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Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make a statement on the (a) role and (b) effectiveness of the involvement of the Crown Prosecution Service in determining delayed charge bail cases in Northamptonshire. 
The Solicitor-General: Under the statutory charging arrangements, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is responsible for making the charging decision in all but minor and routine cases. The aims of the charging scheme are a reduction in the rate of discontinuance, an increase in the guilty plea rate, and a reduction in the rate of attrition.
In some cases, where there is insufficient evidence available to make an immediate charging decision, delay charge bail is used to ensure that the investigative process is complete before the charging decision is given. This approach has ensured a steady reduction of post-charge discontinuance rates and decisions of 'No Further Action' in Northamptonshire.
The police and CPS jointly performance manage the charging arrangements. This includes the management of delay charge bail to ensure that this is only used in appropriate cases and the number of cases on delay charge bail awaiting a charging decision does not increase month-on-month. This joint approach should lead to steady reduction of delay charge bail in the county.
The following table shows (a) the number of defendants who had proceedings commenced against them for the offence of soliciting to commit murder contrary to section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, or conspiracy to commit that offence, and (b) the number found guilty, in each year, of that specific offence, or conspiracy to commit that offence, for which figures are available.
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Some defendants proceeded against for soliciting to commit murder, or conspiracy to commit that offence, will have pleaded guilty or will have been found guilty of other offences. The following conviction figures do not include those other offences, and therefore understate the number of defendants who were convicted of an offence in each year.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Solicitor-General when the Attorney-General next plans to address military officers who have been identified as suitable for promotion to the highest levels; and if he will make a statement. 
The Solicitor-General: On 30 January the Attorney-General addressed military officers, attending the Higher Command and Staff Course organised by the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, on the International Legal Framework".
There are no immediate plans for the Attorney-General further to address military officers who have been identified as suitable for promotion to the highest level but he will consider doing so where a suitable opportunity arises.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the implications of the EU animal welfare action plan for the UK; and what legislative changes will be required. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 200610 will provide a more strategic and joined up approach within the Commission and member states, so that animal welfare is improved. It includes a range of proposals, including legislation.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research her Department is commissioning into a vaccine to cure avian influenza, with particular reference to the H5NI strain. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Defra is heavily involved with research into avian influenza. This includes making sure that the department's own research and development programme is tied into further work on vaccine development that the European Union and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council are taking forward; especially their recent, published call for new research proposals.
Mr. Bradshaw: Currently available vaccines do not make vaccination effective or efficient as a disease control or prevention measure for avian influenza in the UK as, although vaccines are able to reduce mortality, it is likely that some vaccinated birds would still be capable of transmitting the disease if they became infected.
However, as part of our readiness for a disease outbreak, and being conscious that there was no authorised vaccine available for AI, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate has recently issued a Provisional Marketing Authorisation for the Nobilis vaccine, produced by Intervet. The use of any approved vaccine is also subject to European Community legislation on the control of avian influenza and would have to be specifically authorised by the Chief Veterinary Officer. We are continuing to work closely with vaccine manufacturers to assess information on other vaccines.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received (a) in favour of and (b) against vaccination of poultry against avian influenza. 
There is a broad consensus that preventive vaccination does not currently provide an effective and efficient means of controlling avian influenza. Good biosecurity followed by housing of birds is the best response to a heightened threat. There is a minority view that preventive vaccination for birds of high genetic value, birds in zoos, and free-range birds in areas of high risk should be considered as part of the overall control strategy.
There is also an acceptance that emergency vaccination should be considered during an outbreak. This could form part of a wider disease control strategy but would also depend on the efficacy of the vaccines available. A plan for using vaccination would also have to be approved by the European Commission. We will continue to involve stakeholders in our consideration of these issues.
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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information she will make available by the Independent Scientific Group to inform the current consultation on bovine TB policy; and if she will make a statement. 
[holding answer 6 February 2006]: Significant interim results from the proactive element of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) were published by the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) in Nature on 14 December 2005. These, combined with other scientific evidence, including results of the Irish Four Area badger culling trial, led
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Government to conclude that consultation is needed to inform the decision on whether to introduce badger culling as a bovine TB control measure.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what total Government expenditure on tackling TB in cattle was in each year since 199697, broken down by main area of expenditure. 
|Badger control/culling trial(13)||1.48||1.66||1.83||4.6||6.6||6.0||6.6||7.3||7.2|
|Veterinary Laboratories Agency||1.40||1.62||1.85||2.4||3.5||3.7||4.1||5.3||4.9|
Mr. Bradshaw: Our aim is to slow down and prevent the geographic spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) to areas currently free of the disease, and achieve a sustained reduction in disease incidence in cattle in high incidence areas like Shropshire.
Defra has issued farmers with guidelines on measures to help stop bovine TB affecting their cattle. More information can be found on the Defra website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/publications/index.htm.
In December, we announced new measures to tackle bovine TB in England, including a public consultation on a badger culling policy in areas of high TB incidence in cattle, the introduction of pre-movement testing of cattle and changes to current compensation procedures.
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