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5 Dec 2002 : Column 958W—continued


Stephen Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the incidence of cross-border incursions and terrorist attacks across the Line of Control in India. [84863]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: There are some differences of view in India on the extent of any reduction on terrorist activity but on 27 November, India Defence Minister George Fernandes said XSome of the terrorist organisations in Pakistan were closed, some terrorist camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir were closed, their accounts frozen and leaders arrested. Moreover, the infiltration this year has come down considerably compared to the figures of the corresponding period of the previous year". Despite this, terrorist attacks continue in Jammu and Kashmir, most recently the

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attack on the Raghunath Hindu Temple on 24 November which left over 50 injured. We unreservedly condemn such attacks. The Pakistan Government have assured us that President Musharraf's pledge that there will be no movement across the Line of Control stands, and that the Pakistani Army is doing all it can to stop infiltration. A permanent end to cross-border infiltration and terrorism in Kashmir is critical to a sustained and substantive dialogue leading towards a lasting settlement of the Kashmir issue.


John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the compliance of the Guinean Government with the UN arms embargo on Liberia. [84986]

Mr. Rammell: Guinea has supported maintenance of the arms embargo on Liberia, including as a member of the Security Council.

President Charles Taylor of Liberia alleges that Guinea is supplying the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) in breach of the arms embargo. The UN Security Council reaffirmed in a statement on 26 November, that the arms embargo applies to any recipient in Liberia, including non-state actors.

The UN Panel of Experts Report on Liberia of 7 October 2002 states that ammunition captured from LURD rebels in Liberia had been part of a shipment from the United Arab Emirates to Guinea. This shipment was reported to have been destroyed by fire. It is unclear how the ammunition could have come into the possession of the LURD.

We call on all countries, without exception, to respect the arms embargo on Liberia.

Prisons (Tanzania)

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what evidence has been received by his Department on the adherence to basic human rights within prisons in Tanzania. [84992]

Mr. Rammell: We have no evidence of systematic violation of human rights within prisons in Tanzania. However, lack of institutional, financial and physical capacity in the prison service results in chronic overcrowding in Tanzania's prisons. This means that observance of international standards is not always achieved.


Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many visas were issued at (a) New Delhi, (b) Mumbai, (c) Calcutta, (d) Dhaka, (e) Sylhet, (f) Islamabad, (g) Karachi, (h) Washington and (i) New York in 2001. [84904]

Mr. Rammell: UK visas changed to collecting statistics on a financial year basis from the beginning of financial year 2001–02. The Joint Management Board supervising the operations of UK visas requested this

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change to bring statistical data into line with other data collected by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.

The total number of visas issued in New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Dhaka, Islamabad, Karachi, Washington and New York from April 2001 to March 2002 was as follows:

Sylhet is not a visa issuing post, applications are taken in and sent to Dhaka for processing.


Botox Injections

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the risk from Botox injections. [83849]

Ms Blears [holding answer 28 November 2002]: Botox was subject to stringent testing for safety, quality and effectiveness before a marketing authorisation for medicinal use was granted. As with all authorised medicines, the safety of Botox is continually monitored by the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) and the Committee on Safety of Medicines, an expert advisory committee. The MCA monitors the safety of drugs using all available sources and reviews any in light of any new evidence which emerges.

CBRN Incidents

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements have been made to deal with the disposal of corpses contaminated by a CBRN attack. [82584]

Mr. Blunkett [holding answer 25 November 2002]: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) on 27 November 2002, Official Report, column 366W.

Delayed Discharges

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate he has made of the costs to local authorities of the proposed fines for delayed discharge; [83851]

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Jacqui Smith [holding answers 28 November and 4 December 2002]: The maximum cost that social services would face in payments to hospitals under the Community Care (Delayed Discharges, etc) Bill would be £100 million in any one year. That is on the assumption that councils make no progress at all beyond the targets they have already set themselves to reduce the levels of delayed discharges from hospitals by March 2003. It pre-supposes that social services do not use the annual increase in resources to put in place new services to help reduce delayed discharges from hospitals still further and that none of the £1 billion—most of which is earmarked—for elderly care services actually gets spent on building up capacity in elderly care services. Given these assumptions, the Government does not believe that social services will have to pay £100 million to the health service.

Nevertheless, for each of the next three full years, an extra £100 million—on top of the resources already made available—will be transferred from the national health service budget to social services for each full year in which the scheme operates. This will provide a positive incentive to make the system work. This will enable individual councils to gain from the system, provided that they make available the community services needed to reduce delayed discharges from hospitals. The fundamental objection to the Bill, particularly from local government interests during consultation, was that social services were being given a new responsibility without adequate resources. These resources address that.

The formula for allocating this to councils is still being considered.

EU Directives (Food Supplements)

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what representations he is making to the European Commission about the proposed directives on nutritional supplements and herbal remedies; and what changes to the directives he is proposing; [83840]

Ms Blears: Directive 2002/46/EC on Food Supplements came into force on 12 July 2002. The Food Standards Agency is not proposing any amendments to the Directive.

In the ongoing negotiations on the proposed Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products our priorities will be to press for greater scope to take account of valid evidence of traditional use from outside the European Union, for national flexibility to extend simplified registration to at least some categories of non herbal traditional medicines and for the Directive to cover traditional herbal remedies with added nutrients.

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The latter point might be covered by either specific amendment or through reasonable interpretation of the current text.

We support the principle of amendments which would: reduce the required period of usage within the European Union, permit the inclusion of nutrients with traditional herbal remedies; strengthen the role of the proposed Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products; set a deadline of three years after the Directive coming into force for the completion of the proposed review of the Directive.

We intend to oppose the principle of automatic recognition of registrations or authorisations previously granted to a product in other member states since we believe this could serve to reduce flexibility available to member states; also, historical differences in the way member states have regulated similar products would be likely to create difficulties for a member state seeking to follow a consistent interpretation of the distinction between well established use, for the purposes of a marketing authorisation, and traditional use. We will oppose, on public health grounds, the principle of allowing new combinations of active medicinal ingredients without evidence of traditional use of that combination, although we will continue to look for ways during negotiations of maximising the possibilities for demonstrating traditional use of herbal combinations.

We will oppose the principle of restricting the Directive to ingredients for which there is well documented experimental and clinical evidence of efficacy, as this would run counter to the principle of accepting evidence of traditional usage in place of the normal requirement to demonstrate the efficacy of medicines and could erect an additional regulatory hurdle.

We will consider further the specific proposal to amend the definition of herbal medicinal product in relation to the extent of pharmacological activity. As drafted this could rule out a number of products from achieving registration, in particular where medicines are regarded as medicinal by virtue of their presentation. Also we have doubts about the advisability of amending the definition of a medicinal product in relation to herbal medicines only, when issues relating to levels of pharmacological activity also affect other categories of medicine. However, this regulatory area is a complex one and we will continue to be open to dialogue on this issue, whether in domestic discussions with the herbal sector or European negotiations.

We will consider further the principle of removing the labelling and advertising requirement to indicate that efficacy of traditional use product is not clinically proven. The potential advantages of a more positive presentation of products registered under the proposed traditional use scheme need to be weighed against the possible risk of weakening the incentive for companies to research the efficacy of herbal medicines.

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