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Anthrax Immunisation: Armed Forces

Lord Christopher asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Following the delay to the voluntary immunisation programme against anthrax that was caused by difficulties at the Centre for Applied Microbiological Research which was supplying the vaccine, the programme was re-launched for personnel deployed to the Gulf in May 2001. But continuing uncertainty over the licensing of future supplies meant that it was not extended further to other members of the Armed Forces.

The problems over the licensing of future supplies have now been resolved and the Ministry of Defence took delivery of the rest of the supplies that are required at the end of March this year. We are confident that there will be no difficulties with the future, large-scale production of the vaccine.

It takes six months for immunisation against anthrax to become fully effective. But we may not have nearly so much warning of a change in the threat, nor of the requirement for British Armed Forces to deploy to a high threat area. Given that we cannot expect to predict exactly where or when a threat might arise, or which units of the Armed Forces might be called upon to respond, we have decided to expand the immunisation programme so that all service personnel, including reserves, and those essential civilians who are likely to deploy on operations are routinely offered immunisation against anthrax. We plan to expand the programme gradually over the next few years, beginning with those units that are held at the highest readiness.

Immunisation against anthrax is safe and effective. As before, and in keeping with long-standing medical practice, it will be offered to personnel on the basis of voluntary informed consent. By accepting it alongside their other defensive measures, this will ensure that they have the very best protection against anthrax used as a biological weapon.

NATO Forces in the Balkans

Lord Parekh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on restructuring NATO's forces in the Balkans.[HL4698]

Lord Bach: At our Meeting in Brussels on 6 June, NATO defence Ministers approved a series of changes to SFOR and KFOR following the Joint Operational Area (JOA) Review.

The Review advocates a regional approach to NATO's peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, whereby both Bosnia and Kosovo will be treated for military planning purposes as a single theatre. The security situation in the Balkans has changed since the initial deployment of SFOR and KFOR. NATO's operations will be restructured accordingly to provide a smaller, lighter and more flexible force that will be better able to meet current challenges.

Implementation of the JAO Review will take place over the next 12 months. It is planned that by the end of 2002 SFOR will reduce from some 18,000 to some 12,000 personnel and KFOR from some 38,000 to

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some 32,000. By June 2003, it is envisaged that KFOR will reduce further to some 29,000 troops. Responsibilities for support of civil implementation will be transferred to local authorities and other international organisations, as appropriate. The United Kingdom welcomes the outcome of this review.

This reduction in troop numbers does not signal any reduction in NATO's commitment to the Balkans. Rather, these changes are a sign of the alliance's achievements to date in bringing security and stabililty to the Balkans. The United Kingdom, with the rest of NATO, remains committed to the security and stability of the Balkans and will continue to play its full role in achieving the international community's objectives for the region.

Individual nations are now considering and discussing with one another how to adjust their troop contributions in the light of the JOA Review.

Crown Dependencies: Kilbrandon Report

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 5 April 2000 (HL Deb, col. 1297), what is the possible ambiguity in paragraph 1499 of the Kilbrandon report which the Government find "extremely helpful"; and why they find it so.[HL4621]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Paragraph 1499 of the Kilbrandon Report (Cmnd 5460) expresses the view that it is impracticable to define an area of domestic affairs in which the Crown dependencies' autonomy should be absolute. The relationship between the United Kingdom and the Crown dependencies has in general operated successfully on that basis.

Medicines Control Agency

Lord Taylor of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the management of the Medicine Control Agency and the Medical Devices Agency.[HL4696]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has decided to merge the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) and the Medical Devices Agency (MDA), to take effect from 1 April 2003. The regulation of medicines and of medical devices are separate fields, working to different legislation, but as technology develops there are likely to be growing numbers of products that cross the borderline between medicines and devices. Most other European countries have gone down the path of managing these responsibilities in a single organisation, as has the United States. We want

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to build on the excellence of both organisations in the protection of public health and ensure that the new agency is well placed to respond to change and retain the UK's leading position.

The post of chief executive will be filled through open competition. The new organisation will also have improved governance arrangements, with non-executive members on the board and a new post of chairman, whom we expect to be an authoritative figure able not only to chair the board and oversee its work but also to represent the organisation and its decisions in public.

Procurement Policy: Environmental Criteria

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

    Whether their procurement policy includes environmental criteria; and, if so, what are the criteria.[HL4161]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Government procurement policy is to obtain value for money having due regard to propriety and regularity. Value for money is defined as "the optimum combination of whole life cost and quality (or fitness for purpose) to meet the customer's requirement". Sustainable development objectives, including policies aimed at reducing adverse environmental impacts, are pursued within the framework of this procurement policy and the EC procurement rules.

Government departments have been required since 1990 to operate procurement strategies that take into account the environmental impacts of their purchasing decisions. This means drafting contract specifications (including for production processes) that reflect government objectives; selecting suppliers that have the technical capacity to meet the environmental criteria specified; and awarding contracts to the bids that offer the best combination of quality and whole life costs for the contracting authority. Whole life costs will include, for example, energy consumed over the life of the product or service and disposal costs. Incorporating environmental criteria into procurement is explained in a note published jointly by HM Treasury and the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions in 1998 and may be viewed on the Office of Government Commerce website. Detailed guidance on government policy and specific environmental criteria may be found in the Green Guide for Buyers—URL: http://defraweb/environment/greening/greenpro/greenpro.htm.

Hunting with Dogs: Landscape Protection

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration is being given to the question of landscape protection if hunting with dogs is prohibited.[HL4448]

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Lord Whitty: My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Rural Affairs (Alun Michael) announced on 21 March that in relation to hunting with dogs he would conduct a process which will allow individuals and organisations to contribute their views and evidence, in particular on the issues of cruelty and utility. All views submitted will be given due consideration.

Hedgerows

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in regard to the protection of hedgerows and the amendment of the Hedgerows Regulations.[HL4449]

Lord Whitty: We hope to be able to issue a consultation document on revision of the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 and on protection of countryside boundary features generally in the near future.

Kitchen Waste

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

    Whether the method of disposing of animal waste products from kitchens by processing them into compost using a worm bin complies with the Animal By-Products (Amendment) England Order 2001; and, if not, why not.[HL4468]

Lord Whitty: The composting of kitchen waste in a worm bin complies with the animal by-products order, as amended, as long as animals and birds do not have access to the material.


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