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BSE Agent

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: Koch's postulates relate to the classical criteria to establish that an agent is the unique cause of a disease and were established at a time when conventional bacteria were the only known infectious agents. Viruses were unknown and the criteria as set out in this question cannot be met in full even in relation to disease caused by conventional viruses, e.g. as viruses cannot be isolated from pure culture because they can only reproduce in living cells.

In the case of BSE the agent is not a bacterium nor, it is believed, a conventional virus. The disease agent cannot be isolated and grown in culture. Postulate (i) cannot therefore be met. What has been established is that, in every case of BSE which has been studied, the samples of brain from infected cattle always show a consistent pattern of incubation periods and lesion profiles when inoculated into a panel of mice of different genotypes. In other words whatever is in the brains of these cattle which causes disease always exhibits the same characteristic fingerprint in the mouse panel. This is true for cattle tested in the system not only from the UK but also from Switzerland.

On (ii), the agent has not been found in association with any other disease.

On (iii), brain material can be shown to transmit disease experimentally into cattle, mice, goats, sheep, pigs, mink and marmosets. With the exception of marmosets and mink, which have not been tested in the mouse panel, and of sheep, where the genetic make up of the sheep determines the outcome, the brain from animals experimentally infected with BSE always shows the same characteristic pattern as BSE when subsequently inoculated into the same panel of mice. This is also true of field isolates of brain tissue from cats, greater kudu and nyala which were believed to have been exposed to BSE agent through food and which developed an SE disease. In sheep one form of the gene results in the same classical BSE pattern as brain from other species when further transmitted into the mouse panel; another form of the gene results in a different pattern but this could be due to infection with natural sheep scrapie in the flock. The results for sheep seem to be related to the strong genetic component in

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susceptibility of sheep to the natural sheep disease scrapie.

The answer to (iv) is therefore yes in relation to brain tissue from all species tested except for some sheep.

In relation to disease in man it is not possible to carry out experimental exposure to BSE agent. Tissue from patients who died from both the old and new variants of CJD has been injected into the same panel of mice but these tests take up to two years to do and are still under way.

In relation to sheep scrapie, none of the strains tested show the same characteristic pattern in mice as BSE. This may be a reflection of the fact that in scrapie the characteristics of the disease developed by an animal after experimental infection relates not simply to the strain of scrapie you put into the animal, but also to the species of animal and in some cases to the genotype within the species of the animal.

Compound Animal Foodstuffs: Ingredient Listing

The Earl of Bradford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the feed compounders in other member countries of the European Community list the ingredients of the animal foodstuffs they produce.

Lord Lucas: Ingredient listing of compound feeds, either by specified ingredients or categories of ingredients, has been a requirement of EC legislation since 1991. Feed compounders in the EC, therefore, can and do use both options. In the UK, the major feed compounders recently announced that they would be switching to full ingredient listing for most compound feeds at the earliest opportunity.

Civil Protection Council, 23rd May

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the outcome of the Civil Protection Council held on 23rd May.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Mr. David Bostock, the Deputy Permanent Representative to the European Union, represented the United Kingdom at the Council in Brussels. In accordance with the policy outlined in the Prime Minister's statement on 21st May, he was unable to agree to any decisions requiring unanimity in the Council other than those which were purely formal or procedural.

Three agenda items were blocked and a statement made on the Government's policy of non co-operation in the European Union. The three matters dealt with at the Council were as follows.

The Council discussed a compromise proposal for a Decision establishing a community action programme in the field of civil protection, designed to support and

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supplement member states' own work in the area of civil protection. The Presidency expressed the hope that this question would be further dealt with in the months ahead with a view to reaching agreement.

The Council considered a draft Resolution on strengthening Community co-operation in the field of civil protection research. The Presidency took note of the Commission's intention to consider the need for research in this area.

The Council also discussed a draft Resolution on co-operation with the associated Central and Eastern European Countries and Cyprus and Malta on civil protection, in preparation for their accession.

The Government do not accept that civil protection is an appropriate field for Community action. The Government take the view that in this particular field member states have, and must continue to have, primary responsibility for taking action. The Government will therefore be arguing at the IGC that Article 3(t) should be removed from the Treaty, at least where civil protection is concerned, and any future EU level co-operation should be pursued on an intergovernmental basis. At the Civil Protection Council on 23rd May, the Government reiterated that position while explaining why we could not agree to the proposed Council Resolutions and Council Decision on civil protection.

It follows that the Government do not consider that it would be useful for the Commission to bring forward proposals for research in this field. The Government do accept that, in preparation for the eventual accession of the associated CEECs, efforts should be made to forge appropriate links in the field of civil protection. However, they see no reason why the Community should be invited to take the lead.

Chief Inspector of Prisons

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the terms of reference, job description and person description for the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Baroness Blatch: The terms of reference of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons are set out in Section 5A of the Prison Act 1952, as inserted by Section 57 of the Criminal Justice Act 1982. Further details, including a person specification, were set out in the recruitment information brief provided for candidates when the post was advertised in 1995. I have placed a copy of this document in the Library.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, as reported in The Times on 24th June 1996, the Secretary of State for the Home Department has sought to restrict the freedom of the Chief Inspector of Prisons to discuss prison policy in public; and, if so, what is the nature of the restraints imposed upon the chief inspector and what is the justification for them.

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Baroness Blatch: The terms and conditions of service which apply to the appointment of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons state that:

    "Senior civil servants normally hold appointment on the strict conditions that they do not take an active part in public debate on matters of current or potential public or political controversy and that they seek approval before seeking to publish any letter, article or book, etc. or to give a talk which bears on official subjects or experience. It is of course recognised that you will need to play an active part in public discussions of prisons and related matters: should you feel the need for advice on where a line should be drawn, we shall be happy to give it."

On the relatively rare occasions when he would want to comment publicly, the agreed procedure is for HM Chief Inspector to discuss with the head of the Home Office's Communication Directorate both the occasion and what he would be saying.

Mr. John Callaghan

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received the report of the Chairman of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association on the death of Mr. John Callaghan, and if so, what is their response.

Baroness Blatch: The report by Major Hill, Chairman of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, has been received. The coroner has not yet fixed a date for the inquest into the death of Mr. Callaghan. The report raises important and complex issues which require careful consideration by the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Health in the light of the inquest verdict.

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