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Mr. Colvin : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what enforcement action has been taken by her officials in accordance with their powers under the Pests Act 1954 to ensure that occupiers of land remove rabbits from it ;
(2) what action she is taking to meet the statutory obligations under the Pests Act 1954 to control the number of rabbits on land used for rail and road transport ; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Soames : Section 1 of the Pests Act 1954 places a continuing obligation on occupiers of land designated as rabbit clearance areas to control rabbits harboured on their land. The current Rabbit Clearance Order, issued in 1972, covers the whole of England and Wales excluding the City of London, the Isles of Scilly and Skokholm island. This obligation is irrespective of the use being made of the occupier's land.
Where occupiers are failing to meet their obligations under the 1954 Act, the Agriculture Ministers have the power, under section 98 of the Agriculture Act 1947, to require action to be taken. These powers are discretionary and MAFF generally seeks to gain compliance with the legislation without resorting to the use of its legal powers. Nevertheless, these powers remain available and are invoked where necessary. MAFF is aware of the damage that rabbits can cause and keeps its policy on rabbit control under continual review.
Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action she plans to take if Germany decides to impose a partial ban on the import of British beef and veal ; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Soames : We have made it very clear that we would not accept a unilateral trade restriction if this were to be imposed by the German Government. The European Commission has made it clear to the German authorities that it too sees no justification for such measures and that it would take appropriate action.
A range of measures have already been introduced nationally and at Community level to protect consumers from any possible health hazard because of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. BSE has been discussed many times at expert and political level within the European Union and no less than three times in recent months at Council of Ministers level. The view of the Commission and all member states except Germany, is that there is no scientific justification for further measures.
Mr. David Porter : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many fishing vessels left the non-sector to join fish producer organisations between 1993 and 1994 ; how much cod quota in total and per boat average went with them ; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Jack : Between 1 January 1993 and 1 January 1994, 146 vessels moved from the non-sector to producer organisations. Information about the cod quota attributable to the vessels which left the non-sector is not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. David Porter : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries asnd Food if she will make it her policy to persuade the European Commission to abandon fishing discards before Norway joins the European Union.
Mr. Jack : Discards occur since different species and sizes of fish are caught together. If fishermen are to comply with the current common fisheries policy rules on quotas and minimum landing sizes they necessarily have to discard fish which cannot be legally landed. In Norwegian waters the mix of species and the legal requirements are different and a discard ban is in operation. Under its accession treaty, Norway has been authorised to maintain its discard ban for three years.
The Government support the search for ways to reduce discards within the CFP. However, banning discards is not a practicable proposition, if the CFP is to operate effectively. The Council of Ministers has considered a Commission report on the discard problem and asked the Commission to bring forward proposals for action on a Community-wide basis. To this end, the Commission is funding a two-year project, which began in October 1993, to examine more selective fishing gears and the technical operational, economic and social pressures surrounding their adoption, taking account of regional variations. Recommendations are to be made as to how the Community might adapt its policies more effectively to promote selective fishing and reduce discards.
Column 443changes to the common fisheries policy British fishermen will need to adopt (a) in the preparation for Norway's entry into the European Union and (b) once Norway has joined.
Mr. Jack : In my reply of 19 April to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), Official Report, columns 440-41, I set out the provisions on fisheries management in the treaty of accession. Few changes are made, by the accession treaty to the reciprocal rights of access for Norway and the EU to each others' waters and fisheries. The Commission has proposed a system of fishing permits to control the exploitation of Community resources when the CFP applies to an enlarged Community and the Council is likely to consider this at its June meeting. It is for the Commission to propose any further new or amending regulations which may be necessary.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many cases of sheep scrapie have been notified in Great Britain during each month since notification became a legal requirement.
Mr. Soames : Scrapie became notifiable on 1 January 1993. The table provides details of the number of cases of scrapie confirmed in sheep by laboratory investigations from 1 January 1993 to 30 April 1994.
|1993 |1994 ---------------------------------- January |22 |22 February |31 |14 March |54 |<1>20 April |27 |<1>17 May |22 |- June |17 |- July |30 |- August |17 |- September |14 |- October |33 |- November |17 |- December |2 |- |-------|------- Totals |286 |<1>73 <1> These are provisional figures and may be subject to alteration. Note: Laboratory investigation of suspect cases of scrapie is not usually carried out for two years after the disease has been confirmed in a flock/herd.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what experiments have been performed in Great Britain over the last 10 years which involve the inoculation or feeding of cattle with infected material from sheep scrapie ; and what were the results.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what research has been undertaken in Great Britain over the last 10 years into the possible relationship of scrapie in sheep and motor neurone disease in the human population.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what information she has on differences in the properties of strains of scrapie from Suffolk sheep from the USA and the United Kingdom.
Mr. Soames : Scrapie isolates from sheep can be strain-typed by identifying their biological characteristics in mice. Strains which have been derived by selection in mice may not be the same as those existing in the sheep from which the material was originally obtained. This Ministry is not aware of any direct comparison of strains of scrapie derived from sheep in the USA and sheep in Great Britain, that have been undertaken using the same strains of mice in the same laboratory. However it is known that at least one strain of scrapie--as determined by mouse bioassay--is common to British and USA sheep.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will list the names of consultancies held by members of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee during the last five years.
Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what specific measures she plans to take to ensure that Britain's animal health and veterinary standards are not jeopardised by moves to harmonise such standards throughout Europe ; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Gale : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action her Department has taken concerning reported deaths of sheep travelling between Portsmouth and France ; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Soames : It has been reported that 30 dead sheep were found after a vehicle was unloaded from a ferry sailing between Portsmouth and St. Malo on 19 April. It has also been reported that in a separate incident on 25 April 39 sheep were found to be dead in similar circumstances after crossing from Portsmouth to Le Havre. No carcases have been made available either to the British or French authorities to determine the cause of death. The Ministry has discussed the circumstances of both cases with the exporters, ferry companies and Hampshire county council, which is responsible for enforcing the legislation on the welfare of animals during transport. It has been concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that any person carried out an action so as to cause the animals unnecessary suffering.
The Ministry has issued comprehensive guidance for exporters and ferry operators about the standards to be observed when livestock is carried on roll on/roll off ferries. Steps have been taken to remind exporters about
Column 445the importance of following this guidance and the Ministry will be inviting ferry operators to participate in discussions about their procedures for ensuring that proper arrangements are made to safeguard the welfare of animals.
7. Mr. Cann : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what percentage of lone mothers with dependent children were in work in 1979 ; and what percentage of lone mothers with dependent children are now in work.
14. Mr. David Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what percentage of lone mothers with dependent children were in work in 1979 ; and what percentage of lone mothers with dependent children are now in work.
Miss Widdecombe : The latest estimates from the labour force survey for autumn 1993 show that 37 per cent. of lone mothers of working age with dependent children were in employment. The equivalent figure for spring 1981--the earliest date available--is 45 per cent.
15. Mr. Riddick : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what representations his Department has received from business men or business organisations urging the Government to adopt the social chapter.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : The Government's decision to reject the social chapter was supported by the great majority of employers' organisations because of the damage it would have done to the United Kingdom economy and jobs.
Column 446will promote and expand the role of women at work, building on the success of our New Horizons campaign, our out-of- school childcare initiative and our support for the employer-led Opportunity 2000.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : Employment cannot be created by Act of Parliament or by Government action alone. Government policy will be directed to bringing conditions favourable to the maintenance of a high level of employment.
Mr. David Hunt : In the submission my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I made at the G7 jobs conference in Detroit, we said that we would improve competitiveness by : enhancing the working of the labour market ; increasing the ability of unemployed people to get jobs and encouraging investment in skills.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : Dartford is covered by the London travel-to- work area, where unadjusted claimant unemployment in March 1994 stood at 414,551. This is 24,621 or 6 per cent. lower than in April 1993.
22. Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will review the working and running of the Employment Appeal Tribunal with a view to strengthening its independence from the Executive.
Mr. Robert Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people in the Harrogate/Knaresborough travel-to-work area have been placed in work by the Employment Service in the past 12 months.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Employment Service Agency under its chief executive. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from M. E. G. Fogden to Mr. Robert Banks, dated 17 May 1994.
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking how many people in the Harrogate travel to work area have been placed in work by the Employment Service in the past twelve months. It may be helpful if I explain that Jobcentre boundaries do not match travel to work area boundaries. Harrogate travel to work area covers the towns of Harrogate and Knaresborough, and villages mainly to the north west of Harrogate. Harrogate is the only Jobcentre in the travel to work area. The Jobcentre boundary closely matches the travel to work area, but also includes Wetherby which falls into the neighbouring Leeds travel to work area.
In the past twelve months, up to and including 8 April 1994, a total of 5,379 people have been placed in work by the Harrogate Employment Service Jobcentre.
I hope this is helpful.
28. Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what has been the change in (a) absolute terms and (b) percentage terms in unemployment in the parliamentary constituencies of Bradford, West and Bradford, South over the period April 1992 to March 1994.
26. Mr. Lidington : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps his Department is taking to help unemployed people in Buckinghamshire find new jobs.
29. Mr. Merchant : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many days were lost through strikes in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) Germany in the latest year for which figures are available ; and what the figures for the United Kingdom and West Germany were in 1979.
Mr. David Hunt : In 1992 the United Kingdom lost 0.5million days to labour disputes, one third of the former west Germany total of 1.5 million. In 1979 the United Kingdom lost 29.5million days, over 50 times the west Germany total of 0.5million.
Year |Working days lost |(thousands) ------------------------------------------------------ 1993 |23 1992 |46 1991 |55 1990 |89 1989 |325 1988 |244 1987 |339 1986 |250 1985 |2,076 1984 |9,354 1983 |415 1982 |575 1981 |449 1980 |2,832 1979 |3,115 1978 |799
Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what monitoring is done by his Department of the wage rates being paid in employment that was covered by wages councils ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : The Department monitors the earnings of workers by industrial sector, including those sectors where there were wages councils, through the monthly average earnings indices and the annual new earnings survey.
Miss Widdecombe : Only 3 per cent. of employees are disqualified from employment protection on the basis of hours alone. Part-timers benefit from the enhanced rights introduced by the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993.
Mr. William O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment (1) if he will investigate the length of notice given to workers at the Hall's electrical contracting company in Ossett, West Yorkshire, when it was closed ;
(2) if he will investigate the extent of prior consultations with the workers at the Hall's electrical contracting works in Ossett, West Yorkshire, owned by East Midlands Electricity on the closure of the plant ;
(3) if he will set up an inquiry into the manner in which workers at the Ossett electrical contracting business
Column 450company in West Yorkshire owned by the East Midlands Electricity Board were given notice that the company would close.
Mr. Michael Forsyth [holding answers 16 May 1994] : Any complaint that an employer has failed to consult representatives of recognised trade unions about proposed redundancy dismissals in accordance with the statutory requirements would be a matter for determination by an industrial tribunal. Rights to individual notice of termination are contractual matters, though statutory minimum periods are specified in section 49 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978. Questions concerning proper contractual notice, or pay in lieu of notice, are matters for the courts.