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Baroness Barker asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The National Health Service Plan sets a target of 5,000 additional intermediate care beds by 2003-04. Targets beyond that date have not yet been set.

Estimates of future requirements for intermediate care beds will form part of the whole system capacity planning now required by the NHS and councils. The need for intermediate care beds cannot be looked at in isolation, but will depend upon the availability of other services (for example, acute hospital beds, primary and community health services and social services). Future planning of intermediate care services will also need to take into account the outcome of the evaluation of intermediate care currently being commissioned by the Department of Health.

Baroness Barker asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: While the Department of Health has no current plans to introduce a specific performance indicator relating to those with dementia or functional mental illness and intermediate care, the

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guidance (HSC 2001:001/LAC (2001-01) makes it clear that intermediate care services should be available to all those who might benefit from these services.

Medical Research Council:Autism Review

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they are giving to the Medical Research Council in order to assist it to avoid conflicts of interest among members of its review into autism.[HL436]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Department of Health is in regular contact with the Medical Research Council (MRC) about progress with its review of the causes and epidemiology of autism. It has a well established approach to handling potential conflicts of interest in the development of scientific advice. We welcome the MRC's innovative approach to engaging a broad range of experts and lay people fully in its review. We have full confidence that the review process will ensure that its advice will be fair and balanced.

Human Genetic Databases: Government Response to Select Committee Report

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When will they publish the Government's response to the report on human genetic databases from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.[HL588]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We have today published the Government's response by way of Command Paper 5236, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Sheep and Sheepmeat

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they propose to set up a private storage scheme to cope with the thousands of sheep which, due to the foot and mouth disease export restrictions, will come on to the United Kingdom market this autumn.[HL132]

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they intend to put in place to support the sheep industry given the market implications of the inability to export sheep at the present time, and the likelihood that there will be no domestic market for many of the sheep that would normally have been exported but for the outbreak of foot and mouth disease; and [HL361]

    Whether they will seek European Union approval for private storage aid for sheepmeat; and[HL362]

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    What measures they will put in place to ensure that sheepmeat which has been in storage is marketable after it is released.[HL363]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (Lord Whitty): The department has had intensive discussions with a wide range of industry interests and the European Commission about this, with a view to putting a strategy in place by the end of July, to apply from 1 September onwards. In the meantime, all possible action is being taken to eradicate the disease as soon as possible.

All concerned are clear that in considering autumn livestock movements, control of foot and mouth disease and safeguarding animal welfare must continue to be our primary concerns. We are proceeding on the basis of veterinary and scientific advice. Full details will be published as soon as possible, but the arrangements for the autumn will cover the following aspects; the possibility of holding livestock markets in counties which have been free of foot and mouth disease for three months or more and where testing has been completed; the possibility of some relaxation in the criteria covering livestock movements outside infected areas; the possibility of promoting the domestic consumption of lamb in particular, and of negotiating with the European Commission an early resumption of pigmeat and sheepmeat exports, while not distrupting the domestic food supply chain.

We are formally asking the European Commission to introduce a Private Storage Aid Scheme for sheepmeat in the autumn, including the provision for operators to store as vacuum packed primal cuts, which will assist with marketing when the meat comes out of store. We are also discussing with the Commission the possible adaptation of the Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme to handle disposal of surplus lambs, and in the medium term the possible use of quota suspension or buy-out.

Arable Area Payments Scheme: Flooding

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will have to seek European Union approval to pay set-aside on additional land rendered uncultivatable by heavy rainfall and flooding.[HL178]

Lord Whitty: We have already taken the necessary action on this. As my right honourable friend the then Minister of State (Joyce Quin) told my honourable friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) in another place on 13 February 2001 (Official Report, col 120-21W), the European Commission confirmed, at the UK's request earlier this year, a number of changes to the rules of the Arable Area Payments Scheme for 2001, including the one referred to by the noble Baroness.

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Environment Agency: Flood Responsibilities

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of the flooding incidents during the autumn of 2000 occurred on water courses not managed by the Environment Agency; what proportion occurred at locations which had no flood protection at all; and whether consideration is to be given to extending the role of the agency to allow consideration of cases of inadequate provision where it has at the present time little or no standing.[HL186]

Lord Whitty: Approximately 10,000 properties were flooded in the late 2000 floods divided approximately as follows: 18 per cent from watercourses for which the Environment Agency is not the relevant operating authority; 14 per cent from a variety of inadequate drainage problems, mainly from highway and surface water drainage systems; 40 per cent from watercourses managed and maintained by the Agency where there is currently no flood protection; and 28 per cent from watercourses managed and maintained by the Agency where there is currently flood protection.

The Environment Agency has a general duty to supervise all matters relating to flood defence. In November 1999 the agency published an elaboration of this duty including a commitment to investigate the causes of serious or repeated flood events on watercourses for which it is not responsible, and to identify potential solutions.

Foot and Mouth: Vehicle Cleansing

Earl Atlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether vehicles used to move animals culled during the foot and mouth outbreak can be satisfactorily cleaned so that they can be used to move grain during the forthcoming harvest; and what regulations are applicable; and [HL233]

    What process could be used to clean and sterilise vehicles used to move animals culled during the foot and mouth outbreak but to be used for transport of grain in future; and [HL234]

    What tests for cleanliness and food safety are available or appropriate for vehicles used to move animals culled during the foot and mouth outbreak but used for transport of grain in future and [HL235]

    Whether there is any need to identify which vehicles have been used to move culled animals; and whether they will make that infomation widely available. [HL236]

Lord Whitty: If a vehicle is properly cleansed and disinfected after it has been used to move culled animals, it should be safe to be used for the transport of grain. However, we understand that there are concerns and officials will be meeting with industry representatives to discuss the matter.

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The Foot and Mouth Order (1983) (as amended) sets out the legal requirements for the cleansing and disinfection of vehicles used for the carriage of carcases. The order does not include a requirement that such vehicles are identified to show that they had previously carried carcases.

Guidance on biosecurity in relation to the harvesting (including the movement) of grain is available on the DEFRA website at: http://defraweb/animalh/diseases/fmd/farmers/during/harvestfinal.PDF.

Annex 2 provides general guidance on cleansing and disinfection of vehicles. There is no commercial test for verifying the presence of the foot and mouth disease virus.

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