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Hepatitis C and Haemophiliacs

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: These are difficult and complex issues of relativities. Our view is that HIV infection was a special case of heightened public concern and ignorance in the 1980s. Current information indicates that sexual transmission of hepatitis C does occur but that the virus is inefficiently spread in this way.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: When we made our careful assessment of the request for a special payment scheme for people with haemophilia infected with hepatitis C we took account of the very high level of stigma attaching to HIV in the 1980s when the HIV special payments were introduced.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: We are already working with the Haemophilia Society on help for young people with haemophilia infected with hepatitis C and we are providing a grant for their hepatitis C Youth Information and Support project which offers support on issues such as discrimination and aims to reduce the risk of social exclusion. We will continue to discuss these issues, and the project, with the society.

28 Jun 1999 : Column WA11

Mobile Phones: Health Risks

Viscount Exmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 3 November 1998 (WA 41-42) and in the light of the further recent medical reports suggesting that users of mobile telephones are more likely to suffer from cerebral tumours than those who do not, whether they will legislate or issue regulations to ensure that:


    (a) all such devices be issued with an appropriate cautionary health warning; and


    (b) manufacturers of mobile telephones should clearly publish relevant information such as radiation output figures, the number of watts per kgm or similar data.[HL2697]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Mobile phones in use in the UK should comply with the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) Guidelines for restricting human exposure to electromagnetic fields. The NRPB provide advice and continue to review the published scientific evidence. They advise that there is no convincing scientific evidence of harmful effects at levels of exposure that meet the guidelines. All measurements that have been taken demonstrates that mobile phones give rise to exposures that are well within the guidelines. The Government have therefore no plans to introduce new legislation or regulation in this area. The latest NRPB information, which includes comments on a recent study of tumours, is available on their web site (http://www.nrpb.org.uk).

However, the Government are aware of continuing public concern about the possibility of harmful effects from mobile phones. On 8 April the Minister for Public Health Tessa Jowell announced the setting up of an independent expert working group to assess the current state of research into mobile phones.

Provision of more detailed information for consumers about compliance with the guidelines would have to be carefully examined to ensure that it would be meaningful to the general consumer, would avoid unnecessary confusion, and could be verified.

We will, nevertheless, discuss with the mobile industry what further helpful information can be provided to the users of mobile phones.

UN World Conference on Science

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which Ministers will be present at the United Nations Global Science Conference taking place this month, what are the purposes, priorities and origins of this series of conferences, and how the conferences are funded.[HL2968]

28 Jun 1999 : Column WA12

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The World Conference on Science to be held in Budapest from 26 June to 1 July 1999 originates from an idea of UNESCO's Director General which, after discussion, development and evaluation, was subsequently endorsed at the UNESCO General Conference held in November 1997.

The conference will firstly provide for world-leading scientists to review science's achievements and shortcomings and the role of science in society. Secondly, scientists, governments and international organisations will debate in plenary session the establishment of a set of principles in the form of a declaration on science and the use of scientific knowledge, and an action-oriented framework plan to reflect those principles.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development will make a statement on behalf of the Government during the plenary debate.

As co-organisers, UNESCO and the International Council for Scientific Unions (ICSU) are funding the conference, but delegations are responsible for their own attendance costs.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether women, minorities and other United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) major groups will be represented on the British Delegation to the United Nations Global Science Conference taking place this month.[HL2969]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Women, minorities and other UNCED major groups will not be specifically represented on the UK delegation.

The UK delegation will be made up, firstly, of officials from the Office of Science and Technology and the Department for International Development, representing Government's overall approach to science and its relationships with UNESCO. Secondly, broad civil society will be represented on the delegation by participants from the Royal Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether classical economics is to be included among the scientific disciplines to be discussed at the United Nations Global Science Conference taking place this month.[HL2970]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government regard economics as a scientific discipline along with other social sciences and believe strongly in active collaboration between natural and social scientists to address problems such as development and the environment, where social, economic and technical considerations all need to be taken into account. Professor Partha Dasgupta, a distinguished economist from Cambridge University, will be addressing the Conference on "Setting Priorities in a new Socio-Economic Context".

28 Jun 1999 : Column WA13

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps have been taken to ensure public and professional awareness of, and input to, the conference process at the United Nations Global Science Conference taking place this month, and from whom policy contributions and representations have been received.[HL2971]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Drafts of documents proposed for adoption by participants at the World Conference on Science being organised by UNESCO and the International Council for Scientific Unions (ICSU) have been circulated among government departments and various British Embassies, the Research Councils, the British Council, the Royal Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

Nature magazine has devoted a significant section of its website to the conference and on 13 May organised a seminar to seek views from those attending, including representatives of the British Council, UNESCO Forum, the Royal Society, the Department for International Development, academic institutions and others.

UNESCO itself has organised briefing sessions in the UK involving key British speakers at the conference. At one event held at the Science Museum at the beginning of April, a wide ranging audience from the technical press and scientific organisations was addressed by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Robert May, Professor John Durant (Assistant Director of the Science Museum and Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Imperial College), as well as UNESCO's Director General, Dr. Frederico Mayor.

In response to these activities, a range of Government Departments and Agencies (including Health, Defence, Environment, Transport and the Regions, International Development, Patent Office, Health & Safety Executive), Research Councils (including Biotechnology and Biological Science, Medical, Particle Physics and Astronomy), the UNESCO Forum and Non- Governmental Organisations (the Royal Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology) have made their views known.


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