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14 Mar 2001 : Column WA91

Written Answers

Wednesday, 14th March 2001.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Whitty on 15 January (WA 113) on sustainable development, how the concept of sustainable development is applied to the activities of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. [HL505]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): There is no statutory duty of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to apply the concept of sustainable development to its activities.

Millennium Dome: Site Value

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they concur with the opinion of those property consultants who advise that the site of the Millennium Dome is devalued by the building itself. [HL893]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The value of any proposal for the Dome site depends on a wide variety of issues, including, for example, the proposed use, the density of development in and around the Dome, the attitude of the local planning authority and the transportation constraints and implications.

Millennium Dome Sale

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the European Union procurement rules will apply to the new competition for the sale of the Millennium Dome site; and what impact this will have on the timetable for the competition process. [HL896]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: An announcement on the next stage in the process will be made shortly.

Genetically Modified Salmon: US Proposal

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether A/K Protein Inc. have applied to the United States Food and Drug Administration to market genetically modified salmon which, if the application is approved, may lead to the use of "net pens in ocean waters"; and, if so, whether they will express concern to the United States Administration and to the North Atlantic Salmon Fisheries Organisation about the risk of irreversible damage to wild Atlantic salmon worldwide. [HL977]

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The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): We have asked the United States authorities to clarify the background on this issue and will consider the matter further in the light of the information they provide. We expect that any proposal to release genetically modified salmon will be assessed very carefully by the US authorities, and that they will only approve a release if it is not thought to pose an unacceptable risk to wild salmon stocks.

National Insurance Numbers

Lord Higgins asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a record has been kept of the National Insurance numbers and the names of those to whom they have been issued; how many National Insurance numbers have been issued; and whether they are cancelled when a holder dies. [HL809]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Records of National Insurance Numbers (NINOs), and the names to whom they were allocated, are retained for all NINOs allocated between 5 July 1948 and 5 April 1975.

Details of all NINOs allocated since April 1975 are retained on the National Insurance Recording System (NIRS) computer. The NIRS computer system also contains a record of all NINOs allocated prior to April 1975.

There are approximately 82 million NINOs and Child Reference numbers recorded on the Departmental Central Index (DCI). These include the records of those who have died, but whose contributions are the basis for benefit payments to surviving dependants, and foreign and EU nationals who have worked temporarily in the UK.

When a customer dies, the date of death is recorded on both the NIRS and DCI records. This should ensure that the number cannot be used fraudulently once a date of death has been recorded.

The Data Cleansing Project removed 182,000 National Insurance numbers (NINOs) during the last financial year--more than the whole of the last Parliament.

The Data Cleansing Project will be stopped on 31 March; however the process of analysing our database to identify and remove inaccurate, duplicate and fraudulent NINOs will continue at current levels as part of our core business.

Community Equipment Services: Modernisation

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations the Department of Health have received from the Disabled Living Foundation

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    in relation to the Government's plans for modernising community equipment services; what reply they are sending; and what action they will be taking. [HL1111]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Mr Nick Pelling, Director of the Disabled Living Foundation, is a member of the external reference group which advises and informs the Department of Health on progress toward implementing the community equipment aspects of the NHS Plan. In this capacity, he has been consulted on the forthcoming Department of Health guidance on community equipment services.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Regulations

Lord Rawlinson of Ewell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the proceedings In re Bruno Quintavalle v. The Secretary of State for Health heard in the High Court on 26 January, the same day that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2000 were approved. [HL706]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: On Friday 26 January the High Court ordered that the question of whether permission should be granted for Mr Bruno Quintavalle and the Pro-Life Alliance to bring a judicial review should be adjourned and considered at a full hearing to be held on or after 15 June. At the full hearing the court will decide whether the application should proceed. If this is permitted, the court will then go on to consider the substantive issues.

The application concerns the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001, and the definition of 'embryo' in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

The House of Lords debated and approved the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations on Monday 22 January.

Gulf War Veterans: Blood Donation

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware that Gulf War veterans in the United States are not permitted to be blood donors; and what their advice is to British Gulf War veterans who might wish to become blood donors. [HL1032]

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The United States did ban Gulf War veterans from donating blood from 1991 to 1993. The military health services were concerned that the veterans might have contracted Leishmaniasis while serving in the Middle East. In 1993 the ban was lifted.

The National Blood Service does not exclude Gulf War veterans from donating blood. The UK blood services' guidance on eligibility to donate is drawn up by a Standing Advisory Committee on the Care and Selection of Donors. That committee reviews the criteria on a regular basis.

Contaminated German Beef

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following the discovery of contaminated German beef, consignments of such beef are now being routinely spot-checked at all points of entry into the United Kingdom, including ports and airports; and [HL677]

    Whether, following the discovery of the fifth consignment of contaminated German beef in the United Kingdom, they are now inspecting every consignment, rather than spot-checking some of the imports. [HL678]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We are advised on questions of food safety by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The Government are greatly concerned at the discoveries of imported German beef contaminated with Specified Risk Material which should, under European Union law, have been removed at the slaughterhouse. The FSA has taken up these problems vigorously with the European Commission and with the German authorities.

Meat is part of the European single market, and may therefore circulate freely within the EU, without any requirement for border controls. Meat imported from another EU member state is subject to random checks at the point of destination within the United Kingdom. It would therefore be contrary to EU law to instigate border checks on imports of German beef.

The FSA has taken action, by instructing the Meat Hygiene Service in Great Britain, and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland, to check every single consignment of imported German carcass beef which arrives at a licensed meat plant in the UK. The FSA has also written to local authorities to advise them to step up their checks at those meat plants under local authority supervision which are likely to receive consignments of imported German beef. These instructions and advice were issued on 29 January, following the first discoveries of contaminated German beef.

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Armed Forces Pay Review Body: Reappointments

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the reappointments to the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. [HL1209]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We are pleased to announce that we have reappointed Lord Gladwin of Clee and Professor David Greenaway each to a second three-year term. These appointments have been conducted in accordance with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments' guidance on appointments to pubic bodies.

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