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Borderline Substances Advisory Committee

Lord Naseby asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Advisory Committee on Borderline Substances meets three times a year to consider applications from companies. Decisions are taken immediately on applications which are supported by satisfactory evidence. The committee may reject other applications or request further evidence. Applications or additional evidence are not considered outside the cycle of regular meetings.

Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Verfaillie paper is one of two papers published in Nature Online which report developments in stem cell research. In contrast, the other reports encouraging findings using embryonic stem cells in a mouse model of Parkinson's Disease.

Government policy remains that stem cell research should be a priority area. The Government believe strongly that no single source of stem cells should be

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worked upon exclusively but wish to see research continue to move forward on adult, cord blood, fetal and embryonic stem cells.

The licensing of individual projects involving embryo research is a matter for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which will assess whether the use or creation of human embryos is necessary.

Government Documents: Availability to Peers

The Duke of Montrose asked the Leader of the House:

    Whether he will take steps to ensure that Members of this House can obtain properly printed government documents when they are required for consideration in this House rather than being forced to print out those documents from departmental websites.[HL4757]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Current practice on which documents government departments and agencies send to the House of Lords, and in which form they are supplied, varies from department to department and among the various government agencies.

In my view, any document mentioned on the House of Lords Order Paper should be available to Members of the House in every form in which it is available, be that as a printed document, a website download or even a CD-ROM.

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To this end I have written to Sir Richard Wilson today suggesting that coherent guidance should be given to all government departments and agencies that whenever a document they produce is mentioned on the House of Lords Order Paper, or is likely to be of particular interest to the House, adequate copies of that document should be sent to the Printed Paper Office, I have asked Sir Richard to cascade this guidance down through the various permanent secretaries and agency chief executives.

Electoral Commission: Accountability

Lord Lipsey asked the Leader of the House:

    Who in the House of Lords is responsible for answering Questions on the Electoral Commission.[HL4841]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Accountability arrangements for the Electoral Commission are governed by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Section 1 of the Act sets up the Electoral Commission as a statutory body independent of government. As such, the Act makes no provision for ministerial accountability. However, Section 2 of the Act establishes a Speaker's Committee with powers to approve the commission's five-year plan and estimates. Schedule 2 to the Act makes provision for the Speaker's Committee to report to the House of Commons. The Act makes no corresponding provision requiring any report to be made to this House either by a Minister or by the Speaker's Committee.

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