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Chess as a Sport

Lord Hardinge of Penshurst asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: A date for this has yet to be decided. We will seek to introduce a Bill when parliamentary time allows.

Fish Landings: French Limits

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): Further to my Answer of 25 March (WA 189), I have written to the noble Lord. Copies of the letter have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have made any progress in seeking compensation from the French authorities for the Scottish trawlers Unity and Accord for their refusal to allow the vessels to land their catch of bass at Brest.[HL2487]

Lord Sewel: The French authorities did not refuse to allow the vessels to land their catch of bass at Brest. The vessels were, however, restricted from landing more than 5 tonnes of bass each, in accordance with restrictions made under Article 5.2 of European Commission Regulation 3759/92. We cannot seek compensation for such lawful restrictions.

EU Parliamentary Candidates: Age Restriction

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In which member states of the European Union there is an upper age limit above which candidates may not stand for elections for their parliaments; and whether they will list those limits.[HL2603]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I am not aware of any such limits.

Macpherson Report: Leak

Lord Simon of Glaisdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any political adviser had access to the Macpherson Report on the Lawrence murder before it had general publication.[HL2578]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I refer to the reply given by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in another place on 13 May, Official Report, col. 187.

Bookmakers' Committee

Lord Bach asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What decision they have taken on the composition of the Bookmakers' Committee.[HL2684]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: On 3 December 1998 we sought the views of interested bodies on proposals for reconstituting the Bookmakers' Committee. Having taken careful account of the views expressed, we have decided to make those changes. We believe that this will improve the committee's ability to represent bookmakers' interests in a balanced way in carrying out

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its task of recommending to the Horserace Betting Levy Board the levy rates to be paid by bookmakers for the benefit of horseracing.

We have today made regulations to establish the following membership:

Betting Office Licensees Association Ltd2
National Association of Bookmakers Ltd2
British Betting Office Association Ltd2
Ladbroke Racing Ltd2
William Hill Organisation Ltd2
Coral Racing Ltd2

In providing for the three companies which in 1998-99 contributed nearly 80 per cent. of the total levy yield to have half of the seats on the committee we are redressing their previous under-representation while at the same time recognising the extent to which there are many smaller firms whose ability to pay needs to be properly represented.

In reaching this decision we have sought to achieve a reasonable balance between the different bookmaking interests and organisations. The factors taken into account were the size of organisations' membership, the number of off-course shops, the leviable turnover and the levy paid. We do not believe that the new structure will give any companies double representation on the Committee. Nor do we believe that continuing representation of the Scottish Independent Bookmakers' Association is justified, given the small number of members, some of whom also belong to other trade associations. We believe that the new constitution will still take proper account of the interests of small independent bookmakers, whether in Scotland or south of the Border.

It will be for the new Committee itself to decide who will chair it and how it will manage its business. We very much hope that the Committee will make every effort to reach agreement on the next levy scheme with the Levy Board. Co-operation between bookmaking and racing interests is important in this as in other areas.

We will keep the new arrangements under review, with the help of the independent members of the Levy Board, whose brief it is to have regard to the interests of racing bookmakers in all categories and the punter.

E.coli and Use of Organic Waste on Land

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by Lord Donoughue on 4 May (WA 83) and Baroness Hayman on 12 May (WA 148), whether the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is aware of the work of the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research conducted between April 1994 and March 1997 into the survivability of E.coli 0157 on grassland; and[HL2563]

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    In the light of the findings by the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research on the survivability of E.coli 0157 on grassland, what action have they taken, or propose to take, to advise farmers and waste disposal companies of the possible dangers of the infection of farm livestock by the organism when contaminated waste is spread on grassland or fodder crops; and what measures they advise to prevent the spread of the organism to livestock; and [HL2564]

    Why, when knowledge of the survivability of E.coli 0157 on grassland has been available since 1997 and farm animal produce is implicated as the cause of human infection, investigations are not made into the means by which the animals have become infected.[HL2565]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The Government are aware of the findings of the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research into the survival of E.coli 0157 on grassland.

A structured programme of research and risk assessment on the use of all organic wastes on land is being carried out. This work will provide information relating to the survival of E.coli, including E.coli 0157, in farmyard manure, farm slurry and human sewage sludge applied to land.

In addition, the Government are funding research into the epidemiology, pathogenesis and distribution of infection of E.coli 0157 in cattle and sheep; distribution and spread of the organism within farm environments; and into methods for control of this organism in the ruminant gut and farm environment. There is also a surveillance programme.

However, the Government are not yet in a position to advise farmers on measures which may be taken to prevent or reduce livestock infection.

Agriculture Council, 17-18 May

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 17 to 18 May.[HL2653]

Lord Donoughue: My right honourable friend the Minister represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the EU Agriculture Council in Brussels on 17 May 1999.

The Council formally adopted all the legal instruments giving effect to the Agenda 2000 reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as agreed by EU Heads of Government in Berlin in late March. Now that this important stage has been reached, work can begin on the detailed texts which will put the CAP reform measures into operation with effect from next year.

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The Council discussed the present state of the EU pigmeat market. The Council requested experts to examine the issues affecting the market further at the level of the management committee, a position my right honourable friend the Minister supported on behalf of the United Kingdom.

Agriculture Commissioner Fischler informed the Council of the current position with regard to WTO rulings on bananas and growth hormones in beef. On the former, my right honourable friend the Minister stressed the need for a WTO-compatible outcome which also had regard for the interests of the vulnerable Caribbean ACP producers. On the latter, he urged the Commission to take a measured approach with the US authorities, and to conduct a full exchange of information between the two sides on the underlying science.

On veterinary medicines, the Council supported a resolution calling for action on the problems of antibiotic resistance in veterinary and human medicine. The resolution will be taken forward to the EU Health Council in June for adoption. The Council adopted a resolution setting out measures designed to avoid the loss of veterinary medicinal products when the deadline for setting maximum residue limits in foodstuffs of animal origin expires at the end of December 1999.

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