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University Admissions

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Universities are responsible for their own admissions policies. They should select applicants by merit, based on their potential to succeed. We encourage universities to use a wide range of measures to assess that potential.

Calthorpe Clinic, Edgbaston

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Andrews: The Calthorpe Clinic was inspected in November 2002 and the inspection report is not yet in the public domain. The clinic is currently finalising an action plan covering the requirements and recommendations that were identified in the National Care Standards Commission's draft report. The inspection report will then be completed and made public.

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Food Supplements

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What recent representations they have received from individual companies, trade organisations or consumer bodies about nutrients which are currently permitted for use in food supplements in the United Kingdom but which are omitted from the list of permitted nutrients set out in Annexes 1 and 2 of the Food Supplements Directive.[HL2072]

Baroness Andrews: A number of individual companies, trade organisations and lobby groups have recently suggested that the Government should seek an amendment to the Food Supplements Directive to allow the continued sale in the United Kingdom of safe and appropriately labelled food supplements even if they lie outside the technical restrictions of the directive.

During negotiations the Government fought hard to secure the provisions in Article 4 of the directive, which enable member states to allow the continued sale of products that do not comply with the compositional requirements up to 31 December 2009 provided certain criteria are met. The Government are taking advantage of these provisions and have no plans to seek a further amendment to the directive. Negotiations were finished some time ago and it is not likely either that the Commission would be willing to reopen them now or that there would be support from a majority of other member states for such an amendment.

Works of Art: Government Indemnity Scheme

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Blackstone on 6 December 2001 (WA 158), what steps they have now taken to amend the government indemnity scheme on works of art.[HL2096]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): No decision has yet been taken to amend the government indemnity scheme. The review mentioned in my last Answer has yet to be completed. I am not aware of any loans that have fallen due to the current arrangements for indemnifying items previously accepted in lieu of tax.

Northern Ireland: LMC Levy

Lord Skelmersdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the maximum levy on sheep and bovine animals slaughtered in (or sent out of) Northern Ireland as permitted under the Livestock Marketing Commission Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 was not increased in either the 1980s or 1990s, so resulting in

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    the large percentage increase in the Livestock and Meat Commission (Maximum Levy) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (SR 2003/20).[HL1874]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The actual rates of levy payable to the Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC) were last revised in October 1988 when they rose from 45p to 80p per bovine (ie cattle) and from 4p to 8p per ovine (ie sheep). These amounts fell within the ceilings of £1 per bovine and 10p per sheep detailed in the Livestock Marketing Commission (Maximum Levy) Regulations (NI) 1976 (SR 184).

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, finance surpluses were built up in the LMC from both levy income and the activities the commission carried out on behalf of the then Intervention Board (now Rural Payments Agency). This revenue was used to avoid the need for levy increases and to fund additional LMC activities necessary, post the 1996 BSE crisis, to support and communicate with consumers in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, given the critical need to expand beef sales in those marketplaces. However, it was considered that these surpluses would become exhausted by the end of March 2002 and consequently an increase in levy income was necessary in order for the LMC to maintain its activities at anything approaching existing levels.

Formal consultation with the industry was completed in March 2002, with general acceptance of proposals to increase the existing producer levies for cattle and sheep and to make statutory the voluntary processor slaughter levies for cattle and sheep. New legislation to give effect to these proposals came into operation at the end of February this year.

The Livestock and Meat Commission (Maximum Levy) Regulations (NI) 2003 (SR No. 20), which came into operation on 27 February 2003, set new ceiling amounts for each levy rate (ie £6 per bovine and £1 per ovine) which are well above the new combined actual

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rates of levy payable detailed within the Livestock and Meat Commission (Levy) (No. 2) Regulations (NI) 2003 (SR No. 104), which came into operation on 28 February 2003, ie £2 per bovine (£1 from producer and £1 from processor) and 30p per ovine (20p from producer and 10p from processor). The LMC had, however, also initially sought to introduce a transaction levy, to be payable on every animal movement, in order to spread the payment of levy across the industry rather than just on the finishers. The ceiling amounts in the maximum levy regulations were set sufficiently high to collect transaction levy and also to ensure that any future increases could be introduced with the minimum of legislative change. It should be noted, however, that the proposal for a transaction levy has not yet been progressed as lawyers considered that the powers within the primary legislation, the Livestock Marketing Commission Act (NI) 1967, as amended, were not sufficient to enable the introduction of such a levy. The proposal for a transaction levy is being considered further by the department.

Intelligence Services Commissioner

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Intelligence Services Commissioner will be reappointed under Section 59(1) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.[HL2265]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: In accordance with Section 59(1) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, after consultation with the Foreign, Home and Defence Secretaries, the Prime Minister has decided to re-appoint Lord Justice Simon Brown as the Intelligence Services Commissioner from 1 April 2003 to 31 March 2006.

The Prime Minister is delighted that Lord Justice Simon Brown has agreed to continue to serve as the Intelligence Services Commissioner.

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