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What progress has been made since the Intermediate Ministerial Meeting on the Integration of Fisheries and the Environment at Bergen in March 1997 on restricting sandeel fishing in areas that are important to other fish and to birds.[HL1316]
The Government are also funding a range of research projects on sandeels in order to develop new assessment and management approaches. This research includes participation in a collaborative project (ELIFONTS), ending next year, to examine the impact of industrial fishing on sandeel abundance and the effects of variations in that abundance on predators in the Wee Bankie and neighbouring fisheries. The contractors have undertaken to give early warning of any interim results which show that the fishery is having adverse effects on the various species.
The statement of conclusions of the Intermediate Ministerial Meeting on the Integration of Fisheries and the Environment in Bergen in 1997 included an invitation to the competent authorities to consider restrictions on fishing in any areas where it is judged the ecosystem requires protection. The results of the ELIFONTS project will assist in responding to this point. More broadly, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has been examining the ecosystem effects of fishing including the identification of areas holding sandeels that need protection in order to safeguard important concentrations of birds and other wildlife. The ICES report is expected in May 1998.
Lord Donoughue: No basking sharks have been caught by Norway under the EC/Norway fisheries agreement since 1993. However, the Government have drawn the listing of basking sharks under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to the attention of the European Commission.
Lord Donoughue: Officials in the Department of Trade and Industry have received one letter from the Office of the United States Trade Representative which, among other things, notes that the Government's proposed controls on dietary supplements containing vitamin B6 would have implications for US trade in this product. The Government have also received a representation on this subject from two United States senators.
The Government consider that the proposed controls are fully consistent with World Trade Organisation rules. They are based on sound scientific principles, and would apply equally to home produced and imported food supplements. Any food supplements containing vitamin B6 which are imported into the UK from the United States would therefore have to comply with the proposed limit of 10 mg per daily dose.
The proposed controls would not affect trade between the United States and other member states of the European Community, many of which already have much lower limits on the level of vitamin B6 in supplements sold under food law. The implications for trade within the European Union will be considered by the European Commission and other member states as part of the notification procedure under EC Directive 83/189.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The 1992 National Audit Office report into the Ministry of Defence's involvement in the Al-Yamamah programme has not been published as it refers to arrangements which are confidential between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.
Lord Gilbert: The Government are aware of the "Dispatches" programme "Saddam's Secret Time Bomb", shown on Channel 4 on 23 February 1998, which concerned the incidence of ill-health among the population of the area around the town of Halabja in northern Iraq. So far as the Government is aware, there have been no epidemiological studies of this population.
There is still no medical or scientific consensus concerning Gulf veterans' illnesses, and we are not aware of any evidence showing an increased incidence of adverse reproductive outcomes in the families of Gulf veterans. However, an epidemiological study led by Dr. David Cowan, which was published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that there was no evidence that children born to US Gulf veterans were suffering from a higher than average incidence of birth abnormalities. An MoD-funded epidemiological study under Dr. Patricia Doyle at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is currently examining the reproductive health of UK Gulf veterans and the health of their children.
Epidemiological research is currently underway, sponsored jointly by the Department of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and the Health and Safety Executive, into the effects on human health of low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides in the context of the health concerns of some farm workers.
Lord Gilbert: Of the £3,651,000 spent by the British Government on retraining projects for unemployed former Army officers in Russia since 1994, £3,155,000 has come from the United Kingdom defence budget and £496,000 from the Know-how Fund, currently managed by the Department for International Development. The estimated provision for such expenditure from the defence budget for 1998-99 is £1,000,000.
Over the course of the resettlement project we have taken appropriate steps to ensure that funds are used for the purposes for which they have been provided and that the interests of the British taxpayer are protected. These steps include the establishment of agreed budgets for retraining courses at each resettlement centre, and their close and systematic monitoring by the UK project officer based in Moscow. We have no direct evidence that funds have been illegally diverted by Russian organisations or individuals, but, where our monitoring suggests that funds are being managed unsatisfactorily or inefficiently, it is our policy to terminate our involvement with the centre concerned. So far this has happened on two occasions.
Lord Gilbert: The Hardway estate comprises 200 properties, all of which have been declared surplus to Service requirements and are being released to Annington Homes in accordance with the release schedule of the sale. Eighty two homes are currently vacant and the families in the other 118 houses have been given notice to move, but not before September 1998.
All the families affected live on the Hardway estate in Gosport. Of the service personnel involved, 13 married men are currently serving in the Gulf. On current plans, they will all have returned to the UK before the moves are due to take place. Special arrangements are being put in place to deal with personnel serving in ships about to deploy.
Although the Defence Housing Executive, DHE, need give only 93 days' notice, this longer notice period, of a minimum of seven months, enables DHE to take due account of each family's circumstances, such as likely return dates of spouses, leave periods, and schooling requirements. There are nine other Service families accommodation locations in the area and families displaced by this move will be offered suitable accommodation, although four bedroomed properties are limited to the Old Rowner Estate.
As part of the continuing consultation process, a meeting took place between representatives of DHE, the Ministry of Defence, and 27 residents of Hardway Estate. A full record of all the issues raised was made, and this is being distributed to all 118 families affected by the closure, together with responses to the points raised. In addition, an allocations officer will be located on the estate once a week, to assist families who find it difficult to get to the area office, and a regular newsletter will be issued to keep residents up to date with developments.
This release does not breach any undertaking given by the previous administration. The requirement is that the properties must be surplus to Service requirements, but not necessarily empty, when selected for release. The site backs on to Fareham Creek, not the Solent. This fact has no bearing on its release.
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