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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 17 December 2003


Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Caroline Flint): I wish to announce changes in the way in which the Home Office handles certain types of project licence applications made under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

The types of application in question are publicly recorded as being automatically referred to the Animal Procedures Committee (APC) for advice, before decisions are taken by or on behalf of the Secretary of State. For some types, this is in accordance with pledges given when the 1986 Act was passing through Parliament, while others are referred through arrangements agreed subsequently. Details are set out in various APC annual reports laid before both Houses.

The APC has recently been considering which applications should be referred to it in future, and the chairman has put a number of recommendations to me.

The APC recommends that three types of application, on which it is currently committed to give advice, no longer need to be among those listed as routinely referred to it. First, it no longer sees value in considering applications to use terminally anaesthetised rats for microsurgery training, since such cases are few and usually raise no particularly difficult or contentious issues. Secondly, it now sees no point in including in the automatic referral category applications to test tobacco products, since the established policy and practice has long been not to license such testing. (Tobacco is used in licensed animal studies investigating diseases, but its use in such cases is not itself regarded as a reason for referral.) Thirdly, the requirement to refer applications to test finished cosmetic products and ingredients has been similarly overtaken, in that the industry has agreed to make no further applications for this purpose, as it is Home Office policy not to license it.

I have accepted the APC's recommendations as regards all these types of applications. They will with immediate effect no longer be regarded as ones to be automatically referred or to be recorded in that category. This change will make no significant or practical difference, other than saving processing time in the microsurgery training cases and avoiding unproductive use of Home Office and APC resources.

The APC has also recommended that it should continue its current practice of advising on all the other applications that are by agreement referred to it as a matter of course. These are applications to use wild caught non-human primates, and to use any non-human primates in scientific procedures of substantial severity. It also wishes to keep the requirement that it should offer advice on applications of any kind raising novel or controversial issues, or giving rise to serious concerns.

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Although there are relatively few of these applications, they are all of high or potentially high public concern. I fully accept that they should continue to be referred to the APC before licensing decisions are taken.

Finally, the APC has indicated its view that it could usefully see other project licence applications, though it could consider only a very small number each year and is mindful of the need not to hold up unduly the processing of applications. Which additional applications it should be asked to advise on is a matter to be discussed further between the Home Office and the APC. Once that has been settled, I will make a further statement.

Asylum Reform

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): On 27 October 2003 my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend The Lord Chancellor announced new legislative proposals for asylum reform. David Lammy and I wrote to a number of stakeholders outlining these proposals and inviting comments. Today we are publishing a summary report on the responses we received. Copies of this will be sent to those who responded to the letter as well as being placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament and on the IND website. We will also be placing copies of the race equality impact assessments of the provisions contained in the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Bill in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.


Day Chocolate Company

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I have today laid before both Houses a Departmental Minute on a £400,000 contingent liability which the Department for International Department has entered into. Under this arrangement DFID will extend its guarantee on a commercial loan to the Day Chocolate Company, a fair trade company partly owned by the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa co-operative. This marketing channel provides co-operative members with direct benefits in the form of fair prices and community level projects. This is the first use of the power to provide financial assistance by way of a guarantee under the International Development Act 2002.

Agriculture and Poverty Reduction

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): The Department for International Development has published a new policy paper on Agriculture, "Agriculture and poverty reduction: unlocking the potential".

The paper sets out DFID's commitment to agriculture as a fundamental part in the Government's approach to achieving the millennium development goals. The paper provides details of DFID's current activities in agriculture through both its central and country programmes, and outlines DFID's approach to

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finding new ways of reversing agriculture's relative decline and stagnation in many of the world's poorest countries.

A copy of this policy paper has been placed in the House of Commons Library, and comments are welcome. The contact point is agriculture@dfid.gov.uk.


Export of Works of Art Committee—2003–04 Report

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): The 49th Report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art for 2002–03 has been laid before Parliament. The Reviewing Committee provides independent advice to the Minister of State for the Arts on whether cultural objects that are the subject of applications for export licences are of outstanding national importance, using the Waverley criteria. During the year, following recommendations from the Reviewing Committee, temporary bars were placed on the export of 23 items, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, armour and jewellery. Of these, 11 items, valued at 4.2 million, were purchased by institutions in the UK. The report contains the Reviewing Committee's comments on policy matters relating to the operation of the export control and the protection of cultural objects and details of each case considered during the reporting year 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003.

The Review will also be available on the DCMS website http://www.culture.gov.uk


Land Registry

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy): Land Registry's revised framework document is published today. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Land Registry became an executive agency in July 1990 and a trading fund since 1993. During that period it has met improving financial, customer service and development targets whilst making land registration services progressively more efficient and cheaper.

The framework document sets out the framework within which Land Registry operates. In particular, it describes the flexibilities it has in terms of financial and human resource management. It also sets out it responsibilities to its customers and its accountability to the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor and to Parliament. The Document has been produced following a major review of Land Registry's status and business operations in 2000. The report of that review was published in 2001.

On 13 October, the Land Registration Act 2002 was implemented signalling the most significant legislative reform for Land Registry since 1925. The changes to the operation of the Registry that have been brought about by the Act are reflected in the new document.

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Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline Project

The Minister for Trade and Investment (Mr. Mike O'Brien): I have today accepted the recommendation from the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) that they should provide cover for a USD$150 million line of credit to finance UK contractors involved in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project.

ECGD's decision was made after a rigorous assessment of the risks associated with the project and a thorough review of the environmental, social and human rights impacts arising from the project.

A number of conditions remain to be fulfilled before ECGD's cover is made available, including final approval of the environmental and social action plan, and the general oil spill response plan. The project company has indicated that it will make copies of these plans publicly available in due course.

ECGD has placed a note of the decision on its website and copies are available in the Library of the House.

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