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Imported Beef: Presence of Spinal Cord

Lord Evans of Watford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: Since the beginning of June, a number of imported beef forequarters containing small sections of spinal cord have been discovered by Meat Hygiene Service and State Veterinary Service staff at a cutting plant in Great Britain. These forequarters all originated from slaughterhouses in the Republic of Ireland and have been destroyed.

In response to the Chief Veterinary Officer's request for urgent action by the authorities in the Republic of Ireland, the veterinary authorities there have undertaken to penalise the veterinary inspectors responsible for certifying the beef. They have also told the Irish Meat Association that any failure by a member company to implement the specified risk material controls will result in the withdrawal of the supplementary certification for export to the UK. Their unannounced inspections will also be stepped up. Meat Hygiene Service staff at licensed cutting plants and local authorities are being asked to pay particular attention to beef carcasses imported from the Republic of Ireland.

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Since March 1996, the State Veterinary Service's audit has found no spinal cord specified risk material in beef derived from animals slaughtered in Great Britain. The results of these audits are published in the monthly BSE Enforcement Bulletin.

Organophosphorus Compound in Veterinary Medicines

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to receive a report from the Veterinary Products Committee on the safety of veterinary medicines other than sheep dips which have an organophosphorus compound as the active ingredient.[HL3982]

Lord Donoughue: We have now received a report from the Veterinary Products Committee and have placed a copy in the Library of the House.

The Government have accepted the VPC's advice that, although there is no evidence that the products concerned are harmful if used in accordance with recommended precautions, marketing authorisation holders should provide additional data to demonstrate the safety of their products. If they are unable to provide such data, the Government will take further advice from the VPC on appropriate regulatory action.

Flooding: Environment Agency Action Plan

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further progress the Environment Agency has made in implementing its action plan in response to the independent report on the Easter 1998 floods.[HL3913]

Lord Donoughue: The chairman of the agency has provided my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary with a report of progress up to the end of June 1999. Copies have been placed in the House Libraries.

We were pleased to note that the agency remains on course for completing the substantial work programme set out in the action plan. In line with the priorities that we set out last October, the agency has received an independent report on its management structures and skills base and the recommendations will be implemented by next April. An elaboration of the Environment Agency's flood defence supervisory duty was published in May, along with interim high level targets for the agency and other flood and coastal defence operating authorities. The agency is now working with others to ensure that flood and coastal defences are identified and inspected; the results recorded and assessed; and appropriate action to remedy defects put in hand. Consultation on further development of high level targets and the supervisory duty is in hand.

The agency has reported that indicative maps of floodplains have been produced ahead of the September target and are currently being distributed to local

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authorities for use in both development control and emergency planning. These maps are being used to review the agency's database of properties at risk of flooding. Further work has been done on flood warning, with an extension to the number of properties now able to receive direct automatic voice messages through the telephone system. Flood warning messages have been reviewed and a new system to replace the present colour coded warnings is planned from September 2000. The agency is embarking on a significant programme of work, both internally and with partners such as local authorities and the emergency services, to ensure that the necessary preparations are made. We have agreed with the agency that it is important to ensure that these arrangements are introduced successfully and are coupled with a campaign to increase public awareness.

The programme of improvements to the agency's telemetry network is starting following MAFF agreement to grant aid work in England. The National Assembly for Wales is separately considering the telemetry programme in Wales.

The agency continues to make good progress in implementing the Easter floods report and I will ensure that the House is updated on future progress.

Veterinary Laboratory Agency

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the 1998-99 annual report and accounts for the Veterinary Laboratory Agency.[HL3910]

Lord Donoughue: We are pleased to announce that the 1998-99 annual report and accounts for the Veterinary Laboratory Agency were laid before Parliament on 26 July 1999. Copies are available in the Library of the House.

I should like to congratulate all staff on their achievements during the year.

CAP Reform: Discretionary Aspects

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will be consulting the farming industry on the proposals to implement the discretionary aspects of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy.[HL3911]

Lord Donoughue: The reform of the CAP decided at the Berlin European Council introduced a number of policy areas where member states were given discretion as to whether and/or how they would be applied. In the information notes my right honourable friend the Minister circulated to the farming industry and other interested parties following that agreement he undertook to consult widely on the Government's plans in relation to these areas of discretion. He made clear that these

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plans would be set in the context of an overall strategy for agriculture which takes into account the need for a competitive, flexible and environmentally friendly industry which is responsive to consumer wishes and which contributes to the social and economic strengths of rural areas.

My right honourable friend intends accordingly to write to interested parties, including farming industry representatives, in the coming weeks setting out my ideas for such a strategy and how the discretionary aspects of the reformed CAP should be applied in this country to help set a new direction for the industry. The department will also be conducting a series of regional consultations. Copies of the consultation documents will be placed in the Library of the House. We will consider responses carefully and announce final decisions during the autumn.

Comparable action is being taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Badgers and Tuberculosis

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What response they have received to the submission on recommendation 69 on tuberculosis and badgers which they made to the standing committee to the Bern Convention.[HL3912]

Lord Donoughue: Following submission of the document in April, the UK Government have responded to a number of subsequent questions from the Secretariat to the Bern Convention and have supplied additional technical information. At the request of the secretariat, the information has been consolidated into a single document, which has been forwarded to the secretariat and is now being sent to delegates of the standing committee. A copy of this latest document, which supersedes the earlier one, has been placed in the Library of the House.

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