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Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Prime Minister's office is subject to the rule of law like anyone else. Very few provisions govern the office of the Prime Minister specifically, although, for example, the office's salary is determined by the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975 (as amended). The Prime Minister also holds the offices of First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service.

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Government have no such plans.

10 Downing Street: Expenditure Scrutiny

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Parliamentary scrutiny of the operations of, and expenditure on, 10 Downing Street proceeds in the normal way through the voting of money by Parliament and the auditing of accounts by the National Audit Office. Members of either House are able, of course, to ask questions of the Government on these subjects.

Nuclear Safety: Departmental Responsibilities

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): Mr Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, answers to Parliament on civil nuclear safety. Following devolution, his accountability for safety now extends to Scotland, as well as England and Wales. There are no licensed sites in Northern Ireland. Advice to Ministers on nuclear safety policy is given by the independent Health and Safety Commission, with day-to-day regulation at licensed nuclear sites a matter for the Health and Safety Executive through its Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

A summary of the responsibilities of Ministers and other organisations in this area has been placed in the Libraries of the House as well as on the DTI and HSE websites.

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10 Downing Street: Constitutional Role

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to introduce a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament to oversee the constitutional role of 10 Downing Street.[HL395]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government have no such plans.

House of Lords Membership

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration will be given to the age profile and size of the membership of the House of Lords in future years if Stage 2 of reform does not occur.[HL111]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government have every intention of implementing the second stage of reform. The Government have therefore not given any consideration to the age profile or the size of membership of the House of Lords if Stage 2 of reform does not occur.

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they expect will be the average age and size of the membership of the House of Lords in 10 and 20 years' time if the age profile of future appointments does not change significantly and if Stage 2 of reform does not occur.[HL112]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: It is not possible to estimate either the average age of the members of the House nor the size of the House in either 10 or 20 years' time. This is because it is not possible to predict the longevity of peers. Nor is it possible to foresee existing peers taking leave of absence on the grounds of frailty or illness or for any other reason.

The Government are presently committed to achieving parity of numbers with the main Opposition Party and ensuring that, over time, party appointees as life peers more accurately reflect the proportion of votes cast at the previous general election.

Armed Forces and Homosexuals

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reached a conclusion about the implications for the Armed Forces of the European Court of Human Rights judgment on 27 September 1999.[HL553]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): On 27 September 1999 the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in a case brought by four ex-Service personnel of the United Kingdom Armed Forces who had each been discharged on the grounds of their homosexuality. The Government accepted the Court's

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judgment and asked the Chief of Defence Staff to set in hand an urgent review of policy in this area. That review has now been completed and I am able to announce the outcome today.

Our priority has been to preserve the operational effectiveness of our Armed Forces, to respect the rights of the individual, and to take full account of the Court ruling. The Chiefs of Staff have been fully involved in the process of developing a revised policy and have endorsed the outcome of the review.

The review has judged that sexual orientation is essentially a private matter, but, because of the unique place of the Armed Forces in our society, standards of behaviour are rightly imposed on members of the Armed Forces that can be more demanding than those required by society at large.

The MoD is therefore introducing a code of conduct to govern the attitude and approach to the personal relationships of those serving in the Armed Forces. This code will apply across the Forces, regardless of Service, rank, gender or sexual orientation. It will provide a clear framework within which people in the Services can live and work. Moreover, it will complement existing policies, such as zero tolerance towards harassment, discrimination and bullying.

The code has been developed by Service experts who understand fully the operational needs and day-to-day practicalities of the Armed Forces. The code recognises explicitly that:

    "It is not practicable to list every type of conduct which might constitute social misbehaviour". Therefore, we have placed at the heart of the code what we call the Service Test, set out in the following terms:

    "Have the actions or behaviour of an individual adversely impacted or are they likely to impact on the efficiency or operational effectiveness of the Service?"

In using the code, commanders will have to apply this Service Test through the exercise of their good judgment, discretion and common sense--the essence of command and the effective management of people. I am arranging for copies of the code to be placed in the Library of the House.

As all personal behaviour will be regulated by the code of conduct with the object of maintaining the operational effectiveness of the three Services, there is no longer a reason to deny homosexuals the opportunity of a career in the Armed Forces. Accordingly, we have decided that it is right that the existing ban should be lifted. As no primary or secondary legislation is required, with effect from today, homosexuality will no longer be a bar to service in Britain's Armed Forces.

I am confident that our Armed Forces will adapt to this change in the professional manner for which they are rightly held in the very highest regard.

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Infant Formula Regulations: Contraventions

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many complaints Trading Standards Officers have received concerning contraventions of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995; and[HL384]

    How many times manufacturers and distributors have been found to be in contravention of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995; and [HL385]

    How many times manufacturers or distributors of formula or follow-on milks have been fined under the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995.[HL386]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Government collate statistics about food sampling undertaken by local authorities to meet the UK's obligations under the Council Directive on the Official Control of Foodstuffs. However, the information requested is not held centrally. Food law enforcement issues such as these remain the responsibility of local authorities.

Softwood Thinnings: Forest Enterprise Sales

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Forest Enterprise has sold softwood thinnings during the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 financial years, at uneconomic prices, with consequent harm to other softwood owners, as a result of financial pressure from the Treasury; and, if so, whether they will stop such selling.[HL258]

Baroness Hayman: The subject of the question relates to matters undertaken by Forest Enterprise. I have asked its Chief Executive, Dr Bob McIntosh, to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Hylton from the Chief Executive of Forest Enterprise, Mr B McIntosh dated 20 December 1999.

I have been asked to reply to your question about the sale of softwood thinnings by Forest Enterprise.

Most managed forests are thinned several times during their life. Thinning allows the remaining trees to grow larger, which means that they are more valuable. Thinning is therefore a standard part of good forest management.

The income from the timber from thinning usually more than meets the cost of the thinning, although early thinnings sometimes cost more than the timber is worth. Nevertheless, early thinning, like weeding, is often a worthwhile investment as it improves the quality and value of the final forest. It is therefore impossible to say whether particular prices for thinnings are uneconomic as this depends on how much the thinnings benefit the remaining trees in the forest.

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Of course, Forest Enterprise aims to sell all its timber at market prices. However, the world market in timber effectively sets these prices. Prices for timber are much lower than they were two years ago because of, amongst other things, the strength of sterling, the weakness of the Swedish Krona, the increasing supply of timber from the Baltic States, and the downturn in the Asian economy. These prices may seem uneconomic to some forest owners, but the income from Forest Enterprise's thinning operations has more than met the costs. Within this, of course, some individual thinnings made a large profit, while others were an investment for the future.

As regards the amount of timber sold each year, Forest Enterprise's Corporate Plan sets out the volume that we plan to sell each year, in line with our production forecasts. By offering this volume for sale every year, far from harming other softwood owners, we help to bring stability to the market, benefiting processors and growers alike.

I hope that this has reassured you that our thinning operations are guided by long-term policies rather than short-term financial pressures.

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