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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 31 May 2017

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Protecting Workers’ Rights, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Child Safety Week


Child Safety Week

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-05455, in the name of Clare Adamson, on child safety week 5 to 11 June 2017, safe children: sharing is caring. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that Child Safety Week, the flagship annual campaign run by the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), takes place this year between 5 and 11 June 2017 and its theme is “sharing is caring”; further notes that accidents are a leading cause of death, serious injury and acquired disability for children and young people in the UK, that they account for three deaths every week and over 2,000 hospital admissions and that many of these accidents can be prevented; commends CAPT’s aim of securing a safer environment for children of all ages by helping families understand the risks, as well as the consequences, but most importantly, the simple ways that accidents can be prevented; further commends work undertaken in Child Safety Week in bringing together individuals and organisations around the UK to promote safety messages to families in a fun and engaging way and encourage parents and carers to increase confidence by sharing experiences and learning; congratulates CAPT and other organisations working in accident prevention on their outstanding dedication, in particular the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) which, this year, celebrates its centenary; notes RoSPA’s past successes from the Tufty Club in the 1960s and the introduction of the seatbelt law in the 1980s, to a successful campaign for moulded plugs in 1992 and EU-wide regulations on looped blind cords in 2014; further notes the new hazards for parents and carers to be aware of such as liquid laundry capsules, button batteries, hair straighteners and nappy sacks, and congratulates all those many organisations that continue to work tirelessly and collaboratively in the field of accident prevention and child safety.


We were all shocked and saddened by the horrific attack on young people that took place last week in Manchester. No one can prepare a parent, family member or friend for the appalling grief that accompanies the death or injury of a loved one, and, although the horrific circumstances of a deliberate attack are not the same as an accident, the outcome, in terms of the grief of those affected, is always a tragedy. Last week, many people said that, on hearing the dreadful news, they resolved to hug their own loved ones a little tighter and a little closer. The theme of this child safety week—sharing is caring—will resonate all the more strongly with parents and families across the United Kingdom.

Child safety week is the flagship annual campaign that is run by the Child Accident Prevention Trust. This year, it takes place between 5 and 11 June. Accidents remain the leading cause of death, serious injury and acquired disability for children and young people in the UK. They account for three deaths every week, and more than 2,000 hospital admissions. However, many of those accidents can be prevented.

Child safety week brings together individuals and organisations around the UK to promote safety messages to families in a fun and engaging way, and it encourages parents and carers to increase their confidence by sharing their experiences and by learning. I congratulate CAPT on its efforts this year. As convener of the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on accident prevention and safety awareness, I have had the pleasure of working with CAPT over the years, as well as with other organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, whose past successes—it celebrates its centenary this year—include the Tufty club, campaigning for the seat belt law and campaigning for moulded plugs and looped blind cord legislation in Europe. At the moment, it is encouraging parents to be aware of the dangers of button batteries, which are lethal to children when swallowed.

I commend Electrical Safety First, which is a charity that is aimed at reducing the number of electrical accidents in the home. Like CAPT, it provides resources for children including a website at, and it supports teachers in delivering key advice on electrical safety in the classroom. It also provides a junior checklist to encourage children to carry out electrical safety checks on their homes and to inform their parents and carers about the potential hazards around them.

Earlier this year, a wonderful example of sharing and caring entered my life. Each year, I do my best to support an anti-sectarian project, the Mark Scott leadership for life award, which brings together young people to come up with a project that enhances their community. The young women from Cumbernauld schools who took part this year decided that they would learn about first aid training and deliver it to their local primary schools. Their inspiration came from hearing the story of a toddler who choked on a grape. It was a hugely successful project, and I commend the young women who took part in it. I cannot think of a more deserving project for the sharing is caring theme.

What can we do? This year, there are lots of different things—big and small—that we can do in child safety week to ensure that people are better informed and that ideas and best practice are shared among organisations. Of course, it is not about individual organisations; it is all about working in partnership. The key to success in doing that is our local councils, many of which have road safety officers and trading standards officers who work day in, day out to make sure that the products that are on sale in our communities are safe and will not lead to damage or danger for people. They also use local facilities such as libraries to ensure that safety messages are distributed throughout our communities.

We must work with our health service—our general practitioners, our hospitals and our ambulance staff and paramedics, all of whom work daily with the consequences of accidents and have a valuable and wide knowledge of how we can make our children more secure in our homes. Our fire service, police service and other groups—including children’s organisations, sports groups, the brownies and scouts and housing associations that have homes where children live—must come together as partners to ensure that a safety message is at the heart of what they do and how they help the people who live in their communities.

There are several key areas that are of danger to people. I mentioned Electrical Safety First, and the fire service provides a wealth of information to people on how to avoid fires in their homes. We also need to understand the dangers of water far better. In Scotland, we have a particular problem with drowning in our coastal waters, which might be because people do not understand the safety warnings on beaches—how the flags operate—or because parents are unaware that it takes only 5cm of water for there to be a risk of a young person or toddler drowning.

Road safety is also an issue. I was informed this morning of an accident at a nursery in my community, although thankfully it does not seem to have been very serious.

This morning, we had a tragic death on our roads in Edinburgh. There must be constant reminders that the roads are a shared space for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. It is important to understand the green cross code and its message to look right and look left before crossing. Indeed, all the messages that were repeated to us as children, including “Clunk Click Every Trip”, resonate; they are remembered. Working with children in fun and engaging ways really makes the messages sink in.

We must also consider falls and trips. A young person can fall out of a high chair. Windows in an upper storey building or in a flat can pose a danger. Children can fall from cots and beds. The dangers of trampolining—I imagine that it is the bane of most accident and emergency departments at the moment—must be considered, too. Indeed, many children have accidents on trampolines despite the fun to be had while playing on them.

We need to understand that society changes. For example, there may be a reduced fire risk from people not smoking in the house, but e-cigarettes can cause dangers if they are stored inappropriately, for example alongside metals. We should all be aware of the changing and varying dangers that exist in our homes and which surround us.

As you know, Presiding Officer, I could go on ad infinitum on this topic, and talk about the dangers of poisoning and liquitabs. I am pleased to say that we promote all that work in the cross-party group on accident prevention and safety awareness. This week, my wish is that people come together and remember how precious our young people are, share those experiences and show that we are a caring country. We must get the accident statistics down, and reduce the number of deaths, and the number of injuries to young people in our society.


I thank Clare Adamson for securing the motion, and I associate myself with her comments about Manchester, with which we all agree. I welcome today’s debate. It recognises the importance of child safety week—the annual campaign that is run by the Child Accident Prevention Trust.

Clare Adamson mentioned so many things that I was going to talk about—I still will. If I cast my mind back, I can remember the road safety campaigns with their message to

“Look right, look left, look right again and, if safe, cross quickly.”

The trouble is that when I googled that message to check whether it was right, Google came up with

“Look left, look right, look left”.

I wondered whether I had been getting it wrong all my life until I realised that I was looking at an American website. The message is obviously an international one—people just need to be sure where they are when they apply it.

In those days, the safety concern was about complacency. There were not as many cars on the road and there was always a risk that children would cross without checking for traffic—never mind the fact that the vehicles did not have seat belts or that they had sharp edges and were made of hard materials. People were probably safer outside them than they were in them.

The safety concerns for child pedestrians are different now: the concern is about distraction. There are faster cars on busier roads and children have more and more gadgets to distract them. We are all probably aware of their using smartphones, wearing earplugs, with a hat on or hood pulled up, with a juice can in hand, talking to their friends. They need to look up and unplug from all that if they are to be safe and aware of what is around them.

As the nature of safety and accident prevention changes, there is always a place for organisations such as the Child Accident Prevention Trust and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Both those organisations have throughout their histories run impressive campaigns to raise awareness of the straightforward ways in which children can be protected from unintended injuries.

There are many sayings. One is:

“Safety is as simple as ABC: Always Be Careful.”

Another is:

“Always point sharp items away from you.”

The message “Don’t hold lighted fireworks” was one that, I must admit, I did not always listen to. Another message is “Walk, don’t run.”

Another organisation that we should recognise in the debate is the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. That charity is known mostly for its efforts in helping children who have been abused to rebuild their lives. However, it also dedicates time to raising awareness about child safety. Recently, the NSPCC warned that children who are left at home alone during the summer holidays might be at greater risk of being injured in an accident. That warning could not be more timely, as we approach the summer school holidays. As I understand it—I am open to correction on this by any member who has legal knowledge—there is no specific legal age with regard to children not being left at home alone; the law says only that a child should not be left at home alone if they are at risk, with parents being expected to use their own judgment on that. However, knowing that that decision can be tricky, the NSPCC provides invaluable safety guidance to parents and a very useful quiz on its website to help parents to make the right decision for their child. Such tools are invaluable when engaging with parents about child safety.

I praise the dedication and tireless campaigning efforts of the Child Accident Prevention Trust and welcome its continued efforts to raise awareness of child safety through its sharing is caring campaign, and I pay tribute to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents as it celebrates its centenary year.


I declare that I am a member of the safety-related body, the Institute of Advanced Motorists. I congratulate Clare Adamson on bringing the subject of the debate to Parliament tonight.

I was probably the pupil who always sat at the back of the class not listening to, or engaging with, safety messages. I have a long history of what I can only describe as attempted suicide. I will start with being in the Rev Willie McCraw’s manse garden at Bow of Fife at the age of approximately three, when a swing hit me in the middle of the nose. That meant my first visit to the hospital, which I still remember. There was a white line down a table which I had to lie on so that my nose could be X-rayed—it was not broken.

Aged 15, I am cycling back from the football, my football boots are hanging over the handlebars and the studs in the boots are engaging with the wheel, but I am ignoring that. Eventually, they get trapped in the spokes, the bike stops and I fly over the handlebars and land on my elbows, which both swell up: another visit to the hospital, but I still did not manage to break anything.

My memories are not quite in the right order, but not long after we got a television, I saw that the power cable was unplugged and thought that it would be a jolly good wheeze to stick my finger in the socket to see what electricity was like. I had a black line round the finger and a near-death experience.

One would think that those various experiences as a child would teach me to be a more sensible adult. Hardly. On 4 November 1975—parachute failure at Strathallan at 3.30 in the afternoon. It is strange that I can remember the time. In April 1965, I was out with my pals and we had been up Ben Macdui and were walking back across—suddenly, one cloud appears and we are in almost zero visibility, I am at the front of the queue and we have not roped up, put our crampons back on or any of that stuff. I get too near the edge of the corrie, walk on to a snow cornice, fall 300 feet and walk away. I still did not manage to break anything.

In 1980, we decided to go to Peru, despite the Foreign and Commonwealth Office having said “essential travel only”. The taxi that we were travelling in as we went over the Andes, because the trains were on strike, got shot at. The bullet hit the car just 2 feet behind me. So, that was another one.

In 1956—this is entirely relevant, so members should listen carefully—I got sunstroke at Benderloch beach and was hospitalised at Oban. I survived that one as well. So, I am doing pretty well. By the way, I have come off a plane in an emergency on three occasions, so do not fly with me.

Will the member take an intervention?

Yes, of course I will.

Ms Baillie, put your card in.

I am trying not to have an accident in making this intervention.

The gallery is starting to clear at that litany of accidents. I wonder whether Stewart Stevenson would, given his tendency to have accidents, recommend that we should, in fact, clear the chamber right now.

Of course, I would draw an entirely different conclusion: if there is going to be an accident, people will want me there because I always survive, and they probably will, too. We are politicians: we can turn any example of anything to any point.

There is a serious point to all this, besides my just having a bit of knockabout fun. Parents and everybody else simply cannot anticipate every danger to which children will choose to expose themselves. My parents simply did not know that I was going to do all those daft things. As well as responding to specific dangers, we must think about how to educate our children to recognise that they are putting themselves in danger and to recognise appropriate actions to mitigate the effects of putting themselves in danger. I do not know how to do that, by the way, but I state it as an important point to think about.

Every day we hold our lives in our hands. When I look at my hands, I can see the scar from when I was drilling into metal and forgot to key the bit, and I look at what happened when I tried to scythe off my thumb. More important, I can look at where six stitches had to be put in my hand when I stuck it through a letter box and a dog got it. That was during a Falkirk East by-election campaign.

Life is full of hazards, and children will meet those hazards, as well.

I congratulate all those who seek to support children and, more fundamentally, who seek to support them to be safer and more responsible citizens than I have ever chosen to be in my entire life.

Please be careful when you sit down. The wheels on the chairs can be a bit dodgy.


I am certainly not as accident prone as Stewart Stevenson, so I hope to survive my speech without incident. I am delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this debate, and I congratulate Clare Adamson on allowing us to have it.

In the wake of the events involving innocent children in Manchester last week, the debate is very poignant. The safe children: sharing is caring child safety week theme this year is also very poignant. It lets us recognise that unintentional accidents take place, as has been said. Such accidents account for around three deaths and 2,000 hospital admissions every week. It has long been recognised that injuries are the largest single cause of death for children and young people. One in every seven admissions to hospital is of a child under the age of 15.

As a councillor in Perth and Kinross, I was privileged to sit on the council’s corporate health and safety committee. Part of our remit was to look at the daily risks to which children could be unintentionally exposed. Children are naturally curious: they want to engage, tackle, touch, feel and do things. Sadly, many of the risks that they experience are the same as those that we experienced during our childhoods. Things have evolved, but that has not changed. For example, we have probably all experienced or known of someone who has experienced scalding from a bath, a kettle or a hot drink, for example. We may have had experiences with appliances such as cookers, fires and hair straighteners, which are prone to being left unattended. Youngsters want to touch them. I know that my wife and my sister have touched them when they have tried to do their hair. Hair straighteners are dangerous appliances to use for beauty.

We have talked about chokings, suffocations and all the other hazards that we have in the modern day. The capsules that we put into laundry, the button batteries that we put into items that we use, and plastic bags are all potential risks to toddlers and children. Sadly, many people do not see the risks; some are even in denial that there will be any consequences or risks for children as they go about their play and work.

CAPT tries directly to educate parents and carers to ensure that they take on board safety measures. Many families want to engage. That has to be done in a novel, fun and engaging way, and that has certainly been achieved. I pay tribute to CAPT’s approach, because it is important to try to break down some of those barriers and make us all think about what we are doing.

As for road and pedestrian injuries, which have been mentioned, I note that although we have traffic-calming measures, 20mph zones and lots of new technology that is meant to protect and help, they have still not resulted in our having free and safe locations in our vicinities. Wearing a helmet while riding a bike was just not something that we did when I was a youngster and we were quite happy to go out on our bicycles without any protection, but these days that sort of protection is much more involved in that activity.

There have been some successes down the years. In that respect, I highlight RoSPA’s 100th anniversary and the Tufty club—I will admit to being a member of the Tufty club, and I will say that it taught me some very good lessons—and the recent and very useful work on seat belts and blind cords.

In conclusion, we should focus on what can be done to reduce unnecessary harm to children and individuals, and I firmly believe that the sharing is caring initiative represents a very positive and pragmatic approach to education in that respect. I congratulate CAPT and commend its staff and volunteers for everything that they do, because their endeavours in protecting our children each day are what make the difference, and an annual campaign such as this one gives us the opportunity to highlight what they are doing and to support their mission.


I thank Clare Adamson for bringing the motion forward for debate and for her moving and very thoughtful comments, particularly on the tragedies that we have seen in recent weeks.

I also congratulate the Child Accident Prevention Trust. I think that its approach of sharing the knowledge that can keep us safe with families and within our community makes a lot of sense, and it culminates in child safety week, which I believe takes place next week.

Although it is perhaps not as action packed as that of Stewart Stevenson, the world that we live in is complicated. It is certainly technologically complicated, and sometimes the hazards associated with laundry capsules and button batteries, although perhaps not quite so instantly apparent, are nevertheless present. As Bill Bowman explained, many of us of all ages are spending much of our time on our screens; indeed, often the first thing that I look at when I wake up is a screen, and the same is true for my kids. For better or worse, that leads to a bit of chaos and what the trust calls the “morning mayhem” as everyone tries to get out of the house but is increasingly distracted by technology.

As I have said, then, the idea of sharing information on safety and good practice makes a lot of sense. In fact, the other week, I learned a new road safety tip from a Dutch driver, who told me that in Holland every driver is told to open their car door with their passenger-side hand. Obviously, that means having to reach across to open the door, which makes the driver turn, look over their right-hand shoulder and check the blind spot for cyclists or, indeed, pedestrians who might be walking in that door space. It is a great tip; it is not something that I was taught when I was learning to drive and taking my driving test, but it is the kind of knowledge that needs to be shared.

I also congratulate RoSPA, which is marking its centenary. We have heard about some of the landmark changes that it has managed to bring in, such as the seat belt law and drink-drive limits—and who can forget the Tufty club? It is perhaps the only club that I have shared membership of with Alexander Stewart, although who knows? In any case, it is good to hear it mentioned again in the chamber.

I want to turn briefly to the serious issue of speed reduction. I am sure that members will be aware that I have now lodged a member’s bill proposal for the restricted roads (20mph limit) Scotland bill. It is up on the Parliament website and open to consultation, and the response is building up nicely. Of course, the aim of the proposed bill is to set 20mph as the default speed limit in urban areas while allowing for sensible exemptions.

I just want to focus on the impact on children of introducing a default 20mph speed limit. Studies show that for every 1mph that we reduce the average speed rate we reduce the accident rate by around 4 to 6 per cent. Through studies of children’s cognitive ability, we also know that they struggle to judge speed until they reach their middle teens, no matter how adept they might be at using the Xbox—that perhaps masks their inability to judge speed out there on the roads. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is backing a default 20mph area-wide speed limit.

We all know about the experience that there has been in Edinburgh on speed limits; it has been in the Evening News and has been widely discussed and debated. However, quietly alongside that—in fact, since 2003—Fife Council has been rolling out 20mph zones in every one of its residential areas. Three years into that roll-out, it did a study that looked at the impact on accident rates, and found that, among children, there was a one-third reduction in slight accidents and a 100 per cent reduction in fatal accidents. It also found a greater reduction in accidents in areas of multiple deprivation, so it is a social justice issue in our communities. Of course, we have 20mph zones outside our schools, but they often apply for only a couple of hundred metres beyond the school gates, when we know that the average child walks over a mile to get to school, so the wider urban area is not protected. We also know that, as drivers, when we leave a 20mph zone, we see a 30mph sign that has the effect of encouraging us to speed up as we leave that zone.

One of the other impacts in Fife as a result of the roll-out of the area-wide 20mph speed limit across the region was the increase in active travel—not just increases in walking and cycling, but increases in scooting, skating, and parking and striding—which has brought benefits all round.

No doubt I will return to the issue in the chamber but, in the context of today’s motion, I note that speed-limit reduction can play a part—even if only a small one—in making our streets safer for children.

I call Mark McDonald to lead us in a rendition of the Tufty club song—or to close the debate.


Presiding Officer, you have somewhat stolen my thunder, because I was going to follow on from Mr Ruskell in talking about the ecumenical nature of the Tufty club. I, too, was a member of the club in the 1980s, which I suspect was somewhat later than either Mr Ruskell or Mr Stewart, but clearly, it has many august graduates.

I congratulate Clare Adamson on bringing the debate to the chamber. I know that Ms Adamson has a long-standing passion for and interest in the issue. Over the previous parliamentary session and into this one, she has done a great deal of work to raise awareness of the wider safety agenda and, in particular, to bring the focus on child safety week to the chamber on more than one occasion. She made a very important point in reflecting on the campaigns led by RoSPA to gain EU-wide regulations on moulded plugs and looped blind cords. It is worth reflecting on and remembering that, although we hear so often about red tape from Brussels, some of those regulations have a practical impact on the safety of children, who are protected as a consequence.

We segued rather nicely into the misspent youth section of the debate, in which Bill Bowman talked to us about firework handling in his chequered past. We then heard from Stewart Stevenson; I am amazed that he has survived this long. I have drawn two conclusions: one is that Stewart Stevenson is very accident prone, and the other is that he is clearly immortal. Presiding Officer, we can determine whether that is a good or a bad conclusion to have drawn.

Alexander Stewart made a fair point about the difficulty that is often faced in ensuring that there are safe locations for children. We want to ensure that we do not dissuade and discourage parents from allowing children to be children. Many of us grew up—as our children do now—with bumps, bruises, skint knees and dirty trousers from playing outdoors. We do not want to discourage that. We want to ensure that we create a society that is risk aware rather than risk averse. Getting the balance right on that is important, which is why work is being done by the CAPT and RoSPA to ensure that people are aware of the risks and can mitigate and manage them, while still allowing children to enjoy exploring the world around them.

Mark Ruskell spoke about ensuring that we take cognisance of the difficulties and distractions that technology can create. He also spoke about the member’s bill that he has planned. Obviously, I am not in a position to comment on it at this stage, but he makes a very fair point about ensuring that motorists give due recognition to the fact that we are trying to encourage more children to be active and play outdoors, which will necessarily mean that children are likely to be playing on some streets. We certainly encourage children to play safely in such environments, and motorists to bear that in mind in their behaviour while driving in those areas.

The Scottish Government continues to work closely with RoSPA. We have a number of programmes under way. They include NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s straight off, straight away campaign to reduce the risk of burning from hair straighteners. We also have the not for play, keep them away partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, under which there has already been a dramatic decrease in the number of young children being intubated after swallowing the contents of liquid laundry capsules—a matter that I know Ms Adamson has brought to the chamber previously and on which she has campaigned vociferously. Train the trainer courses are being delivered to fire officers and local authorities to support the roll-out of training on home safety awareness and risk.

We are delighted to have funded child safety week since 2008, and we continue to support it in 2017. As part of next week’s events, my colleague the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs will visit Craigroyston primary school in Edinburgh, where she will join the haven project, which provides support to children and families living in the local area to improve the wellbeing of the whole family.

The Government is delighted to endorse the child safety week resource packs. Available to all community groups across Scotland, the pack provides ideas and information on the most common types of accidents and advice on how to prevent them. The pack includes a one step ahead child safety chart and links to a range of online resources and activities for children, families and schools. Partnership is the key to successful delivery, and this year’s theme of “Sharing is caring” further promotes the benefit of joint working and community engagement.

We continue to commit to child safety through our community-focused building safer communities programme. Phase 2 of that work includes a commitment to a reduction of unintentional harm, which is defined as

“Predictable and preventable unintentional physical or psychological harm.”

Through that programme we have recently published the first national strategic assessment of unintentional harm in Scotland. This is the first time that the different sources of relevant data and information that inform incidents of unintentional harm have been put together into a single strategic assessment.

There are many examples of good practice across the country. The home safety scheme in Dundee is a multi-agency project that includes the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Police Scotland, NHS falls and third sector protection and rights organisations. Through a collective home assessment, a common referral system and a trigger approach, households can receive specialist advice and assistance at the point of need.

The home check scheme in Aberdeen, my local area, offers a free service to any family with a child under the age of two and to elderly residents, and includes a home safety check, with advice given on how to apprehend hazards within the home.

The go safe Scotland campaign, written by experienced teachers from Glasgow and Fife, provides a groundbreaking resource to teach young children about the right choices to stay safe, linking all aspects of child safety within health and wellbeing.

A range of work is under way in some of those areas. We are aware of and recognise the continuing work of the cross-party group on accident prevention and safety awareness, which Ms Adamson founded and continues to chair.

Work is also continuing with Water Safety Scotland. It is important to highlight its work as we enter the summer months, particularly given the spell of good weather that we are having now, as people make their way to the beaches and lochs of Scotland. We recognise that there is a need to ensure appropriate water safety, not least because there have recently been a number of tragedies, including one that affected my constituency. The Government continues to engage on that work as it progresses.

I have mentioned some great examples of local initiatives that are under way. We will continue to support the efforts of community safety partnerships and community planning partnerships across the country to continue that good local partnership work, and I have no doubt that Ms Adamson will continue to lead the way in bringing debates such as this to the chamber and in her work on the cross-party group. The Government looks forward to continuing to engage with her on this agenda.

Meeting closed at 17:44.