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4 Nov 1996 : Column WA33

Written Answers

Monday, 4th November 1996.

World Food Summit

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their responses to the observations in the policy briefing paper by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex on the forthcoming World Food Summit to take place in November in Rome on why the summit matters, the nature of the world food problem, the possible choices and trade-offs to be made, the principles for world food security and the action which should be taken.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The Government agree that the World Food Summit offers a good opportunity to develop a global consensus on how to address the problem of hunger and malnutrition in the world. The essential requirements are to reduce poverty, the main cause of hunger, and to assure the sustainable long term expansion of global food production to feed the growing world population. We are preparing a paper for the World Food Summit which will cover the main issues raised by the Institute of Development Studies. A copy will be deposited in the Libraries of the House.

Bilateral Aid and Education

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many countries received UK official bilateral governmental overseas aid in each of the years 1988-89 to 1995-96 inclusive and how many of those countries in each of those years received such aid for (a) primary education (b) secondary education and (c) tertiary education.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The number of countries receiving UK Bilateral Development Assistance in each of the years 1988-89 to 1995-96 is as follows:

Number of Countriesin Totalfor Primary/Basic Educationfor Secondary Educationfor Tertiary Education


1. These figures do not include other training or training in other sectors.

2. Due to the wide-ranging nature of some projects, it is not possible to separate out expenditure on the individual categories listed above. Such projects are classified as "general education" and are not included in the table. Therefore the figures shown above will be understating the true position.

3. The categories are defined as follows:

Primary/basic comprises primary education, primary teacher training, nursery schools, adult education and literacy, and non formal education.

Secondary comprises secondary education and secondary teacher training.

Tertiary comprises higher education, universities, university libraries, tertiary technical institutions, technical teacher training, distance learning, technical education, and research and scientific.

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Bilateral Aid to Least Developed Countries

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of their official bilateral governmental overseas aid in each of the years 1988-89 to 1995-96 inclusive was spent on the world's least developed countries.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The percentage of UK official bilateral overseas aid spent on the world's least developed countries (as included in the UN definition) is shown in the table below. This category does not include some of the world's poorest countries where the UK also maintains substantial bilateral aid programmes (e.g. India).

Percentage to LLDC


1995-96 figures are provisional until the publication of British Aid Statistics 1996.


Lord Walton of Detchant asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the decision of two member states of the European Union to ban the use of Avoparcin, an antibiotic feed additive which has been used in agriculture worldwide for over 20 years, in view of the recommendation of the Scientific Committee for Animal Nutrition (SCAN) that this substance "does not establish a risk to human health, animal health or the environment".

Lord Lucas: 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 authorisation for antimicrobial

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products, and is kept under review by the independent scientific Veterinary Products Committee (VPC).

During 1995, Denmark and Germany took unilateral action under Article 11 (Safeguard Clause) of Directive 70/524/EEC banning all uses of avoparcin in their territories because of an alleged link between the use of avoparcin as a feed additive and the development of bacterial resistance to vancomycin, which is used in human medicine. The European Commission asked its Scientific Committee for Animal Nutrition (SCAN) to consider the data presented by Denmark and Germany in support of their actions.

SCAN concluded, on the basis of the Danish and German data, that the evidence presented did not establish a risk to human health, animal health or the environment caused by avoparcin. However, SCAN also recommended that the use of avoparcin should be reconsidered immediately if it were shown that glycopeptide-resistant enterococci of animal origin infected man, or transferred their resistance determinants to human microflora in vivo, or contributed to the prevalence or severity of infections in man caused by vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE). It also recommended that the European Commission urgently consider provisions for the monitoring of microbial resistance patterns in general and, in particular, to those consequent on the use of antimicrobial feed additives.

The VPC welcomed the SCAN report and opinion, but expressed some concern on the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics as feed additives in animals, and over the misuse of antibiotics. The VPC was reassured that vancomycin resistance could not be transferred to other micro-organisms such as campylobacter, E. coli or salmonella.

It is known that vancomycin-resistance in Enterococcus faecium is due to the presence of genes, organised in a cluster, whose products confer the ability on the micro organism to grow in the presence of vancomycin. An important aspect of this subject is confirming whether or not the vancomycin-resistance gene clusters from human and animal isolates of Enterococcus faecium are identical. Preliminary investigations have been carried out at the King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry on the presence and nucleotide sequence of three intergenic regions present in the vancomycin-resistance gene clusters reported by other workers. This work has not yet been published. However, the patterns observed to date from poultry strains of VRE are not the same as those observed in the human strains and the data indicate that the vancomycin-resistance gene clusters in Enterococcus faecium strains derived from humans and poultry are not identical. The VPC agreed that the transmission of VRE from poultry to man is not proven and there is no evidence that animal VRE are the same as human VRE.

The Government consider that any future decisions on the use of avoparcin as a feed additive must be taken on the basis of good scientific evidence. Given the current opinions of the SCAN and the VPC, the Government do not support the decisions of Germany and Denmark to ban the use of avoparcin as a feed additive.

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Agriculture Council, 28th and 29th October

Lord Skelmersdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Luxembourg on 28th and 29th October.

Lord Lucas: My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at this Council in Luxembourg accompanied by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office and my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Welsh Office. Agreement was reached by qualified majority (Germany voting against) on a package of measures to re-adjust the EU beef market in the wake of the BSE crisis.

The Council invited the Commission to allocate a total sum of 500 million ECU to EU beef farmers whose incomes have fallen as a result of problems on the beef market. The United Kingdom's share of this sum, which is proportionate to our share of the total number of beef cattle in the EU, will be 13.1 per cent. This will provide some £50 million as further help to UK beef producers. The precise method of allocation of the funds will be decided in the light of further consideration in the Council and consultation with the UK farming unions on the preferred approach.

The Council agreement also made some important changes to the operation of the EU beef regime so as to bring production more closely into line with present and foreseeable demand. In particular, the calf processing scheme, which has operated in the United Kingdom since April this year, is to be extended to include male calves of all breeds, not just dairy breeds as at present. This scheme, coupled with a scheme to pay an early marketing premium for calves sold as veal, is intended to reduce the number of calves going for beef production by some 1 million animals and hence limit the need for costly market management measures such as intervention purchasing. The Council also decided to cut the regional ceilings for payment of Beef Special Premium in most member states in order more closely to align production with demand. However my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food successfully resisted any cut in the United Kingdom's regional ceiling in view of the fact that in the United Kingdom applications for this premium have regularly exceeded the ceilings fixed.

Among other features of the Council's agreement was a welcome boost for extensive beef production in the form of a new premium of 52 ECU per head for producers with a stocking density of less than one livestock unit per hectare. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food estimates that this could

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be worth as much as £15 million to UK producers. The Council also agreed to a raising of the ceiling on intervention purchases in 1996 and 1997. Following pressure from the United Kingdom and other member states, the Council also committed itself to a more fundamental reform of the EU beef regime to be completed in the course of 1997.

As to the funding of this package of measures, there will be no immediate cut in arable area payments. However the Council made clear its intention to postpone payments of oilseed advances in 1997 in order to allow beef market related costs to be met in the course of this budget year without breaching the agricultural guideline. Moreover, in respect of additional costs falling in 1998, the Council agreement stated explicitly that all necessary measures would be taken to ensure that expenditure on agriculture in that year remains within guideline. These assurances were important for the United Kingdom in view of the paramount need to observe budgetary discipline.

The Council also had a presentation by the Commission of a proposal to introduce an EU-wide system of cattle traceability, with a linked proposal on the labelling and promotion of beef products. The United Kingdom attaches importance to reaching an early agreement on the cattle traceability proposal, and will work constructively to achieve that end. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food also raised in the Council the need for rapid implementation of the Council directives on the protection of animals in transport, in particular requesting the Commission to bring forward urgently its proposals for Council decisions on staging points and livestock vehicle standards. He also pressed for the rapid discussion and implementation of the rules governing producer organisations in the fruit and vegetable sector in the wake of the reform of that regime earlier this year.

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