Previous Section Index Home Page


WALES

GPs

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many general practitioners were registered in Wales in May 1997; and how many are currently registered in Wales. [68456]

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: Data on numbers of general medical practitioners were collected on a six monthly basis (as at 1 April and 1 October) until 1 October 1997 after which only annual data (at 1 October) are being collected.

At 1 April 1997 there were 1,840 general medical practitioners in Wales, of which 1,740 were unrestricted principals. By 1 October 1997 the figures had risen to 1,874 and 1,753 respectively.

In future this will become the responsibility of the National Assembly.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

General Pinochet

Mr. Wareing: To ask the Attorney-General what representations he has received in respect of possible private prosecutions being taken out against General Pinochet; what his response has been; and if he will make a statement. [67970]

The Attorney-General: On 26 October 1998, I received an application from Winstanley-Burgess, Solicitors, acting for a number of individuals who complained of acts of torture in Chile in the period 1973-1990. The application was of Law Officer consent to prosecute Augusto Pinochet for offices of torture contrary to section 134 Criminal Justice Act 1988. By letter dated 28 October 1998, Winstanley-Burgess were advised that I had considered their application and had declined to grant consent on the basis that the application revealed insufficient admissible evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of a conviction.

On 26 October 1998, I received an application from Bindman & Partners, Solicitors, acting for a number of individuals who alleged that they had suffered criminal offences in Chile at a time when Augusto Pinochet was in power. The application was for Law Officer consent to prosecute Augusto Pinochet for offences of torture, contrary to section 134 Criminal Justice Act 1988, and for hostage taking, contrary to the Taking of Hostages Act 1982. By letter dated 28 October 1998 Bindman & Partners were advised that I had considered their application and had declined to grant consent on the basis that the application revealed insufficient admissible evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of a conviction.

Bindman & Partners have on a number of occasions renewed their application for Law Officer consent to prosecute Augusto Pinochet with further material. To date, their applications have been declined on the same basis as before. Their latest application is under consideration.

1 Feb 1999 : Column: 532

Individuals have communicated with me and my office concerning a prosecution of Augusto Pinochet in this jurisdiction. Replies have been limited to factual explanations of the decision making process and the state of any application for Law Officer consent to a prosecution.

Councillor Frank MacGrath

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Attorney-General what was the cost to the public purse of the conduct and arrangement of proceedings in the case of Councillor Frank MacGrath of Preston. [66332]

The Attorney-General [holding answer 20 January 1999]: Councillor Frank MacGrath was the subject of three separate sets of criminal proceedings which arose out of an investigation by the Lancashire Constabulary known as Operation Angel involving allegations of fraud and corruption. Expenditure identified by the CPS as attributable to this series of cases comprises Counsel's fees £250,134 and payments in relation to witness expenses of £2,496. However, the complexity and inter-relationship of these cases make it impossible to attribute specific expenditure to Councillor MacGrath. The CPS staff working on the case did so as part of their ordinary department duties and their salary and associated cost cannot be separately apportioned.

I understand from the Lord Chancellor's Department that information about the passage of the case through the magistrates court is held only in manual records and therefore is not readily available. It could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

I am further informed by the Lord Chancellor's Department that, according to information readily available, Frank MacGrath was granted legal aid in the Crown Court and the total amount paid to defence lawyers was £120,936.46. In addition, there were payments amounting to £47,153.88 from Central funds. Just over 71 hours were spent in Crown Court hearings and this cost an estimated £21,200.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Aspartame

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what research his Department has commissioned into the possible (a) health dangers and (b) side-effects of Aspartame; [66678]

Ms Jowell: The Department has not commissioned any research in this area. However, the Department regularly reviews new information on food chemical safety and, when appropriate, seeks advice from its expert advisory committees. In 1992 the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) completed a thorough review of the toxicity of aspartame and reaffirmed its earlier advice that aspartame was safe to use. The COT also considered reports linking aspartame with a variety of adverse effects such as headache, seizures and behavioural difficulties in children. There was insufficient evidence to support such claims. Aspartame has also been given safety clearance

1 Feb 1999 : Column: 533

by the European Commission's Scientific Committee for Food. A study published in 1996 which suggested a link between aspartame and brain cancer was rejected by the Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment.

Food Standards Agency

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the expected cost of (a) setting up and (b) annually operating the Food Standards Agency; and if he will make a statement. [67713]

Mr. Rooker: Setting up the FSA is expected to involve additional one-off costs of around £12 million per annum over three years and additional ongoing costs of about £29 million per annum, taking account of the collection costs associated with the proposed levy. In addition, current food safety and standards functions, and their associated expenditure, will transfer to the Food Standards Agency from MAFF, DH, and the devolved administrations.

Slaughterhouse Closures

Mr. McDonnell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many slaughterhouse premises have closed in the last 12 months; and what effect this has had on reducing journey times of livestock to slaughter within the UK. [67872]

Mr. Rooker: During 1998, 28 slaughterhouse licences (red meat and poultry meat) were revoked because they had ceased operating. The effect on journey times will vary according to the location of the farm of origin and the nearest slaughterhouse. Whilst we would prefer animals to be slaughtered close to the farm, this may not occur for a variety of reasons. Legislation lays down clear rules to protect the welfare of animals during transport, and there is no reason why animals should not be transported safely and humanely.

Enrofloxacin

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations he has received in support of a ban on the use of enrofloxacin in animals. [67741]

Mr. Rooker: None. However, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, in its report of 17 March 1998 "Resistance to Antibiotics and other Antimicrobial Agents", recommended extreme economy of use of fluoroquinolones in veterinary practice (recommendation 11.21). The report also recommended the development of a Code of Practice on when such compounds should be prescribed. The Government accept this recommendation and their response to the report is available in the Library of the House.

Genetically Engineered Crops

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the (a) nutritional need for and (b) alternatives to the production of genetically engineered crops in the United Kingdom. [67660]

1 Feb 1999 : Column: 534

Mr. Rooker: Genetically modified crops will not be grown until they have passed all the relevant statutory procedures. Once they have done so, it will be for the market to determine whether they provide nutritional or other benefits over alternative varieties.

Research Projects

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will assess the capability of the length of time for which (a) agricultural, (b) agroforestry and (c) horticultural research projects are funded by his Department with the biological systems which they are designed to assess; and if he will assess the benefits of more long term research funding in respect of the longer rotations in organic systems. [67661]

Mr. Rooker: Research is funded for an appropriate length of time bearing in mind the particular biological and agricultural systems being investigated. However, in many cases it is not appropriate to let an individual contract which covers the whole period of the research. Instead, the research is funded by a number of consecutive contracts. This assists the management of the research and allows changes of priorities and redirection during the course of the work. This holds for all of the Ministry's agricultural research including that on organic systems.


Next Section Index Home Page