £8 million to £10 million.

There is currently no plan to seek to renegotiate individual bilateral agreements to embed the Polluter Pays principle, since there is no perceived net benefit to the UK from such a strategy.

General Pinochet and Royal Ordnance plc

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: Her Majesty's Government are unaware of any plans that Senator Pinochet may have had to visit Royal Ordnance during his recent visit to the UK. These would have been a matter for the Senator and Royal Ordnance plc. The export of missiles is controlled under entry ML4, and that of designs of such missiles, under ML22 in Part 3 of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994. It would be necessary to examine all the export licences that covered the export to any destination, at any time, of goods with these ratings in order to establish whether or not any of them covered the specified missile or designs for the missile. This work could only be undertaken at disproportionate cost.

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Local Government Constituencies: Numerical Equality

Baroness Mallalieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in conducting periodic reviews of the electoral arrangements for county councils, the Local Government Commission will be permitted to modify the requirement for numerical equality between electoral divisions to ensure that in sparsely populated areas such as West Somerset, very large geographical divisions are not created which will weaken the link between an elected representative and the electorate.[HL582]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The statutory requirements of the Local Government Commission in undertaking a periodic electoral review are to secure effective and convenient local government and to reflect the interests and identities of local communities. Numerical equality is one of a number of factors to which the Commission will have regard in fulfilling these requirements.

Genetically Modified Foods: Labelling

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to require supermarket chains and food producers to label clearly foods which have been genetically modified.[HL502]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): It is already a requirement under EC law that foods are labelled, to inform consumers, when their content has been genetically modified.

Pesticides Research: Volunteer Protection and Warfare Implications

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are looking into the situation revealed in the Answer by the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr. Rooker, on 30 July 1998 (HC Deb. col. 523) concerning work done in the United Kingdom on behalf of overseas clients on pesticides; and whether the biological and chemical warfare implications of this situation are being examined.[HL436]

Lord Donoughue: The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and other relevant departments have made further inquiries into the research reported in the press last summer and have been assured that it was conducted in accordance with the international guidelines which govern human volunteer studies. Through the operation of the Health and Safety at Work Act, the COSHH Regulations and the national and international protocols (such as the Declaration of

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Helsinki and the guidelines issued by the Royal College of Physicians) which apply in this area, there is a control system in place which aims to ensure that the safety of the volunteers is protected in the same way as anyone else who may be exposed to chemicals in the course of their work. Doctors involved in such research who do not comply with the Royal College's guidelines would be liable to a charge of serious professional misconduct.

The studies in question were performed for overseas clients to support a registration in the United States for a pesticide product. Given the nature of these studies and the level of dose involved the Government do not consider that the work has specific biological or chemical warfare implications.

WTO Rules and Precautionary Principle

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Written Answer by the Lord Donoughue on 8 December 1998 (WA 84) concerning World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations, to the effect that "measures necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health" may be taken "provided that these are based on scientific principles and are not maintained without sufficient scientific evidence" means that application of the precautionary principle is being disallowed by the WTO when "sufficient scientific evidence" is not available; and, if so, whether they will take steps to secure a reversal of this practice to ensure that the precautionary principle is always applied.[HL440]

Lord Donoughue: The Government fully support a precautionary approach in cases where there may be a serious risk to health. As I stated in my previous reply, the WTO rules provide that, in cases where relevant scientific information is insufficient, members may provisionally adopt measures on the basis of available pertinent information. They must then seek to obtain the additional information necessary for a more objective assessment of risk and also review the measure within a reasonable period of time. In sum, the rules allow for the use of the precautionary principle, while seeking to avoid its abuse through the introduction or maintenance of protectionist measures where there are no reasonable grounds for doing so.

Rhizomania Controls

The Earl of Iveagh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the Rhizomania Containment Policy agreement with other European countries that expires in November 1999, whether they will announce any changes that may affect the sugar beet crop for 1999.[HL469]

Lord Donoughue: The United Kingdom is designated as a protected zone for rhizomania under the European Community's plant health legislation. The designation will expire on 1 November 1999 unless the

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EC takes a positive decision to extend it for a further period. The Ministry is reviewing the rhizomania policy with industry representatives and no decisions have yet been taken on possible changes to the existing controls.

Agency Nurses: Pay

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the average payment of an agency nurse working temporarily in the NHS compared with a nurse of similar qualifications on the permanent NHS staff; and what average charge is made by the supplying agencies.[HL548]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The information requested is not available centrally.

Osteoporosis: Strategy

The Earl of Munster asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which measures have been undertaken by the Department of Health to ensure that national guidelines on the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis produced recently in co-operation with the Royal College of Physicians will be implemented; and[HL560]

    Whether the Department of Health plans to assess to what extent general practitioners have changed their practice in accordance with the recommendations of the guidelines on the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.[HL561]

Baroness Hayman: The osteoporosis strategy, which includes clinical guidelines (to be published by the Royal College of Physicians in March) and a quick reference primary care guide on the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis, is evidence based. It highlights the importance and benefits of targeting action at particularly high risk groups and also includes information that is accessible to the public. It was brought to the attention of all Health Authority chief executives, Directors of Public Health, and Regional Directors of Public Health in England through Health Service Circular 1998/124, with the expectation that these guidelines now be used as the basis for the development of local osteoporosis strategies.

The department continues to work closely with the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS), which was closely involved in the development of the strategy. The NOS conducts regular surveys of health authorities to determine the extent and range of osteoporosis service provision. This work is invaluable to the department in assessing progress in this area.

Thirty thousand copies of the primary care guide have already been ordered, showing that front line service providers are aware of the strategy and ready to follow its recommendations. This should ensure that clinical practice is consistent. Furthermore, the NOS is planning

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to survey general practitioners in the next six months to assess the impact of the primary care guide.

The strategy has also been publicised in England, Northern Ireland and Wales through articles in their Chief Medical Officer's Update.

The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), Northern Ireland has also publicised the primary care guide through discussion with the medical profession at the Specialty Advisory Committee on General Medicine in October 1998; and through discussion at the General Medical Care Subcommittee of the Central Medical Advisory Committee in November 1998. The DHSS is awaiting the publication of the Clinical Guidelines for Strategies to Prevent and Treat Osteoporosis by the Royal College of Physicians in March before developing guidelines more relevant to services in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health in Wales is encouraging health authorities to take the guidelines into consideration when developing their strategies on osteoporosis. General practitioners will be expected to approach osteoporosis cases in a way consistent with good practice and the strategy adopted by their local authority. No formal assessment of the guidelines or how they work in practice is planned.

A report in April 1997 by the Scottish Needs Assessment Programme reviewed existing osteoporosis services for prevention, detection and management of the disease. The report, while acknowledging that health boards in Scotland would have to decide the priority to be given to the disease, made a number of recommendations on how services should be applied in primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. The Green Paper Working Together for a Healthier Scotland published in February 1998 recognised the problem in the context of addressing lifestyle issues that cause ill health, in particular the negative effects of smoking and the benefits of physical activity.

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