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The Duke of Montrose asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The standard questionnaire used by National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit staff, when obtaining information about patients, includes a question on whether the patient has ever been a blood donor, and also asks for the date(s) and place(s) of any donation(s).

Contraception and Advice Services for Young People

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Government neither condone nor encourage under-age sex. The national media campaign we have initiated as part of our broader strategy to tackle teenage pregnancy encourages young people to take control of their lives and not to be pressurised into having sex.

The new guidance on sex and relationship education issued by the Department for Education and Employment in July 2000 emphasises the importance of learning the reasons for delaying sexual activity, and the benefits to be gained from such delay.

However much we may disapprove, we must recognise that a minority of young people do become sexually active before they are 16. Research suggests that only half of these young people use contraception the first time they have sex. That is why improving access to contraception and advice services is central to our strategy to tackle teenage pregnancy.

Research with young people has identified non-judgmental staff as a key feature of a service they would trust and access. The best practice guidance on the provision of effective contraception and advice services for young people, taken together

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with Health Circular (86)1/HC(FP)(86)1/LAC(86)3 Family Planning Services for Young People (copies of which are available in the Library), provides a responsible framework to ensure that young people are protected from unnecessary harm, consistent with the House of Lords judgment in the case of Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority in 1985. This judgment made clear that health professionals are justified in giving advice and treatment provided they are satisfied after discussion with a young person under 16 that, amongst other things, the young person would be very likely to begin, or to continue having, sexual intercourse with or without contraceptive treatment.

Organic Produce

Lord Vinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 12 February (WA 11), if there is no universally applicable method of distinguishing organic food from that conventionally produced, (a) whether there is any difference in nutrition or benefit to health between organic and conventional produce; and (b) how the Food Standards Agency authenticates organic produce.[HL871]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Food Standards Agency considers that there is not enough information available at present to be able to say that organic foods are significantly different in terms of their safety or nutritional content from those produced conventionally. What matters is the nutrient content and overall balance of the diet as a whole, rather than the composition of individual foods.

Administration of the certification scheme for organic food lies with the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards. Enforcement of the regulations dealing with organic products lies with local authorities. The agency's role is to set standards of enforcement and to assist enforcement authorities in their task. The agency has commissioned research to find a method which would indicate whether vegetables meet some of the standards required in organic production.

Ex-Miners' Assessment for Compensation

Lord Naseby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the oral Answer on 13 February, how many of the 134,000 ex-miners suffering from dust related diseases are still awaiting assessment.[HL744]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): To date, IRISC, the department's claims handlers, have registered over 135,500 claims and more are coming in each week. Of these, 66,000 claimants have undergone lung function tests, the first stage of the Medical Assessment Process, MAP, and a further 14,000 have been invited to make

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appointments. To date, around 11,500 claimants have undergone the full MAP assessment, with a further 4,300 appointments made. Currently, 31,500 individual payments have been made, amounting to £117.7 million.

Sub-post Office Closures

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many sub-post offices have closed in the past three years, 1998, 1999 and 2000; and, of those closures in the year 2000, how many have closed in the second half of that year.[HL756]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: I understand from the Post Office that the numbers of sub-post office closures, were as follows:

    Year ending March 1998: 238

    Year ending March 1999: 232

    Year ending March 2000: 382

In the year to March 2001, closures of sub-post offices in the nine months to December 2000 were 434, of which 135 were in the October-December quarter.

ADSL Roll-out

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the roll-out so far of Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) installations by British Telecom has provided adequate opportunity for all Internet Service Providers to compete fairly in the market.[HL803]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: BT was required by OFTEL to make available its wholesale ADSL products to all service providers, including its own service provider business, on the same terms and conditions. OFTEL monitors BT's ADSL roll-out closely to ensure that BT does not engage in anti-competitive behaviour in breach of its licence or the Competition Act. OFTEL investigates carefully any allegations of anti-competitive behaviour and will take enforcement action where appropriate. Already over 40 service providers are marketing ADSL products in competition with BT.

Copyright: Draft Directive

Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In relation to Article 6.4.4 of the 16 September Common Position Statement on the proposed Copyright and Information Society Directive, whether member states can intervene to prevent technical blocks being used (a) to deprive disabled people of the right to copy on-line material to put it into accessible format; and (b) to prevent the public from exercising lawful exceptions in the on-line environment; and, if so, why. [HL833]

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Article 6.4.4 of the Common Position on the draft copyright directive applies only in the case of material made available to the public on agreed contractual terms by means of interactive "on-demand" services. A new recital (52a) recently approved by the European Parliament at its second reading of the directive is intended to clarify the limited scope of this provision. The Government have indicated their readiness to accept this amendment to the Common Position, which also makes clear that other forms of online use of material remain subject to the safeguards in the first and second subparagraphs of Article 6.4 for member states to be able to act to ensure that users can benefit from the exceptions in question. The European Parliament's amendments to the draft directive will now be considered by the EU Council of Ministers.

Postage Costs

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the interests of small businesses and communication within the European Union, they have any intention to seek to reverse the differential pricing introduced by the Post Office between the first class inland rate (27 pence) and the cost of 36 pence to send a letter or postcard of up to 20 grams to the rest of Europe (including the Republic of Ireland). [HL926]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government have no plans to request changes in the price of mail services. This is a matter for the Post Office and, from 26 March, the regulator, the Postal Services Commission, to decide.

Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils

Lord Brett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the outcome of the First Stage of the Quinquennial Review of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils will be announced; and what are the principal recommendations for the future governance and organisation of CCLRC.[HL983]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: I am today able to announce the outcome of the First Stage of the Quinquennial Review of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils.

Reviews of Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) are a key part of our programme to modernise government. The Government are committed to achieving better public services that are of higher quality and are more responsive to the needs of the people who use them. Regular NDPB reviews are an important element in ensuring that we have in place the right structures to deliver the Government's agenda effectively and to provide a strong focus on improving future performance.

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The terms of reference of the review required the First Stage to examine the role, composition and funding mechanisms for CCLRC, by reference to its Charter and mission, its past performance, recent CCLRC-instigated studies on future vision and funding, current best practice for NDPBs and its contribution to the work of other research councils. The review was further required to consider all relevant options for the future of the council, including abolition, continued NDPB status, rationalisation, privatisation or strategic contracting out.

The review has been conducted in accordance with the latest Cabinet Office guidance (published on 31 January 2000) and has included consultation with members of council, the executive and CCLRC's customers and key stakeholders. The review board, chaired by Sir Peter Williams, met on six occasions, including visits to the Rutherford Appleton and Daresbury laboratories.

The principal recommendation is that the relationship of the Research Councils and CCLRC as customer and supplier has proved to be sub-optimal and should be changed to a strategic ownership model, in which CCLRC is brought under the joint ownership of the grant awarding research councils. To facilitate this change, CCLRC should be reconstituted, as soon as practicable, as a limited company, to provide a similar governance structure to existing research council institutes.

This model ensures a clear commitment by the research councils to meet the planned funding needs of CCLRC based on scrutiny of strategic and operating plans, and should provide efficiency savings. Within this framework, CCLRC should seek to fulfil a more strategic role in the provision of access to leading edge, large-scale facilities for UK researchers. Investment in new facilities should be based on long term requirements agreed by all the different research communities.

Stage two of the review will now examine the issues associated with the implementation of the strategic ownership model, addressing in particular the implications for the status of CCLRC and its accountability to Ministers and Parliament. Stage two will also examine how the strategic role can be implemented, such that it is not compromised by CCLRC's role as a facilities operator.

I warmly welcome these recommendations and offer my thanks to Sir Peter Williams and the rest of the review board.

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