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COT: Advice

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Jay of Paddington: Members of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) are recognised nationally and internationally as experts in their disciples which include the interface between toxicology and nutrition. Cross-membership with the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) ensures access to more detailed nutritional expertise as required.

COT: Vitamin B6

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the committee on toxicity has considered only 100 papers relating to vitamin B6 and its safety (of the approximately 10,000 referred to by Professor Arnold Beckett and other scientists in a recent letter to the chairman) prior to making its recommendations; and how many of those 100 papers were read in full, as opposed to in summary or abstract, by the chairman and members of that committee.[HL309]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) has considered the safety of vitamin B6 on two separate occasions and we are confident that it has reviewed all the relevant published papers on the safety of vitamin B6 as well as those unpublished papers supplied by interested parties. All the scientific papers on the toxicity of vitamin B6 were available to the chairman and the members of the COT before making their recommendations.

V&A: Attendance Figures

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the attendance figures at the Victoria & Albert Museum for the year 1997; and what was the percentage change in attendance between 1996 and 1997.[HL125]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There were 1,225,461 visits to the Victoria & Albert Museum at South Kensington in 1996 and 1,040,750 visits in 1997.

National Museum Attendances

Lord Freyberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any of the national museums include in their annual statement of visitor numbers those who, when these museums are closed to the public, attend social or fund-raising events and those organised by corporate sponsors.[HL186]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Wallace Collection and the national museums and galleries on Merseyside include all "out-of-hours" visits in their annual statement on attendances. In several other cases distinctions are made between different categories of "out-of-hours" visitors. Where available, the relevant numbers appear negligible compared to the total number of visitors.

European Union Regions

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report progress on their negotiations with the European Commission on the question of the possible adoption by the European Union regions of the basis of the Government's own statistics at British regional level.[HL255]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Chief Executive of the Office for National Statistics who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Bruce of Donington from the Director of the Office for National Statistics, Dr. Tim Holt, dated 30 January 1998.

The Government statistical service has adopted, since April 1997, the use of Government office regions (GORs) for the standard presentation of regional statistics, replacing the standard statistical regions (SSRs) for this purpose. The North West and Merseyside Government office regions are, however, treated as a single region for statistical purposes.

The nomenclature of units for territorial statistics (NUTS) is the European classification of areas for statistical purposes, with five levels of classification. For the UK, the SSRs currently represent NUTS level 1. The ONS has proposed to Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Union, that GORs (with North West and Merseyside combined) be used at this level in the future, in line with internal UK presentation of regional statistics. This proposal has been accepted by Eurostat.

Childcare Facilities: Westminster

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list those nurseries within the Westminster area that are run for or may be used by:
    (a) civil servants;
    (b) staff of the House;
    (c) Peers;
    (d) staff of Peers,

    together with the cost per week, the age group covered and any conditions that apply.[HL251]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Civil Service departments and agencies are encouraged, where there is a business case, to make available childcare facilities to support those who wish to combine a career with domestic responsibilities. Many Civil Service nurseries and playschemes run as inter-departmental or local partnerships, and often involve other non-civil service employers.

Information about nurseries and playschemes available to the children of civil servants is not held centrally.

Neither House provides nursery places in the Westminster area for their staff. They do, however, have in place alternative measures to help their staff with their childcare responsibilities. For example, childcare vouchers are available to staff in both Houses. Such measures are for House employees only and are not available to Peers, nor their staff.

Non-OP Sheep Dips: VPC Report

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the review of non-organophosphorous sheep dips carried out by the Veterinary Products Committee.[HL355]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The committee's report to the Licensing Authority (Agriculture and Health Ministers) has been placed in the Library of the House.

Following its review last year of the effectiveness of the certificate of competence scheme for the purchase of organophosphorus (OP) sheep dips, the Veterinary Products Committee (VPC) has reviewed the use of non-OP sheep dips. The committee has advised that the certificate of competence scheme should be extended to all sheep dips and we are already consulting on the necessary changes to the legislation to bring this into effect as quickly as possible.

The committee reaffirmed its earlier advice that the scheme should apply to the use of sheep dips as well as to their purchase and, as for OP dips, this will be achieved by strengthening measures to secure compliance with existing statutory duties. New guidance is being prepared by the Health and Safety Executive about the duties of farmers under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and related legislation. The guidance will also emphasise the importance of the Certificate of Competence Scheme operated by the National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC).

The committee was very concerned about reports of the environmental effects of synthetic pyrethroid (SP) sheep dips. We endorse this concern and are pleased to note that the NPTC has already completed a revision of the certificate of competence scheme. In future, the scheme will include practical training in the proper use and disposal of dips. The questions in the test for the certificate will be arranged in specific sections relating to, for example, environmental issues and operator

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safety, and a certain level of knowledge will be required in each section to achieve a pass mark. In addition, questions will relate to all forms of sheep dip and will include reference to the dangers to aquatic life from use and disposal of SP dips.

We endorse the committee's advice that those who have already obtained certificates of competence should be encouraged to take a further test on new areas of the certificate not previously covered.

The committee has recommended that product literature warnings about toxicity to aquatic life should be based on risk not hazard; that advice about the protection of the environment should be simple, concise, clearly set out and cross-referenced; that there should be reference to specific problems that may arise such as spillage, contamination from sheep to water, and improper disposal; and that product labels should be amended to refer to the Environment Agency (EA), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland (DOENI). We accept these recommendations and will pursue them with marketing authorisation holders, in the light of the committee's further consideration of the labelling of sheep dips.

We accept the committee's advice that there should be a mechanism for informing water regulators about dipping and for consulting them about proposed methods of disposal. Proposed new groundwater regulations recently issued for consultation by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office include provisions which would address these issues.

The committee has advised that the sheep dipping leaflet (AS29) should be revised to include comprehensive and up to date advice on the proper use and disposal of sheep dips to prevent contamination of water and this is being done.

We accept the committee's advice that there should be new requirements for toxicity data for SP dips. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has been asked to ensure these changes are made and that data on flumethrin are obtained as quickly as possible.

Finally, the committee has asked for an up-to-date data base on the use of sheep dips. It has previously been found difficult to obtain accurate information on this but officials of the VMD will pursue the question further with marketing authorisation holders.

We should like to thank Professor Aitken and the committee for the thoroughness of their review and for their clear and helpful advice.

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