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Pregnant Women: Employment Protection

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): Legislation already provides that it is automatically unfair to dismiss a female employee, regardless of her length of service, for any reason in connection with her pregnancy or for taking statutory maternity leave.

Armenia: Double Taxation Convention Negotiations

The Earl of Shannon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Simon of Highbury: Her Majesty's Government have not received a response to the draft double taxation convention provided to the Armenian Government.

Bread and Flour Regulations 1995

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): European law requires draft national legislation to be notified to the European Commission (and through them to other member states) to ensure that it does not

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introduce new technical barriers to trade. The Bread and Flour Regulations 1995 were a simplification of earlier regulations. They did not introduce any new standards and at the time it was considered that they did not need to be notified.

However, the ECJ has recently ruled that even a simplification of existing regulations should be subject to the notification procedure.

The European Commission has indicated that it considers the Bread and Flour Regulations 1995 to be technically in breach of Community law and the Government have therefore agreed to revoke and remake them in accordance with EU notification procedures.

Draft regulations are now being issued for public consultation. They revoke and re-enact the Bread and Flour Regulations 1995 and incorporate amendments made by the Bread and Flour (Amendment Regulations) 1996.

BSE: Latest Case

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give the date on which the most recently born bovine animal with BSE was born.

Lord Donoughue: BSE has been confirmed in a Highland cow born in Wales on 17 January 1994. This animal was two years and 10 months old when clinical signs were first observed. This is the first case of BSE in an animal born in 1994 but is unlikely to be the last as the risk of exposure through feed was not significantly different in the early months of 1994 compared with the closing months of 1993 when cases have already been confirmed. The dam of this particular cow is still alive and shows no signs of BSE.

Pesticides: Effects on Birds

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have yet been able to consider the recent report published by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee entitled The indirect effects of Pesticides on birds, and whether they would be prepared to introduce economic instruments such as taxes to encourage a reduction in the use of pesticides; and

    Whether they have any plans to discuss with the persons in English Nature and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds responsible for editing the report The indirect effects of Pesticides on birds steps which might be taken to alleviate the adverse effects on farmland birds identified in that report; and

    Whether they have any plans to provide more advice to farmers, landowners and manufacturers on the impacts of pesticide use in agriculture.

Lord Donoughue: The Government welcome the report from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee on the Indirect Effects of Pesticides on Birds. The

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independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) has been asked to consider the report. It is currently being examined by the ACP's Environmental Panel, which includes English Nature among its members.

A range of measures are in place which aim to reduce the impact of pesticides on the environment and to support conservation. These include the promotion of integrated crop management by the Pesticides Forum and the provision of grants for conservation measures under agri-environment schemes such as Countryside Stewardship. The Government also fund free on-farm conservation advice, which is provided by ADAS and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). Advice to farmers on measures to protect wildlife is also contained in the Code of Practice on the Safe Use of Pesticides on Farms and Holdings. Additionally, research is being funded on the environmental impact of pesticides and on the effects of agricultural management practices on farmland bird populations. The Government are seeking to improve scientific understanding of the key factors influencing farmland bird populations and to develop policy responses which promote conservation while ensuring a productive and efficient agricultural industry.

Organic Farming: Support Payments

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied that those practising organic farming in the United Kingdom should continue to receive lower conversion grants and direct payments than farmers in other member states of the European Union and, if not, whether they will review this situation.

Lord Donoughue: The rates of aid paid vary considerably between EC countries. While it is true that rates in the UK are lower than elsewhere, it is also true that they are adequate for a great many more farmers than have so far applied. The Agriculture Select Committee report into agri-environment schemes has made recommendations in respect of the Organic Aid Scheme and the Government are currently considering their response to that report.

Performance Tables for 11 Year-Olds: Publication

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer given by Baroness Blackstone on 3 June (WA 24), whether the results of National Curriculum tests at age 11 will be published, and be nationally available, for all primary schools, for this and subsequent years; whether the same will apply to the targets set by each school; and what action will be taken against schools which refuse to provide the necessary data.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): We are currently considering the options for the publication in

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performance tables of National Curriculum assessment results for 11 year-olds in each primary school, and will announce our decisions soon. National summary results for 7, 11 and 14 year-olds will be published in the autumn. We shall also be consulting in due course on the arrangements for requiring schools from September 1998 to set and publish their own performance targets. We expect governing bodies of schools to comply with their statutory duties.

Cabinet Committees: Membership

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the membership of the Cabinet Sub- Committee on Welfare to Work; and

    What is the membership of the Cabinet Sub- Committee on Women's Issues.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given on 9 June by my right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal to my noble friend Baroness Turner of Camden (Official Report, Monday 9 June, cols. WA 56-66).

Interception of Communications: Commissioner's Report

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Annual Report of the Commissioner appointed under Section 8(1) of the Interception of Communications Act 1985 will be laid before the House.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): A copy of Lord Nolan's annual report for 1996 has been laid before the House today in accordance with Section 8(7) of Interception of Communications Act 1985. The confidential annex to the report has been excluded from that copy in accordance with Section 8(8) of the 1995 Act. I am grateful to the commissioner for his work in reviewing the issue of warrants and in providing assistance to the tribunal as provided for in the Act. I note in particular the commissioner's view that interception of both postal and telecommunications remains both an effective and an essential operation in the interests of national security and the economic well-being of the United Kingdom and the prevention and detection of serious crime.

Intelligence Services: Commissioner's Report

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the annual report of the commissioner appointed under the Intelligence Services Act 1994 will be laid before the House.

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Lord Richard: A copy of Lord Justice Stuart-Smith's annual report, for 1996, has been laid before the House today in accordance with Section 8(6) of the Intelligence Services Act 1994. The confidential annex to the report has been excluded from that copy in accordance with Section 8(7) of the 1994 Act. I am grateful to the

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commissioner for his work in reviewing the issue of warrants and authorisations, and in providing assistance to the tribunal as provided for in the Act. I note that he was satisfied that the former Secretary of State had properly exercised his powers under the two sections of the 1994 Act.

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