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Burma: Attitude of Member States towards Sanctions

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There is no EU consensus to impose economic or financial sanctions on Burma. It would not be consistent with the confidential nature of EU discussions to name member states. The Government have, however, been able to adopt some trade measures short of sanctions in addition to existing EU measures against Burma. We shall continue to urge EU partners to adopt similar measures.

Commonwealth Business Council

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The first meeting of the Commonwealth Business Council took place in London on 20 and 21 April under the chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Cairns, with Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa as vice-chairman. It was attended by a number of leading business persons from throughout the Commonwealth. As agreed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, its objective is to promote greater private sector involvement in the promotion of trade and investment, and thus prosperity, throughout the Commonwealth. The British Government were pleased to provide £250,000 towards the council's start-up costs. We hope that other Commonwealth governments and the private sector will also want to contribute to this most valuable initiative.

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Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Arms Embargo

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they have taken to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1160 imposing an arms embargo on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[HL1602]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The EU already imposes an arms embargo on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The UK's interpretation of this embargo covers all goods and technology in Part III of Schedule I to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994, as amended (the so-called "Military List").

Following the adoption by the UN Security Council on 31 March of Resolution 1160 as a result of the recent violence in Kosovo, the Privy Council has made Orders in Council giving full effect to the action which the UK is required to take. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (United Nations Sanctions) Order 1998; the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (United Nations Sanctions) (Dependent Territories) Order 1998; the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (United Nations Sanctions) (Channel Islands) Order 1998; and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (United Nations Sanctions) (Isle of Man) Order 1998 were approved by the Privy Council on 22 April and will come into force on 24 April. As a result of these orders, a licence will be required to supply any goods on the Military List to the FRY, so bringing under control such supplies abroad by UK-registered companies or nationals.

Dounreay Shaft: Radioactive Debris

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Clinton-Davis on 14 January (WA 202), what decision they have come to since then regarding the future of the radioactive debris in the Dounreay shaft.[HL1551]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): On 31 March my honourable friend the Minister for Science, Energy and Industry announced the Government's acceptance of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority's recommendation that the radioactive waste in the Dounreay intermediate level waste shaft should be retrieved for treatment and storage.

This decision was taken following detailed engineering studies completed recently by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, which operates the Dounreay site, which have shown that it is now technically feasible to recover waste from the shaft in a safe and environmentally acceptable manner. It demonstrates the Government's commitment to caring for the environment and taking action to deal with the difficult legacies of the past. The difficult task of retrieving this waste will demonstrate that the UK is taking a world lead when dealing with nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste challenges. The

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most recent estimates presented to the Government by the UKAEA suggest the total indicative costs may lie in the range of £215 million to £355 million. These costs, which are already budgeted for, will be incurred over approximately the next 25 years and will be met from public funds.

Questions for Written Answer: e-mail

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will reply to Questions for Written Answer by e-mail.[HL1430]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: A variety of different methods of replying electronically to Questions for Written Answer have been tested during the last few months. These tests are continuing, and the Government will make known their conclusions as soon as possible.

Genetic Modification of Food

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they have taken, or propose to take, to stimulate a full debate about the genetic modification of food, having regard to the implications for human health and the ecosystem as a whole.[HL1526]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): A comprehensive EU-wide system of checks and controls already exists for genetically modified foods, which are approved only following a rigorous safety assessment. In considering applications for approval of such foods, the Government draw upon expert advice from two independent committees, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) and the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE). The latter advises on the issues relating to the wider health and safety issues associated with releases to the environment. Other independent committees, such as the Food Advisory Committee, are also consulted on more general issues as the need arises.

Following the report from the National Biotechnology Conference held in March 1997, the Government are currently giving consideration to the most appropriate means of ensuring that the wider implications of advances in the biosciences, including those related to genetically modified foods, are properly taken into account. As a first step, in November last year, John Battle, Minister of State for Science Energy and Industry, announced a decision to hold a public consultation exercise on the wider issues raised by advances in the biosciences.

The Government and their agencies, including the research councils, have supported other activities designed to stimulate public debate including the production of information leaflets for consumers and part funding an exhibition on genetically modified foods at the Science Museum.

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The Government are also encouraging independent groups to stimulate public debate on these issues. As part of this initiative, the Nuffield Council has recently set up a working group to look at the genetic modification of plants. It focuses on the issues surrounding the use of genetically modified crops in the UK, but will also be considering the ethical issues raised by the use of technology elsewhere, particularly in developing countries.

Cattle Tracing System

Baroness Young of Old Scone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Cattle Tracing System is expected to begin operation.[HL1558]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The launch date for the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) will be 28 September 1998. The system will register cattle and their movements from birth to death. It is an enhancement to the current cattle passport database which already holds details of over 5 million cattle born or imported into Great Britain from 1 July 1996. The main change will be to hold, in addition, the movement history of all those cattle registered on to the system from 28 September.

A new organisation, the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), is being set up in Workington, Cumbria, to run the CTS. Recruitment is going well, with applications of high quality; buildings have been handed over on time; the main equipment has been installed; and development of the new system is in hand.

The Government sent to all cattle farmers, livestock markets and operators of abattoirs in Great Britain a leaflet about CTS on 20 April. The leaflet gives details of the new cattle passport which will be introduced as part of the CTS. The new passport will include details of the animal, details of where it has been throughout its life, cards for owners of cattle to send in when the animal moves, a record of Beef Special Premium and eventually details of the death of the animal. Cattle with the new passport will not require a separate Cattle Identification Document for Beef Special Premium, thus reducing one element of paperwork for farmers.

The leaflet that was sent on 20 April is the first in a series which will be sent to cattle farmers between now and the launch of CTS on 28 September to familiarise everyone with their role in the new system.

As we have previously announced, the Government have decided that they will meet the costs not only of setting up the CTS but also of running and enforcing it during its first full year of operation. This is a step of real value to the livestock industry, with government bearing costs of the order of £35 million on behalf of the industry.

The CTS offers great opportunities to the British cattle industry. The new system will make it possible to check easily where cattle have been during their lives,

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trace cattle more easily if there is a disease outbreak and give greater assurance to buyers about an animal's history, and so help to rebuild confidence in British cattle and British beef at home and abroad.

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