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Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: This information is not available centrally in the form requested.

Iraq: Depleted Uranium-based Ammunition

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have obtained any information on the effects of low dose alpha radiation on the morbidity and mortality rates in Iraqi children as a result of contamination from depleted uranium used in Iraq during the Gulf War.[HL2096]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The Government have not seen any peer-reviewed epidemiological research data concerning current morbidity or mortality rates among the population of Iraq. Hence, while we are aware of suggestions that the use of depleted uranium-based ammunition during the Gulf conflict has caused an increase in ill health in southern Iraq, we have so far seen no evidence to support these suggestions. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the ill health that is being reported from Iraq is uniquely associated with exposure to depleted uranium.

Military Survey and JARIC Defence Agencies

Lord Christopher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the merger of the Military Survey and Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre, JARIC, Defence Agencies.[HL2409]

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Lord Gilbert: The case for merging the Military Survey and JARIC Defence Agencies into a single agency was considered under the Strategic Defence Review. The study, which was completed in September 1998, concluded that there were a number of drivers, mainly in the medium to long term, recommending the merger of Military Survey and JARIC. These would secure improved operational effectiveness and better service to defence. Early implementation of a merger was recommended.

Following full consultation we have asked the Director General of Intelligence and Geographic Resources to proceed with the implementation of a single agency to be launched in April 2000. The post of chief executive, designate, of the new agency has been filled by internal competition. Colonel Peter Walker OBE has been appointed. On promotion to brigadier he will lead an implementation team which will be established shortly before he assumes his chief executive role in April 2000.

Medicines Control Agency Consultation

Earl Kitchener asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will identify the authors of the three letters that they have received supporting the proposals outlined in the Medicines Control Agency consultation document, MLX249; and whether they will indicate what changes they intend to make to those proposals to take account of the 3,400 letters of opposition they have received from them.[HL2278]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): Responses in favour of the proposals have been received from the Scottish Office Department of Health, the Northern Ireland Department of Health and Social Services, the National Eczema Society, the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, the Local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. We are considering all responses to the consultation document in order to decide whether to make changes to the proposals.

10 May 1999 : Column WA129

EU Current Account and Unemployment Percentages

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the surpluses and deficits on current account and what were the annual average unemployed percentages for the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Holland and Belgium in 1998 and in each year since 1990.[HL2237]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Director of the Office for National Statistics who has been asked to reply.

Letter to Lord Shore of Stepney from the Director of the Office for National Statistics, Tim Holt, dated 7 May 1999.

As Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your recent parliamentary question on the current account and unemployment percentages of EU countries.

As regards the current account, the data requested are shown in the attached tables. Unfortunately, 1998 data for countries other than the United Kingdom are not

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currently available. The United Kingdom data shown in Table 2 are the latest estimates and have been revised since the data shown in Table 1 were published.

The Labour Force Survey is the recognised source of internationally comparable information on unemployment in EU member states. This is defined on a consistent and internationally recognised basis set out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO definition of unemployment considers a person unemployed if he/she is (a) without a paid job; (b) available to start work within the next two weeks; and (c) has either looked for work in the last four weeks or is waiting to start a job already obtained. The information provided in the table below has been taken from this source.

The attached Table 3 shows the ILO unemployment rates for selected countries for the years 1990 to 1997. Rates for 1998 have not yet been published by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities. The rates refer to spring of each year and are not seasonally adjusted.

A line has been drawn between rates for 1991 and 1992. Several improvements to the survey were implemented in 1992, introducing a slight discontinuity in the series. Eurostat advise that since both series are based on ILO guidelines, the difference between the series should be minimal.

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Table 1: Current Balance of Selected Countries, 1990-97
Billions of ECU (European Currency Unit)

United Kingdom-26.85-12.20-13.20-14.04-2.23-4.35-0.558.78
Belgium & Luxembourg(4)2.783.885.129.9410.3211.0511.1112.02

(4) Data for Belgium are not separately available.



Table 2: United Kingdom Current Balance, 1990-98
Billions of pounds sterling

United Kingdom-19.51-8.37-10.08-10.62-1.46-3.75-0.606.301.47


Office for National Statistics.

Table 3: ILO Unemployment Rates for Selected Countries for 1990-97--spring of each year, not seasonally adjusted
Per cent.

BelgiumGermanyFranceItalyNetherlandsUnited Kingdom


Labour Force Survey, ONS and Eurostat.

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Asbestos Directive

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals have been made by the European Commission to amend the existing asbestos directive; what comments have been made by the United Kingdom Health and Safety Commission on those proposals; and what is their policy on amending the directive.[HL2182]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Member states of the European Union voted on an EC proposal to restrict further the marketing and use of white asbestos yesterday. The UK voted in favour. I am glad to say that the proposal was passed by 13 votes to two. It has now been passed to European Commissioners for formal adoption. The proposal would ban white asbestos from 1 January 2005 with an exemption for one specialised use. Member states will also be able to implement domestic legislation before 2005 if they wish; the Health and Safety Commission has already consulted on introducing a ban before 2005 and I look forward to its proposals.

Separately, the Council of Ministers last year, at the instigation of the UK presidency, concluded that the Asbestos Worker Protection directive should be reviewed and refocused onto those workers most likely, inadvertently, to come into contact with asbestos during the course of their work. The European Commission (EC) has started work on its proposals and the UK is playing an active part in discussion.

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