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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Simon of Highbury: We do not intend to propose that the WTO should adopt any motto or slogan. However, the parties to the agreement establishing the WTO did recognise that "their relations in the field of trade and economic endeavour should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living, ensuring full employment and a large and steady growing volume of real income and effective demand, and expanding the production of and trade in goods and services, while allowing for the optimal use of the world's resources in accordance with the objective of sustainable development, seeking both to protect and preserve the environment and to enhance the means for doing so in a manner consistent with the respective needs and concerns at different levels of economic development" (preamble to the Marrakesh Agreement).

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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they and the European Union intend to propose (a) that all World Trade Organisation countries give foreign investors the right to enter those countries and establish themselves with 100 per cent. ownership, and (b) that governments, in their procurement and contracts for projects (including privatisation deals), should no longer be able to give preference or advantage to citizens or local firms, if so, whether the political and social implications of such proposals have been fully considered, and by whom.[HL3166]

Lord Simon of Highbury: The Government, in common with their EU partners, have called for a comprehensive new round of negotiations in the World Trade Organisation. We see benefits for the UK, for developing countries in particular and for the world economy as a whole, if one item on the agenda of these negotiations could be the pursuit of an open, non-discriminatory and transparent framework for foreign investment. However, we also recognise that most countries currently operate restrictions in foreign investment in some circumstances, and that some restrictions will inevitably remain for the foreseeable future.

The main multilateral discussions which are being conducted on government procurement at the moment are in the WTO Transparency Working Group. The Government hope that these will lead in due course to a Transparency Agreement. This will not have any impact on preferences or local advantages, but will allow any interested parties to see what conditions apply to procurement opportunities.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the approach of the World Trade Organisation to the fact that the necessary scientific studies undertaken to assess the harmlessness or otherwise of a product or process may take longer than originally anticipated.[HL3180]

Lord Simon of Highbury: Article 5.7 of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Methods allows WTO Members provisionally to adopt sanitary or phytosanitary measures on the basis of available pertinent information in cases where relevant scientific evidence is insufficient. In such circumstances, members are required to seek to obtain the additional information necessary for a more objective assessment of risk and review the sanitary or phytosanitary measure accordingly within a reasonable period of time. No specific time scale is set or required for the completion of such studies.

Small Business Service

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the Small Business Service.[HL3385]

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Lord Simon of Highbury: The Government are planning to set up a Small Business Service with three main tasks: to act as a voice for small business at the heart of government; to simplify and improve the quality and coherence of government support for small businesses; to help small firms deal with regulation and ensure small firms' interests are properly considered in future regulation.

We want to ensure that opportunities for enterprise are open to all, and to create an environment where more entrepreneurs emerge and are successful.

The Small Business Service will be headed by a chief executive who will report to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and have direct access to Ministers across government. He or she will have a substantial and wide-ranging role, including:

    a right to be consulted on all new government legislation presented to Parliament in Westminster that is likely to affect small businesses; and a right to be consulted on all new proposals for business support likely to affect small business in England;

    representing the interests and concerns of small firms and ensuring they are taken into acount by government;

    responsibility for ensuring that all government services directed primarily or mainly to small businesses are accessible through Small Business Service local outlets, thus taking forward the Business Link network;

    responsibility for ensuring that the delivery of business support services reflects local priorities so that it is business-led and government-backed. In addition, local delivery arrangements will be shaped by the overall economic strategies developed by the Regional Development Agencies.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is today launching a public consultation on the Small Business Service which includes a range of proposals in addition to the role and responsibilities of the chief executive.

One particular proposal is to set up the Small Business Service as a Next Steps Agency within the Department of Trade and Industry as from April 2000.

Other key proposals include:

    creating an independent advisory body--the "Enterprise Council"--to advise the chief executive and report regularly to Ministers on matters of concern to small business;

    making the Small Business Service responsible for managing the Government's Enterprise Fund;

    making the Small Business Service responsible for providing practical help with payroll administration;

    giving the Small Business Service responsibility for providing co-ordinated information for small firms on their regulatory obligations and for developing ways to work with regulators so as to ensure that they provide information and guidance material tailored to the needs of small businesses.

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Copies of the consultation document and a summary leaflet with the main proposals have been placed in the Library of the House. The Secretary of State is inviting comments on his proposals by 30 September.

Northern Ireland: Murders by Persons Previously Convicted of Homicide

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people have died since 1963 in Northern Ireland at the hands of persons previously convicted of homicide.[HL3066]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): We do not have information on the number of persons who have died since 1963 in Northern Ireland at the hands of persons previously convicted of homicide, except where the perpetrator was convicted and sentenced for the murder.

In this case I can advise that one person has died since 1963 in Northern Ireland at the hands of a person previously convicted of homicide. The person responsible for the murder was at the time serving a sentence of life imprisonment for a previous murder conviction.

Further, I can confirm that our records show that since 1963 no one who had served a sentence of life imprisonment for murder, who was then released on licence, was reconvicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for a subsequent murder.

Fluoride: Definition

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the finding of the Opinion of Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle in the case of McColl v. Strathclyde Regional Council that fluoride falls within the definition of a "medicinal product" under Section 130 of the Medicines Act 1968, and of the European Directive 65/65, whether they will instruct the Medicines Control Agency to reassess the status of (a) fluoridated toothpaste; (b) fluorides when used for the fluoridation of water supplies; and (c) water artificially fluoridated at 1 part per million, on the grounds that these substances are medicinal by claim or function, and are administered with a view to correcting or modifying physiological function; and, if not, why not.[HL3045]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) acts on behalf of the licensing authority (Ministers specified by the Medicines Act) and has a duty under the law to determine whether a product is a medicinal product. If new evidence were produced that a product which had not been classified as a medicinal product should be so classified, the MCA would look at that product.

Lord Jauncey's judgment predates the legislative framework set out in my earlier Answer of 12 May at

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col. WA 147-148, and the Government are content, on the basis of the available evidence, that present arrangements provide the public with adequate protection. However, we are currently considering a review of the scientific evidence on fluoridation. Should this produce new evidence, the MCA would have a duty to look at the classification of products containing fluoride, including fluoridated toothpaste. Fluorides for the purpose of fluoridation of water supplies and the water itself are not medicinal products. Fluoride for fluoridation is a raw material, and these are usually starting materials and not medicinal products controlled under medicines legislation, and water is regulated partly under the Food Safety Act 1990 and partly under water legislation. The regulatory regimes for foods and medicines are mutually exclusive.

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