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Practice Directions: Availability

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Sixty-seven practice directions came into force on 26 April. All of them are available free of charge from my department's website ( Sixty had been published by the Stationery Office by 26 April. The remaining seven have been available on request since then, from the website since 7 May and will be distributed to Stationery Office subscribers on 26 May.

Public Record Office: Quinquennial Review

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor: The review concluded that the Public Record Office had greatly benefited from agency status and that it continued to perform an essential function of government. It recommended that the Public Record Office remain a government department and an executive agency. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury,

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the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and I have accepted these conclusions.

The review also recommended a fresh look at some elements of the Public Record Office's work and the exploration of further opportunities for private sector involvement. These recommendations were, where appropriate, carried forward within the Public Record Office's Comprehensive Spending Review and implemented.

The Public Record Office is now well placed to lead essential changes in the introduction of electronic record keeping in government and the provision of on-line services for the public. It is also leading on improving records management and storage across government. Its education programme is being expanded, particularly in the direction of Internet services to benefit schools and lifelong learners nationally.

In the light of the review recommendations and of the Comprehensive Spending Review, a new framework document has now been prepared to cover the next five years. This concludes the final stage of the office's Quinquennial Review.

Copies of the Quinquennial Review evaluation report and of the revised framework document have been placed in the Library of both Houses.

Helpline Funding

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much they are spending to support 24-hour helplines for victims of domestic violence; and how this figure compares with the figure at 1 May 1997.[HL2327]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The Government currently give £174,942 in grant-aid support of 24-hour helplines for victims of domestic violence. The figure as of 1 May 1997 was £108,337.

Within these overall figures, the Department of Health grant-aids the WAFE (Women's Aid Federation--England) helpline. The level of funding at 1 May 1997, 1998 and 1999 was £49,000 per annum.

The Department of Health and Social Services and the Northern Ireland Office gave £59,337 to the Northern Ireland Women's Aid domestic violence helpline in the year 1997-98. Total grant payable for the current year will be £90,942.

Between December 1998 and March 1999, the Scottish Office gave £35,000 toward a 24-hour helpline operated by Scottish Women's Aid and Victim Support Scotland.

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Mental Health Legislation: Draft Proposals

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why less than one calendar month was given for the consultation on the draft outline proposals produced by the mental health legislation scoping study review chaired by Professor Richardson; and whether they will extend the consultation period in the light of the difficulties experienced by the voluntary sector in responding within the original timescale.[HL2316]

Baroness Hayman: The period of consultation was determined by the expert group appointed to give advice on the changes necessary to mental health legislation to bring it into line with current patterns of care and treatment and to support the Government's mental health strategy.

There is, we understand, no scope for extending the deadline for comments. However, while we regret that some organisations and individuals have had difficulty in making a response within the time-frame, we must make it clear that this is an informal, preliminary consultation in preparation for the committee's report to ministers. Once the committee's report has been received, the Government will issue their own proposals, which will be the subject of full, wide-ranging consultation.

Speech and Language Therapists: Pay Negotiations

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the status of negotiations over the pay and status of speech and language therapists employed by the NHS; and when it is expected that they will be concluded.[HL2317]

Baroness Hayman: Pay is negotiated in the Scientific and Professional Staffs Whitley Council. At a meeting on 17 March, the Management Side offered a pay increase of 2.8 per cent. The Staff Side rejected this. Our offer remains open.

Separately, negotiations are also in progress to resolve equal pay claims submitted by some speech and language therapists following industrial tribunal findings in three lead cases and expert consideration of equal value in a number of others.

Abortion Provision: Guidelines

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the guidelines on induced abortion currently being produced by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists include standards on the level of provision for abortion in each health authority in proportion to local need.[HL2397]

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Baroness Hayman: The national evidence-based clinical guidelines being prepared under the auspices of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have not yet been published. They are to be peer reviewed and considered by relevant professional bodies and organisations before publication. This is expected later this year.

It is for local health commissioners to determine the appropriate level of gynaecological provision, including abortion services, in the light of the needs of their local populations.

Fishing Quotas: Economic Link

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the state of negotiations within the European Union on the system that allows foreign fishing boats ("quota hoppers") to catch fish using quotas which have been allocated to the United Kingdom.[HL2306]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): In July 1998, the European Commission confirmed that the measures which the United Kingdom proposed to take for ensuring an economic link between UK flagged vessels and populations dependent on fisheries and related industries were compatible with Community law. Those measures took effect from 1 January 1999. A paper setting out the new requirements was placed in the Library of the House on 30 July 1998.

Hormone-treated Beef

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the hormones in hormone-treated beef, which are used to enhance growth, may contribute to human obesity.[HL2289]

Lord Donoughue: I am not aware of any research linking hormone-treated beef, which has been banned in the European Community since 1988, with human obesity.

Herbicide-tolerant and Insect-resistant Crops

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Mr. Rooker on 11 March (HC Deb., WA 337), what were the grounds on which they decided not to accept the recommendations of English Nature concerning herbicide tolerance and insect-resistant crops; whether they have since come to a different conclusion; and, if so, what is that conclusion.[HL2290]

Lord Donoughue: The Government believe that the necessary protection of the environment can be achieved without the moratorium on herbicide-tolerant and

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insect-resistant crops recommended by English Nature. We have set up the farm-scale evaluations starting this year to test the impact of herbicide-tolerant crops on farmland biodiversity, while insect-resistant crops are not currently being developed for commercial growing in the UK. Moreover, our legal advice is that it is unlikely that the Government could successfully defend a general moratorium on GM crops.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: Availability

Earl Kitchener asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What specific action they are taking in Europe to further their policy objective of securing the continuing availability on general retail sale of safe higher dose vitamin and mineral supplements.[HL2277]

Lord Donoughue: The Government believe that, where it is necessary to establish limits on the level of vitamins and minerals in dietary supplements sold under food law in order to protect the public, such limits should be based on safety considerations. They made this view clear in their formal response to the European Commission's June 1997 discussion document on the addition on vitamins and minerals to foods and food supplements. Officials have promoted this view in discussions with the EU Commission, and at meetings attended by the Commission and representatives of other member states, and will continue to do so when suitable opportunities arise.

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