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Nicaragua (Hurricane Mitch)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the assistance given by her Department to the relief effort in Nicaragua since Hurricane Mitch. [68454]

Clare Short: We have provided a grant to United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for emergency repairs to water and sanitation infrastructure, and have agreed in principle a further grant to UNICEF to help restore primary health and education services. Regionally, we have given grants to the Pan-American Health Organisation to support national health authorities, principally for epidemic control, and to the United Nations Development Programme to support co-ordination.

We were instrumental in setting up the Trust Fund to help countries affected by Hurricane Mitch meet their debt service payments to international financial institutions, and have committed £10 million to this purpose. Together with other members of the Paris Club, the UK Government have agreed to a moratorium on Nicaragua's debt service payments for the next two years.

Coral Reefs

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps Her Majesty's Government have taken to aid the preservation of coral reefs since 1 July 1998. [66996]

Clare Short: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 25 January 1999, Official Report, column 21.


Ward Beds

Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many ward beds were available in Edinburgh in 1995; how many ward beds will be available in Edinburgh upon the completion of the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary; and what were the service costs for the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for each of the years between 1990 and 1995. [65957]

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Mr. Galbraith [holding answer 20 January 1999]: The average number of available staffed in-patient beds in hospitals in the city of Edinburgh in 1995 to 1998 and the proposed number from 1999 to 2003 when the new Royal Infirmary will be completed are set out in the table.

Year(10)Acute beds(11)(12)Non-acute beds(13)Total beds

The running costs for the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for each of the years between 1990 and 1995 are set out in the table.

Year ending 31 MarchTotal hospital running costs(14)(15)

(10) Information provided by Lothian Health Board.

(11) Lothian Health Board's Acute Services Strategy proposes new patterns of health care and an increase in the provision of community health care services. The proposed number of acute beds (1999 onwards) has been determined by hospital doctors.

(12) 1995-97 data for acute services include winter beds.

(13) Lothian Health Board has been transferring resources to local authorities to provide 843 places in the community by the year 2003. These places are included in the non-acute bed numbers.

(14) Total hospital running costs reflect hospital operating expenses after netting off re-charges.

(15) There have been service transfers and some re-organisation at this site during the time period, including a change from Directly Managed Unit to Trust status.


From 1 July 1999 this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Lambs (Tagging)

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the welfare implications of the requirement that farmers tag or tattoo all lambs for sale; what representations he has received on this issue; what discussions he has had with the European Union about this requirement; what estimate he has made of the additional cost to Scottish farmers of this requirement; what is the legal basis for this requirement; and for what reasons the requirement is being introduced. [68002]

Mr. Macdonald: EC Council Directive 92/102, which requires all sheep to be tagged or tattooed before they leave the holding of birth, was adopted in November 1992. The Directive requires Member States to establish a system of identifying and registering animals. The Scottish agricultural industry is being consulted on how best to meet this legal requirement. Questions about the practicality of unique tagging of animals, the costs

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associated with doing so and the necessary additional record-keeping involved have all been raised during the consultations and are under consideration. The flexibility allowed within the Directive as to when to apply the tag should help minimise welfare concerns. It is estimated that tagging sheep in according with the Directive could cost about approximately £2 million.

From 1 July 1999 this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Organic Farming

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will estimate the amount of farmland (a) converted, (b) under conversion and (c) considering conversion to organic; what assessment he has made of future trends in this area; and if he will make a statement on the geographical spread of such land. [67765]

Mr. Macdonald: As at 31 December, there were 24,987 h.a. of converted organic land in Scotland as recorded by the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards and 4,124 h.a. of land in conversion. Latest data on the number of farmers in Scotland receiving payments under the Scottish Organic Aid Scheme to convert to organic farming methods indicate there are currently around 53,000 h.a. entered into the Scheme, fairly evenly spread across the whole of the country. It is not possible to give numbers of those considering conversion. From 1 July 1999 this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his Department's strategy for helping Scottish farmers capitalise on the high demand for organic food in the UK; and if he will make a statement on current departmental initiatives in this area. [67748]

Mr. Macdonald: Farmers wishing to convert to organic farming methods can obtain assistance to do so from the Scottish Organic Aid Scheme and work is currently underway to introduce further improvements to the scheme. Assistance is also available to Scottish organic farmers to encourage better processing and marketing of their produce and organics are classed as a priority under the Scottish Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme. The Scottish Marketing Development Scheme is also available to help producers become more competitive and market orientated. From 1 July 1999 this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.


Ms Roseanna Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, pursuant to his answer of 14 January 1999, Official Report, columns 233-34, on Dounreay what assessment he has made of the health dangers which could result from exposure of bait collectors to fuel fragments. [68139]

Mr. Galbraith: This matter was considered in the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) Report "Fragments of Irradiated Nuclear Fuel in the Dounreay Local Environment", which was referred to in the Answer of 14 January. That report took account of advice from the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) which, in

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turn, was informed by work carried out by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE).

The advice in the SEPA report was that the fuel fragments were not likely to affect the health of members of the public unless there was direct skin contact with, or accidental ingestion of, a fragment.

The effect of contact or ingestion would depend on the nature and length of contact with, and the activity of, the fragment. In the event of accidental contact with a fragment the effect could be some blistering of the skin and possible infection, unless the contact was prolonged. The effect of ingestion would depend on the activity of the fragment and whether it passed through the body or lodged in the gut. The immediate effects could range from no detectable effect to severe gastro-intestinal illness. In the longer term, the risks of developing a cancer could be marginally increased. The annual probability of bait collectors within the intertidal zone at Sandside beach making skin contact with a fragment was estimated at 1 in 200,000 in the SEPA report. There have been no known cases of bait collectors or any other member of the public coming into contact with particles.

From 1 July 1999 this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

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