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Uranium: Testing for Presence in the Human Body

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Work to collate this information has now been completed and my honourable friend, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, published a detailed paper entitled Testing for the presence of depleted uranium in UK veterans of the Gulf conflict: The Current Position last Friday. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Health: Parliamentary Statements

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): Between 2 May 1997 and 16 March 1999 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health made twenty-one oral statements to the House of Commons. We are satisfied that Parliament has ample opportunity to scrutinise the Government's policies on health.

The Royal Parks

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government want to see the Royal Parks, which are a great national asset, used for more events both to attract a greater range of visitors and to increase income for investment in the fabric of the parks. An increase in the number of events proposed for the Royal Parks this summer can, we believe, be undertaken without undermining the principles in the reports of the Royal Parks Review Group, chaired by Dame Jennifer Jenkins, or our own commitment to restricting commercialisation of the Royal Parks.

We shall, of course, review the impact of the 1999 season in due course, but it is not evident what purpose would be served by a formal cost-benefit analysis of the kind suggested, even if it were possible.

Consultations on the preliminary proposals for a garden to commemorate Diana, Princess of Wales, were undertaken because of the high level of public interest and because they would permanently affect the fabric of Kensington Gardens. Concerts in the Royal Parks are a familiar part of the summer season in London and the proposed increase in their number will have only a temporary, occasional effect which does not merit such extensive consultation. Nonetheless, the Royal Parks Agency has discussed its proposed programme of events with the relevant authorities and informed Friends' Groups of its plans.

Good Friday Agreement: Release of Prisoners

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners have been released to date under the Good Friday Agreement and how many who could be eligible for release under the Agreement remain in custody; and whether they will indicate, in respect of each group, the number convicted of murder, the number not convicted of murder but sentenced to life imprisonment and the number whose offences were committed in England.[HL1485]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): 248 prisoners have to date been released under the Good Friday Agreement.

A further 200 prisoners who could be or have been deemed by the Commissioners to be eligible for release remain in custody.

Of the 248 prisoners released, 78 were convicted of murder, 76 received life sentences and 2 were detained at the Secretary of State's pleasure, none were held solely on discretionary life sentences, and 8 were serving sentences for offences which they had committed in England.

Of the 200 prisoners who remain in custody and who could be or have been deemed by the Commissioners to be eligible for release, 70 were convicted of murder, 68 received life sentences and 2 are detained at the Secretary of State's pleasure, none are held solely on discretionary life sentences, and 26 are serving sentences for offences which they had committed in England.

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Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In what circumstances those prisoners released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement would be liable to recall to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences.[HL1486]

Lord Dubs: The circumstances in which a prisoner would be liable to recall are set out in Section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act.

The Secretary of State may suspend a licence under Section 4 or 6 of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998 if she believes the person concerned has broken or is likely to break one of the conditions of his licence. A person's licence is subject only to the conditions: that he does not support a specified organisation (within the meaning of Section 3 of the Act); that he does not become concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland; and in the case of a life sentence prisoner, that he does not become a danger to the public.

Where a person's licence is suspended he shall be detained in pursuance of his sentence and, if at large, shall be taken to be unlawfully at large, and the Commissioners shall consider his case.

On consideration of a person's case, if the Commissioners think he has not broken and is not likely to break a condition imposed by this section, they shall confirm his licence, otherwise they shall revoke his licence.

Beef on the Bone

The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment has been made of the risk of death from eating beef on the bone compared with the risk of choking to death from eating fish on the bone.[HL1361]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): There is no scientific proof that BSE can be transmitted to man by eating beef, but this is seen by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee as the most likely explanation, and all our control measures are based on the assumption that it is. In these circumstances, before it will be possible to calculate with any degree of certainty the risk to an individual as a result of eating beef on the bone, we need the answers to a number of key scientific questions: how much infectivity is needed to cause disease in humans; whether repeated exposure to small amounts of infectivity over a period of time can cause disease or whether a single dose is sufficient to result in disease; how susceptible man is to BSE compared with, for example, cattle or mice; whether there are factors such as genetic susceptibility, or the physiology of the human gut, that might affect susceptibility or incubation period in humans compared with other species.

It is clearly not possible to conduct direct experiments to test these factors. As the BSE epidemic wanes, any risk declines along with the number of infected animals,

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but it is not possible to specify the statistical risk for an individual of dying from nvCJD as a result of eating beef on the bone products or to compare that risk with the risk of choking to death from eating fish on the bone.

In such uncertain circumstances we need to be very cautious about any decision to relax public health protection in this area.

Bananas

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the price differential between dollar area and Caribbean bananas over the last 15 years reflects an improvement in the quality of Caribbean bananas, following the official warnings about poor quality which were issued by the United Kingdom Government in the mid-1980s.[HL1460]

Lord Donoughue: A number of factors have affected prices in the banana market over the last 15 years, especially the introduction of the European Single Market in bananas in 1993. However, the quality of bananas from the Caribbean is recognised by the trade to have improved substantially.

Badger Cull

Lord Morris of Castle Morris asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have appointed an external auditor for the randomised badger culling trial.[HL1529]

Lord Donoughue: In its report of July 1998 to Ministers, the Independent Scientific Group on TB in cattle recommended that an external auditor be appointed to check field operations. Cresswell Associates, Environmental Consultants of Stroud, Gloucestershire, have now been appointed to carry out this work until November 1999. Audit work after that date will be the subject of a further invitation to tender.


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