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Salmon and Sea Trout

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will list the papers published by her Department in relation to salmon and sea trout in each of the last 10 years indicating which originated from work carried out at Bushmills. [41659]

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Mr. Paul Murphy: The Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland has published 78 papers relating to salmon since 1987. All of them originated from the research work carried out at the Bush Salmon Station at Bushmills. A full list of the publications has been placed in the Library of the House. The Department has not published any papers relating to Sea Trout.

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Police Reservists

Mr. Robert McCartney: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what (a) numbers and (b) percentage of police reservists have not had their contracts renewed in the last three years. [42165]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 18 May 1998]: Over the last 3 years 25 RUC reservists were refused renewal of their 3-year contracts and 34 were refused one-year extensions. This represents an average of 1.62%. The renewals or extensions were refused for: (1) being medically unfit for the full range of duties; (2) poor attendance; and (3) unsatisfactory performance.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Edgar Fernandes

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what steps (a) the Police and (b) his Department are taking to investigate the death of Edgar Fernandes; [42101]

Mr. Michael: The investigation into the death of Edgar Fernandes is a matter for the police in Turkey, where Mr. Fernandes died. The United Kingdom law enforcement agencies which are assisting in the investigation in this country, the Metropolitan Police Service and the National Central Bureau of Interpol (part of the National Criminal Intelligence Service), are liaising with the authorities in Turkey, Malta and Egypt and the Consular Division of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

We have received no representations on the circumstances of Mr. Fernandes' death. My Department is liaising closely with the agencies involved in this country to ensure that all possible steps are taken to assist with the inquiry, but the responsibility for investigating the case lies with the Turkish police.

Firearms

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, (1) pursuant to the letter of 5 May from the Scottish Office, Home Department, Police Division, to Mr. T. McCarthy, Secretary Scottish SPA, regarding consultation on matters affecting the administration of Firearms Acts for what reasons Mr. McCarthy has not been (a) supplied with documents and (b) consulted by the Home Office Operational Police Policy Unit in London in connection with their review and proposed changes to the firearms rules or forms; [42411]

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Mr. Michael: The Home Office commenced consultation on the revision of the firearms forms on 5 December 1997. In accordance with established practice, the Home Office consulted bodies representing shooting sports in Great Britain as a whole. Consultation between branches and affiliates of those bodies in England, Wales and Scotland is principally a matter for the bodies themselves.

Consultation on the forms formally concluded on Thursday 5 May 1998. The Scottish Home Department informed the Home Office on that day that the Scottish Pistol Association wished to be included in future consultation exercises. This has been noted for future reference, but until then we had not received any suggestion that any specific Scottish group wished to be consulted independently of the Great Britain organisations.

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [43105]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: My right hon. Friend announced in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Olner) on 16 May 1997, Official Report, column 3, that he had made a declaration under the Social Security (Persons from Abroad) Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 1996, that the former Zaire had undergone such an upheaval that we would not seek to enforce the return of refused asylum seekers to that country for the time being.

The new government of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been in power for a year. The situation in the country has been carefully monitored and there have been consultations with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and with other European partners. Information has also been obtained from a range of sources, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Although there is conflict in the east of the country, security conditions in Kinshasa and in western areas of the DRC have been relatively stable for some months.

The information received about conditions in the DRC enables me to make an informed assessment of the merits of asylum applications made prior to the upheaval and subsequently, in accordance with our international obligations. My Department will review all outstanding claims, including those which have previously been refused and are awaiting appeal hearings. Individuals whose claims have already been refused and determined by the independent Immigration Appellate Authority and who are either liable to removal or are awaiting further consideration will be able to submit fresh applications for consideration which, if refused, will attract a fresh right of appeal. If an applicant is able to demonstrate that his fear of persecution is well-founded then asylum will be granted. Also, consideration will be given where there are exceptional and compelling humanitarian reasons for not enforcing return. If asylum or exceptional treatment is not merited, the normal course will be to expect applicants to return to the DRC. We will continue to monitor developments in the region.

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TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Arms Exports

Ann Clwyd: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many (a) routine and (b) unannounced visits her Department's inspectors have made to British companies to verify the company's compliance with the requirements of Open Individual Export licences covering the export of military, security or police equipment since 1996; if she will provide details of action taken against companies or individuals found in contravention of the OIEL procedures; and if such information will form part of the Annual report to Parliament on arms exports. [40386]

Mrs. Roche: Officials of Export Control Organisation have made 561 routine visits to British companies holding Open Individual Export Licences covering the export of military, security, or police equipment between 1 January 1996 and 28 April 1998 to verify their compliance with licence conditions. They do not make unannounced visits.

A range of action has been taken against licence holders found to be failing to comply with such conditions, the strongest being revocation of the licence in full. Disclosure by the Government of the outcome of particular visits could reasonably be expected to harm the competitive position of the companies concerned. Therefore the information comes within the category of information 'third party's commercial confidences' which is exempt from the commitment to provide information in the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

As regards the Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls and their application specifically, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) on 8 April 1998, Official Report, column 321.

Customs and Excise, as the Export Licensing Enforcement Agency, has the power to make unannounced visits.

Biotechnology

Dr. Gibson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement on the European Patent Directive on Biotechnology. [41016]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 7 May 1998]: The European Parliament voted on 12 May to adopt this Directive. The text adopted by the Parliament is identical to that of the Common Position which was agreed, with the support of the United Kingdom, by the Council of Ministers in February of this year. Formal adoption by the Council will follow, and the Directive will be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities. Member States have two years from the date of this publication in which to implement the provisions of the Directive into national law.

It is nearly ten years since the European Commission first made its proposal for a Directive. Search for the correct balance between the needs of industry for patents to foster research, and genuine ethical concerns about commercial rights in the biotechnological field have occupied much of this time. Now consensus has emerged,

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the Directive will make a significant contribution in reducing uncertainties presently surrounding patenting in Europe.

The Directive will not require substantial change to current United Kingdom law (the Patents Act 1977). In particular it would not render anything patentable which is not currently patentable in the UK. However, the Common Position does clarify that patents cannot be obtained in certain sensitive subject areas, that is human cloning, modifying human germ lines, and commercial uses of human embryos, thus strengthening UK law in these key areas of ethical concern. Patents will also not be obtainable for genetic modifications of animals unless there is substantial medical benefit.


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