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House of Lords

Wednesday, 14th March 2001.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Hereford.

Spanish Cannon: Removal by Royal Armouries

Lord Bridges asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Royal Armouries, acting on the authority of the Receiver of Wreck, forcibly removed an historic cannon of 16th century Spanish ordnance from the premises of Suffolk Underwater Studies at Orford on 12th February before any agreement had been reached regarding the custody of the cannon.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government and the Receiver of Wreck have been in discussion and correspondence on this issue since the ordnance was recovered from the sea bed in 1994. The Receiver of Wreck gave title to the ordnance to the Royal Armouries for its future care, preservation and display to the public following a meeting at which the finder was present. The ordnance was subsequently removed by the Royal Armouries to ensure its safety on behalf of the nation after the finder had been notified. It is the policy of the Royal Armouries to loan artefacts to museums in the area of the find wherever possible. The Royal Armouries has reaffirmed its commitment to return the cannon to Orford on long-term loan as soon as a suitable accredited public depository is established, and it has offered to assist in this.

Lord Bridges: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his thoughtful and reflective reply. I shall endeavour to guide events locally in the same direction. Does the noble Lord agree with the general principle that when an interesting archaeological find is made, if it is not of outstanding national importance it should, as a general rule, be exhibited locally where it can be established that there is a suitable place in which to store it and the Royal Armouries and the department are satisfied with the arrangements for its custody?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Lord. That is in accordance with the long standing practice of the Royal Armouries and its views in this case, which I have already set out. I have also made it clear that the Royal Armouries is anxious not only to pursue that policy but to assist in the return of the cannon to a suitable site near the place of find.

Lord Roper: My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that the Receiver of Wreck is widely recognised by those involved in nautical archaeology as someone

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who always tries to find helpful and useful solutions in cases like this? Does the Minister also accept that this matter highlights a rather serious lack of resources available to local museums in a period when the number of finds in nautical archaeology increases substantially because of the new technology which is now available?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sure that the Receiver of Wreck will be pleased to hear what the noble Lord has said and shares his concerns. If we continue to find more artefacts both on land by the use of electronic devices and in the sea by intrepid divers more and more places will have to be found for them in museums. That is why the Culture and Recreation Bill is concerned to extend the regime of English Heritage to underwater archaeology.

Lord Peston: My Lords, can my noble friend enlighten us as to the meaning of the word "forcibly" as used in the Question? Was somebody duffed up in order to take possession of the cannon? Do the authorities have a powerful group of people who go round doing this kind of thing?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, nobody was duffed up, but the Royal Armouries did send a trailer. The ordnance was chained to the outside of the premises of Suffolk Underwater Studies and the chain had to be cut to remove it.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, will the noble Lord look into the position of the submarine "Resurgam" which sank in Liverpool Bay in the 1880s, still lies at the coast near Rhyl and is certainly in danger of being despoiled by underwater divers?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the name of the submarine is peculiarly appropriate to the question that the noble Lord asks. I am not familiar with the case to which he refers, but I shall look into it and write to him.

Anti-Smoking Therapy and Treatment

2.41 p.m.

Baroness Gale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are taking to assist people to give up smoking.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, our measures to help smokers give up include a comprehensive education strategy and the NHS Smoking Helpline. In addition, we have announced today that we intend to amend the relevant regulations so as to allow doctors to prescribe any available nicotine replacement therapy as part of NHS treatment.

Baroness Gale: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very encouraging reply, especially on National

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No Smoking Day. Studies show that more girls than boys now take up smoking. Does the Minister agree that there is grave danger to the future health of girls who take up smoking, especially when they may wish to have children? Smoking can cause problems in conceiving, during pregnancy and for the health of the child. Can my noble friend say what health support and advice can be given to girls to discourage them from smoking?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I hope that they follow the example of the noble Countess, Lady Mar, who I understand celebrates the first anniversary of giving up smoking. I agree with my noble friend. It is worrying that statistics show that in the age range 11 to 15 and 16 to 19 more girls than boys smoke. Earlier this year we announced a £3 million campaign and initiative to co-ordinate all services for pregnant women who wish to give up smoking. Many local health authorities through their various smoking cessation plans have targeted programmes. I also agree that we have to think about young girls. The education tobacco strategy campaign is targeting young women. It is considering whether a specific programme should be developed in relation to young girls.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I welcome the Minister's statement today and the actions being taken which have been urged upon him from these Benches for some considerable time. However, does not the fact that the Government have not yet introduced in this House the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill display a rather lesser commitment to the cause?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Not at all, my Lords. So far as concerns the introduction of NRT through GP prescribing, we have always said that we wanted to see how the use of NRT through smoking cessation programmes would develop. I am very glad that we have made the announcement. So far as concerns the advertising Bill, that, as ever, is a matter for the usual channels. I remain ready and eager to take the Bill through the House when the occasion arises.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, perhaps I may first thank the Minister for his remarks. Will doctors be able to prescribe what helped me enormously after I had tried to give up smoking 5,000 times; namely, using double nicotine therapy? I used the patches and I also used the lozenges. The lozenges fitted in with the peaks of the desire for nicotine and ironed those out, and the nicotine patches gave a steady level of nicotine. There is, I believe, some Finnish research which shows that in many cases this method is very helpful.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the list of products to be removed from Schedule 10, which can now be prescribed, is extensive. It essentially involves Nicorette and a series of patches as well as nasal spray and nicotinal gum. An amendment is being made to

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the general sale list order which will allow the sale of nicotine lozenges with a maximum strength of 1 milligram.

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what the Government are saying to employers to encourage young people not to start smoking? Those of us who live up in the City during the working week see groups of young people standing outside the offices of great banks and so forth smoking--having a smoking break. They are all very young. It is most unfortunate that the role models that young people follow smoke. But what are we doing to persuade employers to tell their employees that it is bad for them?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, my noble friend makes a valid point. As part of any local smoking cessation programme, it is very much up to the local health authority to engage in discussions with employers and other relevant bodies, whether voluntary or statutory organisations, and to have a proactive campaign to encourage staff to desist from smoking. The NHS faces a considerable challenge in that area, particularly among the nursing profession. That is something that very much exercises us.

Baroness Young: My Lords, perhaps the Minister will elaborate further on the answer he gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, on the subject of young girls and smoking. Does he not agree that it is a very serious matter? It is observable anywhere and it is schoolgirls particularly who are smoking. What steps are the Government taking to attempt to deal with this very difficult problem?

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