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

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The courts in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not required or authorised directly to provide remedies for breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights. People in the Crown Dependencies may petition the European Commission of Human Rights in the same way as people in the United Kingdom may do.

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

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The right of individual petition was renewed on 3 June 1993 in respect of the Isle of Man and with effect from 14 January 1996 in respect of the Channel Islands.

Justice and Home Affairs Council,4-5 December

Baroness Pitkeathley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend and my honourable friend the Minister of State represented the United Kingdom at the Council, together with my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Lord Chancellor's Department. The main matters dealt with were as follows:

The Council agreed as "A" points, among other things, a resolution on marriages of convenience, the organisation of future work on revising the Brussels and Lugano Conventions on recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial, civil and commercial matters, and a joint action on a mechanism for evaluation of the fight against organised crime. Several regulations relating to Europol were also agreed, dealing with its computer system, its budget for 1998 and its relationship with third countries and international organisations.

Political agreement was reached on a text of the "Brussels II" Convention on jurisdiction, recognition

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and enforcement of judgments in family matters. The Convention will enhance procedures for the recognition of marriages, divorces and adoptions within the European Union. The text will now be considered further, taking into account any views expressed by the European Parliament, with a view to signature of the Convention by June 1998.

The scope of the draft Convention on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters was discussed. This Convention covers the giving and receiving of assistance and evidence during criminal investigations and prosecutions. The Council agreed that the Convention would not contain provisions on cross-border investigation techniques, which would be the subject of a separate Protocol, along with provisions on search and seizure. Initial negotiations on the terms of the Protocol could begin under the United Kingdom Presidency, before the Convention itself was finalised.

Discussion on the draft convention on enforcement of driving disqualifications revealed that a number of member states had unresolved problems which required further work. Progress on the Action Plan on Organised Crime was noted. Two elements in particular were touched on: finalisation of the Naples II Convention on mutual assistance and co-operation between customs administrations, which is due to be signed before the end of the year, and ratification by all member states of the Europol Convention, which is on course for early 1998.

The Council took stock of the position reached on the draft joint action to establish a European judicial network, which seeks to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of current arrangements for requesting and granting mutual legal assistance through a network of contact points. It was agreed that member states would notify the Council informally of the contact points which they intended to nominate, pending a decision at the next meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in March 1998.

Some progress was made on the draft joint action on making it a criminal offence to participate in a criminal organisation. A number of difficulties still remain, particularly concerning the definition of the conduct to be criminalised. The joint action was remitted to the Committee of Permanent Representatives for further work.

The Council agreed a draft joint action establishing a funding programme for training, visits and exchanges in the fight against organised crime (the FALCONE programme). The Council also approved a report on organised crime in the European Union in 1996, for submission to the European Council.

The Council took stock of the position reached on a draft resolution on a strategic action plan for customs co-operation in the Third Pillar. In the absence of agreement on the territorial application of the resolution, the Council instructed the Committee of Permanent Representatives to find a solution.

The Council approved a report on the internal and external threat from terrorism, for submission to the European Council; took note of a draft report to the European Council on drugs; and approved a report for

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the European Council on implementation of the joint action of December 1996 on approximation of laws and practices to combat drugs.

The Council agreed in principle to amend the definition in the Europol Convention of "trafficking in human beings" so as to include trafficking in child pornography. This was necessary to enable the Europol Drugs Unit to collect and analyse data on the subject. At the request of one member state, the K4 Committee was instructed to ensure that Europol's remit was extended to cover terrorism as soon as possible, and at latest within two years of Europol beginning its work.

The Council agreed that a further action plan should be drawn up making specific proposals for countering a recent increase in illegal immigration from Iraq. Justice and Interior Ministers would take stock of progress when they met informally in Birmingham at the end of January.

The Council discussed the draft EURODAC Convention for exchange and comparison of the fingerprints of asylum seekers. Agreement was reached in principle on some outstanding questions concerning the storage and erasure of data under the Convention. The working group will now begin drawing up the technical specifications for the system.

The Council also discussed a draft joint action establishing a programme for training, exchanges and co-operation in the fields of immigration, asylum and the crossing of external frontiers (the Odysseus programme). In the absence of agreement on the provisions concerning crossing of external frontiers, the Council remitted the issue to the Committee of Permanent Representatives for further consideration.

The Council held meetings, as part of the Structured Dialogue, with Ministers of the associated Central and Eastern European countries (CEEs) and, separately, with Cyprus. Discussion with the CEEs centred on mutual legal assistance, particularly in the areas of extradition, money laundering and the Lugano Convention on jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. The question of illegal immigration from Iraq was also raised, as well as asylum matters. In the meeting with Cyprus, Ministers from Cyprus set out the measures that it had taken to combat money laundering and described the position in Cyprus with regard to illegal immigration and Iraqi refugees.

At the Council, the Luxembourg Presidency hosted an informal joint lunch of Justice and Health Ministers to exchange views on drugs matters. The discussion highlighted the range of measures currently taken within member states to combat drugs abuse and the value to be obtained from the exchange of information and ideas.

Freemasonry in the Police and Judiciary

Baroness Amos asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they propose to respond to the Home Affairs Committee's recommendations on freemasonry in the police and judiciary.

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: We had hoped to be in a position to do so by the end of November, but our consideration of the issue is not yet completed. We expect to be able to reply to the Home Affairs Committee shortly.

Beef Sales: Regulation

Lord Stanley of Alderley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What checks are made to ensure that raw, cooked or processed imported beef over 30 months is not offered for sale in the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The Fresh Meat (Beef Controls) (No. 2) Regulations 1996 prohibit the sale for human consumption of bovine meat from animals over 30 months old. Responsibility for enforcement falls to local authorities.

Peanuts and Vitamin B6: Adverse Reactions

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the number of recorded deaths from adverse reactions to peanuts for the latest year for which figures are available; what was the number of deaths attributed solely to vitamin B6 supplements for that year; and what quantity of peanuts would be available (a) on general sale; (b) from a pharmacy; and (c) on prescription from a general medical practitioner if restrictions on the sale of peanuts comparable to those proposed for vitamin B6 were applied.

Lord Donoughue: There are no reliable data on the number of deaths from food allergies or as a result of the consumption of food supplements. However, reports from coroners' courts suggest that there have been two or three deaths from peanut allergy so far this year. We are not aware of any deaths this year attributable to the consumption of food supplements that contain only vitamin B6.

The proposed maximum limits on the level of vitamin B6 in food supplements and in products licensed as medicines available from pharmacies and on prescription were based on evidence which showed the lowest dose to have adverse effects in humans to be 50mg per day. Because peanut allergies only affect a small proportion of the population it is not possible to relate dose and effect across the population or to make calculations equivalent to those used in the consideration of vitamin B6.

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