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7 Apr 2010 : Column WA432

Drugs: Mephedrone

Question

Asked by Lord Willoughby de Broke

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The UK Government do not consider that they are required to consult the European Commission before controlling mephedrone under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The technical standards directive is not designed to cover action by member states to control dangerous drugs and consequently no consultation with the Commission is necessary prior to laying a draft order before Parliament to control mephedrone under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Economic Partnership Agreements: ACP Countries

Question

Asked by The Earl of Sandwich

Lord Brett: So far, the Caribbean is the only region to have signed a regional economic partnership agreement (EPA). This region includes one least developed country (LDC), Haiti. Three other LDCs (Lesotho, Mozambique and Madagascar) have signed interim EPAs, and six more LDCs (Comoros, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda) have indicated their intention to sign interim EPAs. The following LDCs across the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region have not signed an EPA: Angola, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tome e Principe and Equatorial Guinea; Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tuvalu and Vanuatu; Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia; Malawi, Somalia and Sudan; Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

The Department for International Development's (DfID) assistance is not linked to signing of EPAs. However, DfID provides significant support through Aid for Trade to help ACP countries, as well as other developing countries, to improve trade and to help them integrate further into regional and global markets.

Egypt

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): We are aware of the case of Pastor Mahrous Karam. We have not made specific recommendations to the Government of Egypt on this case, but will continue to monitor the situation closely.

The Government actively raise concerns on freedom of religion and belief with the Egyptian Government. In January, we raised the fatal shooting at Naga Hammadi. In February, during the UN's Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review of Egypt, we noted the recent rise in inter-religious tensions and encouraged further efforts to reduce and prevent discrimination. In March, during the third meeting of the EU-Egypt Sub-Committee on Human Rights and Democracy, the EU enquired into the Egyptian Government's intentions to address ongoing concerns and reports of discrimination of persons belonging to religious minorities.

Embryology

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): The MRC-funded research project to which the noble Lord refers is not being conducted under clinical grade conditions. However, knowledge derived from the project, which aims to improve the efficiency of the technique of human somatic cell nuclear transfer, may inform the development of stem cell lines for therapy and the improvement of fertility treatment in future.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool



7 Apr 2010 : Column WA434

Lord Young of Norwood Green: There are a number of different approaches to deriving stem cell lines that can be used in the study of disease in laboratory-based research, these include somatic cell nuclear transfer and the derivation of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) lines from patients. It is known that cells derived using different approaches have different features, for instance iPS cells divide more slowly than embryonic stem cells. There are many groups working to identify these differences and to develop iPS cells that are more like embryonic stem cells. However, both of the approaches cited by the noble Lord continue to be valuable in research studies of disease phenotype.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has not made any detailed assessment of the work described in the published papers cited, however these papers indicate the continued rapid development of the iPS field and its continued promise following the development of disease-specific and patient-specific cells.

However, it is not evident at present which area of stem cell research may deliver the most effective treatments for particular conditions and more research is needed on all types of stem cells to determine which routes should be pursued in the development of cell-based therapies. The MRC therefore supports research into all approaches to harness the potential of stem cells to understand human disease and develop effective treatments.

EU: Scrutiny Override

Question

Asked by Lord Roper

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The role of the European Union Special Representative (EUSR) for Afghanistan is important in focusing the EU effort, ensuring that it dovetails with the work of other bilateral and multilateral partners. The Government continue to believe in the importance of our work in Afghanistan and in the benefits of continued international co-ordination.

I deeply regret that, on this occasion, my honourable friend, Chris Bryant, had to agree to the Council decision approving the appointment of Vygaudas Usackas as the EUSR to Afghanistan before it had cleared the Scrutiny Committee. The failure to allow the committee to fully scrutinise this decision came about due to an administrative oversight. Chris Bryant has spoken to those responsible to ensure this will not happen again.



7 Apr 2010 : Column WA435

Expenditure: Office Equipment

Question

Asked by Lord Bates



7 Apr 2010 : Column WA436

The Minister for Trade and Investment (Lord Davies of Abersoch): The regional development agencies are committed to achieving value for money in procurement and use of office supplies. Each RDA uses recycled paper in their printers and photocopiers in accordance with the network's commitment to sustainability.

Prices of paper are influenced by specification in terms of paper quality, the distance of the supplier to the RDA's office (which impacts on carbon footprint, logistics and storage costs), the policy on the use of local suppliers, the environmental specification and the use of collaborative contracts with other public sector customers.

RDATotal spent on all photocopier/printer paper in the 2008-09Average purchase price (exc. VAT), of a 500-sheet ream of white A4 80 gsm photocopier/printer paper in 2008-09
££

Advantage West Midlands

10,444.80

2.49

East of England Development Agency

4,415.88

1.55

East Midlands Development Agency

8,131.00

1.98

London Development Agency

19,442.65

2.55

North West Development Agency

13,485.84

2.42

ONE North East

14,164.68

2.18

South East of England Development Agency

11,442.08

2.03

South West of England Development Agency

6,932.72

1.48

Yorkshire Forward

14,884

3.20

Food: Aspartame

Questions

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Thornton): The study is not investigating anecdotal complaints relating to aspartame, but is aiming to collect validated information from individuals who believe aspartame adversely affects them. This information has not previously been systematically collected under trial conditions.

The basis for funding this study was the need to gather information on the adverse effects individuals relate to the consumption of aspartame in a safe and controlled environment. This will enable a robust analysis of this evidence, which is not possible to do with the unverified case report data available at present.

To date, 48 individuals who believe that they are sensitive to aspartame have volunteered to participate in the Food Standards Agency-funded study. An age and sex matched control is recruited for each aspartame-sensitive volunteer who takes part in the study.

The aspartame study is due to report early in 2011. This is reliant upon the volunteers attending the clinic and participating in the study. If those who have already volunteered do so it should be feasible to recruit the remaining participants and complete within this timeframe.

There will be no interim report of findings from this study. Due to the nature of the study, a double blind placebo controlled study, it is not possible to review the study outcomes until the target number of volunteers have participated in the trial, as this would result in the research team being aware of which product the participants are consuming (placebo or control) and may influence how they treat them.

As an evidence-based organisation we hope to increase our knowledge in this area and be in a better position to advise consumers.

Gaza

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The UK is represented in the Middle East quartet through its membership of the European Union. We welcome the

7 Apr 2010 : Column WA437

quartet's statement as an important way of reinforcing the key messages from the international community to both sides of the conflict. We will continue to work with our international partners to encourage both sides towards credible negotiations and to work for an urgent and durable solution to the situation in Gaza.

Government: Borrowing

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Crawley: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Stephen Penneck, Director General for ONS, to Lord Laird, dated March 2010.

As Director General of the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking why there was a downwards revision of £4.3 billion in public sector net borrowing for January as published in the Office for National Statistics' February revision of central government current expenditure; which departments reduced their expenditure or increased their income (or both); and by how much each department reduced its expenditure or increased its income (or both). [HL3162]

Revisions to previous months' data for the public sector finances are not unusual, particularly for the most recent periods, reflecting their provisional status. The monthly data are also volatile and it can be misleading to read too much into them.

The single biggest contributor to the revision of the January 2010 data, accounting for £3.2 billion of the total, was central government current expenditure. There were a number of factors contributing to this, including the availability of better estimates from government departments. Earlier months in the current financial year were also revised, leaving the year to date total broadly unchanged.

There was also an upward revision of £1.4 billion to government tax revenues with firmer data replacing figures that were partially estimated.

A breakdown of revisions by government department is not available. A significant part of the revision is due to technical changes, which are not subdivided by department, to some of the components that make up central government current expenditure.

Health: C. Difficile

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick


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