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Further Education Colleges

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what discussions he has had since May 1997 relating to the 16-hour rule and further education colleges; and if he will make a statement. [103647]

Mr. Wicks [holding answer 21 December 1999]: We have received a number of representations from individuals and organisations regarding further education colleges and the 16-hour study role in Jobseeker's Allowance. These were mainly in response to the White Paper "Learning to Succeed" published in July 1999, where we introduced proposals for a new system of post-16 learning which is responsive to the needs of individuals, companies and communities. The White Paper, and the Learning and Skills Council Prospectus which was published in December, set out our plans for the new Learning and Skills Council which will ensure a co-ordinated and coherent approach to post-16 learning.

We have taken positive measures to increase the opportunities for study among unemployed people. The New Deal for Young People aged 18 to 24 forms a key part of the Government's Welfare to Work agenda and comprises four options, all of which contain an element of training. The Full-Time Education and Training Option offers opportunities for young people to study full-time in order to enhance their prospects of finding a job. In June 1998 we introduced Education and Training Opportunities under the New Deal for those aged 25 and over. These allow people unemployed for two years or more to

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undertake full-time employment-related courses for up to a year whilst continuing to receive Jobseeker's Allowance.



Mr. David Heath: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the applications received by the Pesticides Safety Directorate for the use of (i) glufosinate ammonium and (ii) glyphosate on genetically modified herbicide resistant crops, for each application giving (a) the name of the applicant, (b) the crop for which approval is sought, (c) the date the application was received and (d) the date at which the decision by the Pesticides Safety Directorate will be announced. [101749]

Ms Quin [holding answer 9 December 1999]: At present, for reasons of commercial confidentiality, details of any application for the approval of a pesticide are not made publicly available unless and until approval itself is given. We are, however, to review the current arrangements to see if there is scope for greater openness and transparency.

Religious Slaughter

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what research his Department has

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(a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the enforcement of the law with regard to (a) Halal and (b) Shechita religious slaughter; and if he will make a statement. [102257]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 14 December 1999]: No research into the enforcement of the law with regard to religious slaughter has been commissioned or evaluated by my Department.

Enforcement of welfare at slaughter legislation, including in relation to religious slaughter, is the responsibility of the Meat Hygiene Service and the State Veterinary Service.

Beef Sales

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of the meat and meat offal products of bovine animals that were banned under the beef bones Regulations SI 1997/2959 will be eligible for sale under the draft regulations he intends to use to lift the ban on beef on the bone. [102059]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 9 December 1999]: The Beef Bones (Amendment) (England) Regulations 1999, which came into force on 17 December, permit the retail sale of all bone-in beef and beef bones for human consumption. In accordance with the advice of the Chief Medical Officers that it would not be prudent to lift the controls of manufacturing uses of bone-in beef and beef bones, these continue to apply. No information is available on the relative percentages these represent of the products banned under the original Regulations, but my primary concern is the protection of public health, based on the scientific and medical advice I receive. This significant relaxation of the beef bones controls has been warmly welcomed.

Fish Stocks

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to what extent primary quota stocks have been affected by (a) environmental change, (b) sea water temperature change, (c) fishing effort and (d) seals and other predators, in the last three years. [103667]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 21 December 1999]: It is not possible to distinguish the exact changes attributable to environmental change and those due to sea water temperature change alone. Any temperature-related changes will in any case not be the same for all species. Cod stocks, for example, are likely to benefit from colder conditions while sole stocks may suffer severe losses from cold sea water temperatures as happened in the winters of 1962-63 and 1995-96.

The general increase in fishing effort over the past decades is primarily responsible for the low level of commercial stocks. However, the recent poor production of young cod stocks is likely to be attributable to a combination of low adult stock size and unusually warm sea temperatures.

The effects of seals and other predators on fish stocks have been the subject of multispecies research in the North Sea. Here, over four million tonnes of fish are eaten annually by other fish. In comparison, fish consumption by seals is estimated at less than 200,000 tonnes of which a significant amount is young fish and sandeels.

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Farmers (Regulatory Burden)

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations he has received from farmers concerning the level and cost of regulations affecting farming in (a) the UK and (b) other EU member states. [103398]

Ms Quin: In September 1999 we invited the NFU and other interested organisations to identify burdens that affected business. We now have reports from the three working groups we set up to look at the three priority areas and will be studying these carefully to see where we can change requirements in the UK and where we need to press for changes in Brussels. Reports on other more specific areas identified for review will become available for similar consideration over the next few weeks.

Over-30-Months Scheme

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has for changes to the Over-Thirty-Months Scheme. [103353]

Ms Quin: In due course (following advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee) it may be appropriate to discuss the Over-Thirty-Months Scheme with European partners on the over-thirty-month rule. In the meantime the Government's planning assumption is that the Scheme will continue for the foreseeable future.

Livestock Slaughter Regulations

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to remove restrictions in livestock slaughter regulations; and what assessment he has made of the advantages and disadvantages of introducing an intermediate stamp to allow abattoirs to slaughter 40 units a day. [103389]

Ms Quin: These issues were addressed in the report of the Meat Industry Red Tape Working Group which was published on 13 December 1999. A copy is available in the Library of the House and on the MAFF internet site. The Government are now considering the Working Group's recommendations and will give its response in the new year.

Meat Hygiene Service

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to increase the use of information technology within the Meat Hygiene Service. [103395]

Ms Quin: The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) uses a large number of information technology (IT) systems as part of its everyday operations and has an ongoing IT strategy to develop and use additional systems as a means of improving efficiency.

To this end, the MHS is currently developing a number of initiatives, one of which relates to the use of scanning technology. For example, all Hygiene Assessment System (HAS) scores contained in the HAS Supplement of the November 1999 edition of the Meat Hygiene Enforcement Report were collated for the first time by the MHS using scanning technology. The MHS now intends to extend its use of this technology to other areas.

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Abattoirs and Meat Processing Plants

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in what proportion of the time official veterinary surgeons spend in abattoirs and meat processing plants they are not engaged in inspection duties. [103400]

Ms Quin: Only a very small proportion (estimated at around 1 per cent.) of the time spent by Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVSs) in abattoirs and meat processing plants is not engaged on inspection duties.

The remainder and vast majority of the time charged by OVSs in abattoirs and meat processing plants is spent on carrying out statutory inspection duties or on activities which directly support them. These duties include: ante mortem and post mortem inspection and hygiene supervision; the supervision of SRM controls; the supervision of animal welfare; and associated administrative activities. The Meat Hygiene Service does not analyse time in plants below that directly chargeable to operators.

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