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18 Mar 2005 : Column 486W—continued


David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the Indian Government on the UN Convention Against Torture. [221671]

Mr. MacShane: On the occasion of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's most recent visit to India in February this year, he did not raise specifically the issue of the UN Convention Against Torture with the Indian Government. He did however discuss human rights. The Indian authorities can be in no doubt of our concerns about this.

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Indian Government concerning the recent violent attacks on members of the Sikh community of Chattisgarh. [221709]

Mr. MacShane: We are aware of recent violent incidents between members of the Sikh and Hindu communities in Chattisgarh. We continue as a matter of course to raise our concerns with the Indian Government about religious intolerance in India, including attacks against Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. We will continue to urge the Indian authorities to ensure that the right to freedom of religion, enshrined in its constitution, is upheld and that those responsible for attacks against people because of their religion are brought to justice. We remind them that the UK Government condemns the persecution of individuals or groups because of their religion or beliefs. The UK Government believe that the democratic process in India is the best protection for a peaceful and secure country. We appreciate the remarks by Dr. Manmohan Singh in his first press conference as Prime Minister, when he said

Nuclear Weapons

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the UK's undertaking to work towards the total elimination of British nuclear weapons. [221455]

Mr. MacShane: The United Kingdom is fully committed to its disarmament obligations as a nuclear weapon state recognised by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), including all the undertakings agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. We also support the agreements made at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference that called on the nuclear weapon states to pursue systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons. We are the only nuclear weapon state that has reduced its nuclear capability to a single weapons system and we have reduced the total explosive power of our nuclear forces by over 70 per cent. since the end of the cold war.
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Council Tax (North Somerset)

Brian Cotter: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much council tax was uncollected within the North Somerset local authority in each of the last five years. [221899]

Mr. Raynsford: The information requested is in the following table:
Council tax collection—North Somerset

£ million
Of which:
Amount due(5)Collected by end of
the financial year
Not collected by end
of the financial year

(5) Net collectable debit, excluding amounts funded from council tax benefit.

The amount of council tax ultimately not collected for any particular year is less than that shown in the final column of the above table because collection continues after the end of the financial year. Figures for the amounts ultimately collected are not, however, reported to central Government.

Departmental Accounts

Tony Baldry: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether Ministers in his Department have issued written instructions to override his Department's accounting officer's objections since 1997. [221115]

Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 14 March 2005, Official Report, column 80W.

Fire Service

Mr. Gill: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many recorded attacks there were against (a) firefighters while on duty and (b) fire service equipment in (i) Leicester, (ii) Leicester, South and (iii) the UK in each year since 1997. [222543]

Mr. Raynsford: Since April 2004 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales have been asked to report attacks on firefighters through the Fire or Incident of Special Interest (FOSI) system. Since that time 428 attacks on firefighters in England and Wales have been reported to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. There have been no attacks on firefighters reported by Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Combined Fire Authority.

Local Government

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what measures he (a) has taken and (b) is proposing to take to assist the lower level super output areas (SOAs) in (i) Dartford and (ii) the Thames Gateway Growth Area that fall within the most deprived 20 per cent. of lower level SOAs in England and Wales in one or more of the seven sub-themes used in the 2004 Index of Multiple Deprivation. [221103]

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Yvette Cooper: Spending Review 2004 made available over £1 billion of new Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF) resources for the period 2006–08 (£525 million for 2006–07 and £525 million for 2007–08). No decision has yet been made on how these new resources will be allocated. The Government want to ensure that we get the most impact from these very substantial funds. We are therefore carefully considering the opinions expressed in the recent consultation exercise to make sure we take full account of the views of key stakeholders involved in delivering neighbourhood renewal at the local level. An announcement on the allocation of these new NRF resources will be made when we have completed our consideration.


Animal By-Product Regulation

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reasons the Animal By-Product Regulation (EC) No 1774/2002 requires slaughterhouse waste to be handled in an enclosed space. [221871]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Animal By-Products Regulation requires that all intermediate plants have a covered space to receive animal by-products. We consider that in general this will also mean that all handling of by-products must be done in that covered space. The Regulation also requires the plant to be constructed in such a way that it is easy to clean and disinfect, and that floors must be laid down in such a way as to facilitate the draining of liquids. The plant must also have appropriate arrangements for protection against pests, such as insects, rodents and birds. In our view, the combination of these requirements is such that it would be necessary for the plant to have a roof, walls and a floor before we can approve it.

Slaughterhouse waste may contain high-risk material such as Specified Risk Material (SRM). It will usually have a high liquid content, and contain loose fragments of material, thereby increasing the risk of leakage or spillage during handling and the risk of spread by vermin such as rodents or birds. Such waste must therefore be handled in an enclosed space to provide adequate safeguards to protect public and animal health.

Avian Flu

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what agreements are in place with each country which exports poultry feathers to the UK on ensuring that they are not infected with avian influenza; and what measures she has put in place to ensure agreements are adhered to; [221388]

(2) what tests are carried out in the UK on poultry feathers imported from East Asian countries to establish whether they are infected with avian influenza. [221390]

Mr. Bradshaw: Import requirements for feathers are set in European Union legislation. Imports of unprocessed feathers are prohibited from countries that are currently under restriction due an outbreak of Avian Influenza (HPAI).
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Community legislation allows import of processed feathers. Every consignment of processed feathers from countries under restriction because of Avian Influenza are veterinary checked at the Border Inspection Post on entry to the EU. Imports of processed feathers from these countries must be accompanied by a commercial document stating that the feathers have been cleaned with a steam current and heated to at least 70°.

Unprocessed feathers are banned from countries under restrictions due to Avian Influenza. They would be easily detectable by smell or sight as they are highly susceptible to deterioration in transit and would be foul-smelling.

Cleaning feathers with a steam current and heated to at least 70° is considered effective in significantly reducing the quantity of virus, if present, to a negligible level. Therefore no further testing is carried out.
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Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the risk of avian influenza being transmitted from imported poultry feathers. [221389]

Mr. Bradshaw: In January 2004 Defra carried out a full veterinary risk assessment of the risk of importing avian influenza from a variety of products, including feathers. The assessment is available on the Defra website

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what quantity of poultry feathers were imported into the UK from each East Asian country in each of the last five years. [221391]

Mr. Bradshaw: UK imports of feathers from Asia, 2000–04.

Hong Kong8219223721
Grand total2,0181,7162,1272,0882,771

HM Customs and Excise
Data prepared by Trade statistics, Food Chain Analysis 3, Defra
2004 data is subject to amendments until 30 June 2005

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