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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Her Majesty's Government remain committed to the EU arms embargo against Afghanistan, which the UK interprets as covering all goods and technology entered on Part III to Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods Order 1994, as amended.
Following consultations with this department and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved two export licences: the first for the export of mine-clearance suits for use by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan in its demining operations and the second for the export of mine clearance equipment for use by the Halo Trust to aid their demining activities also in Afghanistan. The grant of these licences is for humanitarian purposes, and is consistent with the purpose of the embargo.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme has existed for over forty years, and is designed to provide reasonable prices for the National Health Service and fair rates of return for the pharmaceutical companies who supply the NHS. The Government remain committed to these objectives, and are currently renegotiating the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry.
The Government regret that there is increasing non-compliance by a limited number of companies with the current voluntary agreement. This is adding to the NHS drugs bill at the expense of other NHS treatment and care. In these circumstances the Government have concluded that to ensure full compliance with a new agreement it will be necessary to take reserve powers in the forthcoming NHS Bill. These will make it possible to secure the compliance of any companies which might in future choose not to abide by the voluntary agreement.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My right honourable friend has laid the committee's annual report before Parliament today. Copies are available in the Library. The report contains, at Appendix F, a further report by the committee on its review of the operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
We welcome the committee's report and the agenda of work it has identified for itself during the review. We particularly endorse the committee's conclusion that it should be more open and pro-active, and that its independent role needs to be emphasised. My right honourable friend has already agreed to provide a dedicated secretariat for the committee to support this way of working and to help ensure that the committee can continue to carry out its work in an efficient and effective manner.
We are pleased to announce that nine new members are being appointed to the committee with effect from 1 December 1998. In making these appointments, we are strengthening further the animal welfare expertise on the committee and also bolstering the scientific expertise needed by the committee in examining the areas it has set itself, including ethical considerations, biotechnology, use of primates and animal welfare.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today laid before Parliament a report by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate. Copies are available in the Library. The report makes a number of recommendations for best practice in dog facilities. My right honourable friend has asked the inspectorate to ensure that these recommendations are implemented, as far as is practicable, in all establishments.
The recommendations will be incorporated into the Codes of Practice for the Housing and Care of Animals--published under Section 21 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986--when the codes are next revised.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: As of today, there are 36 trainees at Medway secure training centre. This is fewer than the maximum of 40 trainees who may be held there because my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has asked Rebound ECD, the contractors for Medway secure training centre, to put in place a programme of work, including refurbishment, to address difficulties that have been experienced at the centre, so as to ensure the high standard of care, control, education and training required by the contract. While this programme of work is being taken forward, the number of trainees held at Medway will be reduced on a temporary basis to 25 to help facilitate this work. Other trainees will be placed in local authority secure accommodation. The Government are committed to ensuring that secure provision for those young people whose offending is so serious or persistent as to require a period in a secure environment is of good quality, positive and constructive in tackling offending behaviour. We are working closely with Rebound ECD to achieve that. We are monitoring the situation at Medway closely and will continue to do so.
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