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8 Jun 1999 : Column WA147

Written Answers

Tuesday, 8th June 1999.

Iraq: Monitoring of Oil for Food Programme

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have seen the recent Save the Children report on sanctions and the United Nations food for oil programme in Iraq; and, if so, whether they agree that there is inadequate impact assessment and monitoring under this programme.[HL2756]

Baroness Amos: We have seen the Save the Children report and have also seen the UN report. We are pressing the UN to improve their monitoring and impact assessment of the oil for food programme.

Treaty of Amsterdam: Co-operative Initiatives

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Williams of Mostyn on 18 May (WA 22), whether they will outline any action taken or planned to be taken, without unanimous consent, in compliance with those articles of the Treaty on European Union referred to in their previous Answer.[HL2673]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): No measures have yet been adopted under the provisions of the Treaty on European Union as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam referred to in my reply of 18 May. As regards possible future action, the need for implementing measures in respect of new Third Pillar instruments, and their scope, will be considered on a case by case basis.

Sevso Collection

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are concerned that criminal conduct may have been involved in the Sevso case (Marquess of Northampton v. Allen & Overy and Peter Mimpriss), given the reported scale of the settlement.[HL2677]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Sevso Collection came to public attention in 1990 via a public exhibition of the silver by Sotheby's prior to auction in New York. Once exhibited, writs were served on Sotheby's by the Lebanese, Yugoslav and Hungarian Governments, all of whom claimed true title. A request was made to the United Kingdom Government by the above governments for New Scotland Yard to investigate the origin of the current possession of the collection.

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A lengthy investigation followed which did not reveal any criminal involvement of Sotheby's or Lord Northampton, who had offered the collection for auction as the owner of the silver. I understand from the Metropolitan Police that a number of possible criminal offences committed within the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court were identified during the investigation. However, the Crown Prosecution Service decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute any individual concerned in the purchase. New Scotland Yard's investigation was closed in 1993. Further assistance was sought by those countries who continued to claim ownership of the silver. The New York court which heard the title dispute ruled that none of the countries had produced sufficient evidence at that time to prove good title. The New York court therefore awarded title to Lord Northampton.

Boards of Visitors: Duties

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they have given to Boards of Visitors at HM Prisons on the application of Prison Rule 94.[HL2695]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As a result of the consolidation of the Prison Rules which came into force on 1 April 1999, Rule 94, which related to the general duties of boards, has now become Prison Rule 77.

Comprehensive information and guidance to members of Board of Visitors on their general duties is provided in the handbook for members, which is updated regularly. Boards receive as and when necessary further guidance through the circulars issued by the Boards of Visitors secretariat. Appropriate training is also provided to members.

Prisoners Aged over 65

Baroness Castle of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners of 65 years old and over are currently held in England and Wales.[HL2655]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Provisional information for 30 April 1999 shows that there were a total of 481 persons, 475 males and 6 females aged 65 years or over in prisons in England and Wales. This includes both remand and sentenced prisoners.

American Bulldogs

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many American bulldogs have been imported, to date, to the United Kingdom.[HL2617]

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The number of American bulldogs imported into the United Kingdom in the past two and a half years is as follows:



    1999 to date2

Details of the number of such dogs imported into the United Kingdom in previous years are not readily accessible and could only be produced at disproportionate cost.

Pet Travel Scheme

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of their recent announcements on quarantine reform, whether rabies vaccines for pet dogs and cats are now freely available, as is required by European Community Law, to those pet owners wishing to prepare for travel abroad and subsequent return to Britain without quarantine under the proposed new rabies legislation.[HL2692]

Lord Donoughue: Rabies vaccine will be made freely available in due course to owners of cats and dogs participating in the Pet Travel Scheme, EU law does not at present require rabies vaccine to be freely available.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of their recent announcements on quarantine reform, whether the European laboratories approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for rabies antibody sera-testing for "traded" dogs and cats under the Balai Directive will also be approved for rabies antibody sera-testing for "pet" dogs and cats; and, if not, what is the explanation for this, and, if so, whether they will place a list of those laboratories in the Library of the House.[HL2693]

Lord Donoughue: The Advisory Group on Quarantine recommended that, under the new arrangements it proposed for pets, laboratories should be accredited to perform serological tests according to a quality procedure specified and operated by the British authorities. The Government have accepted this recommendation. This is a different procedure to that for "Balai" animals. This is because under the Balai scheme, traded cats and dogs cannot move from their holding of origin before being exported to the UK. This provides an additional guarantee of freedom from rabies. Thus the serological test does not play such a crucial role for Balai animals as it will for ordinary pets which will have moved from their holding of origin. Once the Government have approved a list of laboratories for serological testing under the Pet Travel Scheme, a list will be placed in the Library of the House.

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Meat Hygiene Inspection Charges: Consultation

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consultations on the new system of meat hygiene inspection have been initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with the appropriate trade bodies; on what date formal requests for views were dispatched and by what date replies were asked for; and whether the period for consultation complies with the government guidance for the conduct of consultation exercises.[HL2577]

Lord Donoughue: As announced by my right honourable friend (the Minister) on 21 April, the Government are undertaking an examination of the impact of meat inspection charges on abattoirs and producers. As part of that examination, a letter to interested organisations was dispatched on 7 May requesting relevant information with a request for replies by noon on 17 May. Separate letters were sent to organisations in Scotland and Wales. The letter was given wide publicity, including being placed on the MAFF Internet site. In addition to written responses, my officials have also met representatives of the Anglian Poultry Producers Action Group, the British Meat Federation (formerly the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers) and the Small Abattoirs Federation at their request. In my right honourable friend's announcement, it was made clear that the study would be completed quickly. Although the period for receipt of responses was shorter than that recommended in the government guidance for the conduct of consultation exercises, we are endeavouring to take account of all responses received after the due date.

Beef: Date-based Export Scheme

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the inspection of the United Kingdom's operational arrangements of the Date-based Export Scheme for British Beef due to have taken place in the week commencing 12 April.[HL2726]

Lord Donoughue: European Commission representatives inspected our Date-based Export Scheme procedures from 12 to 16 April. My officials are currently preparing a response to the Commission's draft report of the inspection, which was received on 27 May. The Commission will then finalise the report and present it to the Standing Veterinary Committee before setting a date for DBES exports to start.

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