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3 Mar 1998 : Column WA153

Written Answers

Tuesday, 3rd March 1998.

Voting Systems

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the results of the study commissioned in respect of electors' views on voting systems will be made available.[HL898]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My right honourable friend has arranged for a copy of the results to be placed in the Library.

Guardsmen Fisher and Wright

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether consideration has now been given to the appeals of two Scots Guardsmen, Fisher and Wright, and whether it is now intended to release them; and whether they will give reasons for their detention.[HL687]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): The current appeals by Guardsmen Fisher and Wright take the form of a judicial review of the Secretary of State's decision of 27 October 1997 that the cases of the Guardsmen should be referred back to the Life Sentence Review Board in October 1998. Leave was granted for the judicial review on Monday 26 January. No date has yet been set for the hearing.

There are currently no plans to release Fisher and Wright. As to reasons for their detention I would refer the noble Lord to the Answer given by my honourable friend, Adam Ingram, the Minister responsible for life sentence prisoners in Northern Ireland, in another place, in reply to a Question from my honourable friend the Member for Linlithgow on 12 January 1998 (Official Report, cols. 82 and 83).

Deer Farming in Scotland: Support

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their policies to support deer farming in Scotland.[HL761]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The Government recognise that any support for deer farming in Scotland must be within the framework of existing UK and EC legislation. The industry is being encouraged to pursue possible grant assistance through the Marketing Development Scheme to assist in the marketing of venison as a healthy alternative to other meats. Financial

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assistance has also recently been provided to support the newly opened Deer Farming Training Centre at Barony College, near Dumfries, the first such centre to be opened in the UK.

Armed Forces: Protection against Biological and Chemical Agents

Lord Craig of Radley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What policy they have adopted to protect members of the Armed Forces who might become involved in any new conflict with Iraq from the dangers of exposure to biological or chemical agents.[HL576]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The measures being taken at any given time to protect UK forces against chemical and biological weapons are based upon the prevailing operational circumstances and the latest threat assessment. In the light of Iraq's failure to account properly for its acknowledged programmes to acquire weapons of mass destruction, a range of equipment--chemical and biological agent detectors, warning and reporting systems, individual and collective protection, decontamination equipment, and medical countermeasures--has already been sent to the Gulf theatre for use by UK forces if necessary.

In order that MoD has access to the best possible medical and scientific advice, we have established an independent Advisory Group on Medical Countermeasures, chaired by Professor Peter Blain of Newcastle University and made up of leading outside medical experts. Having sought and received advice from the new group on the current situation, we have decided that UK service personnel and MoD civilians in the Gulf region should be strongly recommended to accept immunisation against anthrax. The vaccination programme will commence later this week and involve personnel receiving three injections over the next six weeks and a fourth injection after a further six months, using the UK manufactured and licensed anthrax vaccine. No other vaccine will be co-administered with the anthrax vaccine and special arrangements have been made to ensure that the medical records of all those involved are properly annotated to register whether they receive the vaccine.

The US and Canadian Governments are providing vaccination for their forces in the region in the same timescale, and are making similar announcements.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has written to those Service personnel and civilians who are being advised to accept anthrax immunisation explaining the background to this decision. A copy of the text of his letter and the accompanying information leaflet are being placed in the Library of the House.

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Beef on the Bone: Review of SEAC Advice

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to subject to peer review the conclusions of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee relating to the advice to Ministers on bone-in beef; and[HL693]

    When they expect to publish the data on which the conclusions and advice of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee to Ministers on bone-in beef were based.[HL694]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee decided their advice to Ministers in the light of further findings of a continuing experiment to examine the spread of infectivity and the occurrence of pathological changes in cattle exposed orally to infection with bovine spongiform encephalopathy and of an independently conducted risk assessment. The experimental results were subject to peer review and preliminary observations were published in the Veterinary Record on 31 January 1998 (G.A.H. Wells et al, p103-106). Final observations await completion of the experiment. The risk assessment was commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on behalf of the committee and was published by the technical consultancy company which did the work, Det Norske Veritas Limited. A copy of their report is available on the Internet at

BSE: Phillips Inquiry

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the terms of reference for the Phillips Inquiry on BSE include a requirement that current and former officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food shall be called to give evidence to the inquiry.[HL787]

Lord Donoughue: No. The inquiry has no statutory powers to require people to help or to attend. However, my right honourable friend the Minister has called for all concerned to co-operate fully with the inquiry and has confirmed that serving and retired officials would be expected to do so.

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the event that officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are not required to give evidence to the Phillips Inquiry on BSE but wish to do so on a voluntary basis, what is the procedure they should follow.[HL788]

Lord Donoughue: The Permanent Secretary has already informed all members of the department that they should feel entirely free to make representations direct to the inquiry. He has also publicised the inquiry's address and telephone number.

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Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of the findings about the toxicity of ivermectin to marine life reported in The Times on 23 February; and, if so, whether they intend to ban it or restrict its use in the marine environment.[HL790]

Lord Donoughue: The Government are aware of this report, although our understanding is that it has yet to be formally published. However, there is currently no veterinary medicinal product authorised for use in the marine environment which contains ivermectin. If any application for authorisation of such a veterinary medicinal product were submitted, then this report would be considered along with all of the other data relevant to that application.

Hospital and Community Health Services: Resource Allocations

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What factors are taken into account and what mathematical formula is currently used to calculate the allocation of resources to health authorities for hospital and community health services; how many times and in what way this formula has changed from that originally recommended by the Resource Allocation Working Party (RAWP); and whether further change in the formula is contemplated to take into account evidence that uptake of some services by relatively deprived groups does not fully reflect their increased morbidity.[HL727]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): I have written to the noble Lord today on this issue.

A.40: Speed Limit Reduction

Lord Burnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the speed limit on the six-lane A.40 has been cut to 40 mph from Greenford to Park Royal.[HL775]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): I have asked the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency to write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Lord Burnham from the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency, Mr. L. Haynes, dated 3 March 1998.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions has asked me to reply to your recent question about the reasons for the new 40 mph speed limit on the A.40 between Greenford and Park Royal.

The Highways Agency undertook a review of speed limits on the A.40 which looked at accidents between

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the Hanger Lane Underpass and Target Roundabout. In at least 40 per cent. of cases, speed was a contributory factor. Therefore the reduction in speed limits has been implemented to help prevent accidents and injuries.

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