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Smarden Poisoning Incident

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: The Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL) at Weybridge, now part of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, assisted with the investigation into the Smarden poisoning incident. The outcome of the investigation was published in the Veterinary Record on 19th April, 1969 (copies to be placed in the Library of the House). Given the amount of time that has elapsed,

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the files on the incident no longer exist. The only other work of which CVL is aware was carried out on soil samples to decide when the land could be returned to normal agricultural use.

Antibiotics in Animal Feed: Monitoring

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What research has been done or is planned on the effects of including antibiotics in the food fed to animals, poultry and fish; and in particular whether such practices could increase the number of resistant organisms present in humans.

Lord Lucas: No research has been conducted or is planned. However, the Government take very seriously the possibility of the development of antibiotic resistance in humans and animals as a result of the use of antibiotics in animal feed. This is carefully examined as part of the safety assessment of applications for authorisations for antimicrobial products and is kept under review by the independent scientific Veterinary Products Committee (VPC). The committee has consistently followed the principles established in the Report of the Joint Committee on the Use of Antibiotics in Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine (the Swann Report of 1969). The VPC's policy has been that new antibiotics should not necessarily be precluded from therapeutic use in animals but that their prophylactic use should be discouraged. Against this background, the committee continues to consider each case on its merits. The committee reviewed and confirmed its policy last year. In doing so, it recognised that many antibiotics are effective against both human and animal disease and a number licensed in human medicine are also authorised for therapeutic use in animals.

The independent Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) has set up a working group to assess the risks to humans from antibiotic resistant micro-organisms entering the food chain and to consider the need for any action to protect public health. The working group expects to report to the main committee by the end of 1997.

Pesticides in Water: Report

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Working Party on the Incidence of Pesticides in Water will publish its report.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): The Working Party on the Incidence of Pesticides in Water has today published its review on the monitoring of pesticides in water in the United Kingdom. I am placing a copy in the Library.

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It concludes that "there is a basically sound system of monitoring and investigation that has emerged out of a long established intention to control pesticides effectively". However, it has identified some gaps in monitoring and it has made some recommendations for improvements.

This report provides a comprehensive summary of the data which are available on pesticides in water. A group, led by the Environment Agency, will be formed to ensure that there is an ongoing review of monitoring requirements and that monitoring efforts are most effectively directed.

Secondary Liquid Fuel Burning in Cement Kilns: Response to Report

Viscount Mountgarret asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will issue their response to the report of the Environment Select Committee on the burning of secondary liquid fuels in cement kilns.

Earl Ferrers: The Government have today published their response to the Select Committee and copies have been placed in the Library.

Development Plan System: Review

Viscount Mountgarret asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they are putting in place for the consideration of further changes to the system of development plans prepared under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Earl Ferrers: On 13th March my honourable friend the Minister for Construction, Planning and Energy Efficiency published proposals to amend the Code of Practice on Development Plans and the Development Plan Regulations in order to help speed up the process of adoption by local authorities of area-wide local plans and unitary development plans. The changes proposed in those documents have been broadly welcomed and, subject to consideration of the detailed comments received, will be implemented as soon as possible. He also indicated that he had not ruled out further changes, if these were wanted by the users of the development plan system. Meetings are now being held with a range of organisations representing those with an interest in the operation of the system, including the local authorities, developers and environmental groups. Suggestions for change can also be submitted in writing to: The Secretary, Development Plans Review, Room C13/20, 2 Marsham St, London SW1P 3EB, to arrive not later than 30th June. If it is decided to bring forward further firm proposals for changes to the system, these will be subject to consultation in the usual way.

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Channel Tunnel Rail Link/West Coast Main Line Connection

Lord Sefton of Garston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether London and Continental Railways have given notice that they intend to seek consent for a twin-track connection between the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the West Coast Main Line.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): London and Continental Railways have not yet brought forward their formal application for an order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 for the connection. However, the connection is a key part of their commercial strategy and they would want to seek the powers in good time to enable them to build the connection within their overall construction programme.

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Railfreight Distribution: Privatisation

Lord Harding of Petherton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to privatise Railfreight Distribution.

Viscount Goschen: My honourable friend the Minister for Railways and Roads has today announced that the Government have decided that Railfreight Distribution--British Rail's Channel Tunnel freight business--should be offered for sale as soon as possible. BR have been asked, in consultation with the Department of Transport, to draw up a programme for its disposal. The offer for sale will be based on the existing business.

Railfreight Distribution is heavily loss-making. Privatisation will enable the business to be put onto a sound financial footing so that the growth potential of international freight services via the Channel Tunnel can be exploited on a commercial basis, thereby furthering the objective of transferring more freight from road to rail.

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