HL Deb 09 November 1999 vol 606 cc148-9WA
Lord Kennet

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the World Trade Organisation's Appellate Body is currently interpreting the precautionary principle as requiring "evidence of certainty of harm", and is adducing "absence of evidence of risk" as "evidence of absence of risk", whether the Appellate Body have done so in the recent cases of hormones in beef and, if so, whether they will encourage the European Commission to reject this opinion. [HL4337]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

In the case of beef hormones the Appellate Body commented on the relationship of the precautionary principle to the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) in the following terms:

"First, the principle has not been written into the SPS Agreement as ground for justifying SPS measures that are otherwise inconsistent with the obligations of Members set out in particular provisions of that Agreement. Secondly, the precautionary principle indeed finds reflection in Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement. We agree, at the same time, with the European Communities, that there is no need to assume that Article 5.7 exhausts the relevance of a precautionary principle. It is reflected also in the sixth paragraph of the preamble and in Article 3.3. These explicitly recognise the rights of Members to establish their own appropriate level of sanitary protection, which level may be higher (i.e. more cautious) that that implied in existing international standards, guidelines and recommendations. Thirdly, a panel charged with determining, for instance, whether "sufficient scientific evidence" exists to warrant the maintenance by a Member of a particular SPS measure may, of course, and should, bear in mind that responsible, representative governments commonly act from perspectives of prudence and precaution where risks of irreversible, e.g. life-terminating, damage to human health are concerned. Lastly., however, the precautionary principle does not, by itself, and without a clear textual directive to that effect, relieve a panel from the duty of applying the normal (i.e. customary international law) principles of treaty interpretation in reading the provisions of the SPS Agreement. (Paragraph 124 Appellate Body Report)".

This ruling gives the current Appellate Body interpretation, and does not imply that the Appellate Body interprets the precautionary principle as requiring evidence of certainty of harm, nor does it imply that the Appellate Body is adducing "absence of evidence of risk" as "evidence of absence of risk". The European Community is bound by virtue of its membership of the WTO to comply with rulings of the WTO Appellate Body and to bring any measures which are found to be WTO incompatible into line. It is not therefore possible for the European Community to reject the Appellate Body's rulings.

Number and percentage of pupils with special education needs—both with and without statements January each year
Year Pupils with a statement of special educational needs % of Pupils with a statement of special educational needs Pupils with speical educational needs—no statement %of Pupils with special educational needs—no statement
1999 248,041 3.0 1,409,811 17.0
1998 242,294 2.9 1,331,219 16.1
1997 234,629 2.9 1,222,973 14.9
1996 227,348 2.8 1,103,426 13.6
1995 211,307 2.6 n/a n/a
1994 194,541 2.5 n/a n/a
1993 178,029 2.3 n/a n/a
1992 160,759 2.1 n/a n/a
1991 153,228 2.0 n/a n/a
1990 159,485 2.1 n/a n/a
1989 155,191 2.1 n/a n/a
1988 152,369 2.0 n/a n/a
1987 n/a n/a n/a n/a
1986 n/a n/a n/a n/a
1985 n/a n/a n/a n/a
1984 n/a n/a n/a n/a
1983 n/a n/a n/a n/a
1982 n/a n/a n/a n/a
1981 n/a n/a n/a n/a
1980 n/a n/a n/a n/a
n/a = Data not available.