Author Topic: Corned Beef and Spam at the House of Lords  (Read 719 times)

Johnny Yesno

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Corned Beef and Spam at the House of Lords
« on: February 16, 2004, 05:56:46 PM »
Well worth every penny of the taxpayer's money, I'm sure you'll agree.

Text for 6 May 2003

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Lord has asked me a Question about corned beef cans. I have been answering questions about them all my life and I regard them as one of my real areas of expertise.
There is a real problem about corned beef cans. They have a trapezoidal shape and a key kind of ring. The DTI has done much work on this issue in giving further instructions and also special coatings for the cans which enable the corned beef to be extracted more easily. There has in fact been a remarkable drop in accidents with corned beef cans. They have fallen from 8,720 per year out of 26,000 accidents caused by all tins to 3,091 out of 19,000. I should point out that the really dramatic decrease came after 1997.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether ring-pull cans are safer than ordinary cans which are opened with a tin-opener? Which is safest?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I am not sure that I can give exact details between the different kinds of can, but the one which is used for corned beef is particularly disliked by people, mainly because they lose the keys and then attack the corned beef can with whatever is at hand. If the noble Baroness would like to pursue this point, I can probably find her some detailed statistics.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, will the Minister allow me to rescue him from his worldwide expertise on the topic of corned beef and ask a slightly wider question? Does he agree that, taking the nub of the question of the noble Lord, Lord Harrison-working for a safer world-a reduction in the use of products which have an impact on the environment would be highly desirable? What steps are the Government taking to ensure that clear, verified information is available to consumers on the environmental impact of such products?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, that goes wider than my knowledge of corned beef; it strays into a completely different department and area-the impact on the environment. This report is very specifically about recording accidents which take place in accident and emergency departments of hospitals. The impact on the environment is a totally different question.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, is the Minister aware that if, having taken off one end of the corned beef can with the twisty thing provided-assuming that you have not lost it-you then take a common, ordinary, household tin-opener and take off the other end, it is very easy to push the corned beef out of the tin without any danger to yourself?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Yes, my Lords, I was aware of that, and I am very glad that that essential piece of information is passed round for the benefit of this House.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, does the Minister agree, as the noble Baroness has demonstrated, that most home accidents are avoidable, arising out of carelessness, and that therefore paying attention is one of the best cures?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I totally agree. These statistics on accidents are extremely fascinating; they prove that the British public can use practically anything in this world to hurt themselves with. It is understandable that there are an estimated 55 accidents a year from putty, while toothpaste accounts for 73. However, it is rather bizarre that 823 accidents are estimated to be the result of letters and envelopes. It is difficult to understand how they can be the cause of such serious plight. I agree with the noble Baroness that it would be helpful if people paid careful attention.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, does the Minister agree that sardine tins and anchovy tins are also very difficult to open with their tin-openers?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I think I will just agree with the noble Baroness on that question.

Lord Mitchell asked Her Majesty's Government: What are their plans to reduce the growth in spam (unsolicited e-mails).

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I hope noble Lords will appreciate how I move seamlessly from corned beef to spam.
We aim to implement by the end of October this year the privacy and electronic communications directive. This includes requirements that unsolicited e-mails may be sent to individuals only for the purpose of direct marketing with their prior consent, except where there is existing customer relationship between the sender and the addressee. Consultation on the draft regulations started on 27th March and closes on 19th June.

Lord Mitchell: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. Unsolicited e-mails, known as "spam", now account for half of all e-mails in this country. In the United States, they account for 70 per cent. Spam, whether it is nuisance advertising or hardcore pornography is literally choking the Internet. Will the Minister expand on his Answer? Do the Government intend to follow the example of the United States Senate in introducing legislation specifically prohibiting unsolicited e-mails?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, we believe this to be a serious issue. The fact that a European regime has now been agreed implements the door to bilateral agreements between the EU and other countries, which is clearly very helpful. The European Commission is keen to pursue that.
There is now a big movement to stop spam in the United States. Twenty-six states have legislated and, although I do not believe that any action has been taken at the federal level, there has been a recent forum from the Federal Trade Commission on the subject.
We take the matter seriously. If measures are to be effective, it is vitally important that the international dimension is taken account of.

Lord Renton: My Lords, will the Minister explain how it is that an inedible tinned food that lasted for ever and was supplied to those on active service can become an unsolicited e-mail, bearing in mind that some of us wish to be protected from having an e-mail?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I am afraid that I have not been able to find out why the term "spam" is used, but that is the meaning it now has. It is a matter that should be taken very seriously because it not only clutters up computers but involves a great deal of very unpleasant advertising to do with easy credit, pornography and miracle diets. That is offensive to people, and we should try to reduce it.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I can help the Minister with the origin of the word. It comes from aficionados of Monty Python, and the famous song, "Spam, spam, spam, spam". It has been picked up by the Internet community and is used as a description of rubbish on the Internet.
More seriously, is the Minister aware that up to 85,000 pieces of unsolicited e-mail are received by the Parliamentary Communications Directorate each month? Will he join me in congratulating the directorate on its valiant efforts to filter out that menace, given that a high proportion of it is rubbish advertising from the United States and that some of it consists of profane material? The directorate is battling against a rising tide; the Government's assistance is needed in combating it.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I am happy to commend that course of action. As I say, it is a serious issue. We need to take all steps against it.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, given the Government's concern about voter turnout in elections and their commitment to increasing the use of Internet voting and campaigning, does the Minister consider that further restrictions on unsolicited e-mails would be contrary to that objective?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, no, not at all. I cannot see that it helps anyone in any activity, including voting, to have their computers flooded with this often quite distasteful material. It takes up a large capacity-some 40 per cent of e-mails around the world, according to my figures. It takes up a considerable amount of space for Internet service providers and is a very poor use of the infrastructure.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, do the Government have any plans to
restrict unsolicited faxes? My fax paper is always being wasted by people who send me faxes I do not want. I do not know whether they could be called "corned beef" or something, but I have had enough of them.


Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, can the Minister think of a name for the enormous amount of unsolicited ordinary mail we receive?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, when I have a moment I shall bend my mind to that question.