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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the Prime Minister's staff are not bursting out of No. 10. There are no plans to move the staff or to increase the size of the accommodation. On the expenditure referred to, first, the state rooms have been improved for the first time in 10 years, and, secondly, the top floor of No. 10 Downing Street has been brought back into commission as offices following a terrorist attack that occurred some years previously. The number of staff has been increased, as the Labour Party made it clear before coming into office that it would have a strong centre, which it has.

Lord Lipsey: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that it is amazing, given the range of responsibilities of a modern Prime Minister, not that the number of staff at No. 10 is so big, but that it is so small?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I agree with much of what my noble friend says. The size of the staff is appropriate to the responsibilities.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, will not the Prime Minister's staff require more accommodation in order to employ more people to look after the Scottish Executive, which last week managed to get itself into a total shambles resulting in Mr Donald Dewar sacking his chief adviser, despite the desires of Downing Street to keep him? If more staff are needed, can the Minister give the House an absolute assurance that the Secretary of State for Scotland will not be evicted and that Dover House will not be taken over by the Prime Minister?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, first, it is absolutely clear that the Prime Minister will stay in No. 10 Downing Street. Secondly, I note the noble Lord's reference to "shambles". I wonder how the Conservative Party feels at the moment about their choice for London mayor. As I understand the position, the No. 1 candidate dropped out and No. 2 has been barred despite the fact that he was allowed in the race the first time round. But perhaps that is straying too far from the Question.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, obviously there is a misunderstanding in relation to that. Thirdly, I do not believe that the Question has anything to do with Scotland.

Earl Russell: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House the cost of the Prime Minister's official staff?

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How does that cost compare with the cost for the last year of John Major's prime ministership and how are those costs divided between public funds, party funds and the Prime Minister's private funds?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I cannot give the House the precise costs. The difference in terms of the number of staff is that as at 1st April 1997, the number of staff in No. 10 was 130. The current figure is 199. However, I shall write to the noble Earl about the costs.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether a nanny would be classified as part of the Prime Minister's official staff? If so, will extra accommodation be required for him or her?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I should have thought that the question about a nanny would be entirely a matter for the Prime Minister's private arrangements.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, if the number of people in the Prime Minister's staff increases by 50 per cent, can the Minister explain how they are not over-crowded? Indeed, were they all floating around like ducks in a bath beforehand?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I should have thought that the description of the previous government's staff at No. 10 as "floating ... ducks in a bath" might be an appropriate portrayal of what was going on before. However, I cannot tell. The noble Earl is better placed than I to judge that. As far as concerns the present position, the top floor has been brought into commission as offices. Modern methods of space planning are used and there is no difficulty.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, given the Prime Minister's overall responsibility for the Civil Service, would the Minister like to congratulate the Civil Service College on its part in securing the contract to train civil servants of the European Union? Given the size of that task, does the Minister agree that No. 10 Downing Street is likely to be denuded of civil servants for some time to come?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Yes, my Lords. I should like to join the noble Baroness in congratulating the Civil Service College on its training generally and on securing the contract to which she referred.

Phthalate Plasticisers

2.50 p.m.

Lord Taverne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to revoke the European Commission's ban on phthalate plasticisers.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, at a meeting on 1st December of the Emergencies Committee,

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established under the General Product Safety Directive, the committee unanimously adopted the Commission's proposal to introduce an emergency ban on phthalates in toys intended to be mouthed by children under three years of age. The Department of Trade and Industry will be implementing the measure through administrative measures, which monitor the voluntary undertakings given by United Kingdom industry that products covered by the measure have been removed from the UK market.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, do the Government accept that there is no scientific basis for this ban and that, if the conclusions drawn from tests of chemicals in this case were to be more widely applied, we would have to ban orange juice, marmalade, broccoli and a host of other foodstuffs? Will the Government resist an extension of the ban to medical products, like gloves, syringes and tubing, which would have significant health effects? Finally, does not the imposition of this ban show the need to counter the enormous influence of pressure groups like Greenpeace, which are no respecters of scientific evidence and are more concerned with scare headlines to increase their membership than they are with the protection of health or the environment?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there are two kinds of phthalate plasticisers which could be used in the toy industry. One is DEHP, which has not been used in Britain for 10 years. It is certainly true that that could be dangerous if mouthed and, to that extent, the noble Lord is not correct in his scientific analysis. The second is DINP, which would be dangerous only if it were chewed for a very long time; for example, as a child's dummy. However, no phthalates are used in the production of dummies, teethers or teething rings. Therefore, for the sake of peace and quiet, we decided that it was better to go along with the Union, although the directive does not affect our industry.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, can the noble Lord give the House the treaty base under which this absurd piece of nonsense is being taken? Can he also say whether the United Kingdom has the ability to stop it? Alternatively, are we, as usual, outvoted by our good partners in Europe?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as I said in my original Answer, the basis for this ban is the General Product Safety Directive. We did not seek to stop it; we agreed with the ban and allowed it to go forward.

Lord Boardman: My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the United Kingdom. However, bearing in mind the exchanges which took place during the previous Question today, one wonders whether Scotland, for example, has the authority to decide not to adopt this particular regulation. Indeed, could Scotland take a completely different attitude towards the ban?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not have an answer to that question, which would not have

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occurred if the previous Question had not arisen. My immediate judgment is to say that matters of implementation of European Commission directives would be reserved matters, even though food safety is a devolved matter. Most food law is determined at European Union level. Devolved authorities have to work within the harmonised framework. UK policy will have to reflect a consistent line.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is not the case that some phthalates have the potential of being oestrogen mimics? In view of the fact that fish have been found to be of both sexes, or to be changing their sexes, is it not important for us to protect our children? Surely we must always bear this in mind.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords. I entirely agree with the noble Countess that it is important for us to protect our children. Indeed, the toy industry in this country also agrees. That is why there have been no DINP phthalates--in fact, no phthalates--used in the production of dummies, teethers and teething rings for a very long time.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, will the noble Lord be kind enough to tell us what we are talking about?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, a widely used plastic material is PVC--polyvinyl chloride--of which I am sure the noble Earl will have heard. When it is desirable for it to be softened so that it can be used for toys or, as I said, for dummies, then a plasticiser is used; namely, a phthalate. That is what the Question addresses.

Perhaps I may at this point give the noble Countess, Lady Mar, a further answer to her question. I am advised that DINP has no oestrogenic effect.


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