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Social Charter: Additional Protocol

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

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): The Government do not intend to ratify the additional protocol to the European social charter providing for a system of collective complaints. The Government do not consider that the protocol would improve the charter's supervisory system.

Literacy Centres and Books and Teaching Materials for Schools

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Henley: The specification against which local education authorities bid for GEST funds to host literacy centres included funding for the purchase of books and any IT or other equipment related to the school's strategy for raising standards in literacy.

Education for 16 to 19 Year-Olds:Books and Teaching Materials

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Henley: It is for schools and colleges to prioritise their spending depending on local needs and the overall resources available to them. We have asked for advice from the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the National Council for Vocational

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Qualifications on the implementation of the Dearing proposals for 16-19 qualifications. Detailed plans for following up the Dearing Review will take account of that advice.

Law Commission Recommendations: Implementation

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

    Whether they intend to take steps to rectify the continuing failure, referred to in the Law Commission's Thirtieth Annual Report 1995 (Law Com. No. 239), to implement the Law Commission's reports on criminal law; and, if not why not; and

    Whether they intend to implement the Law Commission's report on Conspiracy to Defraud 1994 (Law Com. No. 228); and if not, why not.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): The Government value the work of the Law Commission, which has led to many valuable reforms of the criminal law. One measure currently before Parliament is the proposal to abolish the year and a day rule in homicide, which I hope will become law this session.

Final decisions have yet to be taken on four other Law Commission reports relating to the criminal law, and these are currently under consideration. In particular, we are undertaking further work to assess the Law Commission's proposals for reform of the law on offences against the person.

The Government are committed to introducing a Bill to combat loan fraud, as recommended by the Law Commission in their report, Conspiracy to Defraud, as soon as a suitable legislative opportunity arises.

Singh and Hussain: European Court of Human Rights Judgments

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

    Whether they intend to respond to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of Singh and Hussain by introducing legislation to comply with those rulings; and if not, why not.

Baroness Blatch: The Government have already announced that they are considering the implications of the judgments and will announce what changes will be made to take account of them as soon as possible.

Northern Ireland: Wheelchair Service

Lord Holme of Cheltenham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the wheelchair voucher scheme announced by Mr. John Bowis on 23rd February 1996 will be available to people in Northern Ireland; and if not, why not.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Baroness Denton of Wakefield): The announcement on 23rd February referred only to England. In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health and Social Services is currently exploring with the four health and social services boards how the wheelchair service might be improved. In this context they will be considering the implications for Northern Ireland of the proposals for a voucher scheme.

Anti-personnel Landmines

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many non-self-destructive anti-personnel land-mines they hold in stock at the most recent known date.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): It is our established policy for security reasons not to reveal information relating to stock levels of munitions held or planned. However, as stated by my noble friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 23rd April 1996, Official Report, col. WA 89, we intend to reduce quantities by almost half as soon as is practicable.

If agreement is reached for an international ban on all anti-personnel mines, or if viable alternatives to anti-personnel mines emerge, we will commence destruction of our remaining anti-personnel mines (none of which has a self-destruct capability).

Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any further cases of PrPCJ Disease have been identified since January 1996 and whether there is any reason to suppose the incubation period for this form of CJ Disease does not exceed 10 years [Lancet, Vol. 347, 1996, p. 924].

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): One further case of the new variant of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease has been confirmed since the announcement on 20th March that 10 cases had been identified.

The incubation period for CJD is thought to range from five to 20 years.

Organophosphates and Neuropathy

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, they regard the "hen test" as a reliable predictor of irreversible neuropathy caused by organophosphates.

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Baroness Cumberlege: The test in hens, as done according to modern protocols (e.g. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines) is the most satisfactory test generally availablefor the prediction of ability to produce organophosphate-induced delayed peripheral neuropathy. Hens are more sensitive to the development of the syndrome than laboratory rodents.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied that studies of long-term exposure to organophosphates in animals may confidently be extrapolated to humans.

Baroness Cumberlege: Some caution is necessary in extrapolating animal studies to humans. It is important to consider factors such as metabolism and pharmacokinetics when making such extrapolations. The expert members of the Government's advisory committees and the department's professional staff are aware of these constraints when considering data from studies before advising the Government.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is necessary for organophosphates to age before neuropathies result.

Baroness Cumberlege: The term aging refers to the enzyme neuropathy target esterase (NTE) not to organophosphates. The production of organophosphates-induced delayed peripheral neuropathy (OPIDN) appears to be associated with but not necessarily caused by phosphorylation, with consequent inhibition of NTE. OPIDN appears to occur only when inhibition of NTE is greater than 70 per cent. and this is followed by monodealkylation (aging). There is some evidence that the underlying mechanism may be different with some phosphoramidates--for example, the phosphorothioamidate pesticide methamidophos; with this substance, at high doses, aging does not seem to be obligatory for the development of OPIDN.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is known about the effects of exposure to organophosphates in humans upon enzymes other than neuropathy target esterase (NTE).

Baroness Cumberlege: The acute effects of the organophosphates are caused by the ability of these compounds to inhibit various esterases, in particular acetylcholionesterase. Some, if not all, organophosphates have non-anticholinesterase effects; diisopropyl phosphorofluoridate (DFP) influences dopaminergic and somatostatinergic pathways in the rat and leptophos affects Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) regulated chloride channels, as may sarin. Furthermore, parathion, parathion-methyl and malathion affect camodulin-dependent phosphodiesterase activity.

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Pesticides: Use in Combination

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of the findings of scientists at Duke University Medical Centre and University of Texas Medical Centres that the action of carbonates is heightened when used in combination with other pesticides, they will require manufacturers to ensure that formulations of pesticides are safe for humans who may be exposed to them, and that these formulations are not used in combination with other pesticides.

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Baroness Cumberlege: I understand that the work referred to has not been fully published as yet. When publication has taken place the Government will consider whether the findings have implications for the regulation of pesticides. In approving pesticides the possibility of additive or synergistic effects in mixes are considered. The safety margins are such that any risks of adverse effects are small. It is not possible to test for synergistic effects using all possible combinations but such effects are very unlikely at very low doses and where observed in animal experiments they are generally due to metabolic causes. END OF W/A 9 MAY 1996

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