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15 Jun 1999 : Column WA13

Written Answers

Tuesday, 15th June 1999.

Algeria and Morocco: EU Aid

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Amos on 10 May (WA 122-123), whether they will enumerate the proposals made in the new MEDA regulation for 2000-06 that would ensure that aid given to Algeria and Morocco will be properly, honestly and efficiently administered; and whether they will further specify on whom the burden of the administration will fall.[HL2799]

Baroness Amos: It is not expected that there will be any further discussion of the MEDA regulation for 2000-06 until after the new Commission is formed in July. Details of the new regulation have yet to be released.

We are very pleased that our proposal for a single Commissioner, a single programme and budget has been adopted by the incoming President of the Commission. We see this as the way towards improving the propriety and effective administration of development spending.

Channel 5 "Sex and Shopping" Series

Lord Ashbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take following the findings of the Independent Television Commission that the series entitled "Sex and Shopping" contained some imagery which was unacceptable for broadcasting at any time, given that Channel 5 now intends to repeat this series in the autumn.[HL2591]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Independent Television Commission (ITC) is responsible for ensuring that programmes shown on commercial television comply with its codes and licence conditions. Every broadcaster has a responsibility to ensure that programmes do not contain material which fails to comply. It will be for the ITC to decide whether any version of this series which may be shown in the future contains unacceptable material and, if so, to decide what action should be taken.

University Collections: Protection from Sale

Lord Freyberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to safeguard university collections from being sold.[HL2750]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In cases where the collections form part of a registered university museum, the terms of the Museum Registration Scheme operated by the Museums & Galleries Commission (MGC) lay

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down strict rules governing disposals. Breach of these rules would result in loss of registered status.

The MGC has also issued guidelines on the legal status of museums' collections in the United Kingdom and the safeguarding of items therein.

Where a collection is held by a university but not constituted as a museum, the MGC regulations do not apply. In these circumstances any proposed disposal is a matter for the academic body itself.

Kosovar Refugees: Evacuation to UK

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether in the light of the changed circumstances, any more refugees from Kosovo will be evacuated from the region to the United Kingdom.[HL3081]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government's aim, in common with that of our European Union partners, has been to ensure that the great majority of refugees are looked after in the region so that they are able to return to their homes when it is safe to do so. We have also responded to the request for help from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to evacuate the most vulnerable people from the area. We accordingly accepted around 4,000 refugees into the United Kingdom (UK). The stage now reached in the military action against the Milosevic regime and the fact that the first steps have been taken to allow the refugees to return mean that significant evacuations under the Humanitarian Evacuation Programmes are no longer necessary.

We have, therefore, decided to reduce significantly the number of flights into the United Kingdom. After today, we expect to receive a further flight this week and one next week. We will then keep the situation under review. We will focus on people who cannot be cared for in the region and on the spouses and dependants of people who are already in the United Kingdom.

Those refugees arriving under the Programme who have been granted 12 months' leave to enter will not have their stay curtailed. We will, however, actively be establishing arrangements to facilitate the return of those who want to go back to Kosovo before then.

Consideration of claims for asylum for citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will be suspended temporarily while the security situation in Kosovo is clarified. Consideration of applications will resume as soon as practicable. Nobody will be sent back to Kosovo until we are satisfied that it is safe for them to go. We propose for the time being to grant 12 months' leave to enter or remain to Kosovan Albanians on an exceptional basis. This will provide for the same status and access to benefits as between Former Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) citizens who have arrived as part of UNHCR's Humanitarian Evacuation Programme and those who have arrived independently, once their cases are decided.

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Although the evacuation flights from Macedonia to the United Kingdom are coming to an end, we will continue to apply family reunion criteria under our normal immigration policy for those in the United Kingdom who have refugee status and we propose to continue to operate family reunion for those who have come to the United Kingdom under the Humanitarian Evacuation Programme. Anyone granted such a visa for travel to the United Kingdom will however be required to make their own travel and accommodation arrangements.

We would like to take this opportunity to pay a warm tribute to the hard work which local authorities and the voluntary sector have done in preparing for and receiving evacuees from Kosovo. Even those areas which have not actually received flights or accommodated evacuees have responded with generosity and enthusiasm to the need to plan for arrivals.

Investors in People UK: Review

Lord Haskel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will announce the outcome of the Quinquennial Review of Investors in People UK.[HL2975]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Against the background of the established practice of carrying out quinquennial policy and financial reviews of non-departmental public bodies, the department conducted a thorough review of Investors in People UK during 1998.

The first stage was a policy review of whether the functions were still needed, also what framework was most efficient to deliver them. It was concluded that Investors in People UK should continue to carry out the functions within an NDPB framework.

Stage 2 consisted of a financial management survey of the organisation. The financial management survey, carried out for the department by external consultants Pannell Kerr Forster, concluded that the company achieves value for money in grant-in-aid terms and has achieved excellent performance against its objectives.

The combined quinquennial review is published today and a copy is being placed in the Library. Further copies can be obtained on request from: Jane Binney, Department for Education and Employment, Workplace Learning Division, Area E8b, Moorfoot, Sheffield S1 4PQ (telephone number 0114 259 4232).

Absinthe

Viscount Thurso asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will take steps to warn the public that absinthe, in addition to alcohol, contains the hallucinogenic agent thujone.[HL2789]

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): Absinthe, like any other food or drink product sold for human consumption in the UK, must satisfy the current food safety legislation. This includes regulations which set maximum levels for thujone in flavoured foods and beverages. A Public Analyst's report has confirmed that thujone is not present at significant levels in the product which was recently introduced on to the UK market. There is therefore no need to provide specific warnings to consumers about this drink.

Viscount Thurso asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of the fact that the sale of absinthe is banned in many European countries and in the United States, they are considering a similar ban in this country.[HL2790]

Lord Donoughue: The Government have no plans to introduce such measures. Absinthe, like any other food or drink product sold for human consumption in the UK, must satisfy the current legislation on food safety. Provided it does so, there is no obstacle to its importation or sale.

Unlicensed Slaughterhouses

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What specific actions are taken to detect unlicensed slaughterhouses or unlicensed slaughtering activity; and[HL2806]

    How many times since the commencement of duties of the Meat Hygiene Service on 1 April 1995 complaints have been made to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in respect of known or suspected unlicensed slaughterhouses.[HL2826]

Lord Donoughue: The activity of slaughtering animals in unlicensed premises is not illegal per se. Information on the number of complaints received about unlicensed slaughterhouses is not collected centrally and is therefore not readily available. The agriculture departments investigate substantive reports of activities involving the sale (or the offer for sale) of meat for human consumption which is known or suspected to have been produced in unlicensed premises. It is the sale (or the offer for sale) of such meat that constitutes an offence under the Food Safety Act.


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