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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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