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Organophosphates: Exposure Measurement

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: Measurement of blood cholinesterase activity is considered to be a useful method of monitoring acute exposure to organophosphates under certain circumstances. Guidance in the government booklet Sheep dipping AS29 (Rev), recommends monitoring cholinesterase levels in contract sheep dippers who may have regular and frequent exposure to sheep dip chemicals. Measurement of cholinesterase

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may also be a useful diagnostic tool in cases of severe acute poisoning, where levels are expected to be clearly below the normal range. As the activity may recover rapidly, it is necessary to test the blood immediately after exposure. It would not however be the most suitable method for assessing levels of exposure among those, such as sheep farmers, who use organophosphates sporadically.

An alternative method is to monitor urinary excretion of the breakdown products of organophosphates. This has been used by the Health and Safety Executive to estimate exposure of sheep dippers to organophosphates and compare it with that of other workers. The levels found were similar to those found in other agricultural workers exposed to organophosphates and lower than those found in workers manufacturing pesticides. Although very sensitive for measuring exposure to diazinon, it cannot be used to determine exposure to propetamphos, because the urinary marker metabolite measured is not formed by this organophosphate. Diazinon and propetamphos are the two main active ingredients in organophosphorus sheep dips.

These two methods (the measurement of cholinesterase activity and of urinary metabolites) provide workable tools for monitoring acute exposure to organophosphates.

There is no method for measuring chronic exposure. Development of such methods would depend on prior knowledge of a biochemical defect or of any biomarker associated with chronic exposure. There is currently no evidence of such a defect or of any biomarker suitable for assessing such exposure. (The enzyme neuropathy target esterase (NTE), which is associated with delayed neuropathy, is not affected by diazinon, so this would not be a useful measure).

We take the concerns over possible long-term health effects of OP exposure very seriously and are commissioning new research to investigate whether chronic exposure poses a health risk to sheep dippers. It is expected that an announcement about the award of a contract will be made shortly.

A number of scientific papers have been published on methods for the assessment of human exposure to organophosphates, and copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Royal Parks

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the terms of reference given to the consultants charged by the Royal Parks Agency with (a) enquiring into the demand for more services and developments within the Royal Parks and (b) making proposals for "marketing" the Royal Parks; and whether either more services and developments or "marketing" was envisaged or recommended by the Jenkins Group in their report; and

    Which amenity societies were consulted about the remits to the consultants enquiring into aspects of the Royal Parks; which of them expressed views; and to what extent these views were taken into account.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): Responsibility for the subject of these questions has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Head of Policy, The Royal Parks, Ms Viviane Robertson:

In the absence of the Chief Executive, David Welch, I have been asked by Lord Inglewood to reply to your questions about the consultants charged with enquiring into the demand for more services and developments and making proposals for marketing the Royal Parks, the extent to which such action was envisaged or recommended by the Jenkins group and the degree of consultation with local amenity groups.

In his replies to your earlier questions on the subject (letters dated 3 April and 13 June), David Welch outlined the terms of reference given to the University of North London, which has been engaged to carry out a three-year market research contract. He also referred to the recommendation in the Jenkins group's report on Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens that market research should be carried out at regular intervals.

The contract with the University of North London is for the provision of market research services only. From the survey results, the agency will be able to assess whether there is any requirement from park users for more services and developments in the parks. We will also be able to assess whether there is a need to market the parks more effectively. This will then be considered as part of our forward planning process.

In addition to stressing the importance of market research as a means of assessing the requirements of park visitors, all three of the reports which have so far been published by the Royal Parks Review Group have recommended improvements to a wide range of services, including catering, toilets, children's play facilities and the provision of information and interpretation for park users.

Although amenity groups were not specifically asked to comment on the scope of the current market research survey, representatives of Friends' groups and the various interest groups were invited to the three public conferences held to discuss each of the review group's reports and encouraged to put forward views on any aspect of the reports and their recommendations.

Royal Automobile Club

Lord Raglan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    By what authority the Royal Automobile Club governs motor racing in the United Kingdom.

Lord Inglewood: The RAC is granted its authority as the sole governing body for motor sport in the UK by the world governing body, the Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA). By convention, all international governing bodies of sport operate under the legal statutes of the country of domicile, which in FIA's case is France. The RAC also undertakes certain

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functions relating to motoring events on the public highway and off-road events under regulations made by the Secretary of State for Transport.

Buses: European Legislation

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the latest position in those committees of the European Commission which are considering European legislation which may threaten the survival of the London double-decker bus and the British midi-bus.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The final text of the proposed directive is still the subject of discussion within the Commission. The formal proposal is not expected before the end of the year.

Defence Procurement: Value for Money

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they define "value for money" in procurement matters when they exclude the political, economic and industrial aspects of the national interest from the criteria the Ministry of Defence uses in its procurement decisions (HC Deb., 13.7.95 cols. 793 and 794).

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): To secure value for money in defence procurement all relevant aspects are considered. Primarily, this includes factors which affect the through-life cost of an equipment or its operational performance, but we also consider relevant economic, industrial and international political aspects.

European Defence

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their current intentions regarding a European defence agency.

Earl Howe: The Government have no plans for a European defence agency. The United Kingdom is playing a full part in discussions in the Western European Armaments Group on the concept of a European armaments agency.

MoD: Employment of Ex-officials

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many ex-Ministry of Defence officials and ex-United Kingdom serving officers are employed by the various United States firms to whose products the United Kingdom is now committed; where and in

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    what capacity, they are employed; and whether they have been relieved of their duty to observe the Official Secrets Act.

Earl Howe: There is no requirement under the rules governing the acceptance of outside employment, or any other regulation, for staff who leave my Department to report whether new employment is taken up and the information sought is not therefore available. All serving and former members of my Department are, however, bound by the Official Secrets Act.

Tomahawk Missiles

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United States Tomahawk to which they have now committed the United Kingdom will be fitted with the electronic or other "permissive links" usually fitted to these missiles; and if so, whether British or United States commanders will operate them.

Earl Howe: The Tomahawk missiles which we propose to procure from the United States would not be fitted with electronic or other permissive links.


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