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Enterprise Week 2007 is expected to be even bigger but it needs Members continued support. Members are urged to look at the campaign website:
www.makeyourmark.org.uk and consider how the campaign can benefit their constituencies. Active support of Enterprise Week events taking place in constituencies and encouraging the organisations that are running them to register details of their event on the database at: www.enterpriseweek.org will help to ensure that this is the biggest Enterprise Week yet.
The conclusion of this work is that it is not cost effective to move the UKHOs 900 strong office workforce to Exeter, and in addition any such move would cause substantial disruption to both organisations.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): The amount of low flying training carried out in the UK Low Flying System (UKLFS) during the training year April 2006 to March 2007 was the minimum required for aircrew to reach and maintain their ability to fly at low level. The number of low flying training hours booked in the UKLFS (excluding the rotary wing dedicated user areas, where different booking arrangements apply) was 37,717 hours, a decrease of 6,713 (15 per cent.) hours in comparison with the previous training year. This decrease can be mostly attributed to the high level of operational deployments and immediate training requirements for operations in the close air support role being undertaken at medium level rather than low level. Low flying hours have also reduced from aircraft retiring from service. The level of operational low flying by fixed wing aircraft reduced by some 6 per cent. when compared to the last training year.
The Ministry of Defence is committed to ensuring that low flying training across the UK is spread as widely as is practically possible across the UK so that no single area is too burdened. However, due to a variety of reasons, population distribution and geographical and climate restrictions, it is unavoidable that some areas of the country may experience more activity than others.
I have today placed in the Library of the House a report giving a detailed account of the low flying
training that has taken place in the UK Low Flying System for the training year April 2006 to March 2007.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): I wish to announce today plans to restructure the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) as part of the on-going implementation of the Future Army Structure.
In line with the Defence Logistics Transformation Programme, the Off Platform Repair Capability, which provides intricate repairs from a semi-permanent location, will be aggregated into two Off Platform Repair Companies. These sub-units, together with those assigned to the Logistic Brigades, will come under the command of two Territorial Army (TA) Battalions101 and 104 Battalion REME.
While this entails integrating regular companies into battalions that were previously TA, it does not set precedentselements of the Royal Military Police are similarly structured. Command will be exercised by a Regular Commanding Officer, although sufficient REME reserve command opportunities will still exist elsewhere.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): I would like to make a written statement on this summers outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Surrey and on Bluetongue. This gives further detail and background to my oral statement of today.
On 3 August Foot and Mouth Disease was confirmed on a cattle farm in Surrey. In line with the contingency
plan, control measures including a national ban on the movement of susceptible animals were put in place immediately.
DEFRA, Animal Health, local authorities, the voluntary sector and other partners across government, alongside the farming community, have worked hard to control and eradicate the disease. Working with the leaders of the farming and food chain industries, we have been able to identify welfare pressures, and on a risk basis allowed animal movements to take place under strict biosecurity conditions.
By 4 August we were able to confirm the strain of the virus as 01-BFS-67. As this strain was not currently circulating in animals, this pointed to the Pirbright laboratory site as a potential source of the outbreak. Therefore, I commissioned the Health and Safety Executive to investigate the potential release from the site, and Professor Brian Spratt to lead a team of experts in a review of biosecurity arrangements.
On 7 September we published the investigation report from the HSE, the review report by Professor Brian Spratt, and the epidemiological report from the National Emergency Epidemiology Group in DEFRA. I have place copies of all these reports in the House Library. They all concluded that the cause of the outbreak was almost certainly the escape of live virus from the Pirbright facility. As the House will be aware there are three parties on the Pirbright site all of which are known to have been using the 01-BFS-67 strain during the period when infection was most likely to have occurredthe Institute for Animal Health, a research institute sponsored and grant aided by the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council which also owns the land and buildings on the site; and two private companies Merial Animal Health Limited, and Stabilitech.
It cannot be said with complete certainty how the virus escaped from the Pirbright site. However, the reports concluded that the most likely route was accidental release from the drainage system that connects the vaccine production plant to the waste inactivation facility on another part of the site. It is thought that localised flooding alongside construction work may have resulted in effluent escaping from the system coming to the surface, and being transferred on the site.
Whatever the route of escape, it should not have happened and we are determined that it does not happen again. I have accepted all of the recommendations in the reports from the HSE and Professor Spratt, and I have called for a review of the regulatory framework for animal pathogens led by Sir Bill Callaghan. In addition a safety alert has been issued jointly by DEFRA and the HSE to the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens and all animal pathogen category 3 and 4 laboratories, reminding licence holders of their responsibilities. This will be followed by a round of inspections. A rigorous improvement plan has been developed for both Merial, and IAH to be implemented before full operations with live virus can re-commence. In addition a review led by BBSRC is assessing the funding, governance and risk management at IAH. I will keep the House informed of progress with both these reviews.
Epidemiological investigations began immediately when disease was confirmed and indicated that it was
highly unlikely that the virus had spread outside of the Surrey area. Under long standing international rules and European Union procedures, zone restrictions must stay in place for at least 30 days after preliminary cleansing and disinfection on the last infected premises and the completion of certain surveillance activity. We observed these procedures and carried out intensive surveillance going beyond Community rules in the area. Given that only two cases had been confirmed (on 3 and 6 August) we proceeded to lift the Surveillance Zone on the 8 September and with the unanimous support of the Commission and member states, trade restrictions were lifted.
Unfortunately, as we now know, there was undetected infection outside the surveillance zone. On 12 September following an investigation by Animal Health, Foot and Mouth Disease was confirmed in a third case in Surrey, and controls were re-imposed.
On 25 September we created two FMD areas in Great Britain, a risk area in the south-east and a lower risk area in the rest of the country where farm to farm movements were permitted under licence. We have subsequently reduced the size of the FMD risk area and will continue to do so based on veterinary risk. On 4 October markets in the low risk area were able to start operating again under stringent biosecurity measures. I visited Skipton market last Thursday and was able to see the difference this will make to the farming industry.
On 3 October the EU confirmed that the export of meat could resume from this Friday (12 October) from Scotland, Wales, and the north and south west of England. This is very welcome news for the farming and food chain industries. We will continue to work with the Commission to increase the areas from which exports can happen.
The outbreak and its continuation has been a tremendous blow to the farming industry, especially given the time of year when the majority of livestock farmers need to move their animals and generate income. The economic impact of this outbreak on the farming community has been very significant and we have listened to the views of industry to take steps to alleviate economic and welfare pressures where ever possible. Indeed, working in partnership with the farming community has been an integral part of our approach to responding to this outbreak.
I am acutely aware of the major challenges facing the livestock sector at this critical time of year. Officials are working very closely with the industry in facilitating the resumption of animal movements on a risk basis to ensure as far as possible the normal working of the industry. The measures we have taken to ease restrictions in the low risk area through farm to farm movements and opening markets have helped and the resumption of exports of meat will be of further assistance not just to those whose products are exported but to the market overall.
As if an outbreak of Foot and Mouth was not enough, on Saturday 22 September the first case of bluetongue was found in East Anglia. This disease affects mainly cattle and sheep and is the same strain which has affected much of North Europe since last summer. Intensive surveillance was carried out to
determine whether this and the subsequent four cases were isolated incidents which could be controlled by culling.
On Friday 28 September the increase in cases indicated that the disease was circulating in our midge population and the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer confirmed the presence on bluetongue in Great Britain.
Bluetongue is very different from FMD. It is spread by midges, rather than animal to animal, and we cannot stamp it out by slaughtering infected cases. However, we may be able to limit its spread. The cases we have seen so far are in a limited geographical area and seem to result from a single incursion which took place in August when FMD movement controls were in place.
Midge activity should diminish significantly next month, which may halt further spreadat least for the winter. We have therefore consulted a group of stakeholders from the sectors affected and they have agreed that for the time being we should apply the control and protection zone measures to clamp down on further spread.
A clear understanding of the spread of the disease is now crucial to help the industry, with the support of government, to plan what may happen and what the appropriate response would be. That requires farmers in the zones to be vigilant and, for the sake of their industry, to report all new cases, so that we can monitor whether spread is occurring.
Over the coming weeks, the decision on whether to continue this approach will be kept under review with stakeholders. If disease becomes more widespread, our control strategy sets out that we would consider, with the farming industry, extending the bluetongue zones to a larger area. This is a difficult balance between permitting movements across a greater distance but also potentially increasing the risk of further disease spread. I recognise the hardship these controls impose in East Anglia. Our aim is to help implement the control strategy that industry representatives themselves recommend to us. The effects of bluetongue movement controls mean that it is vital that disease control decisions are taken by the industry and not just Ministers. In the longer term, we are also urgently planning with the industry how we could implement a vaccination programme should a vaccine becomes available.
The speed, commitment and professionalism of all those who have responded to these outbreaks has been remarkable, and I am sure the House will join me in expressing thanks for their efforts. The House will also understand the very real pressures faced by the farming community and the distress that this has caused.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Joan Ruddock):
My noble Friend Lord Rooker announced on 19 September 2007 that the new levy board, which will replace the existing five agricultural and horticultural
levy boards on 1 April 2008, will be called the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
Lord Rooker also announced on the same date that the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), and its sector companies, would be located at a new site at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire from April 2009. The decision to move to Stoneleigh was recommended to DEFRA Ministers, and to ministerial colleagues in the Devolved Administrations, by the shadow board of AHDB.
A business case demonstrating the financial benefits of locating the levy board and its subsidiary companies together at Stoneleigh has been published on the DEFRA website and copies were laid in the Library of the House on 19 September.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): The whole country will have been deeply disturbed by recent events in Burma. The brutal suppression of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations across the country, including beatings, killings and arbitrary detentions of monks and civilians, has been deplorable. The Government are committed to working with all international partners in the search for an inclusive political process to bring reform in Burma.
The human rights situation in Burma has long been a cause for concern. The military has ruled Burma since 1962. In 1988, pro-democracy demonstrations were violently suppressed by the military. Multi-party elections in 1990 were overwhelmingly won by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. However, the military regime refused to implement these results.
The military regime continues to rule by decree and controls every aspect of society. It severely restricts freedom of expression, information, assembly and movement. Members of opposition parties are subject to harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention. Before the recent demonstrations there were already some 1,100 political prisoners in Burma. Forced labour, arbitrary killings, the use of child soldiers and systematic rape, unlawful detention and displacement have all been commonplace.
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