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Fish (Pain)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent research she has evaluated concerning whether fish feel pain; and if she will make a statement. [100360]

Mr. Morley: The maintenance of high standards of welfare for all animals including fish is a priority for DEFRA. The FAWC Report on the Welfare of Farmed Fish which was published in September 1996 considered

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the applicability of the term pain to fish. Since this report was published we are aware of further research on this topic.

Projects have been conducted at centres of expertise in the Roslin Institute in Scotland as well as in the University of Edinburgh. We are aware of the recent report by the Fisheries Society of the British Isles on Fish Welfare published in 2002 as well as reports from Canadian sources on this important topic of pain in fish.

While such research suggest fish do not experience pain in the same way as species such as mammals, further detailed research is required before a definitive position can be taken.

Foodstuffs (Labelling/Standards)

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) labelling and (b) standards schemes there are relating to the nature and production of foodstuffs in the UK; and what the requirements are for each. [102440]

Ms Blears [Holding answer 13 March 2003]: I have been asked to reply.

The Government does not collate information on the number of labelling and standards schemes relating to the nature and production of foodstuffs in the United Kingdom. These schemes fall into two general categories: those based on European legislation (such as that on organic food production), and those more commonly referred to as food assurance schemes, which are largely voluntary.

Food assurance schemes generally set out certain production standards in areas such as food safety and hygiene, environmental protection, animal welfare and inspections. An independent review of 18 of the main assurance schemes (including those covered by the British Farm Standard denoted by its "red tractor" logo) was carried out for the Food Standards Agency and published in July last year. It contains detailed descriptions of those schemes. Copies of the review will be placed in the Library.

GM Crops

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of two separate GM public debates running concurrently; and if she will make a statement. [100865]

Mr. Meacher: The Government are sponsoring a public debate on GM issues, which was announced last July, that encompasses a range of different activities. As part of that process, the Food Standards Agency announced that it would be conducting a series of events to independently evaluate consumers' views on the acceptability of GM food and how this relates to consumer choice. These activities will be a contribution to the wider public debate.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures she is taking to ensure the Scottish Executive is involved in the (a) public debate and (b) approval process for GM crops. [101258]

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Mr. Meacher: The Scottish Executive is fully involved in and is contributing to the funding of the Public Debate on GM issues, which is being managed at arms' length from Government by an independent Steering Board. The Steering Board are keeping the Scottish Executive fully informed of their progress.

Decisions to authorise or not the commercial importation or cultivation of any GM crop will be taken, on a case-by-case basis, by European Union (EU) Member States collectively working with the European Commission in the context of EU Directive 2001/18. In preparing the UK's opinion the Government will seek the views of the Devolved Administrations on all applications.

Meat Imports

Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cases of specified risk material have been detected in meat imports into the UK from the EU over the past year. [100580]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

Since 1 January 2002, there have been 33 cases where specified risk material has been found in imported meat. Each case has been reported to the veterinary authorities of the Member State of origin for appropriate action to be taken. Of these breaches, one consignment came from France, one from the Netherlands, four from the Republic of Ireland, 11 from Germany and 14 from Spain.

Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures she plans to take with regard to meat imports contaminated with specified risk materials. [100581]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

On the instructions of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Meat Hygiene Service continues to check at licensed premises every notified consignment of imported carcases beef for any presence of specified risk material (SRM). When SRM is found, the carcases affected are destroyed. The authorities of the exporting country and the European Commission are also informed.

Further to this, the Chairman of the FSA has discussed the issue with the relevant European Commissioner (Commissioner Byrne). The United Kingdom has also instigated discussions at the European Union Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health and at the EU Beef Management Committee. UK officials have also had profitable discussions at technical level with officials from the Member States concerned.


Democratic Republic of the Congo

Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions the Baroness Amos had on (a) the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (b) the Kimberley

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diamonds process and (c) conflict prevention measures in the region during her recent visit to Africa; and if he will make a statement. [101800]

Mr. Rammell: During her recent visit to Guinea, Cameroon and Angola, my noble Friend Baroness Amos discussed a range of issues including regional peace and security.

Discussions did not include the DRC or the Kimberley Process certification scheme for rough diamonds. But Baroness Amos is in regular contact with the key African players and other members of the international community on both issues.


Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the cost is to UK public funds of the resignation of the Attorney-General of the Cayman Islands. [103127]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: There has been no cost to UK public funds arising from his departure from office.

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to meet the Leader of Government Business of the Cayman Islands Government to discuss the collapse of the Eurobank case; and if he will make a statement. [103128]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: My noble Friend Baroness Amos last met the Leader of Government Business during her visit to the Cayman Islands on 16–17 February. She remains in regular touch with him.

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes he plans in the appointment of law officers to overseas territories as a result of (a) the collapse of the Eurobank case and (b) the subsequent resignation of the Attorney-General to the Cayman Islands. [103129]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: None. However procedures may be re-examined as part of the constitutional review process now under way in most Overseas Territories following up the commitment made in the 1999 White Paper "Britain and the Overseas Territories: Partnership for Progress and Prosperity". Our position remains that it is fundamentally important to protect the independence and impartiality of law officers and the judiciary in the Overseas Territories.

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to review security matters relating to overseas territories as a result of the collapse of the Eurobank case in the Cayman Islands; and if he will make a statement. [103130]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: None.

Human Rights

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the human rights situations in (a) Uzbekistan, (b) Turkmenistan, (c) Kyrgmenistan, (d) Algeria, (e) Jordan, (f) Qatar and (g) Pakistan. [101619]

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Mr. Rammell: [holding answer of 10 March 2003]: Human rights are at the heart of foreign policy and as such are integrated into policy-making at all levels. The FCO is therefore continually considering the human rights issues in all countries alongside other political, economic and security issues. However the human rights situations in the countries raised are as follows:


We remain deeply concerned by reports of human right abuses in Uzbekistan. We recognise that the Uzbek Government has made small concessions in addressing the situation, including co-operating with the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture. However, Uzbekistan needs to do much more. We would like to see reform of the criminal justice system, as well as wider recognition of independent human rights groups, religious groups and political parties. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), raised human rights concerns with the Uzbek Ambassador in London on 10 February. We shall continue to press for tangible improvements in Uzbekistan's human rights record. We are also thinking together with the EU how best to handle the human rights situation in Uzbekistan at the next session of the Commission on Human Rights starting in March.


We are greatly concerned at the recent developments in Turkmenistan following the reported assassination attempt on President Niyazov last November. We encouraged the EU to make a statement calling on the Turkmen authorities to comply with Turkmenistan's human rights obligations under international law. The EU is also considering how best to handle the human rights situation at the next session of the Commission on Human Rights.

Through the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) we have sought to establish a fact-finding mission to Turkmenistan to investigate all matters relating to the conduct of the investigations, including detentions, arrests and allegations of torture, as well as the trials, convictions and sentencing procedures. Turkmenistan has however refused to admit any mission of this kind. The OSCE has asked the Turkmen authorities to reconsider. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.


We recognise efforts made by the Kyrgyz Government to improve its human rights situation and to bring about political reform. Positive developments include a presidential decree on 8 January 2003 extending a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. We are however still concerned by cases of harassment of independent media and unofficial Muslim groups. We shall continue to help Kyrgyzstan make improvements, in line with its international obligations and commitments.

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We regularly raise our concerns about human rights violations in Algeria with the Algerian Government. We continue to urge the Algerian Government to fully comply with all its obligations under international human rights law, including the investigation of human rights violations, and to allow visits by the UN special rapporteurs on the question of torture and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The UK with EU partners has also raised its concerns about a number of cases of human rights abuses with the Algerian authorities. The Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has offered information on some of these cases, but both we and our EU partners will continue to press for full answers.


We welcome the decision by the Jordanian Government to hold general elections in June 2003 (elections were previously postponed from autumn 2002). This decision represents the opportunity for people to exercise their democratic right to vote. We will encourage the Government to hold a free and fair electoral process. We have some concerns about the human rights situation in Jordan including the treatment of religious minorities, honour killings, and freedom of expression. Toujan al-Faisal was a former member of the Jordanian Parliament who was arrested in 2002 in connection with her public criticism of the Government's policies. We welcomed her release following a Royal Pardon in July 2002. We will continue to raise each human rights case as appropriate with the Jordanian Government or in conjunction with EU Partners.


Qatar has a good human rights record for a conservative Islamic society with an autocratic system of government. The social and political system is comparatively tolerant and increasingly open. The Amir has the right basic instincts towards human rights issues but recognises that change which could damage the fabric of his tribal people must be handled carefully and will take time. The Amir is encouraging women to play an active part in all walks of life; he has introduced his first steps towards democratic reform; the press exercises some self censorship; freedom of worship is tolerated provided it is discreet; there are plans to build Qatar's first churches; work continues on codifying sharia and civil law but Qataris are still to some extent associated in the Western mind with their Wahabi cousins in Saudi Arabia. Death sentences have been carried out but are extremely rare. There are, however general issues regarding the treatment of third country nationals and minors working in Qatar.


The UK Government welcomed President Musharraf's speech of 12 January 2002 in which he condemned all forms of sectarianism and religious hatred and made the case for a moderate and tolerant Islam. We hope the new government will look carefully at human rights violations in Pakistan. The UK and EU are particularly concerned by sectarian and terrorist violence that has resulted in the deaths of a number of Christians across Pakistan, most recently the vicious attack on 25 December 2002.

We have concerns about the abuse of the blasphemy laws and are seriously concerned about the imposition of the death penalty for blasphemy. The UK

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government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances. Women's rights issues remain a concern. We hope the new government will keep to the pledge of the out-going government to review the Hudood ordinances on Islamic punishments. We are particularly concerned by so-called "honour" crimes against women, forced marriages, domestic violence, kidnap and rate. We believe much can be done to promote women's rights within the existing Islamic legal framework.

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