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Britain-Israel Technology Fund

Ms Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the progress of Britech. [156388]

Mr. Caborn [holding answer 2 April 2001]: The Britain-Israel Technology Fund--"Britech"--was established by an intergovernmental agreement between the UK and Israel and each country is contributing £7.75 million over five years. It is being administered by The Britech Foundation Limited, which was incorporated in the UK on 27 October 1999 and has offices in both countries. To date six projects have been fully approved and £1.9 million funds committed; seven projects are under consideration; and a further nine project proposals are being finalised.


Defence Medical Services

Ms Rosie Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the pay of medical and dental officers in the armed forces. [157531]

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Mr. Hoon: The Supplement to the 2001 Report of the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body making recommendations on the pay of Service medical and dental officers has been published today. Copies of the Supplement are available in the Vote Office and the Library of the House. I wish to express my thanks to the Chairman and members of the Review Body for their work in producing this Supplement.

In line with the increase recommended by the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body, the Review Body recommends an overall pay increase for Defence Medical Services medical and dental officers of 3.9 per cent. The Review Body also recommends a 6.2 per cent. increase for certain categories of junior doctors and a 4.2 per cent. increase for general medical practitioners, inclusive of the overall 3.9 per cent. increase. In addition, there are recommendations for additional payments to general medical and general dental practitioners' pay scales.

The additional cost to the Defence Budget will be £4.5 million. This will be met within existing departmental expenditure limits.

The Review Body's recommendations are to be accepted in full, with implementation effective from 1 April 2001.

Defence Evaluation and Research Agency

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in what circumstances his Department will be reimbursed by the Treasury in the event of (a) a delay in and (b) cancellation of the New DERA flotation. [154164]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 16 March 2001]: The Ministry of Defence will receive a credit to the Defence Budget of at least £250 million in financial year 2001-02 in respect of the Public Private Partnership for DERA. This does not depend on whether the transaction has taken place, nor does the amount give an indication of the likely value of New DERA.



Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) how many dioxin tests have been conducted on (a) Byker employees and (b) employees working at other incineration plants since 1979; and if he will place the results in the Library; [155383]

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Mr. Meacher [holding answer 23 March 2001]: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has not received any requests from Byker employees or trade unions for advice on the potential health effects of working with incinerators or for requests for studies into the health of employees. HSE considers that the Environment Agency's current legislation is such that the potential exposure of employees to dioxins is very low.

Exposure to dioxins (both environmental and workplace) can be measured using blood tests. Blood tests are invasive and are not normally carried out unless there is a clear need or concern expressed by those involved. They are also time consuming and expensive. Under these circumstances, they are unlikely to yield useful information. Consequently HSE has not carried out dioxin tests on employees at incinerator plants or those involved in the demolition of these plants and does not believe that random blood tests are necessary.

The only health effects from dioxins which could be detected by health checks is the skin condition, chloracne. This only occurs at high exposures, for example as a result of industrial accidents, and consequently checks for this condition would not be of value at exposure levels associated with incinerators.

In the absence of investigations due to accidents, reports of ill health and complaints, HSE's inspectorates carry out its elective work guided by priorities. In 1995 HSE's inspectorate rated the health risks at the Byker plant as 'medium' and on reassessment in 1999 and 2000 as 'low'. The assessment included examination of the general standards of ventilation and cleanliness etc. at this medium-sized plant which employs approximately 20 people. These ratings did not indicate a need proactively to supply information to Byker employees or trade unions on the potential health effects of working with incinerators.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the burial sites (a) in use and (b) being constructed for the purpose of burying the carcases of animals in connection with the prevention of foot and mouth disease comply with (i) the provisions regarding the protection of groundwater in the EU Groundwater Directive of 1978 and (ii) the provisions of the EU directive on the landfill of waste of April 1999 concerning arrangements for the protection of soil and water via leachate collection and bottom sealing. [156820]

Mr. Meacher: The Government are aware of the need to comply with all relevant EU Directives during the current foot and mouth outbreak. The principal Directive concerning animal burial is the Animal Waste Directive (90/667/EEC), Article 3(2) of which contains requirements for environmental protection. These requirements are met through close co-operation between this Department, MAFF and the Environment Agency, and through the authorisation procedure in the Groundwater Directive. The Agency continues to carry out an assessment of both existing and proposed burial sites and, subject to the risk, authorises the burial imposing any necessary conditions for the protection of groundwater.

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London Underground Strike

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received from the RMT on the London Underground strike; and if he will make a statement. [156777]

Mr. Hill: I have received no direct representations from the RMT about the Underground strike, which is an operational matter for London Underground.

The Government regret the disruption which Underground passengers will have suffered. The recent strikes have brought unnecessary inconvenience to London. This is not a dispute about safety, which will continue to be overseen by the independent Health and Safety Executive.

Ministerial Discussions

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with the RMT on transport issues in the last year. [156778]

Mr. Hill: Ministers have extensive dealings with organisations in both the public and private sectors as part of their official duties, which have included some meetings with the RMT.

It would be impracticable to maintain a central record of such meetings.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many (a) inspectors and (b) inspector hours per year were devoted to inspecting experimental releases of genetically modified organisms in (i) 1996, (ii) 1997, (iii) 1998, (iv) 1999 and (v) 2000 to ensure consent conditions were complied with; how many breaches of consents were detected in these years; and how many resulted in prosecutions. [156463]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 2 April 2001]: The information is given in the table. Figures exclude Scotland from 1 April 2000 as the Scottish Executive have had independent inspection arrangements since then. The Central Science Laboratory (CSL) took over responsibility from HSE for inspections in England and Wales on 1 June 2000.

Inspections of GMO releases 1996 to 2000

Number of inspectors1221(1)1
Days per year spent on inspections110.75156.1132.2124.7(1)73.5
Number of breaches of consent(3)03501
Number of prosecutions00020

(1) HSE

(2) CSL

(3) The figures reported for 1997 and 1998 show the instances where in the opinion of the HSE inspector releases were not being carried out in accordance with the release consents. Details were provided in my replies of 17 December 1998, Official Report, column 630W, and 4 February 1999, Official Report, column 720W, to the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker). Two cases resulted in prosecutions.

The breach of consent in 2000 was reported by Aventis at two of its small-scale research and development trial sites of GM sugar beet (consent reference 00/R33/02). This consent authorised the release of sugar beet plants genetically modified for tolerance to glufosinate herbicide. At the end of the trials approximately 0.5 per cent. of the plants were found to be of a GM line that was also tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate and were not covered by the consent. CSL investigated this matter to ensure that volunteer GM beet plants were controlled and that measures are in place to prevent a recurrence. The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment was informed and concluded that there was no increased risk to human health or the environment. Aventis will be required to conduct additional monitoring of the affected sites in 2001.

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