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Hand-held Mobile Phone Use While Driving

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: We believe the following countries have a specific law banning the use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving.







Sister Virtus Okwaraoha

The Earl of Clancarty ask Her Majesty's Government:

    On what grounds and under what legislation London Buses brought an action for fare evasion against Sister Virtus Okwaraoha. [HL3671]

Lord Whitty: I understand from London Transport that Sister Virtus was prosecuted for contravening Regulation 7(2)(f) of the Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990 (SI 1990/1020) contrary to Section 25(3) of the Public Service Vehicles Act 1981.

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WHO European Region Conference on Environment and Health

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the conclusions of the Third International Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, “London 99", in relation to (a) hormone-disrupting chemicals; and (b) genetically modified foods. [HL 4073]

Lord Whitty: The conference was the third in a series organised by the World Health Organisation's European Region and had as its theme “action in partnership", with Ministers or their representatives attending from 54 countries.

Ministers did not specifically discuss hormone-disrupting chemicals or genetically modified foods and did not refer to them in the conference declaration, but covered a number of topics of major concern, in particular water and transport.

The conference adopted a Protocol to the 1992 UNECE Convention on Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes which will address the serious burden of water-related disease and the pressing problems in water management, water supply and sanitation existing in the European Region. The conference also adopted a Charter on Transport, Environment and Health to address the need to integrate health and environment concerns within transport policies. Climate change, children's health, public participation and access to information, and national environmental health action plans were also covered.

Among other topics, the conference emphasised the rights of children to good health. It was proposed that the next conference in 2004 should have a major focus on children and development of an international instrument should be considered. Chemicals were seen as important, particularly the need to take account of children's susceptibility when establishing limit values. Hormone-disrupting chemicals may be considered in this context.

The agenda for the 2004 conference will be drawn up based on the topics proposed by member states of the WHO European Region. Specific items on chemicals and genetically modified foods may be included if there is sufficient support.

GM Organisms: Commercial Secrecy

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the concept of “commercial secrecy" plays any role in the regulation of genetically and hormone modified organisms; and, if so, what role. [HL 4074]

Lord Whitty: I refer the noble Lord to the reply I gave him on 11 June 1999, (Official Report, col. WA 179) for details of the role commercial secrecy plays in respect of the regulation of genetically modified organisms. The regulations would apply in the same

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way to an organism that had been genetically and hormone modified. To date no application has been received to release such an organism.

Renewable Energy: Regional Targets

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to introduce regional targets for renewable energy generation in future Planning Policy Guidance Notes.[HL4038]

Lord Whitty: In relation to England, the Government have made it clear that, in order to deliver their targets and goals for renewable energy and climate change, a positive strategic approach is needed to planning for renewable energy from regional level downwards, with appropriate provision made for development in local authorities' development plans. In taking this forward, the Government are considering responses to the consultation document New and Renewable Energy: Prospects for the 21st Century, published on 30 March 1999, and the recommendations in the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities, Electricity from Renewables, published on 7 July 1999. This includes suggestions that regional targets for renewable energy should be set.

Planning for renewable energy in Scotland and Wales is a matter for the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales respectively. Following devolution, planning for renewable energy in Northern Ireland will be a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Councillors' Allowances

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Whitty on 27 July (HL 3783), whether the additional financial cost of the new higher rates of council allowances paid to elected councillors by councils operating a “cabinet system" will be met by the Government in extra Standard Spending Assessment, or whether the cost will fall on the council tax payers.[HL4040]

Lord Whitty: Further to my Answer of 27 July, when a council adopts new ways of working such as a “cabinet system", it may keep its present scheme of allowances or move to a new scheme. Such a new scheme may entail higher or lower overall expenditure on allowances and it is for each council to decide how to accommodate any such change in its budget. Changing a council's scheme of allowance has no implication for its Standard Spending Assessment.

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Heritage Railways: HSE Regulation

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that all heritage railways are rendered exempt from the current proposals to enable the Health and Safety Executive to charge railway industries £115 per hour for the services of HM Railway Inspectors.[HL4041]

Lord Whitty: Following the recent consultation, the Government are awaiting proposals from the Health and Safety Commission on the scope of arrangements to charge for the activities of the Health and Safety Executive in regulating the gas, transportation, offshore and railway industries. This will include a view on whether heritage railways should be exempted. It will be for Ministers to decide on the matter in light of the Commission's advice.

National Curriculum Review: Dissemination of Report

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agreed to print a leaflet to be sent out to schools publicising the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education report All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education as part of the consultation process preceding the 23 July deadline for response to the review of the National Curriculum; and whether this leaflet has been printed; and[HL4104]

    Further to the Written Answers by Baroness Blackstone on 29 July (WA212), whether the availability of the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education report All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education on the Internet, but without schools having been sent copies of the report or publicising materials, has allowed a proper consultation process within schools for responses to the review of the National Curriculum.[HL4105]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): We agreed with the Advisory Committee a range of methods to publicise the report, which included: issuing a joint DfEE/DCMS press release on the day of publication with details of how to obtain the report; placing the report on the department's website (where its availability is highlighted on the department's home page); and including details of the report in the June issue of Spectrum, a monthly publication which goes to all schools advising them of recently published important documents and circulars. The idea of a leaflet for schools was discussed along with a number of others but was not finally agreed. Schools would have had ample time to obtain the report and consider it in preparing their responses to the National Curriculum review if they wished to do so. The committee's report was informed by substantial

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consultation with schools, teachers and a wide range of other bodies during its production between February 1998 and May 1999. While it informs and complements the review of the National Curriculum, it is not one of the formal consultation documents.

Learning and Skills Council: TEC Assets

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take to ensure that the assets of the Training and Enterprise Councils, or that portion of them derived from operating surpluses on government-funded training and workforce development, will transfer to the Learning and Skills Council when that council is established.[HL4047]

Baroness Blackstone: On termination of the licence for Training and Enterprise Councils in March 2001, reserves and assets which are attributable to the Secretary of State for Education and Employment become repayable. Government Offices will ensure that these resources are used to help meet the Government's priorities, including the establishment of the first 1 million Individual Learning Accounts and the creation of the Learning and Skills Council.

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