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25 Apr 2001 : Column WA45

Written Answers

Wednesday, 25th April 2001.

Palestinian Prisoners: Human Rights

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are discussing with the Government of Israel the full range of human rights issues affecting Palestinians detained and held in Neve Tirza Prison, the Russian Compound Detention Centre and other places; and whether improved treatment and access have resulted.[HL1714]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Government regularly raise their concerns about human rights issues affecting prisoners detained by the Israeli authorities and remind them of their responsibilities under the 4th Geneva Convention. We do not, however, have the right of access to non-British nationals in any country. The ICRC is in constant contact with prisoners and we are in regular contact with it.


The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the political and constitutional crisis in Nepal; what can be achieved through diplomatic channels; and how British interests will be protected.[HL1780]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are watching developments closely. The Maoist insurgency has intensified in recent weeks, and we deplore the violence which has claimed an estimated 2,000 lives over the last five years. The Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary both visited Nepal last year and urged the Nepalese Government to pursue a peace process with the Maoist insurgents. We have also joined our European partners in issuing a statement on 11 April urging all parties to search for a peaceful solution. FCO travel advice for Nepal is regularly updated in the light of events. The embassy keeps a close eye on the situation and discusses security issues on a regular basis with NGOs, UK companies and British Gurkhas, Nepal.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Baroness Andrews asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will review the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. [HL1886]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Government are already committed to reviewing the rehabilitation periods in the Act, following a recommendation from the Better Regulation Task Force in its review of fit person criteria in 1999. The sentencing framework and its application have changed considerably since 1974 and may change further in the light of current reviews. We believe that the time is right for a fundamental review of the Act as a whole, rather than looking at just a part of it. We are working on preparations for such a review and will give further details in due course.

Prison Service Boards of Visitors

Baroness Andrews asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have about the review of the prison service boards of visitors. [HL1887]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Sir Peter Lloyd presented his report to the Home Department on 30 March and copies have been placed in the Library. We are very grateful to him for the great care and trouble that he and his working party have given to this review of the boards of visitors and the complex issues that arose from it.

Employed Barristers: QC Applications

Baroness Flather asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many members of the employed Bar have been created Queen's Counsel or Honorary Queen's Counsel in the last five years.[HL1697]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): In so far as departmental records show, no employed barrister, other than three public servants and five academics, has been awarded Honorary Queen's Counsel in the last five years. Employed barristers have been eligible to apply to become Queen's Counsel only from 27 September 1999 (when Section 36 of the Access to Justice Act came into force) and no employed barrister applied in either the 2000 or the 2001 competitions.

Foot and Mouth Disease: Risks from Disposal of Carcasses

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish guidance on the public health aspects of disposal of carcasses of animals slaughtered as a result of the foot and mouth disease epidemic.[HL1841]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We have published guidance on measures to minimise the

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risk to public health from the slaughter and disposal of animals. The guidance was issued to regional and health authority directors of public health, along with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and military personnel responsible for implementing the policy on slaughter and disposal.

Copies of the guidance are available in the Library.

Foot and Mouth Disease: London Marathon

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the foot and mouth epidemic, what consideration they have given to advising the cancellation or postponement of the London Marathon.[HL1752]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Decisions on whether to cancel events or not rest with sports governing bodies and organisers of events.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has recently published guidance for organisers on staging events.

Osborne House

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to reopen the convalescent home at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, which was closed last year, in view of the shortage of National Health Service convalescent beds on the island and adjacently.[HL1770]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The former convalescent home has been deregistered and all the furniture and equipment disposed of. The Government have no plans to reopen the home. Even if the home were reopened, eligibility would continue to be restricted by the Osborne Estate Act 1902 to serving or retired members of the Armed Forces (and their families) and the Civil Service.

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer in the House of Commons by Mr Alan Howarth on 11 May 1999 (col. 98), what plans they have for the future of Osborne House estate and garden, Isle of Wight. [HL1771]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: English Heritage will continue to manage, maintain and present to the public the Osborne House estate and gardens. Subject to Parliament's approval of repeal of part of the Osborne Estate Act 1902, a large part of the former convalescent home accommodation and the gardens previously restricted to convalescent home use will be opened to the public by English Heritage.

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Foot and Mouth Vaccine

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

    Whether they consider the stocks of vaccine against foot and mouth disease stored in the United Kingdom have been and remain adequate.[HL1577]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The International Foot and Mouth Vaccine Bank at Pirbright holds stocks of an emergency vaccine which would protect against the O-type virus which is causing the present outbreak in the UK: 500,000 doses are ready to use in case they are needed. The acquisition of stocks of additional vaccine strains is considered annually, based on the perceived threat to International Vaccine Bank member countries.

The European Vaccine Bank holds 5 million doses of a suitable vaccine. Effective vaccines are also available commercially.

There is sufficient vaccine to carry out a limited programme of cattle vaccination in the UK. Discussions are taking place with manufacturers to ensure that additional supplies are in reserve.

Farmers: Price Stability

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are taking to ensure price stability for farmers selling their stock in future so that the price received is not lower than before the start of the foot and mouth outbreak.[HL1700]

Baroness Hayman: The Government are precluded by EU rules from taking direct action to support market prices. The measures in place to control the spread of foot and mouth disease impose significant additional costs on the meat processing supply chain and some of these costs will inevitably be passed back to producers. Even when more normal marketing conditions return, the closure of export markets is likely to result in significant over-supply and weak demand. In that situation, the Government will consider pressing the European Commission to introduce private storage aid for sheepmeat and (possibly) for beef and pigmeat as well. Under current market conditions, however, we and the Commission judge that such aid would not prove effective.

Foot and Mouth Disease: Vaccination and Slaughter

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Office International Des Epizooties does not require vaccinated animals to be slaughtered in all instances.[HL1733]

Baroness Hayman: It is not necessary for vaccinated animals to be slaughtered in all instances. The recent

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European Commission decision (2001/257/EC) authorises the vaccination without slaughter of cattle in specific areas of the UK. A copy of the decision has been placed on the MAFF website

Guidelines set out by the Office International Des Epizooties in Chapter 2.1.1 of the International Animal Health Code describe the steps to be taken to regain FMD-free status in various circumstances. These distinguish between those countries where vaccinated animals are slaughtered and those where they are not.

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