Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Waverley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal : Since 1993 the British Council has organised seminars for senior civil servants addressing public sector reform, including tertiary education. It has also held a series of international conferences, including the annual bilateral Pontignano conference, for senior public figures.

The council has introduced new performers and artists to Italy and exhibits regularly at the Venice Biennale.

The council opened a new Teaching Centre in Turin in 1998; since 1997 it has worked with the Italian Government to improve English teaching in schools.

Viscount Waverley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The readily available post questionnaires rate the council as making an important contribution to post objectives in 1995-96 to 1997-98 and an essential contribution in 1998-99.

Viscount Waverley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The future funding and development of the British Council in Italy will depend on the results of the current Spending Review.

9 Feb 2000 : Column WA96

The council plans to continue to engage influential Italians on issues of mutual interest through conferences, etc; to work closely with the Italian Government on teacher training and to encourage the use of British examinations and other services; and to hold a Rome Autumn 2000 festival of dance, literature, music and theatre, to showcase contemporary, multicultural British arts.

Insulin Pen Needles on NHS Prescription

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will announce decisions on whether insulin pen needles and reusable insulin injection pens can be prescribed on the National Health Service.[HL951]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): I have agreed that, with effect from 1 March, insulin pen needles and certain reusable insulin pens should be prescribable by general practitioners on the National Health Service.

Gene Therapy

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be the future conduct of human gene therapy experiments in the United Kingdom following the decisions, arising from the death of an American teenager, of health officials in the United States to end all gene experiments at the Pennsylvania Institute for Human Gene Therapy and to inspect all other American gene therapy centres.[HL760]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The present system of detailed evaluation of applications to conduct gene therapy clinical trials and the monitoring of safety of ongoing trials by the Medicines Control Agency and the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC) will continue.

GTAC is currently reviewing the 11 existing United Kingdom gene therapy studies involving adenovirus vectors similar to those used in the trial in Pennsylvania. Unlike the Pennsylvania trial, no study active in the UK introduces adenovirus directly into the patient's circulation and doses used in the UK are lower. There have been no reports of unexpected serious side-effects as the result of treatment with any gene therapy product in the UK.

Professor P G Blain

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 25 January (WA 181), why they

9 Feb 2000 : Column WA97

    were not informed by Professor P G Blain, before his appointment to the Organophosphate Working Party of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, that from 1994 to date he has been acting as an expert witness for Dundas and Wilson of Edinburgh in the case of Brian Anderson v. Neil Constable; and what action they propose to take.[HL816]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Professor Blain has not acted as an expert witness for Dundas and Wilson since 1994, four years before the Working Group was established. During the time he served on the Working Group he was not involved in any pending litigation relating to organophosphates.

Arable Area Payments Scheme: Field Margin Measurement

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What effect upon the diversity of animal and plant wildlife they expect consequent upon the change in regulations concerning the Arable Area Payments Scheme by which fields will no longer be measured to the middle of boundary hedges but to the centre line of an assumed hedge of only two metres in width.[HL780]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): Applicants for subsidy under the Arable Area Payments Scheme (AAPS) have recently been notified about guidance from the European Commission concerning the width of field margins. Where a field is fully utilised according to normal practice and field margins do not exceed two metres in width, measured from the recognised Ordnance Survey (OS) boundary (for example, a fence, or the mid-point of a hedge) to the edge of the cropped area, an applicant will, as in previous years, be able to claim under AAPS for the total OS area of the field. Should a field margin exceed the two metre threshold, the applicant will instead need to claim on the actual cropped area (i.e. the OS measured area minus the total uncropped area around the field margin). We are concerned that this clarification of the AAPS rules might be detrimental to wildlife, and we are currently analysing what effect it might have and evaluating the options for minimising any problems which may arise. Moreover, MAFF's guidance urges farmers that, if they need to adjust the width of a field margin, they should seek advice on minimising the environmental impact of any such change.

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions have been held with English Nature, and similar statutory environmental organisations, on the environmental effects of changing the rules on the maximum width of field margins allowed under the Arable Area Payments Scheme (AAPS) of the European Commission Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS).[HL768]

9 Feb 2000 : Column WA98

Baroness Hayman: Ministry officials met English Nature and the Countryside Agency on 19 October 1999 to discuss the environmental implications of the latest guidance on field margins applying in the context of the Arable Area Payments Scheme. It is hoped that a further meeting with English Nature will be held shortly. The topic has also been raised at various meetings with environmental organisations attended by MAFF Regional Directors and other officials.


Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will now take action to prevent or discourage the destruction of hedgerows by those who may consider this to be desirable or necessary in order to comply with the policies or arrangements of the European Union.[HL845]

Baroness Hayman: Under the Hedgerows Regulations 1997, it is against the law to remove most countryside hedges without first notifying the local planning authority. If the hedgerow qualifies as important, the authority may prohibit its removal. Guidance has been given to farmers encouraging them to seek advice about minimising the environmental impact of any action they may propose taking to adjust the width of a hedge or other field margin in order to be able to continue claiming arable area payments on the full area of their fields.

GM Crops: Separation Distances

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will incorporate the study undertaken by the National Pollen Research Unit for the Soil Association into their recommendations on the distances that pollen from genetically modified plants can travel.[HL605]

Baronss Hayman: Separation distances between GM and other crops have been set out by the industry group SCIMAC in the light of scientific knowledge and long-standing experience in maintaining the purity of certified seed. The report from the National Pollen Research Unit confirms existing knowledge about the distances which pollen can travel. However the findings are relevant to the dialogue between the GM and organic sectors which MAFF has promoted, and we have asked SCIMAC to take them into account in reviewing separation distances.

Over Thirty Month Scheme Abattoirs

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, as reported in the Farmers Guardian on 7 January, the Intervention Board broke its own

9 Feb 2000 : Column WA99

    rules when it chose the abattoirs which would service the Over Thirty Month Scheme.[HL606]

Baroness Hayman: The Intervention Board followed its established procedures in awarding slaughtering contracts for the provision of the Over Thirty Month Scheme (OTMS) and in carrying out the tender process fairly. The bids received for the work were evaluated against published objective criteria, including quality of service, price, ability to offer a dedicated service, ease of supervision, throughput and location.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page