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Lord Whitty: As stated in British Shipping: Charting a new course the Government proposed to set up catalyst groups to identify for each action point what needs to be done and the most appropriate body or bodies to undertake the work. Three catalyst groups have been established, covering training and skills, employment and environmental benefits. The catalyst groups were appointed by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and include representatives from the Chamber of Shipping, NUMAST, RMT, TGWU and departmental officials.
Each catalyst group is assigned the task of taking forward the relevant action points from the shipping paper. The groups have no terms of reference beyond this task and no further reports have been commissioned. There is no cost to the taxpayer in the establishment and running of the catalyst groups other than the cost of officials as part of their normal duties.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): On 18 March we laid before Parliament the Food Labelling (Amendment) Regulations 1999, which came into force on 19 March. These provide the means for local authorities to be able to enforce the EC regulation that requires all foods containing genetically modified soya or maize ingredients to be clearly labelled. This regulation, which took effect last September, applies to all foods produced and labelled from that date.
The Government are determined that consumers should be able to choose whether or not to eat genetically modified foods. This includes food sold in restaurants, cafes and takeaways and not just that available from supermarkets. The UK is the first member state in Europe to take steps to ensure that consumers eating out will have the same right to choose whether or not to consume foods containing GM ingredients as those buying from shops.
As a measure of how seriously the Government take the right of consumers to have clear, reliable information about the GM content of the food they buy, we have decided not to wait the customary 21 days for these regulations to come into force but to make them fully effective from 19 March.
Lord Donoughue: A total of 55 slaughterhouse licences (red meat and poultry meat) were revoked in England during the last two years because they had ceased operating. For Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the totals are eight seven and four respectively.
Lord Donoughue: The November 1998 European Commission decision on the Date-based Export Scheme (DBES) for British beef requires the commission to set a date from which exports can commence. The decision also requires that this date can only be set following a satisfactory Commission inspection of the UK's operational arrangements for the DBES. We have invited the Commission to undertake its inspection in the week commencing 12 April. Following the inspection we will encourage the Commission to set the start date as quickly as possible.
Lord Donoughue: One abattoir in Northern Ireland is approved to slaughter cattle for export under the Export Certified Herds Scheme. The Date-based Export Scheme is not yet operational. The European Commission must carry out an inspection of our procedures before setting a date on which exports may resume. We do not intend to approve plants for export until the Commission inspectors have reported on their findings.
Lord Donoughue: As I have explained in my two previous replies of 8 December 1998 and 26 January 1999, the WTO rules governing trade restrictions in relation to human, animal and plant life and health already allow the use of a precautionary approach.
The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The Export Credits Guarantee Department's role is to provide support to UK exporters of goods and services in respect of exports of capital goods and projects overseas. It is considering the request for support from a UK company, in accordance with its normal procedures. It is not the case that the World Bank has refused financing support for the Ilisu dam project, since its support has not been requested.
In assessing this application, ECGD has been working with the other export credit agencies and companies involved to ensure that the environmental and social impact which the project has on the region is mitigated. This is a good example of companies and export credit
Lord Simon of Highbury: Studies have been produced to consider the political and environmental implications of this project. We shall continue to work with the authorities in other countries from which contractors are involved in this project, and with the companies themselves, to ensure that all the issues are properly addressed.
A large amount of work has been done already--a full Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out, followed by a further study. More analysis will be required to enable the project's implementation to be fully managed and monitored.
Lord Simon of Highbury: Discussions are taking place in the World Trade Organisation's Committee on Trade and Environment on the relationship between multilateral environmental agreements (some of which are underpinned by the precautionary principle) and trade rules. Progress in this area will have to satisfy concerns that any trade measures in this area might be used as a cloak for protectionism.
Separately, the WTO's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures to protect human, animal and plant life or health provides a framework to ensure that such measures are soundly based. The Government fully support a precautionary approach in cases where there may be serious risk to health, and provision is already available for such an approach within the SPS Agreement (Article 5) provided that members seek to obtain the additional information necessary for a more objective assessment of risk and review the measure accordingly within a reasonable period of time.
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