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Angling: Fish Suffering

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: Research has shown that great care must be taken in attributing to fish sensations similar to those experienced by humans or other mammals. Nevertheless, we are keen to ensure that those involved in angling are aware of the need to avoid unnecessary harm and minimise any stress caused to fish. Guidance and advice on a wide range of aspects, such as how best to handle and hold fish is readily available from angling organisations and the Environment Agency.

SEAC Review Recommendations: Implementation

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: The review recommended a number of additional appointments to the Committee, including an expert from the Institute for Animal Health and a representative of the public interest. My right honourable friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries

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and Food, and the Secretaries of State for Health, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have made the following appointments to the Committee:

    Professor Adriano Aguzzi;

    Professor Roy Anderson FRS;

    Professor Anne Ferguson;

    Dr. Peter Goodfellow FRS;

    Mrs. Harriet Kimbell, Representative of the public interest;

    Dr. Christopher Bostock, Representative of the Institute for Animal Health.

The review recommended that members not on fixed term appointments who had served less than three or six years should be formally appointed up to the end of the third and sixth year respectively; and that those who had served more than six years should be put on a fixed appointment for one year, all with the possibility of extension in individual cases. The following additional terms on the Committee commencing on 1 January 1998 have been offered to, and accepted by, members:

    Professor Sir John Pattison (Chairman) and Dr. Robert Will, Director of the CJD Surveillance Unit, (Deputy Chairman), a further three years;

    Professor Fred Brown FRS, Dr. Richard Kimberlin, Mr. David Pepper and Dr. William Watson, who have served on SEAC for more than six years, a further one year;

    Professor William Hueston, who has served on SEAC for more than four years, a further two years.

The review also recommended that SEAC meetings should be attended by:

    a technical adviser from the Central Veterinary Laboratory of MAFF's Veterinary Laboratory Agency;

    an observer from the Health and Safety Executive; and

    an observer from the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) Research and Development Funders' Co-ordination Group, which represents the major funders of TSE research.

All other recommendations of the review have been implemented. An annual report will be published later this year and we will announce proposals for the participation of the Food Standards Agency in the secretariat in due course.

Wales: Mental Health Provision Review

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the review of the policy of care in the community is to be extended to Wales as well as England or whether there is to be a separate review in Wales.[HL691]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Wales has its own individual approach to mental health provision based on Mental Illness--A Strategy for Wales, issued

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in 1989. We are currently consulting with people who use mental health services, carers, service planners and providers in the statutory and voluntary sector to see whether our approach meets their needs. Any decisions for future new policies will take their views into account. We will, of course, keep in close touch with the Department of Health in their work.

EU Common Visa List

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list those Commonwealth countries whose citizens require entry visas to the United Kingdom as part of the common visa regulations of the European Union.[HL708]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The following Commonwealth countries are included on the common visa list of the European Union:








    The Maldives





    Papua New Guinea

    Sierra Leone

    Sri Lanka




*Although Fiji is no longer a member of the Commonwealth, its nationals are treated as Commonwealth nationals for immigration purposes.

Canterbury Prison

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What response they propose to make to the report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons on HM Prison, Canterbury, in which he expresses his concern about the number of managers holding acting rank without being promoted, some for as long as four years.[HL641]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government welcome the Chief Inspector's report on his inspection of Canterbury prison. While the Chief Inspector did not make any specific recommendations in his report about

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the number of staff on temporary promotion to managerial grades, the Prison Service has taken immediate action. A series of competitive promotion boards and assessment centres, which will run until August 1998, have been scheduled to fill these posts on substantive promotion.

Access to the Open Countryside

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the consultation paper on Access to the Open Countryside.[HL804]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The Government have issued today their consultation paper setting out proposals for giving people greater access to the open countryside in England and Wales. Copies have been placed in the Library of both Houses.

The consultation paper reflects the Government's determination to fulfil their manifesto commitment to give greater freedom for people to explore our open countryside.

Our proposals have the potential to benefit the millions of people who already enjoy, or who will in future enjoy, walking in the countryside. Current arrangements for access to areas of open countryside, rather than rights of way, have not been used extensively and are not generally well understood. In many cases, people are understandably confused about the areas of land on which they are entitled to walk or the circumstances under which they may do so. We need to secure more and better quality access with greater clarity and certainty for all concerned.

Our proposals are about giving greater access to open countryside, not to developed or cultivated land. Our first priority is to increase access to mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land. In total these cover no more than 12 per cent. of the land in England and Wales. We also wish to see more access to other areas of open country such as woodland, cliffs and foreshore, and will introduce measures to encourage this if necessary.

In developing our proposals, we intend to ensure that a proper balance is struck between the rights and responsibilities of those who will benefit from greater access and of others affected by it. We are determined that those who will enjoy greater access should be responsible: the countryside and people's property and livelihoods must continue to be respected and properly protected. The Government recognise the need for sensible restrictions on the freedom of access to take account of the genuine needs of owners and other users of the land. Similarly, we recognise that access to some areas or at some times needs to be limited for reasons of health or safety, nature conservation, or archaeology.

We are prepared to consider all options, including voluntary arrangements, for achieving our objective of substantially greater access, and will consider carefully

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all responses to the consultation paper before reaching a decision on the best way forward. Assessment of the costs and benefits of different options will be a key part of our consideration. Costs to government (central and local), to owners and occupiers, and to the relevant statutory agencies will certainly be taken into account in considering how best to proceed. We do not expect that management of greater access will have major financial implications as, in most places, no changes will need to be made to accommodate walkers. We shall be making an environmental assessment and regulatory appraisal of our proposals, as necessary.

We are keen to ensure that the consultation process provides a genuine opportunity for all those interested to put forward their own ideas and views. We shall be allowing three months for consultation, ending on Friday 5 June. As well as considering written responses to the paper, we plan to hold meetings with organisations representing walkers, farmers and other owners and occupiers, and others with an interest. We shall also be drawing on the experience and expertise of the relevant statutory agencies and local authorities in firming up our ideas, and may need to consult further on some issues before announcing our conclusions, which we hope to do later this year.

Disabled Tax Class Vehicles Registration

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they estimate the annual yield will be to the Exchequer from imposing the fee for first registration on disabled people registering new vehicles.[HL665]

Baroness Hayman: Vehicles first registering in the disabled tax class will be exempt from the fee.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the estimated annual cost to the government-funded Drivers Fund and Mobility Equipment Fund administered by Motability of introducing a fee for first registration of vehicles; and[HL663]

    How many disabled people who will have to pay the fee for first registration of vehicles had to seek help from the Drivers Fund and Mobility Equipment Fund to meet part of the cost of acquiring and adapting a vehicle in 1996-97.[HL664]

Baroness Hayman: Access to the Drivers Fund and the Mobility Equipment Fund is open only to recipients of the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

It is our intention to exempt from the fee any vehicle registered in the "disabled exempt" tax class, entry to which is open to disabled drivers (or appointed nominees) in receipt of DLA at the higher rate and in possession of a VED certificate of entitlement. Therefore, there will be no cost to the Drivers Fund and Mobility Equipment Fund.

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