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Ministers and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested is not available. There is no requirement for Ministers to declare membership unless it would provide a conflict with their public duties.

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EC Staff: Equal Opportunities

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the European Commission pays sufficient attention to equal opportunities in selecting its employees.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is for the European Commission to determine its own selection policies. The Commission has proposed changes to its staff regulations 1 in respect of equal opportunities. These changes, which cover both recruitment and career development, are currently being discussed by a Council of Ministers working group. Her Majesty's Government are committed to the principle of equality of opportunity and encourage and welcome attempts by all employers to secure this. 1 Amended proposal for a Council regulation amending the staff regulations of officials and conditions of employment of other servants of the European Communities in respect of equal treatment of men and women--Ref: COM(96)77 final.

Digital Broadcasting: Channel Bundling

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are confident that British Digital Broadcasting will not be subject to the same problems, such as the "bundling" of programmes and price margin squeezes, as the cable companies have experienced in securing programming from BSkyB.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The question of premium channel bundling at the retail level is currently being considered by the Independent Television Commission. The Office of Fair Trading has carried out a review of BSkyB's position in the wholesale pay-TV market and sought undertakings relating to the terms of supply from BSkyB. The Director-General of Fair Trading keeps the market under close review and will be working with the ITC to ensure that similar conditions will apply to digital terrestrial television. More generally, the Government are confident that the regulators have the powers and the will to ensure that digital television develops in a climate of fair and effective competition.

Law of the Sea Convention

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Kingdom will accede to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Government have decided to accede to the convention later this month. The Convention has many advantages for the United Kingdom as a maritime nation with worldwide trading and other interests. The convention includes important environmental provisions. Accession will enable the

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United Kingdom to play a leading role in the institutions established under the convention.

The United Kingdom's fishery limits will need to be redefined based on St. Kilda, since Rockall is not a valid base point for such limits under Article 121(3) of the convention. An Order in Council will be made at the first opportunity. Thereafter we shall seek to agree a fisheries boundary with the Republic of Ireland. Further legislation may be needed in due course if British Industry wishes to mine the deep seabed under the terms of the convention and the agreement on the implementation of Part XI of the convention. We shall also ratify the latter agreement, which fully meets the objections to the original terms of Part XI.

THORP: Plutonium Recovery

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much plutonium will be produced from the THORP plant if it remains in operation through its planned 20 year life.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): Reprocessing separates out the reusable uranium and plutonium present in spent fuel from the small quantity of waste. The reprocessed material is made up of, approximately, 96 per cent. of uranium, 3 per cent. waste products and less than 1 per cent. plutonium. The Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) is expected to reprocess 14,000 tonnes of spent fuel in its first 20 years of operations and in the order of 100 tonnes of plutonium will be recovered during this time. The exact quantity of plutonium will be dependent on the type of fuel and the level of irradiation in the reactor the fuel originates from.

All civil nuclear facilities and civil nuclear material in the UK are subject to international safeguards. The UK and the governments of all THORP's reprocessing customers observe IAEA guidelines and provisions of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. The operation of THORP is fully in accordance with the UK's obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty--to which all of THORP's customer states are signatories.

Sellafield: Plutonium Recovery

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much plutonium has been produced as a result of reprocessing operations at Sellafield to date.

Lord Simon of Highbury: I refer my noble friend to the Department of Trade and Industry's annual press release, last published on 18 July 1996, which covers plutonium produced at Britain's civil nuclear power stations, reprocessing activities at Sellafield and the civil plutonium stocks. This shows that, up to 31 March 1996, there were 48.5 tonnes of separated plutonium held at

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Sellafield from reprocessing--which includes some of the five tonnes of plutonium that have been sold to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority for fast reactor research and development. All plutonium arising from the reprocessing of spent fuel from UK civil nuclear reactors is subject to Euratom safeguards as well as stringent, internationally agreed standards of physical protection which protect against theft, sabotage and diversion of nuclear materials.

Copies of the current and previous press releases are available in the Library of the House. The next press release is due at the end of this month. A copy will be placed in the Library of the House and I will send one to the noble Lord.

Lord Simon of Highbury: Government Responsibilities

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the precise responsibilities of Lord Simon of Highbury at the Treasury and at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Lord Simon of Highbury: As Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe I am responsible in the DTI for EU internal market issues including completion of the European single market, the impact of enlargement on the market and plans for the UK presidency of the EU; for the co-ordination of EU issues generally within the DTI; and for insurance. I chair the inter- departmental taskforce on competitiveness in Europe, and attend the internal market council. I am responsible jointly with the Minister of State, Ian McCartney, for corporate governance, corporate affairs and DTI relations with the City of London. I have specific responsibility for corporate governance. I am responsible with Lord Clinton-Davis for DTI issues in the House of Lords. I perform a linking role between the DTI and the Treasury across a range of competitiveness and European issues. I undertake a project based portfolio in the Treasury on economic issues which complements my role in the DTI. I am not Treasury spokeman in the House of Lords. These duties are performed by my noble friend Lord McIntosh.

Wine sold by the Glass

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made within the licensed trade to comply with the order for the sale of wine, in standardised glasses and at set prices exhibited at the point of sale, and what steps they are taking to establish that the legislation to this effect introduced in January 1995 is effective.

Lord Simon of Highbury: My department has received no indications from the trade that it has had any difficulties complying with the amendments made in 1990 to the Weights and Measures (Intoxicating

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Liquor) Order 1988 in respect of sales of wine by the glass in prescribed quantities which took effect in January 1995. My department is in regular contact with the Local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards (LACOTS), which confirms that it is not aware of any difficulties arising from compliance with or enforcement of the provisions. The 1990 amendments did not affect the position concerning the display of prices for wine sold by the glass.

Medicines Control Agency: Framework Document

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the revised framework document for the medicines control agency.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): We have today published the revised medicines control agency framework document and copies have been placed in the Library.

Asylum Seekers: Local Authority Costs

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much money was paid to local authorities in the last financial year to reimburse them for payments to asylum seekers under the National Assistance Act 1948.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: A total of £5.6 million was paid to local authorities in 1996-97 to reimburse them for the costs of supporting adult asylum seekers under the National Assistance Act 1948.

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