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In Vitro Fertilisation

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to review the level of financial contributions the patient makes towards the cost of IVF treatment; [11794]

Mr. Horam: In considering the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, Parliament decided that a proportion of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's costs should be recovered by charging fees to licensed centres. The current aim is for 70 per cent. of the authority's costs to be met through fees from licensing, with the taxpayer meeting the remaining 30 per cent. This proportion is due to be reviewed by April 1998.

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Licensed treatment clinics are required by the authority to pay an initial application fee of £250. A one-off fee of £100 is charged for each research licence and each storage facility licence. Renewal licences are charged according to the number of treatments conducted by the clinic. The charge rate is £40 for each IVF cycle and £10 for each donor insemination cycle. No charge is made for cycles abandoned. These rates have been in place since 1 September 1994.

Charges for infertility treatment are a matter for individual clinics and it is for them to decide if and how charges made by the authority should be passed on to its patients. However charges are not made to patients receiving treatment under the national health service.

The authority publishes its accounts annually and provides a summary in its annual report. The last annual report, published in July 1996, includes the authority's accounts for 1994-95. Copies of the report are available in the Library.


Child Care Facilities

Mr. Allen: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if Ministers are entitled to use child care facilities supported by his Department. [11599]

Mr. Boswell: Ministers of the Crown are able to make use of the child care facilities provided by the Department if they wish to do so.

Poultry Feed (Antibiotics)

Mr. Morley: To ask the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the impact on the poultry industry of the proposed ban on Avoparcin by the European Commission; and if he will make a statement. [11640]

Mrs. Browning: Avoparcin has been used as a dietary enhancer in the European Community for more than 20 years. Although there are alternative products available, the British Poultry Meat Federation considers, that the potential loss of production could amount to between £10 million and £20 million a year in the UK.

Avoparcin has been assessed on a number of occasions by the UK's independent scientific veterinary products committee and by the EU Commission's scientific committee on animal nutrition. In 1995, Denmark and Germany introduced unilateral bans on its use in animal feed as a result of work by the Danish veterinary laboratory which purported to establish a link between the use of Avoparcin in animal feed and resistance to Vancomycin in the treatment of humans. Danish and German data were examined by the SCAN, which agreed that the data identified the existence of what might, with the benefit of further studies, prove to be a hazard but concluded that the data failed to establish any risk associated with that potential hazard. The VPC agreed. The UK therefore opposed a ban on use, but fully supported the EU Commission's proposal to set up a programme to examine the problem of the development of antibiotic resistance in humans and animals. The proposed ban was approved by qualified majority in

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standing committee in Brussels on 19 December with the UK voting against; subject to formal adoption of the amending directive by the European Commission, the ban will enter into force on 1 April 1997.


Sir Irvine Patnick: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent discussions he has had with farmers in South Yorkshire regarding BSE and other related matters. [11662]

Mrs. Browning: I met representatives of the National Farmers' Union, Country Landowners Association, Tenant Farmers' Association and Women's Farming Union on 3 December at the North East regional panel meeting to discuss BSE.

No other official engagements have been undertaken by Ministers in the South Yorkshire area recently.

Disintensification (Rules and Policies)

Mr. Hardy: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will seek to amend those rules and policies designed to promote disintensification which creates difficulties, with special reference to the viability of the holding, for (a) small full-time farmers and (b) entrants to farming. [11849]

Mr. Baldry: In its 1992 reform of the common agricultural policy regime for beef, the Council of Agriculture Ministers recognised that the imposition of stocking density limits for subsidy purposes and the promotion of extensive production would help to eliminate surplus production within the Community. The Council subsequently recognised that intensive systems for both beef and sheep could give rise to environmental damage, and empowered member states to reduce livestock subsidies and impose penalties in such cases. The Government are willing to consider any constructive proposal to amend the rules governing these measures, provided that they are cost-effective, negotiable in EU terms, and that the environmental benefits are maintained.

Food Premises Inspections

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many inspections of retail and manufacturing food premises were carried out in each local authority area in England in each year since 1990. [12094]

Mrs. Browning: Copies of summaries showing the total number of inspections carried out in food premises in each UK local authority area for the years 1991 to 1995 have been placed in the Library. Data for the year 1990 is not available and the data for 1996 will not be available until May this year.

A breakdown of these figures showing inspections specifically in retail and manufacturing premises in England is not readily available and could be produced only at disproportionate cost.

Agriculture Council

Sir Hector Monro: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 20 and 21 January. [12264]

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Mr. Douglas Hogg: The Council held a first discussion of the Commission's report on the future of the tobacco regime. I asked for the possibility of phasing out support for tobacco to be examined along with other options identified by the Commission.

The Council unanimously adopted a proposal strengthening the controls over eligibility for aid for growing flax. It adopted by qualified majority, Germany opposing, a proposal providing for the EC to contribute to member states' costs in dealing with serious plant pests.

During an informal discussion on follow up to the Cork declaration on rural development, Commissioner Fischler outlined his view that EU rural support policy needed to be simpler, more comprehensible and better integrated, taking greater account of subsidiarity. I broadly welcomed these principles, stressing the need for budget neutrality and the importance of considering these issues in the context of the CAP reforms which will be required to take account of EU enlargement.

Agro-food Quality

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Minster of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what priorities to improve competitiveness have been announced since March 1995 as a result of the LINK programme on agro-food quality; and if he will make a statement. [10538]

Mrs. Browning: Since March 1995, nine projects within the agro-food quality Link programme have been successfully completed. These collaborative projects involved the efforts of 11 United Kingdom academic groups and 17 companies. The projects have contributed industrially valuable, underpinning knowledge in such topics as determining the importance of irrigation timing to the storage quality of root vegetables, the development and release of flavour in low-fat foods and an investigation of the factors contributing to the eating quality of meat. The results from these projects are now being used by the industrial partners from the project consortia.


Members' Staffing Costs

Mr. Allen: To ask the Lord President of the Council what progress has been made on separating the staffing costs of hon. Members out of the office costs allowance since his meeting with Sir Michael Perry. [11035]

Mr. Newton: Further to my reply of 16 October 1996, Official Report, column 903, the Senior Salaries Review Body is continuing its deliberations.

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