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16 Dec 1997 : Column WA77

Written Answers

Tuesday, 16th December 1997.

Development Agencies: Funding and Job Creation

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total central government expenditure, individually for each of the last five years, for development agencies in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England; and how many new jobs were created in each of these areas for the same period.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: This information could only be provided at a disproportionate cost to the taxpayer.

In England, there are currently no agencies comparable to the development agencies for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Government spending on economic development in England is disbursed through a number of organisations and departments. Total expenditure figures are not held centrally.

However, the Government recently announced their plans to introduce regional development agencies. The necessary legislation will be presented in due course.

Mixed Sex Hospital Accommodation

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made to end mixed sex hospital accommodation in the NHS and whether progress in this area has been speeded up by hospital trusts since the Minister of Health's Statement on 6 August "that progress had been too slow".

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): Progress continues to be made. The National Health Service Executive is in discussion with a number of health authorities on the scope for bringing forward target dates for eliminating mixed sex hospital accommodation. I will write to the noble Lord with more detailed information, which will be made publicly available shortly.

Vitamin B6

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they were represented at the symposium on the safety of Vitamin B6 held at the Royal College of Physicians on 8 September; and whether they have responded to the recommendation of that symposium that Vitamin B6 supplements should be unrestricted up to levels of 200mg.

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Baroness Jay of Paddington: Government officials attended the symposium on 8 September and received an edited transcript of the proceedings. The Government have noted these recommendations. However the Government have every confidence in the advice of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment and the Food Advisory Committee that retail sale of Vitamin B6 be limited to 10mg.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the terms of reference of the Committee on Toxicity; and under which of those terms the Committee was qualified to consider the safety of nutrients, such as Vitamin B6, in addition to toxins.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The terms of reference of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment are set out in the 1995 Annual Report, which has been placed in the Library. The COT considered the safety of Vitamin B6 under the term of reference "to assess and advise on the toxic risk to man of substances which are...produced in industry".

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which pharmaceutical companies submitted comments to the Committee on Toxicity in support of the restriction of the retail sale of Vitamin B6.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: No pharmaceutical companies have submitted such comments to the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    By what factor the Committee on Toxicity divided the daily dose of Vitamin B6 which it concluded could cause toxicity in order to reach its recommended dose of 50mg a day; whether they will indicate the safety levels which would be derived if an identical division was undertaken by toxicity levels of (a) zinc; (b) potassium; and (c) Vitamin D; and whether they will indicate in each of those cases how the safety level so calculated compares with the average adult daily requirement for such substances.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) recommended that the maximum daily intake of Vitamin B6 as a dietary supplement should be restricted to 10 milligrams. It did not recommend doses of 50mg a day. The COT based its conclusions on evidence which showed the lowest dose to have adverse effects in humans is 50mg per day.

The COT has not had occasion to identify the lowest doses of zinc, potassium or Vitamin D at which clinical symptoms of toxicity would occur in humans. Therefore it is not possible to make calculations equivalent to those used in its consideration of Vitamin B6.

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The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many members of the Committee on Toxicity have declared financial or other links with pharmaceutical companies which would benefit from restrictions on the retail sale of Vitamin B6 supplements; and, if any, what assessment of those links was made when considering the recommendations of that Committee in relation to Vitamin B6.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government have no information as to which pharmaceutical companies would benefit, or be adversely affected by, restrictions on the retail sale of Vitamin B6 supplements. Such information was not relevant when the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment considered Vitamin B6 dietary supplements.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in considering the advice of the Committee on Toxicity (COT) on Vitamin B6 supplementation, they noted the assessment by Professor Andre McLean of University College, London (presented at the symposium on the safety of Vitamin B6 at the Royal College of Physicians on 8 September) that the paper by Dr. K. Dalton showed that "science was not her strong point" and that "fundamentally this is an uncontrolled study of anecdotal type"; and what role the Dalton paper played in the decision-making process of the COT; and

    Whether, in considering the advice of the Committee on Toxicity (COT) on Vitamin B6 supplementation, they noted the assessment by Dr. Ian Munro (presented at the symposium on the safety of Vitamin B6 at the Royal College of Physicians on 8 September) that the study conducted by Dr. K. Dalton "lacked any detailed neurological assessment of the individuals who were consuming Vitamin B6" and "was not done under clinically blinded conditions"; and

    Whether, in considering the advice of the Committee on Toxicity (COT) on Vitamin B6 supplementation, they noted the assessment by Dr. Allan Bernstein, Chief of Neurology at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Centre (presented at the symposium on the safety of Vitamin B6 at the Royal College of Physicians on 8 September) that the paper by Dr. K. Dalton referred to symptoms which were "not typical of neuropathy, but were typical manifestations of hyperventilation and anxiety."

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government are aware of the assessments made by Professor McLean, Dr. Munro and Dr. Bernstein. The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) made its recommendation to the Government after considering over 100 scientific papers from national and international journals; the study by Dalton and Dalton was just one of this number.

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Asylum Seekers: Reception Conditions

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the European Union's proposal to set minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers; and, if so, within what timetable could these be implemented.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): A draft measure on conditions for the reception of asylum seekers was proposed under the Spanish Presidency of the European Union in 1996. This was not progressed by the Dutch and Luxembourg Presidencies this year. We have no plans at present to seek agreement on such a measure under our Presidency next year.

Crime and Local Action: Response to Consultation

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many responses to Getting to Grips with Crime: a New Framework for Local Action were received during the consultation period, and what the broad thrust of the responses was.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Five hundred and forty-five responses were received, most of them warmly supportive of the Government's proposals. A summary of the main points raised can be found in the Library.

Community Safety Orders: Response to Consultation

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many responses to the consultation paper Community Safety Orders were received during the consultation period, and what the broad thrust of the responses was.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: One hundred and eighty-five responses were received. A list of the respondents and a summary of the main points raised can be found in the Library in a document entitled "Responses to the Home Office Consultation Document on Community Safety Orders".


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