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Spanish Veterinary Surgeons and the Meat Hygiene Service

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Veterinary Training Directive, 78/1027/EEC, lays down the content and quality of veterinary undergraduate training in recognised establishments in the Europen Union, with the aim of ensuring that all those graduating from such establishments are trained to an adequate standard.

In the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is obliged to register veterinary surgeons who have qualified from such recognised educational establishments. This is a reciprocal arrangement required by Directive 78/10126/EEC, on the mutual recognition of qualifications in veterinary medicine.

Once a Spanish veterinary surgeon is registered by the RCVS, and is practicing veterinary surgery in the United Kingdom, his conduct and behaviour is governed by the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (as amended). The Act gives disciplinary powers to the RCVS. In addition, the College publishes a Guide to Professional Conduct, most recently revised in March 2000. This document provides guidance to veterinary surgeons on professional and ethical issues.

We are advised by the Food Standards Agency that the use of Spanish veterinary surgeons by the Meat Hygiene Service has no effect upon the quality of service it provides to abattoir owners and managers in Great Britain. Apart from the requirement for such veterinarians to be registered with the RCVS, the overriding criterion for designation as an Official Veterinary Surgeon (OVS) with the Meat Hygiene Service is the ability and competence of the individuals concerned, not the country of origin. All qualified

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veterinary surgeons wishing to be designated as OVSs must first successfully complete the MHS OVS course.

Variant CJD: Discarded Tonsil Samples

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what basis 1,000 tonsil samples were discarded before being tested for new-variant CJD; and what procedures were followed to make sure that infection with new-variant CJD did not result in the sample being discarded.[HL2448]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: A significant proportion of the samples was unsuitable for analysis because they were found by scientists to be damaged or otherwise of insufficient quality to enable analysis to be carried out. At the time the samples were taken, during routine surgery, there had been no intention of subjecting them to further analysis. The decision to set up the study of these appendices and tonsils came later. Discovery of any abnormal prion protein indicative of variant-CJD in those suitable for testing would have been reported.

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, when they are prepared to release the results of testing tonsil samples for new-variant CJD before peer review and use a test which has not been fully validated, they insist on waiting for peer review before publishing other crucial information.[HL2449]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Government do not in general publish the results of research findings unless they have first been peer reviewed. Preliminary data from the survey of human tonsil/appendix tissue currently under way were evaluated at a recent meeting of a scientific committee chaired by Professor Borysiewicz of the University of Wales College of Medicine. Experienced scientists operating in the relevant field of research into variant CJD are members of this committee and were present at this meeting. The preliminary findings were seen as helping to increase our knowledge about variant CJD. There was a very high level of public interest in this study. Following that meeting, an announcement about the results was made on 28th April 2000 by the Department of Health (ref. 2000/0250).

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