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Ward Beds

Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many ward beds were available in Glasgow in 1995; how many ward beds will be available in Glasgow upon the completion of the new Law Hospital; and what were the service costs for the old Law Hospital for each of the years between 1990 and 1995. [65956]

Mr. Galbraith: The number of in-patients beds within the Greater Glasgow Health Board (GGHB) area in 1995 was 8,224. GGHB recognises that changes in flows of patients from Lanarkshire upon completion of the new Law Hospital will impact on the level of demand for in-patient beds, and is still in the process of discussing this, and timescales, with Lanarkshire Health Board. The total Hospital running costs for the old Law Hospital for each of the years between 1990 and 1995 are as follows:

Year£000
199020,470
199121,840
199228,690
199333,078
199438,904
199540,385


20 Jan 1999 : Column: 496

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Commercial Lobbyists

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what rules or guidance his Department has to govern the (a) formal and (b) informal interaction between his civil servants and commercial lobbyists. [66203]

Mr. Morley: Any contact that this Department's staff have with people outside government, including lobbyists, should be conducted in accordance with the Civil Service Code and the principles of public life set out by the Nolan Committee. The Prime Minister also announced the publication of practical guidance on handling such contacts on 27 July 1998, Official Report, column 4, which was circulated to all Departments by the Cabinet Office.

Genetically Engineered Crops

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what independent scientific research on genetically engineered crops the regulatory authorities in the United Kingdom and the EU have access to; and what are the arrangements for licensing such research. [66016]

Mr. Meale: I have been asked to reply.

20 Jan 1999 : Column: 497

The regulatory authorities in the United Kingdom have to access all scientific research papers and articles published in international scientific journals. These are available through abstracting services, departmental libraries and the British Library.

The regulatory authorities also have access to independent research through members of the Government's advisory committees on biotechnology, such as the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) and the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP). Members of these committees are leading experts in their own fields and will be aware of the latest scientific research and developments. Regulatory authorities in the EU will have access to similar sources of scientific research results and exchange information at regular meetings of the Competent Authorities.

My Department and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food fund independent scientific research on genetically modified crops. I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by the then Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Wallesey (Angela Eagle), on 8 June 1998, Official Report, column 313, and the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 12 November 1998, Official Report, columns 316-18. The EU also funds biotechnology research through the Framework Programmes.

Where the research involves the release of a genetically modified organism to the environment this requires prior approval (licensing) from the Secretary of State or the relevant Competent Authority under Directive 90/220/EC on the deliberate Release of genetically modified organisms to the environment. Research involving the contained use of genetically modified crops must be notified to Health and Safety Executive under provisions in Part VI of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and The Genetically Modified Organisms (Risk Assessment) (Records and Exemptions) Regulations 1996, as amended in 1997. The human health and safety aspects of larger GMOs are covered by the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations 1992, as amended in 1996.

Raw Cows' Milk

Mr. Bradshaw: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what conclusions he and the Secretary of State for Wales have reached following their review of the law relating to the drinking of raw cows' milk in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. [67090]

Mr. Nick Brown: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I have decided not to stop the sale of raw cows' drinking milk in England and Wales. However, we intend to introduce tighter checks to benefit consumers who choose to drink raw cows' milk.

The new measures will include increasing the frequency of official microbiological sample testing of raw cows' drinking milk at production premises to four times a year and increasing the frequency of official inspections of registered raw cows' milk production holdings to once a year. These measures will begin immediately.

20 Jan 1999 : Column: 498

Raw milk producers will continue to pay for official checks, and we will be putting in hand arrangements to extend the scope of enforcement at production holdings. In addition, we intend that on-farm caterers will no longer be exempted from the charges for microbiological sample testing, and also that the full costs of inspection and sample testing will be recovered. This will necessitate changes to the relevant regulations, and in due course we will issue draft regulations for public consultation.

There is already a requirement to label raw cows' drinking milk with a public health warning. We will be putting into place arrangements to ensure this is given greater prominence. In addition, these arrangements will also require that labels on retail packaging, and notices displayed at on-farm catering premises, must include the Chief Medical Officer's advice, which is that children, pregnant women, elderly people and those who are currently unwell or have a chronic illness should not consume raw cows' milk.

We emphasise in the strongest possible terms that the industry is responsible, and remains responsible, for the production of safe food. Producers of raw cows' drinking milk must ensure that it is produced to the best hygienic standards.

Tuberculosis

Mr. Paice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many of the study areas required by the Krebs report to investigate links between badgers and bovine TB have (a) been identified, (b) been surveyed and (c) been announced, and in how many study areas the study has been (i) commenced and (ii) suspended. [66080]

Mr. Rooker: The Krebs report concluded that a minimum of 30, 100 square kilometre areas be used for the randomised badger culling trial as part of a wider programme including epidemiological and research work. This recommendation was supported by the Independent Scientific Group appointed to advise on the implementation of the Krebs report recommendations. The areas will be grouped into triplets each containing three areas, one subject to proactive culling, one to reactive culling and the third a control area where no culling will take place.

The first two triplets were designated by the Group in August 1998 and announced on 17 August. One was on the Devon and Cornwall border and the other on the borders of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. The remaining 24 areas (8 triplets) are to be phased in over the next two years, and will be in areas where the incidence of TB in cattle is historically highest and where there is the greatest risk of contiguous and repeat breakdowns. The next triplets will be identified shortly, and will then be announced.

Once a triplet is identified and mapped, land holders are contacted and asked for permission to survey the land for badger activity and to remove badgers from culling areas. Although participation in the trial is on a voluntary basis, the overwhelming majority of land holders agreed to take part. Visiting and surveying in the first two triplets began on 28 August. Surveying of the Devon/Cornwall triplet was completed at the end of November, and is continuing in the other triplet.

20 Jan 1999 : Column: 499

On 4 November 1998, in accordance with prescribed procedures and in the presence of an independent witness, each area in the Devon/Cornwall triplet was randomly allocated one of the three treatments (proactive, reactive, survey only). Cage trapping of badgers in the area around Putford which had been allocated proactive culling was carried out from 2 to 13 December 1998 inclusive. Work in the area progressed as planned and was not disrupted significantly. 238 badgers were caught and humanely despatched by shooting. The carcases were subject to post mortem examination in MAFF laboratories and samples have been taken for further analysis.

Once the initial proactive culling is complete in a triplet the comparative study of TB incidents in cattle begins. This is the position in the Cornwall/Devon triplet where TB incidents in the three trial areas are being monitored. Where a new TB incident is confirmed in the reactive culling area, arrangements will be made to cull badgers from social groups associated with the farm involved. No culling will take place during the closed season which runs from 1 February to 30 April inclusive.

Work has not been suspended in any area.


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