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Written Answers

Wednesday, 20th November 2002.

Foot and Mouth Disease: Rights of Way

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the appropriate local authority (the county council where that applies) should hold sole responsibility for closures of rights of way or other pathways under the Foot and Mouth Order 1983, replacing the present arrangements whereby powers are held by the local authority and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.[HL29]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): We have reviewed the handling of rights of way closures during the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease, informed by Dr Ian Anderson's Lessons Learned Inquiry and other reports. As a result, we shall shortly issue for consultation a draft protocol, for inclusion in the Defra Foot and Mouth Disease Contingency Plan, setting out how rights of way closures would be handled in any future outbreak. We do not propose to change the current legal framework under which local highway authorities or Defra inspectors may close footpaths within infected areas (normally a minimum of 10km radius around infected premises), and local authorities may close them with Defra consent outside those areas. However, guidance will make clear that closures are normally justified only within a 3km radius around infected premises as a precautionary measure.

Sulphuric Acid

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they approve of farmers spraying potato crops with sulphuric acid.[HL78]

Lord Whitty: Sulphuric acid has been used as a pesticide, principally as a desiccant for potato crops, for over 50 years. The current pesticide approval for sulphuric acid was issued in November 1995 following the recommendation of the Government's independent scientific committee, the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP).

However, all pesticides are subject to routine review and sulphuric acid was further reviewed in October 1997 when the ACP recommended that approval could continue subject to further data being generated. Additionally, the National Association of

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Agricultural Contractors, in association with the National Sulphuric Acid Association, has drawn up a code of practice for the safe use of sulphuric acid in agriculture.

Terrorism: Cross-Channel Ferries

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to prevent a terrorist from stowing away on a cross-Channel ferry and, while the ferry is under way, sabotaging or placing an improvised explosive device on a vehicle carrying a hazardous load.[HL5]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): There are a range of measures in place on ships engaged on providing international ferry services from the UK. Likewise, complementary measures are in place at the UK ports that the ferries serve. The measures are designed, among other things, to prevent unauthorised access to ferries and the introduction of weapons and explosives. The security measures required at any particular time are linked to the level of risk, as determined by the DfT and the Security Service.

Luton to Dunstable Busway

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In respect of the proposed guided busway between Luton and Dunstable, what is the latest estimate of cost to benefit of this scheme reported in the recently completed study by Ove Arup for the Department for Transport; how much funding would be required from the private sector; and whether they will place a copy of this report in the Library of the House.[HL54]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Because of the high level of funding that the proposed Luton to Dunstable translink scheme would require, my department commissioned Ove Arup to carry out an independent technical audit of the scheme: this is standard practice for all major public transport schemes which would cost over £40 million. We received the report this summer and I have placed a copy in the Library of the House. The consultant's report suggested that the benefit cost ratio (BCR) of the scheme would be 1.38:1. However, further technical work is still being carried out and this figure should not be regarded as definitive, nor is there yet an agreed estimate of the degree of private funding that would be required if the Government were to provide support for the scheme.

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