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26 Jan 2000 : Column WA197

Written Answers

Wednesday, 26th January 2000.

Capital Gains Tax and Residential Property

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to reinstate capital gains tax on residential property sales.[HL607]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey : Capital gains tax has never been charged on an individual's only or main residence, so there is no question of reinstating it.

Sports Tourism

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the launch of a sports tourism initiative by the British Tourist Authority with their support on 11 January, what budget they have allocated to the authority over and above their existing budget for 2000 so that they may successfully launch an international marketing campaign to attract more sports tourists to the United Kingdom and fund the operation of a sports tourism forum.[HL536]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey : The Government have no plans to increase the amount of grant-in-aid provided to the BTA in order to make extra funding available for its sports tourism strategy. The BTA is receiving £36 million of grant-in-aid in 1999-2000 and £37 million in 2000-01 and its work on the sports tourism strategy is being accommodated within these budgets.

French Ban on British Beef

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will press the European Commission to bring quickly an action for interlocutory proceedings in the European Court of Justice against France to open up the French market to British beef. [HL341]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman) : The Government have made it clear to the European Commission that we expect the Commission to take legal action against the French Government quickly for France's failure to lift its import ban on British beef. On 14 December the European Commission issued a Reasoned Opinion. The French responded to the Reasoned Opinion on 30 December again refusing to lift their ban. The Commission, therefore, submitted an application to the European Court of Justice on 4 January.

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Cattle Slaughter and Over Thirty Months Scheme

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have conducted an impact assessment of the effect of the reduction in the number of abattoirs licensed to accept cattle under the Over Thirty Months Scheme upon (a) costs to farmers and hauliers; (b) animal welfare, including increased travel time, additional time in lairage and prolonged waiting lists and (c) animal health where an animal with chronic disease must be retained on a farm for an extended period.[HL465]

Baroness Hayman: These issues were taken fully into account by the Intervention Board in letting contracts for the Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS) services. As a consequence of the tender, some journey times will inevitably increase, but will remain within animal welfare guidelines. Some journey times will decrease. Similarly, some farmers will face increased costs in transporting their animals to an OTMS abattoir; for others the costs will be lower. Sufficient slaughtering capacity has been contracted to deal with the animals coming forward for slaughter in each region. Since the overall slaughtering capacity available to the scheme will remain broadly the same, it is not envisaged that waiting lists or times in lairage will increase. Animals with diseases such that they are certified by a veterinarian as unfit to travel to a slaughterhouse can access the OTMS through the casualty service, which has worked well since it was introduced in 1996. In other cases, such as where an OTMS animal is held under TB restriction, abattoirs are required to process such animals as a priority.

Organophosphate Sheep Dips: Resistance

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been reports of resistance of sheep ectoparasites to organophosphate sheep dips (from any part of the United Kingdom).[HL678]

Baroness Hayman : The Veterinary Laboratory Agency has received reports of two confirmed cases of resistance to Psoroptes ovis to organophosphorus sheep dips in the UK. Both were reports of resistance to propetamphos and were in 1995-96.

Forest Enterprise Roundwood Softwood Production Forecasts

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were Forest Enterprise's production forecasts for roundwood softwood (of less than sawmill size) for each of the last five years and for the coming five years; and what amounts were actually sold in each year and at what average price.[HL552]

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Baroness Hayman: The subject of the question relates to matters undertaken by Forest Enterprise. I have asked its Chief Executive, Dr Bob McIntosh, to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Hylton from the Chief Executive of Forest Enterprise, Dr B McIntosh.

I have been asked to reply to your question about Forest Enterprise's production forecasts and sales of roundwood softwood of less than sawmill size.

I attach two tables which give the information you require.

Table 1 provides details of the production forecast for small roundwood for the 10 years 1995 to 2004.

Table 2 provides details of quantities of small roundwood sold direct by Forest Enteprise to wood processors in the five years up to 1999 and the average price received. However, over half of all the timber sold by Forest Enterprise during the period was sold standing and the proportion of small roundwood in this type of sale is not recorded.

Table 1: Production Forecast

YearSmall Roundwood (m3)

Table 2: Direct Production

YearSmall Roundwood (m3)Average Price £

Police Officers: Service with Europol

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton (WA 174), whether the Home Office has now decided to introduce new regulations dealing with police officers who want to apply for service with Europol.[HL584]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): No decision has been made to introduce new regulations dealing with police officers who want to apply for service with Europol, although the matter is currently under review within the Home Office.

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Indirect Discrimination

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy on indirect discrimination.[HL753]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government are committed to achieving a step change in race equality in this country. The Race Relations (Amendment) Bill is part of our programme to ensure that the public sector sets the pace in this drive towards equality. We want to send the clearest possible message that discrimination is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. The Government are, therefore, proposing two changes to strengthen the provisions of the Bill.

First, after very careful deliberation we have decided to extend the indirect discrimination provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976 to the functions of public authorities to be newly caught by the Act and we will bring forward an amendment to provide for that. The Government have always been in favour of this in principle, but were concerned to ensure that such a provision would be effective without leaving public bodies open to routine legal challenge in circumstances where their policies were entirely proper. Since the Bill was published, however, we have listened carefully to the arguments put forward about the issue and have concluded that, on balance, the risk of spurious challenge is outweighed by the principle of including indirect discrimination in respect of public sector functions in the Bill.

Direct and indirect racial discrimination is already prohibited under the Race Relations Act 1976 in the fields of employment, training, education, housing and the provision of goods, facilities and services in respect of the public and private sector. The Act is already being extended by the Bill to new fields in the public sector which have previously been determined by case law not to be a "service" and to which prohibitions on direct or indirect discrimination did not, therefore, apply. The Act will now extend to areas such as the implementation of central and local government's regulatory, economic and social policies and law enforcement in respect of indirect discrimination as well.

Secondly, the Government also see the promotion of equality as a positive way of eliminating unjustifiable indirect discrimination in these and other fields. Our setting of targets for ethnic minority recruitment, retention and promotion and our guidelines for mainstreaming race equality into policy development and implementation are examples. We are already committed to placing the promotion of equality by public bodies on a statutory footing. We will reinforce that commitment by bringing forward a government amendment to the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill to enshrine the principle on the face of the Bill as a positive duty, leaving room for consultation on how the duty will operate in practice and how it will be enforced.

The amendments will be brought forward at Commons Committee stage. We are meanwhile

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considering whether there should be any procedural safeguards consistent with the principle of non-discrimination.

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