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Annuity Reform

Baroness Greengross asked Her Majesty's Government:

5 Feb 2002 : Column WA81

Lord McIntosh of Haringey : The joint Department for Work and Pensions and Inland Revenue consultation document Modernising Annuities is published today. Copies are available in the House of Lord's Library. The Government will consider the responses carefully before deciding how to proceed.

Medical Practitioner Services: VAT

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have considered the implications for the charging of VAT on services other than therapy by medical practitioners of the recent ruling in the case (D v. W 384/98) referred by an Austrian court to the European Court of Justice; and, if so, what conclusions they have reached.[HL2508]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The European Court of Justice ruled in the case of D v. W 384/98 that paternity testing services, previously exempt from VAT as medical care, no longer qualify for exemption. As a consequence of this decision and in order to assess further the implications of it, the UK courts have referred a number of further questions to the ECJ.

Trafficking in Human Beings

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by Lord Rooker on 17 December (WA 3-4) and 9 January (WA 113), whether they intend to incorporate the definition of trafficking from the Trafficking Protocol to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime when introducing legislation to combat the trafficking of human beings.HL2528]

Lord Rooker: By signing the UN protocol on the prevention and suppression of trafficking and negotiating the EU framework decision on trafficking, we are committed to introducing legislation to combat the trafficking of human beings consistent with the terms of the UN protocol. We are also committed to implementing its measure in relation to enforcement and support for victims.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer about Project Reflex by Lord Rooker on 9 January (WA 115), whether they will distinguish how many of the arrests and convictions cited relate to smuggling and how many relate to trafficking in the light of the definition of trafficking in the Trafficking Protocol to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime. [HL2527]

Lord Rooker: All the arrests and convictions referred to in the Written Answer (WA 115) have related to people smuggling, also referred to as the facilitation of illegal entry.

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However, Reflex is conducting a number of investigations into trafficking, and in particular the trafficking of women, which are still ongoing or awaiting trials. The international and complex nature of investigations means that they can take many months to complete.

The establishment under Project Reflex of a dedicated joint unit made up of National Crime Squad and Immigration Service personnel will deliver a further enhanced operational response to organised immigration crime, in particular people trafficking.

Badger Protection

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary to investigate an allegation on BBC's Newsnight involving the shooting of a badger contrary to Section 1(1) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. [HL2284]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): It is for the police to decide on their priorities for investigation and on whether to bring prosecutions in this or any other case.

Sheep Lice Treatment

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice has recently been offered by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to sheep farmers as first line treatment against infestation by lice in breeding ewes. [HL2498]

Lord Whitty: Advice on the treatment of sheep for lice was included in the leaflet Golden rules for a healthy flock sent to all sheep farmers in the autumn last year. The emphasis of this leaflet was for restocking following foot and mouth disease, but it recommends that sheep farmers should consult their veterinary surgeon on the development of an overall flock health plan, including a policy on lice.

The leaflet includes the following specific advice on the control of lice: "Ideally plunge dip in an OP [organo-phosphate]. Where this is not possible pour-on SPs [synethetic pyrethroids] may be used. However many lice are now resistant to SPs and they have no action (when used as pour-ons) against sheep scab. No injectable treats lice".

Animal Disease Control

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to bring forward during the passage of the Animal Health Bill through this House any "important emerging

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    recommendations" as mentioned in the terms of reference for the inquiry into the lessons to be learned from the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak.[HL2530]

Lord Whitty: The provisions in the Animal Health Bill relating to disease control are part of the Government's response to issues raised by the 2001 outbreak that can be swiftly and effectively addressed by adding to and strengthening existing legislation. Should Dr Anderson's lessons learned inquiry publish interim recommendations before the Bill has completed its passage through the House of Lords, the Government would consider whether any amendments should be made to the Bill.

When the two independent inquiries, set up in August 2001, have reported later this year, the Government will consider what measures need to be taken to implement recommendations relevant to the prevention and control of animal diseases. Further legislation will be brought forward, if it is needed.

Rural: Definition

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Whitty on 18 January (WA 183), whether it is now their intention to have a single definition of the word "rural"; and, if so, by what date.[HL2591]

Lord Whitty: It would be unrealistic to impose a standard "rural" definition for use in all contexts. For example, within a broadly "rural" county or district, not all parishes would be properly described as "rural". However, we recognise that there is a need for a more co-ordinated and consistent approach to the categorisation and use of definitions of urban and rural areas. It is for that reason that Defra, DTLR, the Countryside Agency and the Office for National Statistics are working towards a better set of definitions for urban and rural areas. In the short term we plan to use for statistical purposes the definitions presently used by the Countryside Agency.

Agriculture Council, 21 January

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What matters were discussed and decisions made at the Agriculture Council held on 21 and 22 January.[HL2672]

Lord Whitty: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture Council meeting on 21 January in Brussels. The Council held initial debates on Commission proposals concerning potato starch quotas and animal health requirements governing the movement of pet animals. We welcomed both proposals and on the latter stressed the importance of having rules safeguarding against the risk of importing rabies that were fully based on scientific advice.

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The Council agreed unanimously to permit Portugal to pay a state aid to pig producers to offset the repayment of aids paid illegally in 1994 and 1998. In consenting to this we expressed grave concern at the Council's increasing tendency to approve aids which, particularly in sensitive sectors such as pigmeat, could undermine the integrity of the single market.

The Council also received a report from Commissioner Byrne on the Commission's progress in negotiating veterinary and phytosanitary equivalence agreements with third countries, notably in relation to the Mercosur countries and Chile. We welcomed this but called upon the Commission to ensure all Mercosur countries complied with existing obligations to permit imports of milk products and bovine semen from all EU countries.

Fetal Abormalities:Informing Parents

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 13 November (WA 69), what guidance has been issued to hospitals and clinics following the publication of a paper in the British Medical Journal in February of this year entitled "What parents are told after prenatal diagnosis of a sex chromosome abnormality: interview and questionnaire study" by Abramsky, Hall and Marteau (BMJ, 24 February, 463-466).[HL2155]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): No guidance has been issued. The Government will however keep the issue of how to inform parents of diagnoses of all fetal abnormalities under close review.

The forthcoming guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence on antenatal care will be included in the development of the Children's National Service Framework.

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