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17 Mar 2000 : Column WA233

Written Answers

Friday, 17th March 2000.

Defamation Proceedings: Financial Assistance to Crown Servants

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

    Whether they will ensure, when granting financial assistance to judges and other Crown servants to bring defamation proceedings, that there is equality of arms between the parties, given the absence of legal aid for defendants in such proceedings.[HL1407]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The proposed extension of the existing arrangements to the judiciary will provide for such assistance to be given in the public interest only in the most exceptional circumstances and following full and detailed consideration of the relevant factors (for instance, whether a retraction or apology has been sought), and only where there are no reasons why public funds cannot or should not be used to support the proceedings.

Data Protection: Personal Privacy

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the privacy of individual citizens is adequately protected from the practice of "triangulation" of data.[HL1480]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): Where triangulation involves the processing of personal data, the organisations concerned must meet the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998. In particular, they must comply with the data protection principles. Among other things, these require appropriate technical and organisational measures to be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data. The Act also makes it an offence knowingly or recklessly to obtain or disclose personal data without the consent of the data controller.

Interception of Communications

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what extent the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is based on the International User Requirements for Interception.[HL1481]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is not based upon the International User Requirements annexed to the European Union Council Resolution of 17 January 1995 on the lawful interception of telecommunications.

However, Clause 12 of the Bill enables the Secretary of State to specify in secondary legislation what constitutes a reasonable interception capability for providers of public telecommunications services. The Home Office is currently consulting industry on the nature of the proposed secondary legislation. As indicated in the Government's consultation document "Interception of Communications in the United Kingdom" (CM 4368), the proposed secondary legislation will take full account of international standards including the International User Requirement.

GM Foods: Labelling

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to introduce legislation to give effect to European Community Regulations 49/2000 and 50/2000 concerning the labelling of genetically modified foods.[HL1586]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): We have today laid before Parliament the Genetically Modified and Novel Foods (Labelling) (England) Regulations 2000 which will come into force on 10 April. These regulations make provision in England for the enforcement of two new European labelling regulations for GM foods which will take effect automatically in all member states on 10 April, as well as consolidating all earlier GM labelling provisions.

The first of these, EC Regulation 49/2000, amends Regulation 1139/98 on the labelling of foods containing GM soya and maize, to extend the scope of the requirements to include foods for catering establishments, and to establish a 1 per cent de minimis threshold for the adventitious contamination of non-GM material, below which GM labelling will not be required. The second, EC Regulation 50/2000, will require for the first time the labelling of foods and food ingredients which contain GM additives and flavourings.

The Government are determined that consumers should be able to make informed choices about whether or not to eat genetically modified foods, and these new regulations will strengthen further the arrangements already in place for this purpose.

A letter is being sent today to interested parties advising them of the content of the regulations and enclosing a copy of the text. A regulatory impact assessment for the regulations has been prepared and placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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BSE: EU-approved Tests

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they propose to test cattle slaughtered in the United Kingdom for BSE using any of the tests approved by the European Union for that purpose; and, if so, when; or, if not, why not.[HL1522]

Baroness Hayman: One of the tests approved by the EU for the purposes of surveillance has already been used in a survey of 4,163 animals slaughtered under the over 30-month scheme. Plans for further active surveillance are currently being considered.

Programme-making: Ethnic Minority Involvement

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 16 December 1999 (WA 54), what meetings have been held by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in 2000 with employers in film and broadcasting to determine what should be done to encourage greater involvement of people from ethnic minorities in programme-making; and what action has been taken by both industry and government as a direct consequence of those meetings.[HL1353]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport joined senior television industry representatives on 8 February for the first meeting of the Culture, Diversity Network. He very much welcomed the establishment of the network, which is a cross

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television industry response to concerns about the adequacy of the representation of our multicultural society on and behind the screen. Members of the network are currently considering objectives in key areas and plan to agree a specific programme of action in the near future. The Secretary of State will monitor progress of the network and that of a separate group which he has asked the British Screen Advisory Council to establish to look at similar issues in film.

Regional Tourist Boards

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many regional tourist boards currently work to the strategic areas defined by the boundaries of the regional development agencies; and what changes, if any, will occur to the boundaries of the regional tourist boards after 1 April 2000.[HL1417]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There are 10 regional tourist boards (RTBs). Six currently work to the strategic areas defined by the boundaries of the regional development agencies (RDAs). By 1 April, arrangements will be in place for all the RTBs to work to RDA boundaries for strategic development. The two main changes are that South West Tourism will take the lead for the whole south-west region, including Dorset and Wiltshire (currently covered by Southern RTB) and Gloucestershire (currently covered by Heart of England RTB); and the Heart of England will include Lincolnshire (currently covered by East of England RTB), so it can work to East Midlands RDA boundaries. However, it is important to add that for tourism marketing activities the RTBs will work to whatever areas make sense for the consumer.

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