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Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: It is for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission itself to decide what is placed on its website. We will, however, put the noble Lord's suggestion to the commission.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Mr Joe Pilling, Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office and principal Accounting Officer for all money within the NIO Vote, has designated Professor Brice Dickson, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, as Non-Departmental Public Body accounting officer for the Commission.

Internet Access

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: In March 2000, the Prime Minister announced our commitment that everyone who wants it will have access to the Internet by 2005. In doing so, he made clear that access could be at work; at home through a personal computer, digital television, games console or other devices; on the move by telephone or other wireless device; or at a nearby public access point.

The Office of National Statistics monitors Internet access and use at home, work and in the community on a quarterly basis. We will continue to track our progress against this research.

In addition, colleagues at the Department for Education and Employment have recently set up an ICT Research Centre whose remit includes assessing access to ICT by age, gender, socio-economic group, disability and ethnicity.

23 Apr 2001 : Column WA10

Ministerial Code: Monitoring

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the appointment of an officer to provide independent advice to Ministers on their responsibilities under the Ministerial Code, to conduct independent investigations of alleged breaches of the code, and to report to the Prime Minister and to Parliament.[HL1392]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Government's position on this issue is set out in their response to the sixth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (Cm 4817).

Doctors' and Dentists' Pay Review Body: Chairman

Lord Alli asked Her Majesty's Government:

    If any announcement regarding the chair of the Doctors' and Dentists' Pay Review Body from 1 March is to be made.[HL1747]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Prime Minister has appointed Mr Michael Blair QC to be Chair of the Doctors' and Dentists' Pay Review Body from 1 March for a period of three years.

Equine Industry: Promotion

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their plans to expand the equine industry in Britain to boost the rural economy. [HL829]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Government recognise the major contribution which the equine industry makes in generating economic activity in the countryside. Although the scope for expansion may be limited in some sectors of the industry, there are likely to be significant opportunities in particular areas such as the breeding of high performance horses. Steps have been taken to facilitate diversification into horse enterprise on farms, and the horse sector can benefit from measures operated under the England Rural Development Programme, for which funding of £1.6 billion has been provided over seven years. The Government's policies for rural development were set out fully in the Rural White Paper in November 2000 and many of these will benefit, directly or indirectly, the equine industry and horse users.

Foot and Mouth Disease Virus

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the lowest pH level at which the foot-and-mouth disease virus will survive; and what is the pH range of air in the United Kingdom atmosphere.[HL1563]

23 Apr 2001 : Column WA11

Baroness Hayman: The viability of foot and mouth disease virus depends on pH and temperature. The virus is most stable at neutral pH levels, but will not survive indifinitely. Acidic or basic pH levels decrease the survival time, as do high temperatures. As an example, in laboratory conditions, foot and mouth disease virus survives at pH 6.0 for only two minutes.

As pH is a measurement of the acidity or basicity of aqueous or other liquid solutions, it is not possible to give the pH range of air. We assume that the question refers to airborne spread of the virus. The factors that affect airborne spread include wind direction, wind speed, wind veer, ambient temperature and relative humidity.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the normal pH of living animal tissue; what pH levels are achieved by rigor mortis; and whether the reduced levels are maintained during the decay of carcasses.[HL1564]

Baroness Hayman: The normal pH of living animal tissues is approximately neutral. During rigor mortis, the pH in skeletal muscle falls below 6.0, which is sufficient to inactivate foot and mouth disease virus. The exact value depends on the species of animal and type of muscle. Viable virus can still be isolated, however, from the bone marrow and lymph nodes of carcasses. The pH levels during decay depend on many factors and may rise after rigor mortis; however the virus cannot be reactivated by a rise in pH levels.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether pH levels achieved in meat from healthy slaughtered animals, frozen or chilled without the carcass being hung, are sufficiently low to kill foot-and-mouth disease virus.[HL1565]

Baroness Hayman: To inactivate the virus in meat, it is essential that a pH level below 6.0 has been reached before deboning. This can be achieved by chilling at 2 degrees C for 24 hours or by electrical stimulation. If the meat is frozen before the pH levels drop during rigor mortis, then the foot and mouth virus can survive for long periods, but may be inactivated during the thawing process.

Foot and Mouth Disease: Racehorse Industry

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In what circumstances veterinary officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, advising the Chief Veterinary Officer about matters related to the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic, have been given emoluments from the racehorse industry.[HL1244]

Baroness Hayman: MAFF officials have received no such emoluments.

23 Apr 2001 : Column WA12

Foot and Mouth Disease: Mr Feakin and Mr Cleave

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what dates, if any, they issued emergency instructions to the State Veterinary Service about dangerous foot-and-mouth disease contacts associated with the livestock dealers Feakin and Cleave; what were the reasons for any such instructions; and how many foot-and-mouth outbreaks, if any, are so far directly traceable to the activities of these two dealers, including any outbreaks in France and Holland.[HL1455]

Baroness Hayman: The Ministry issued emergency instruction to the State Veterinary Service concerning specific market tracings on 6, 10, 14 and 16 March. These instructions were part of the tracing process to identify all premises with animals that had been exposed to infection, including those which had passed through the dealerships of Mr Feakin and Mr Cleave. These premises were regarded as Dangerous Contacts, and all susceptible livestock on these premises were slaughtered. Mr Feakin and Mr Cleave were mentioned by name in an emergency instruction issued on 16 March 2001.

Epidemiological enquiries are continuing into the links between each outbreak and a full report will be published in due course. Currently, at least 80 outbreaks are traceable to movements through the dealerships of Mr Feakin and Mr Cleave. We are liaising with the authorities in France and the Netherlands and also with the appropriate local authorities in the course of these enquiries.

Foot and Mouth Disease: Milking Cow Vaccination

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When vaccination of milking cows against foot and mouth disease will commence; and whether the animals vaccinated can be used for breeding purposes.[HL1533]

Baroness Hayman: We are actively considering the use of vaccination as a disease control measure. Vaccination is not a substitute for our current slaughter policy and would only be a tool as part of this approach. European Commission rules would enable vaccinated animals to be used for breeding purposes subject to certain conditions which are set out in the Decision of the EC Standing Veterinary Committee of 28 March.


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