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Beef Export Ban: Sales to Third World Countries

Lord Wade of Chorlton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: Yes. I refer the noble Lord to the statement made by my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal on 24th June 1996.


The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Lucas: An epidemiological investigation at the beginning of the BSE outbreak showed no link between incidence of BSE and the use of agricultural chemicals. Subsequent studies have confirmed this. Phosmet has never been licensed for animal health products in Switzerland yet Switzerland has had over 200 cases of BSE, none of which was imported from the UK. On the contrary, however, we understand from the company which markets products containing phosmet that it is licensed as a warblecide at the same dose as the UK in France and Ireland, where BSE is very rare, and in Hungary, where it has never been reported, and is licensed as a treatment against lice in Australia and New Zealand at half the dose rate. There have never been cases of BSE reported in Australia or New Zealand.

Spongiform Encephalopathies: Tests for Origins

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the current strain typing tests for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are sufficiently sensitive and discriminatory to determine that apparently similar diseases appearing in the same or different species are unequivocally of the same origin.

Lord Lucas: The methods currently available form the cornerstone of research in this field because they have been used historically to study scrapie, and more recently BSE. Transgenic models have considerable potential to produce more rapid results and more precisely define strain type. They may also prove to be more sensitive. The current characterisation for spongiform encephalopathy agents involves inoculating infected tissue into a panel of mice of different genotypes. When this is done with the BSE agent a consistent pattern of incubation periods and lesion profiles results which is seen not only with isolates of the BSE agent from cattle but also after experimental passage through other species (goats, sheep, mice) and from field isolates of the spongiform encephalopathy diseases in cats, greater Kudu and nyala. Under the same test conditions a number of different strains of scrapie can be identified. It is also an established feature of scrapie that the nature of the agent in systems of this type changes after experimental passage through a different species. This process is partly attributed to adaption to a new host, but it has also been recognised that the original isolate may have consisted of a mixture

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of strains, of which only one, the most pathogenic to the mouse inoculated, dominates once in the mouse. The work done on BSE has revolutionised this work by determining that strain characteristics are retained in another species. The apparent presence of only one recognised 'wild type' strain in cattle is a vital factor.

This has enabled such a protocol to be of potential value in determining whether any CJD cases originate from BSE. Strain typing of CJD is however in its infancy, and characterisation of CJD strains will need to take place in parallel with correlation with BSE isolates. The system is also now being used to characterise isolates of CJD, but as yet no results are available as the experiment is still in progress.

BSE and CJD: Pre-clinical Diagnosis

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of the work BEC Schreuder et al in the Netherlands on the pre-clinical diagnosis of scrapie in sheep, and whether they will conduct tests to ascertain the effectiveness of their methods for the early detection of BSE in cattle and CJD in humans.

Lord Lucas: Yes. The Director of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency has visited the laboratory in the Netherlands and we are planning to co-operate with the Dutch scientists to see whether this test can be extended to the detection of BSE in cattle.

The Department of Health have not yet reached a view as to whether this recently published work could be extended to the diagnosis of CJD.

Sulphur Dioxide Emissions: Reduction

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are in a position to consult on proposals for meeting the United Kingdom's commitments under the second Sulphur Protocol of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Because of the rapid progress which is being made in the United Kingdom in reducing emissions of sulphur dioxide--one of the main constituents of acid rain--we are on course to meet our international obligations under the second UNECE Sulphur Protocol. We have today published a consultation paper setting out our preliminary conclusions on how this will be achieved. I have placed a copy in the Library of the House.

Under the terms of the protocol, the United Kingdom is committed to reducing national emissions of sulphur dioxide by 80 per cent. by 2010 compared with 1980 levels. This target is to be met through intermediate reductions of at least 50 per cent. by 2000 and 70 per cent. by 2005.

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The paper shows that, in the light of current programmes for reducing emissions, particularly from power stations, the targets for 2000 and 2005 should be met without the need for additional measures. Over the longer term, we propose to keep the position under review in the light of any measures which may be required to meet short-term air quality standards--on which we shall shortly be publishing a consultation draft of a National Air Quality Strategy--and any new initiatives in this area which may be agreed by the European Community.

The paper also reviews the performance of the existing National Plan, which gives effect in the United Kingdom to the requirements of the EC Large Combustion Plant Directive, and sets out proposals for changes in its future operation. The aim of these changes will be to ensure that future allocations of emissions quota under the National Plan are more closely in line with regulatory consents under Integrated Pollution Control.

The Environment Agency has introduced new flexibilities in the revised authorisations for the electricity supply industry in England and Wales which allow the generators to switch emissions between stations, provided that no adverse impact on the environment occurs. The agency is now examining how these arrangements can be extended to allow emissions to be similarly adjusted between different industrial plants by mutual agreement of the operators. Under the revised National Plan for Large Combustion Plant, there is no longer any gain in providing a scheme of transferable sulphur emissions quotas as was originally envisaged.

Housing Investment Trusts: Accounting Rules

Viscount Mersey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that Housing Investment Trusts can benefit from the same accounting rules as other investment trusts under the Companies Act 1985.

Earl Ferrers: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary for Company Affairs has agreed, in principle, to extend the definition of investment companies in Section 266 of the Companies Act 1985 to cover properties of the type to be held by Housing Investment Trusts so that the same reliefs are available to those companies. As there is a need to consult on any proposal to amend the Companies Act, and to ensure that wider accounting treatment issues are considered thoroughly, it is unlikely the necessary amendment could be introduced this year. We would expect the required order to be laid before the House early in the New Year.

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Purchase Grant Scheme: Exemption of Small Rural Settlements

Lord Harmsworth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to consult on detailed proposals covering the remaining counties of England to exempt small rural settlements from the purchase grant scheme.

Earl Ferrers: In March we issued a consultation paper on how we propose to exempt small rural settlements in England from the new purchase grant scheme. The paper set out the way we propose to implement the designation in England, and invited comments on our general approach, and on the detailed

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proposals for the first 15 counties and areas. In May we issued a consultation paper that covered a further 15 counties. Comments were sought from local authorities, housing associations, rural groups and other interested parties.

We have today issued a supplement to those papers, which gives detailed proposals for the final 15 counties: Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, South Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, Suffolk, Tyne and Wear, Warwickshire, West Midlands. West Sussex, West Yorkshire.

Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies of papers for each individual county or area including copies of any maps needed, have also been placed in both Libraries.

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