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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 16 April 1991


Imprisonment (Remission)

Mr. Nellist : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list those offences, other than relating to non-payment of the poll tax, for which there is no remission in cases of imprisonment.

Mrs. Rumbold : In addition to those imprisoned for non-payment of the community charge, inmates in custody in the following circumstances are not eligible for remission.

(i) non-payment of : rates ; a maintenance order ; any civil debt ; sums due under legal aid contribution orders ; sums due on forfeiture of a recognisance ; costs ordered to be paid by a magistrates' court ; debts under the Debtors' Act 1869 ;

(ii) non-compliance with court orders other than financial penalties ;

(iii) most civil offences.

Full details of the terms of imprisonment that do not attract remission are set out in prison standing order 12, a copy of which is in the Library. A revised version of the standing order, to be published in a few months' time, will include reference to the community charge.


Mr. Moss : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about ultra high frequency television coverage and the future of the relay programme in the light of the prospective privatisation of the transmission operation system previously owned and operated by the Independent Broadcasting Authority.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : The announcement made on 4 July 1989 by the then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd), confirmed that it was our intention to privatise the transmission networks owned and operated by the BBC and the IBA as soon as we were in a position to do so. The IBA welcomed the proposal and the Broadcasting Act provided for the IBA's replacement by two new regulatory bodies--the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and the Radio Authority--and a transmission company which is to be privatised. The transmission company, National Transcommunications Limited (NTL), started trading on 1 January this year. The position of the BBC's transmission operation will be reviewed in the run-up to the expiry of its royal charter at the end of 1996.

The existing BBC and independent television services currently reach about 99.4 per cent. of the United Kingdom population. The BBC and the IBA have shared responsibility for a rolling programme of relay station construction. The current policy on the relay programme was announced on 20 May 1980 by the then Home Secretary, Lord Whitelaw, who said that approval had been given to proposals to extend UHF coverage to groups

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of fewer than 500 whenever it was reasonably practicable to do so. Because of the varied nature of these small groups, there could be no obligation on the BBC and the IBA to provide a service to them and a precise lower limit could not be specified. In practice, groups of fewer than 200 have not benefited from the programme.

In addition, the 1980 statement announced new arrangements for self-help television schemes, generally serving groups not qualifying under the relay programme. There are now over 300 groups covered by the scheme. The BBC and the IBA have provided advice on the new schemes which are continually being established.

It is our aim to see existing UHF television coverage of the four main terrestrial channels maintained and increased where appropriate. We have agreed that the existing programme of up to 25 relay stations a year should be maintained until 1996 when we will reconsider the position, including alternative forms of delivery. We have also agreed that the BBC and the ITC should continue to be responsible for providing advice on new self-help schemes, with assistance from NTL. The BBC will continue its part of the relay programme as at present. The ITC will work with the BBC to determine the order and rate at which the stations are to be constructed, co- ordinating with the ITV companies or Channel 3 licensees, Channel 4 or S4C as appropriate. Responsibility for the IBA's share of relay planning and construction will fall to NTL. Until 1993 the necessary additional coverage requirements will be implemented by means of the contracts between the ITC and the ITV companies, and the contracts between those companies, Channel 4, S4C and NTL. From 1993, the Broadcasting Act provides for the ITC to set technical standards of quality, coverage and reliability in the Channel 3 and 4 licences and for the Welsh Authority to provide S4C to high technical standards. NTL will be obliged by its own Telecommunications Act licence to provide services enabling the ITV, Channel 3 and Channel 4 companies and S4C to meet the required standards of coverage which will include the continuation of the relay programme until 1996, or as then further decided.

Fire Service

Sir John Wheeler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans the Government have for the Fire Service College.

Mr. John Patten : My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has decided that the Fire Service College should become a candidate for executive agency status under the Government's "Next Steps" initiative. The projected launch date is 1 April 1992.

The college, established under the Fire Services Act 1947, is the principal provider of training to officers in local authority fire brigades. It provides technical training in firefighting and fire safety and courses on command and management for all grades of fire officer. It also trains students from the private sector and from overseas. The recent introduction of direct charging of brigades commensurate with their use of the college's facilities enables the college to be more responsive to the individual needs of its customers. Executive agency status will provide the college with the flexibility and control necessary to deliver high-quality training more cost-effectively and responsively.

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My right hon. Friend fully appreciates the close interest taken by the local authorities and the fire service in maintaining high professional standards through training at the college and there will be full discussions with the constituent members of the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council and other interested parties over the coming months.

Police Complaints Authority

Mr. Mans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is making any changes in the membership of the Police Complaints Authority ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : The right hon. Roland Moyle is retiring from his post as deputy chairman of the Police Complaints Authority when his term of appointment expires on 28 April. I wish to take this opportunity to thank him for his service with the authority. His knowledge and experience have made an outstanding contribution to the establishment of the authority as a key part of the police complaints system.

Peter Moorhouse, who has been a member of the authority since July 1988, has accepted my invitation to succeed to the vacant deputy chairman post on 29 April.

Interception of Communications

Mr. Allason : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements have been made following the expiry of the terms of appointment of the members of the interception of communications tribunal on 10 April ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : Sir Cecil Clothier, KCB, QC, Mr. David Calcutt, QC, Mr. Ivor Guild, CBE and Mr. Peter Scott QC have been reappointed for a further five years as members of the tribunal established under the Interception of Communications Act 1985. Their new terms of office commenced on 11 April.


British Rail

Mr. Ian Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is the expected outturn for British Rail's external financing for the 1990-91 financial year.

Mr. Rifkiind : British Rail's external financing requirement for 1990-91 was £1,016 million. This represents an overshoot of £316 million on the revised limit of £700 million. British Rail will publish full details of the 1990-91 financial year in the annual report and accounts in July.

Road and Rail Expenditure

Ms. Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the planning totals of Department of Transport expenditure on road and rail, respectively, for each of the three decades from 1960 to 1989.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 15 April 1991] : Consistent information in terms of planning totals is not available. However, road and rail investment in Great Britain for the three decades is as follows :

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Road and rail investment: Great 


£ million in cash prices      



1960-69 |2,330  |1,190          

1970-79 |7,440  |2,190          

1980-89 |16,850 |6,220          

<1> Because of definitional     

changes, figures can only be    

used to give                    

broad comparisons.              

<2> Expenditure by central and  

local government on new         

construction and improvement on 

all roads, and major structural 

maintenance on motorway and     

trunk roads.                    

<3> Investment in rolling stock 

and infrastructure by British   


London Underground Limited,     

Dockland Light Railway and      

Manchester Light Rapid Transit. 

British Rail channel tunnel     

investment is included but not  

investment by Eurotunnel plc.   


Electricity Privatisation

Mr. Beggs : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what evidence he has that privatisation of electricity in Great Britain has led to a reduction in electricity prices to consumers.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : It is too early to assess the full impact of privatisation and the introduction of competition on electricity prices. However, since April last year consumers have, for the first time, been protected by price controls against unjustified increases and, under the phased arrangements for the transition to full competition, large users, outside the franchise, have been able to negotiate the keenest available terms from potential suppliers.

Gas Turbine Power Stations

Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy whether, pursuant to his answer of 11 March, Official Report, column 359 , to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), he has any proposals to change the criteria he uses in considering the granting of consent for new gas-fired combined cycle power stations under (a) section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 or (b) the Energy Act 1976 ; if he will consult the Director-General of Ofgas in such considerations ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : There are currently no proposals to change the criteria for the Secretary of State for Energy's consent under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 to construct new gas-fired generating stations. The Government are aware that the EC directive restricting the use of gas in generating stations was repealed on 18 March 1991. We therefore intend to repeal the powers relating to the use of natural gas in power generation contained in section 14 of the Energy Act 1976 at the earliest legislative opportunity. In the interim period, the Government will continue to exercise those powers in a manner consistent with previous practice.

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Finsbury Park and Highgate Offices

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many staff are currently employed at Finsbury Park and Highgate DSS offices ; how many were employed in March 1990 ; how much of the work has been transferred to other offices in the past year ; and if he will make a statement.

Miss Widdecombe : The numbers of staff employed in Finsbury Park and Highgate offices are as follows :




1 March 1990 |191.5   |202              

1 April 1991 |31.5    |33               

All work which did not require face-to-face contact with the public has been relocated to the Euston district office and the Glasgow social security centre as was recommended in the Business of Service report, a copy of which is available in the Library.


HMS Endurance

Q9. Mr. Shersby : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to continue the deployment of HMS Endurance in the south Atlantic including South Georgia and Antarctica ; and if he will make a statement on the replacement of the present vessel by the mid-1990s

The Prime Minister : Endurance will return from her current deployment in the south Atlantic in May, which is the end of the Antarctic summer. Studies into the best way of fulfilling the role currently undertaken by Endurance are continuing.


Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister what requests Her Majesty's Government have had for air cover from anti-Saddam forces in (a) northern Iraq and (b) southern Iraq.

The Prime Minister : We have received a number of representations requesting the coalition forces in the Gulf to prevent the Iraqi air force from flying missions. Security Council resolution 688 demands that the Iraqi Government should end their repression of their own people. We are working urgently to create safe havens for Iraqi refugees. The United States has warned Iraqi aircraft not to fly north of the 36th parallel.

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he has had with the United States Government about a permanent (a) United States, (b) United States/British and (c) coalition presence in Iraq.

The Prime Minister : We have no intention of establishing a permanent coalition presence in Iraq. Our recent contacts with the Americans have focused on the need for urgent humanitarian aid to Iraqi refugees both in the north and south of the country. We shall continue to maintain close contacts with the United States on the way ahead.

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Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his oral answer to the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller) of 14 March, Official Report, column 1095, what discussions he has had with the allies on the subject of the use of chemical weapons in Iraq.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 15 April 1991] : The use of chemical weapons by Iraq is a matter of great concern and has been discussed on many occasions with our allies. We have no firm evidence that such weapons were used during or after the Gulf conflict. At our instigation United Nations Security Council resolution 687, which has been accepted by the Iraqi Government, sets out the United Nations terms for the destruction of Iraq's chemical weapons capability and affirms that grave consequences would follow any use by Iraq of such weapons.


Welsh Agricultural College

Mr. Geraint Howells : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he has any plans to finance the Welsh agricultural college, Aberystwyth, in the future ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Hunt : Arrangements have been made for officials to discuss the future of the Welsh agricultural college with officers of the WAC joint education committee later this week.

EC Wild Birds Directive

Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what consultations he has had with the chairman of the Countryside Council for Wales regarding the implications of the Leybucht Bay judgment of the European Court of Justice on 28 February in Luxemburg on the proposals for development in Welsh estuaries in special protection areas or candidate special protection areas under the wild birds directive 1979.

Sir Wyn Roberts : None.

Science Base

Mr. Barry Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on his policies to encourage the growth of a science base in Wales.

Sir Wyn Roberts [holding answer 27 March 1991] : The Government's policy with regard to science is designed to operate on a United Kingdom basis. The aims of the Government's science programme are to advance knowledge and technical capability ; to train scientific manpower at postgraduate level ; and in these and other ways to contribute to the realisation of economic, social and cultural benefits for the United Kingdom. Financial support is channelled through the research councils and other funded bodies. Higher education institutions in Wales can and do receive support from these funds for research activity in Wales.

In addition, many projects in Wales are funded by the Department's own research and development programme which covers the whole range of its responsibilities. The Welsh Office estimated expenditure on research and development in 1991-92 is £3.1 million.

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The Department also specifically seeks to promote and develop the science base within the NHS in Wales. To this end the provision of training for clinical scientists is currently under review. The Department also sponsors the Welsh scheme for the development of health and social research which specifically supports the career development of research workers. In addition Welsh Office-sponsored projects account for some £1.1 million of the £22.9 million held by the Department of Health for the combined England and Wales health and personal social services research programme for 1991-92. Some of the Department's industrial policies also have a direct effect in strengthening the more commercially oriented aspects of our science base. For example there are the activities of WDA Technology Marketing, the WDA support for various major centres of excellence within the university of Wales, the proposed Imperial science park at Newport and our promotion of relevant Government and European schemes such as LINK, the teaching company scheme and the collaborative research and development grant support at both the United Kingdom and European level including through the pan-European EUREKA programme.


Local Management of Schools

Sir John Farr : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science, pursuant to his answer of 22 March, Official Report, column 234, on the implications of local management of schools, what system has been established to ensure that recoupment charges payable to the providing authority are earmarked for the specific school concerned rather than absorbed in the overheads of that providing authority.

Mr. Fallon : As I had intended to make clear to my hon. Friend in my answer of 22 March, formula allocations to schools under an LEA's scheme of local management are calculated on the basis of the number of pupils in schools, regardless of where those pupils live. Schools will automatically receive funding for out-county pupils at the same level as for pupils who live within the authority. In this way schools receive in their budgets credit for the pupils whom they have attracted from another authority.


Sub-Post Offices

Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list, by region, the number of sub-post offices which have (a) opened and (b) closed since 1979.

Mr. Leigh : Decisions on the provision of post office services in particular areas are an operational matter for the Post Office. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the period mentioned has seen considerable organisational change in the Post Office and I understand that the information is not available in the form requested.

The Post Office has, however, told me that the overall number of post offices has fallen from 22,639 in 1979 to 20,401 in 1991. Within this total the number of agency

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offices--which includes both rural and sub- post offices, community offices and restricted hours offices--has fallen from 21,056 to 19,160 over the same period.

Chief Executives

Ms. Mowlam : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is his policy on the employment as chief executive of a company of a person who has held a similar position in a company that has failed.

Mr. Lilley : In general there is no legal impediment to the appointment of the chief executive or any other officer of a failed company to a similar position in another company. However, any company considering such an appointment would wish to consider carefully the prospective appointee's performance record. Moreover, there are safeguards provided in the Company Directors

Disqualification Act 1986 which requires every liquidator, administrative receiver or administrator to submit a report to the Secretary of State if he considers that the conduct of a director of an insolvent company has been such as to make him unfit to be concerned in the management of a company. An application may be made to the court for such a person to be disqualified from acting as a director or from being involved in the management of a company. During the year ended 31 March 1991 the Secretary of State directed that 499 such applications be made to the courts.

Chemical Weapons

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make it his policy to obtain from his counterpart in the United States a copy of the Commerce Department's latest assessment of countries capable of producing chemical weapons and export control guidance given to industry.

Mr. Sainsbury : We work with other like-minded countries, including the United States, in taking harmonised international measures to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons.

There are regular meetings at which information is exchanged on new controls and procedures.

The Gulf

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the potential value to British industry of contracts to reconstruct parts of Kuwait and Iraq following the Gulf war.

Mr. Sainsbury : The Department has not sought to estimate the value of Kuwait reconstruction work to British industry. Various estimates of the total cost of reconstruction work have been made, most commonly in the region of US $50 billion.

Company Projects

Mr. Janman : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list grant funding available to United Kingdom companies undertaking feasibility studies for projects in Europe, both inside and outside the European Community.

Mr. Sainsbury [holding answer 27 March 1991] : The overseas projects fund operated by my Department

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provides assistance to the pre-contractual expenses, including feasibility studies in certain circumstances, of British companies seeking contracts for major projects outside the European Community. Information on grant funding from other sources could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


Middle East

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what communications he has had in the current year with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in regard to the middle east region.

Mrs. Chalker : We receive regular reports from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on its activities in the middle east region, and we are in very close touch over the current Iraq crisis.


Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the current aid programme to Honduras and the equivalent figure for each of the last 10 years ; what participation the United Kingdom takes in the EC programmes that affect Honduras ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Chalker : The bilateral country programme runs at about £1 million a year ; we provide disaster relief when appropriate ; the Commonwealth Development Corporation invests in Honduras. Gross United Kingdom bilateral aid expenditure (including CDC) and the United Kingdom share of EC aid from 1980 to 1989 were as follows :

              |Gross        |United                     

              |United       |Kingdom                    

              |Kingdom      |share of                   

              |bilateral aid|EC aid                     

              |£,000      |£,000                    


1980          |335          |510                        

1981          |5,002        |780                        

1982          |2,272        |1,350                      

1983          |6,670        |980                        

1984          |3,446        |1,880                      

1985          |3,653        |480                        

1986          |1,258        |520                        

1987          |811          |520                        

1988          |1,166        |640                        

1989          |701          |<1>                        

<1>Not available.                                       



Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings have been held by Her Majesty's ambassador and staff in Tegucigalpa with human rights organisations ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Garel-Jones : Her Majesty's ambassador in Tegucigalpa meets periodically representatives of the main

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Honduran human rights organisation. He is also in regular contact with Ministers and officials on human rights questions.

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made to the Government of Honduras concerning their treatment of trade unionists ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Garel-Jones : None. No issue has been brought to our notice either directly affecting British interests or giving sufficient grounds for general concern such as to merit representations.



Mr. Tim Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many letters have been received by his Department on the subject of tax simplification since 1 September last year from industrial and commercial companies ; and how he proposes to respond to these representations.

Mr. Maude : A total of 113 letters have been received on the subject of tax simplification, following my hon. Friend's circular to finance directors of industrial and commercial companies. I have assured all those who have written that I very much share the concern that the tax system should avoid unnecessary complexity and that we shall continue to introduce simplifications wherever possible.

European Community

Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the outcome of the latest meeting of the European Community Economic and Finance Council, the meeting of the intergovernmental conference on economic and monetary union and the interinstitutional meeting with the European Parliament.

Mr. Norman Lamont : The ECOFIN Council met in Brussels on 8 April. The intergovernmental conference on economic and monetary union met that morning when there was also an interinstitutional meeting of Ministers with the European Parliament. The Minister for Corporate Affairs and I represented the United Kingdom at ECOFIN and I attended the IGC and the meeting with the European Parliament.

A Commission initiative concerning the debt owed to the Community by the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries linked by the Lome convention was discussed, but it was agreed that the proposal was inconsistent with the international debt strategy. A modified proposal may be discussed by a future Council.

The Council reached agreement in principle to provide guaranteed loans to Romania equal to the amount offered by the non-EC members of the G24 up to a maximum of 375 million ecu.

Ministers also discussed agricultural price fixing. I made clear the Government's determination not to increase the agricultural guideline calculated in accordance with the 1988 budget discipline decision ; and emphasised the importance which the Government attach to respect for budgetary discipline.

The future taxation of road transport was also discussed, but without agreement. The Commission made

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a brief presentation of two company tax measures which are currently before the Council and which concern the taxation of cross-border interest payment and royalties and the treatment of tax relief for losses within groups of companies. There was no discussion of these measures.

There was a brief discussion of the proposed takeovers directive but no significant progress towards an agreement. Several member states, including the United Kingdom, expressed major reservations about the Commission's proposals.

On the investment services directive, the Council discussed a compromise text from the Presidency on the issue of regulated markets. The Commission proposed a further compromise for discussion at a future Council.

The ministerial meeting of the intergovernmental conference on EMU focused on the transition from stage 1 to stage 2 of EMU. Differing views emerged on the degree of economic convergence necessary before a move to stage 2. I argued that it was necessary to determine the content of stage 2 before taking any decision on when it should start ; and that economic convergence was a key element in making further progress towards economic and monetary integration. The United Kingdom proposals would establish, in stage 2, a mechanism to encourage convergence on the best inflation performance.

I also attended the inter-institutional meeting held with the European Parliament to allow Members of the European Parliament to put their views on the EMU IGC to Finance Ministers. Members of the European Parliament expressed a range of views. The meeting was purely consultative in nature.

Overseas Investment

Mr. Lawson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, further to his answer of 22 March, Official Report, column 268, on overseas investment, if he will provide a similar table for investment from outside the EC only.

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Mr. Norman Lamont [holding answer 15 April 1991] : Complete information on inward investment in the European Community from outside the EC is not available. However, the Statistical Office of the European Communities, in a recent study, made estimates of foreign direct investment in EC member states, adjusted to exclude intra-EC flows. These estimates exclude reinvested profits because a number of member states do not compile such information. The figures for the United Kingdom given in the table below are therefore on a different basis from those published by the CSO. The information is as follows :

Inward net foreign direct investment (excluding reinvested    

profits) in                                                   

the EC                                                        

(Excluding intra-EC investments)                              

million ECU                                                   


In EC               |6,177 |5,637 |6,840 |12,578|14,278       

of which:                                                     

In United Kingdom   |1,995 |623   |3,324 |4,986 |4,562        

United Kingdom as                                             

   percentage of EC                                           

   Total            |32    |11    |49    |40    |32           

Source: Eurostat estimates.                                   

Civil Servants (South Dorset)

Mr. Ian Bruce : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many civil servants work in south Dorset now ; and how many of these jobs are currently subject to active review to be either removed or relocated.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard [holding answer 15 April 1991] : There were around 4,900 non-industrial civil servants in south Dorset at 1 January 1991. Equivalent data for industrial staff are not available.

No information is collected centrally about Departments' plans for the removal and relocation of posts in particular regions, so it is not possible to give figures for those posts in south Dorset under active review.

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Beef Imports

Mr. John D. Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what information he has about the use of drugs in beef imports from the Republic of Ireland ; and if he will make a statement on the safety of imported beef from the Republic of Ireland.

Mr. Maclean : Beef from the Republic of Ireland is routinely monitored as part of the extensive programme of surveillance of veterinary drugs residues carried out by the Ministry. A total of 400 imported samples of beef muscle, liver and kidney were taken during 1990, of which about one fifth are estimated to have been from the Republic of Ireland. To date, within the hormone and beta-agonist groups, only one positive from Ireland has been found. This was for the hormone Zeranol, and did not pose a threat to human health. Full results of the Ministry's programme of veterinary drug surveillance for the years 1986-90 are to be published in a food surveillance paper which is now in preparation.

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