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Genetically Modified Crops: Sheridan

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: Although statutory tests and trials on Sheridan have been completed, Ministers have yet to consider whether to propose its addition to the national list. In the event that a decision to propose listing is made, the Seeds (National Lists of Varieties) Regulations 2001 provided that, upon paymentof the appropriate fee, any person wishing to object may make either written representations against the proposal and/or request the right to make oral representations at a hearing.

In reply to a Parliamentary Question in another place on 28 November 2000, (HC Deb Voluem 357, Col. 575W), the Government made it clear that the arrangements for requesting a hearing on proposed national list decisions would be reivewed following the CHARDON LL Hearing, in order to consider whether the current arrangements were satisfactory for all parties. The hearing closed on 13 June 2002. We intend to consult all interested parties during the summer on proposals for change.

Animal Health Bill

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The House decided not to go into Committee on the Animal Health Bill on 26 March 2002 when an amendment to the Motion to go into Committee was moved by Lord Moran and agreed to on a vote, 130 to 124.

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The House declined to consider the Bill in Committee until:

    (i) the responses to the consultation on implementation of powers in the Bill had been considered and Her Majesty's Government had published their response; and

(ii) Her Majesty's Government had received, considered and published the results of the inquiries they had commissioned into foot and mouth disease from the National Audit Office and the Royal Society.

With regard to the first requirement, the responses to the public consultation on the slaughter criteria and other aspects of the implementation of the Animal Health Bill have been carefully considered by the Government. The 45 responses that were received were placed in the DEFRA library, together with a summary of the responses, a copy of which was also placed in the Library of the House. A formal response to this consultation exercise has been published and is being placed in the Library of the House today.

With regard to the second requirement, the report on the inquiry conducted by the National Audit Office was pubished on 21 June and the report by the Royal Society was published on 16 July.

In order to allow time for all interested parties to fully absorb the National Audit Office and the Royal Society reports before debate on the Bill's foot and mouth disease provisions, the House today gave an instruction to the Committee on the order of consideration of the Bill's clauses and schedules.

The new order of consideration ensures that the first debates in Committee will not touch on the foot and mouth disease provisions. The first two days in Committee are scheduled for Thursdy 25 and Tuesday 30 July. None of the foot and mouth disease provisions will be debated prior to the Summer Recess. After the Summer Recess, when the reports will have been in the public domain for over two and a half months, the Committee will go on to consider the foot and mouth disease provisions in the Bill.

An additional benefit of this way of proceeding is that there will also be time to consider the report of

Dr Iain Anderson's Lessons Learnt inquiry which will be published on 22 July.

Contracts between Public and Private Sectors

The Viscount Astor asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider, in the interest of value for money, that they should publish whenever possible the main details of contracts between private companies and the public sector.[HL5118]

    Whether they consider that commercial confidentiality in contracts between the private sector and the public sector is being used to conceal excess profits.[HL5119]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Publication of the main details of contracts is a matter for individual departments to decide in the circumstances of each specific procurement. In considering this, departments will be governed by Part II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. It would contravene the code if a department were to conceal excess profits by the use of the examption covering commercial confidentiality.

New £5 Notes

Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why some of the new ''Elizabeth Fry'' £5 notes had serial numbers which rubbed off, and when the Bank of England plans to start reissuing the new note again.[HL5423]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Bank of England suspended issuance of the new ''Elizabeth Fry'' £5 note after it was discovered that, on some notes, it was possible to remove part or all of the serial numbers, when the note was rubbed vigorously. The problem was traced to unexpectedly slow drying of the numbering ink on some of the notes, when the numbers were printed over the new varnish coating. This varnish had been introduced to make the note more durable. In future the Bank will put the varnish over the numbering, as tests have shown that this solves the problem. The notes already printed will undergo extensive drying treatment to ensure that the numbering ink dries thoroughly.

The Bank plans to resume issuing the new note in the week commencing 19 August 2002 and is announcing this today.

The total cost of finding and solving this problem amount to less than £250,000 (or approximately half of one per cent of the annual costs of note issue and production). The Bank is looking to find cost savings

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elsewhere in note production to ensure that the taxpayer does not suffer any loss of revenue.

Euro Preparations

Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make an announcement on euro preparations.[HL5424]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As the Chancellor made clear in his Mansion House speech in June 2002, the Government's decision on the euro is of immense, historic importance to the long-term future of our economy and our country as a whole. In 1997 the Government set out the case in principle for the single currency, and said that the determining factor underpinning any government decision on membership is the national economic interest, and whether the economic case is clear and unambiguous.

As part of our commitment to prepare and decide, the Government are continuing work on EMU preparations—in partnership with business—to ensure that the UK has a genuine option to join the euro if that is what government, Parliament and the people, in a referendum, decide.

The Government are today depositing in the Library of the House a copy of the Sixth Progress Report on Euro Preparations. The report describes the changeover to the euro in the euro area and sets out lessons from the euro area changeover. It also sets out what government and partners are doing to raise awareness of the potential impact on UK businesses and gives an update on plannning for possible UK entry.

Alongside the Sixth Progress Report on Euro Preparations, we are also depositing a report on the changeover in the euro area which was commissioned by the Standing Committee from the Private Sector Learning Group.

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