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Euro/Sterling Exchange Rate

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In his James Meade memorial lecture on 8 May, the Chancellor said "Such a euro-sterling exchange rate cannot be justified by any view of long-term economic fundamentals."

In view of the concerns shared by the members of the G7, including the United Kingdom, about the potential implications of recent movements in the euro for the world economy, the G7 authorities undertook concerted intervention in the markets on 22 September.

Tax Harmonisation

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the state of play of tax harmonisation in the European Union; and what is their attitude to it.[HL4253]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government's approach to EU tax issues is based on fair tax competition, not tax harmonisation. At the recent Feira European Council in June, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor persuaded the EU to accept exchange of information rather than a withholding tax on cross-border savings income as the way forward. This illustrated the success of the Government's policy of constructive engagement on EU issues.

European Commission: Anti-fraud Measures

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made with the European Union's attempt to eliminate fraud and maladministration by the European Commission.[HL4254]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In June 1999 the EU established a new anti-fraud office, OLAF. The new office has powers to investigate internal fraud within all the institutions, has strong guarantees of its independence within the Commission, can also recommend action to be taken as a result of its reports, and will report to the Council and European Parliament on progress.

At the same time, work on administrative reform of the European Commission is progressing broadly in line with the Commission's White Paper on reforming the Commission which was published in March this year.

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Criminal Trials: Timetable

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the recent comments by Mr Justice Henriques, they believe that the timetable for a criminal trial should be determined by the employment commitments of the accused.[HL4177]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The timetable for a criminal trial is set by the judge at the Plea and Directions Hearing. In fixing the trial date, the judge takes into account the venue for the hearing, the time estimate and submissions made by the parties. Such decisions are made by the judiciary in their own independent sphere and may not be called in question by the executive.

Copies of the statement made by Mr Justice Henriques, issued through the Lord Chancellor's Department Press Office, giving his reasons for setting a trial date of 6 June 2001, together with copies of the transcript of the hearing, have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Multi-Storey Car Parks

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to disseminate the advice contained in the report Interim Guidance on the Inspection and Maintenance of Multi-Storey Car Parks, published by the National Steering Committee on Multi-Storey Car Parks and to promote its implementation by car park owners, operators and local authorities to ensure that the public are protected from the risk of structural failure.[HL4201]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): We have no plans to disseminate advice based on the Interim Guidance on the Inspection and Maintenance of Multi-Storey Car Parks, but my department will consider the need to disseminate the findings of the final report in due course.

"Therapeutic Cloning"

Lord McColl of Dulwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the prohibition on financial gain from the "making of the human body and its parts" in Article 3(2) of the draft European Union Charter on Fundamental Rights would include "therapeutic cloning"; and, if so, whether they will refuse any future proposals by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to allow researchers and their financial sources to profit from the development of clinical solutions developed as a result of their research into therapeutic cloning.[HL3958]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The charter will be a political declaration and is not legally binding. Article 3(2) of the draft European Charter on Fundamental Rights specifies that using "the human body and its parts as such" as a source of financial gain is prohibited. The text of Article 21 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine includes a similar provision. The explanatory report to that convention points out that, although organs and tissues should not give rise to financial gains, technical acts which are performed on the basis of these items may legitimately give rise to reasonable remuneration. The Praesidium commentary on Article 3 notes that this Article was intended to reflect the principles of the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine and hence that it would be subject to the same interpretation. Thus, permitting researchers to make financial gain from clinical solutions for, for example, the treatment of diseased or damaged tissues or organs which have been developed from research involving cell nuclear replacement ("therapeutic cloning") would not be inconsistent with Article 3(2).

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