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Bowman Communication System

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Bowman will be installed in troop vehicles in time to meet the in-service date, which we expect to be in late 2003/early 2004.

Healthcare: Administrative Costs

Baroness Castle of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The latest available figures (1996-97) reported by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are 1- per cent for France, 6- per cent for Germany and 4- per cent for the Netherlands. However, these figures are not reported on a consistent basis, so to make direct comparisons would be misleading.

Compared to other health systems in developed countries, the National Health Service is efficient with,

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for example, shorter lengths of stay in hospital and more intensive bed usage. Studies have also shown it enjoys relatively low administrative costs. Management costs are expected to constitute 4.7 per cent of net NHS expenditure in England for 1999-2000. This compares to some 5.5 per cent when the Government came into office. The Government are delivering on their manifesto pledge that a greater proportion of every pound spent on the NHS will go on patient care not bureaucracy.

The Government are committed to saving £1 billion from bureaucracy over the five years from 1997-98. We are on course to do so--by the end of 1999-2000 almost £0.5 billion will have been saved from administration for investment in patient care.

State Pensions: Backlog

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What immediate steps they intend to take to deal with the backlog of state pensions that have not been paid to new pensioners.[HL945]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): State pensions are being paid to new pensioners within the normal clearance target timescales. However, due to problems relating to the introduction of the NIRS2 computer system, the additional pension component is not being paid immediately in some cases. The Benefits Agency has put in place contingency arrangements to make clearical calculations of the additional pension component to retirement pension where appropriate. Extra staff have been provided for this.

Pig Offal Subsidy

The Earl of Shrewsbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the Prime Minister's address to the National Farmers' Union Annual General Meeting on 1 February and in particular his statement "I do not rule out futher measures to help [the pig industry]", they have plans to reintroduce the subsidy paid to the rendering industry for the disposal of pig offal which was withdrawn in 1998.[HL1013]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Government have no plans to do so. As the Prime Minister also said on 1 February, any investment by government must be linked to long-term change in the structure of the industry and be part of an agreed overall strategy. The re-introduction of the subsidy to the rendering industry would meet neither of those criteria.

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British Beef: French Ban

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will bring an action in the French courts in order to open up the French market to British beef; and, if not, why not.[HL1036]

Baroness Hayman: The French action is in breach of European law. The Commission has a special role and special powers under the EC Treaty to ensure that member states abide by EU law. It has already begun legal proceedings against the French Government for their failure to lift their ban on the import of British beef. The UK Government have made it clear to the Commission that they expect these proceedings to be pursued vigorously.

In the light of this, the Government do not intend to bring a separate action in the French courts. To bring an action would add complication, and the French courts would undoubtedly refer the matter to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The Government do not believe that this separate action would bring about an earlier settlement to the dispute.

Common Agricultural Policy

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider the common agricultural policy is delivering each of the five objectives contained in Article 33 of the Treaty of Rome, and in particular ensuring a fair standard of living for the agricultural community; and, if the answer is no, what steps they are taking to put right such a failure to ensure a treaty obligation.[HL1052]

Baroness Hayman: The common agricultural policy, as currently structured, does not serve farmers, consumers and taxpayers well. That is why the Government pressed for a radical reform of the common agricultural policy throughout the Agenda 2000 negotiations. We continue to push for further reform.

IACS Area Aid Applications

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    By what date they will send out the guidance notes for the harvest in the year 2000 on the integrated administration and control system (IACS) of the common agricultural policy.[HL1080]

Baroness Hayman: The documentation pack enabling farmers to make their 2000 IACS area aid applications, which includes an information booklet setting out guidance notes, will begin to be sent out to applicants in England by the end of February and to applicants elsewhere in the United Kingdom shortly thereafter.

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The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the known toxicological effects of epichlorohydrin on the central nervous system, mitochondria, kidneys and liver; and what are its known mutagenci and carcinogenic properties and the effects upon humans of acute and chronic exposure.[HL1084]

Baroness Hayman: Epichlorohydrin was evaluated under the International Programme on Chemical Safety and the report (Environmental Health Criteria 33) was published in 1984. Animal studies indicated that the central nervous system did not appear to be the most significant target. The kidney was particularly sensitive to the toxic effects of epichlorohydrin and degenerative changes in the liver were also reported. The degenerative changes of the kidney described in rats and mice were not reported in humans.

Epichlorohydrin is mutagenic in most short-term assays and carcinogenic in long-term studies in experimental animals when administered by inhalation, orally or by subcutaneous injection. It can also sensitise the skin.

The EHC evaluation concluded that epichlorohydrin is a possible human carcinogen.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 1 March 1993 (WA 31-32), whether the stabiliser (Swiss Priority Patent 348284 dated 30 November 1956) was epichlorohydrin; and, if so, what was its action in relation to diazinon in sheep dips.[HL1085]

Baroness Hayman: The stabiliser was epichlorohydrin, which acted as a water scavenger in diazinon-based sheep dips, preventing the formation of toxic degradation products such as SULPHOTEPP.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the stabiliser epichlorohydrin is, or has ever been, used in any other products containing diazinon; and, if so, which.[HL1087]

Baroness Hayman: No currently authorised diazinon-based veterinary medicinal or pesticide product contains epichlorohydrin and records show that no expired diazinon-based pesticide contained epichlorohydrin. Identifying whether any previously licensed veterinary medicinal product contained epichlorohydrin could only be done at disproportionate cost.

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UNIDROIT Convention

Lord Renfew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received advice from the National Museums Directors' Conference on the question of the United Kingdom's proposed accession to the UNIDROIT Convention on stolen and illicitly exported artefacts; and, if so, what that advice was.[HL938]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In a letter dated 24 June 1998, Dr Alan Borg, the chairman of the Conference of Directors, National Museums and Galleries expressed the conference's support of the UK acceding to the UNIDROIT Convention.

Khmer Sculptures

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the Government of the United States' imposition of emergency import restrictions upon Khmer sculptures in view of the ongoing pillage in Cambodia of sites such as Angkor, they will consider the imposition of similar restrictions upon the import of such materials into the United Kingdom; and under what legislation such restrictions could, if found desirable, be imposed.[HL939]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Her Majesty's Government have no plans to impose import restrictions upon Khmer sculptures. If it was found desirable to do so, such restrictions could be introduced by modifying the open general import licence issued under the Import of Goods (Control) Order 1954 (as amended), a statutory instrument made under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939 as amended by the Import and Export Control Act 1990.

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