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27 Jan 2005 : Column 457W—continued

Slaughter

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received advocating compulsory pre-stunning before any type of religious slaughter. [209744]

Mr. Bradshaw: This is an issue in respect of which the Department regularly receives representations. Most recently, in response to consultation on the Government's draft response to the Farm Animal Welfare Council's report on the welfare of red meat animals at slaughter and killing, Defra received 26 responses advocating pre-stunning before all slaughter.

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance her Department gives to abattoirs concerning stunning prior to religious slaughter. [209745]

Mr. Bradshaw: The law permits animals to be slaughtered without stunning to provide food for certain religious communities. The Department does not provide specific advice to abattoirs. Guidance to Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVS) advises that, wherever possible, provision for stunning should be encouraged. This may be stunning before slaughter or an immediate post-cut stun. This guidance should be available to abattoirs through the OVS.

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many animals slaughtered for (a) halal and (b) kosher meat were not stunned in the latest period for which figures are available. [209746]

Mr. Bradshaw: Information on the number of animals slaughtered for halal and kosher meat is not collected routinely. It has been gathered biennially by the Meat Hygiene Service on behalf of Defra, as part of the Animal Welfare Review.

The latest Animal Welfare Review was published in March 2004. The review reports on one week of slaughtering practices. In the period 1–7 September 2003, the following animals were slaughtered without stunning.
KosherHalal
Cattle726
Calves16
Young lambs1,7045,141
Other sheep11,454
Goats62









 
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Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in what condition each site of special scientific interest (SSSI) was in each year since 1997, broken down by local authority area; and what the total land areas of SSSIs was in each category (a) in England and (b) broken down by local authority area in each year. [208225]

Mr. Bradshaw: The condition of sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) is assessed not on a site-by-site basis but by each of the more than 22,000 management units into which they are divided. English Nature's first full condition assessment cycle was not completed until March 2003. The condition of SSSI land as recorded by the most recent assessments at that date and in March 2004 is shown as follows. A breakdown by local authority area is not available.
Area (hectares)

March 2003March 2004
Favourable461,474.14492,074.85
Unfavourable recovering135,968.49182,957.08
Unfavourable no change270,977.20246,120.35
Unfavourable declining178,714.05151,537.08
Part destroyed or destroyed2,252.591,192.13
Total1,049,386.471,073,881.49

Waste Collection (Charging Schemes)

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the work that her Department has undertaken on extending the powers of local authorities to allow the piloting of variable charging schemes for household waste collection and disposal as recommended by the Strategy Unit in the report Waste Not, Want Not. [211202]

Mr. Morley: The Department's work on variable household charging and household incentives for waste recycling and reduction is based on the body of existing, publicly available, research, supplemented by investigation into specific examples of such activity.

CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS

Census Records

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 13 January 2005, Official Report, column 632W, on census records, if he will seek (a) the advice of the National Archives, (b) a legal opinion and (c) the advice of the Advisory Council on Public Records and Archives on how the Freedom of Information Act 2000 relates to the closure or release of decennial population census returns for England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. [210742]

Mr. Leslie: The Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into effect on 1 January 2005. The Act is still in the early days of implementation, and it is important that requests for access to information should be carefully
 
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considered on a case-by-case basis. I do not, therefore, intend to seek advice about its general operation in relation to decennial census returns at this time.

Data Protection (Loyalty Cards)

Dr. Pugh: To ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs if his Department will make an assessment of the data protection implications of the use made by supermarkets of data collected through loyalty cards. [211115]

Mr. Leslie: The use of personal data obtained by supermarkets in loyalty card schemes is subject to the regulatory framework set out in the Data Protection Act 1998. If any person believes that their data are being used in ways which infringe the framework, they can apply to the Information Commissioner for an assessment to be made of the circumstances.

Divorced/Separated Parents

Keith Vaz: To ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs what the reasons were for the decision not to make negotiation compulsory in disputes between divorced or separated parents. [210230]

Mr. Leslie: The Government published Parental Separation: Children's Needs and Parents' Responsibilities, Next Steps" on 18 January, which sets out plans to implement a range of measures to help separating parents in dispute about future parenting arrangements, reach agreement.

The Government's plans include improvements in the information available to parents and greater use of methods such as the Collaborative Law model, mediation, in-court conciliation and the Family Resolutions Pilot Project. The Government intend strongly to promote these methods as better ways to reach agreement than through contested court hearings. All publicly funded clients will have to show that they have considered mediation. Lawyers will not be funded by legal aid if out of court settlement is not reached under the collaborative law scheme. In addition, the Government, senior judiciary and Rules Committee plan to review court rules and practice directions so that the strongest possible encouragement is given to parties to participate in forms of dispute resolution.

We do not plan to make these schemes compulsory in every case, as an essential part of the process is that people come to them voluntarily and are therefore willing to participate. Further, in some cases, including those where domestic violence has been an issue, it would not always be appropriate to impose mediation on separating parents.

PRIME MINISTER

Iraq

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister what assessment he has made of preparations for the forthcoming elections in Iraq. [210906]


 
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The Prime Minister: Both the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) and the UN remain confident that technical preparations are on schedule to meet the 30 January timing for elections. 111 groups, with over 7,000 candidates, are registered to contest the national elections. A further 12,000 candidates will contest the provincial elections.

Recent polling data indicates that the majority of Iraqis want to vote. Security for the elections will of course be vital. The IECI and the Iraqi authorities, with the multi-national forces, are working hard to ensure security in all areas to achieve the broadest possible participation.

To date, the IECI has accredited 12,400 Iraqi election observers to ensure that elections are free and fair. In addition, the International Mission for Iraqi Elections (IMIE), an initiative established by the Canadian Electoral Commission, will carry out a technical assessment of the elections.


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