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Criminal Defence Service

Lord Haskel asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I have agreed to a request from the Legal Services Commission to postpone the introduction of the Criminal Defence Service from 2 October 2000 to 2 April 2001. This will allow additional time for preparation by the professions and for implementation of the new arrangements by criminal

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defence lawyers. The Legal Services Commission is notifying the professions by letter accordingly. This delay will have no substantial effects on the reform programme, including the development of the salaried defender service. Consultation papers on the establishment of the salaried defender service and on the choice of representative will be published shortly.

Falklands and Gulf Veterans: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking in relation to the compensation claims of veterans of the Falklands and Gulf conflicts who have been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; and when they expect the first of these cases to come before the courts.[HL2286]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Many of the claims from veterans alleged to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are similar and a group action was therefore set up by the Supreme Court last year. The group action consists of two groups. Group 1 is where the earliest alleged failure by the Ministry of Defence to diagnose or properly treat their condition occurred before the repeal of Section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 on 15 May 1987 which prevented service personnel from pursuing claims for compensation from the Ministry of Defence. Group 2 is where the earliest alleged failure took place after 15 May 1987, since when service personnel have had the right to make common law claims for compensation. Approximately 15 lead cases from each group, to be agreed by both sides, will shortly be selected as representative of all the cases in the group action. These lead cases will proceed to trial towards the end of 2001, when a judge will rule on the issue of liability. The ruling in each of these lead cases will be binding on similar non-lead cases. In the meantime, both sides are concentrating on obtaining evidence in preparation for the trial.

Employment Tribunals: Jurisdiction in Claims against DTI

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

    Whether, given the right to an independent tribunal under Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, they share the concern expressed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal on 11 October 1999 (in Smith v. Secretary of State for Trade and Industry); as to whether employment tribunals may properly and lawfully adjudicate on claims made against the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry) and, if so, what steps they intend to take to remedy the situation.[HL2289]

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The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government believe that employment tribunals may properly and lawfully adjudicate in such cases. Nevertheless, following the Lord Chancellor's review of the terms of service of part-time judicial office holders, we are reviewing the employment tribunal system and expect to make some changes to the terms and conditions of lay members.

Blood Donation and Variant-CJD

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the conclusions of the article The risk of blood-borne Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Dev Biol Stand 2000; 102: 53-9, Brown P, and in particular the conclusion that "infectivity is not reduced by leukodepletion filtration", will affect policy on blood donation in the United Kingdom.[HL2369]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Leucodepletion was introduced, on the advice of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), as a precautionary measure against the theoretical risk of transmitting variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) through blood transfusion. A detailed risk assessment of variant CJD infectivity in blood commissioned by the Department of Health from Det Norske Veritas (February 1999) concluded that "leucodepletion appears to have significant benefit in reducing the risk of variant CJD infection through blood transfusion". This assessment was considered and accepted by SEAC.

We are continually reviewing the available evidence on the effectiveness of leucodepletion but, to date, there has been no new evidence to justify a change of policy. The article by Dr Paul Brown describes experimental studies with scrapie and sporadic CJD and concludes, on the basis of preliminary data, that the negligible plasma infectivity detected in experiments in mice is not significantly reduced by leucodepletion. It does not consider variant CJD, except to say that the risks of blood-borne transmission are unknown, or provide conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of leucodepletion in reducing the risk of variant CJD.

Benefit Recipients: Post Office Facilities

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What a benefit recipient will present to the Post Office for payment after the end of the present payment book system.[HL2320]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Starting in 2003 the normal method of paying benefit will be by automated credit transfer (ACT) into a bank account. Those who wish to do so will be able to access their cash at post offices.

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The precise means of doing so will be a matter for the Post Office and the banks. However, we expect available options to include withdrawing money through a bankcard being swiped through the new "Horizon" computer terminals currently being installed in post offices or from the cash machines that will be installed in some post offices.

We also recognise there will be some people whom we will not be able to pay by ACT and some urgent payments that cannot be made this way. A system will be put in place to enable these people to access their cash at post offices. We are still considering the detailed arrangements.

Waste Incineration: Proposed Directive

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the answers by Lord Whitty on 19 April on the European Union waste incineration directive (H.L. Deb., cols. 700-01), whether they will give details of:

    (a) their pursuit in Brussels of an exemption for small incinerators; whether a vote has been taken on this exemption; and, if so, what was the result; and

    (b) the exemptions given to Portugal.[HL2333]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Council of Ministers is currently considering the European Parliament's amendments to the waste incineration directive Common Position, including those affecting the scope, at official level. Council's rules of procedure do not allow me to comment on the detail of those discussions. No decisions have been taken by the Council in relation to the European Parliament's amendments. We will keep the House informed in the usual way.

There are no exemptions or other provisions in the directive which relate specifically to Portugal or to any other member state. The directive would, as currently drafted, apply equally to all 15 member states. As I explained in my 19 April answer (H.L. Deb., col. 700), there are exemptions for plants treating only vegetable waste from the food processing industry and for those treating only cork waste. The Council concluded that it is appropriate to consider these wastes as biomass, and therefore to include them in the list of exclusions in order to avoid discouraging use of biomass for energy purposes.

Forest Enterprise: Quinquennial Review

Baroness Mallalieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements are being made for the quinquennial review of the Forest Enterprise executive agency.[HL2498]

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The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): As an executive agency, Forest Enterprise is subject to review every five years--part of the process of continuous improvement of government services promised in the Modernising Government White Paper of March 1999. Forest Enterprise was established as an executive agency on 1 April 1996 and its review has now started. Stage 1 is concerned with getting the organisation right, and its conclusions will be reported to forestry Ministers in July. Stage 2, which is concerned with improving the agency's performance, will be completed in December.

The review will include wide-ranging consultation with Forest Enterprise's customers, visitors and other interested parties, who are invited to contact the Secretary to the Forestry Commissioners at 231 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 7AT, or to visit the Forestry Commission's website at

Seed Purity

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to address the issue of seed purity.[HL2514]

Baroness Hayman: We are taking several new steps to ensure seed purity, in addition to the current consultation on the importation and labelling of seeds. These include pressing internationally for agreed standards, testing of seed imports to the UK and working with the industry on a code of practice. The need for action in this area is highlighted by the recent information we have received from Advanta Seeds UK that some of its conventional rapeseed sold and sown in 1999 and 2000 in several EU member states, including the UK, contained about 1 per cent of genetically modified rapeseed. The genetic modification in question has already been assessed and cleared for food use and for field trials in the UK. We have consulted both ACRE (the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment) and the Food Standards Agency, who have confirmed the view that there is no risk to public health or the environment.

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Interception of Communications Commissioner

Lord Gordon of Strathblane asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements have been made to appoint a commissioner under Section 8 of the Interception of Communications Act following the expiration of Lord Nolan's appointment on 10 April 2000.[HL2499]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): Lord Justice Swinton Thomas has accepted an appointment as the Interception of Communications Commissioner for a period of three years from 10 April 2000.

I thank his predecessor Lord Nolan for the great contribution he made during the six years he spent as Interception of Communications Commissioner.

House of Lords Reform

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in preparation for the second stage of reform of the House of Lords, they will;

    (a) consider the extent to which the present composition of the House reflects a variety of professional experience;

    (b) compare the House of Lords with the House of Commons in this respect; and

    (c) make the results of this consideration publicly available.[HL2327]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government believe that a widely based and representative composition has an important part in ensuring that the second Chamber has a distinctive role to play within Parliament. It is one of the reasons why we are minded to accept the approach of the Royal Commission that the second Chamber should have a majority of nominated members. I am sure these questions are some of those which the interim Appointments Commission will want to bear in mind when considering its nominations.

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