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Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, that the road map should be published as soon as possible. I am assured that the Middle East peace process will be part of the discussions that the Prime Minister will take part in with President Bush when he meets him this week. As the noble Lord will know from his experience in these matters, the United States has taken a great interest in the road map, which is the confidence-building process that is crucial to finding a negotiated settlement.

Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that she and I spent some 18 years opposing the elected government of this country and trying to get rid of them? If we recognise that Israel has elected its government, perhaps it would be right to bid

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them welcome and say that we will do all we can to advance the cause of peace which is so necessary for not only the Israelis but the Palestinians.

Baroness Crawley: Yes, my Lords, I agree with my noble friend that we will work closely with the new Israeli Government. It will be some weeks before we know the final outcome of the negotiations to form that government, but we will work closely with them on that road to peace.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, can we have every confidence that the Government will continue to push forward with their efforts to engage the Palestinian authorities as well as the Israelis in continuing peace discussions? Will the Government please make it clear again to the new Israeli Government, as they did to the old one, that banning travel rather than assisting authoritative Palestinian representatives to come to multilateral peace conferences does not help?

Baroness Crawley: Yes, my Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. We regretted the ban on travel for the Palestinian representatives to the London conference on Palestinian reforms. We want the Palestinian authorities to take very seriously the reforms that they signed up to at that conference. There is a new Palestinian commitment to work on its constitution. We expect an agreed outline in the next few days on work in progress on that constitution. As a result of the Palestinian reform conference, hosted by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in London earlier this month, we have a clear commitment to finalising preparations for free, fair and open elections. It has to be said that there was recognition of the work of the Palestinian authorities on financial accountability, which the Finance Minister has been working extremely hard to improve.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, which countries in the Middle East have free elections? Will the Prime Minister seek talks with the leader of the Likud Party and also the Labour Party, because they are members of the same International?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I cannot roll off the top of my head all the countries around the globe that have free and fair elections. In the Middle East, of course, Israel comes to mind. However, the British Government will work with all parties to negotiate a peace settlement.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble Baroness's replies to these questions have been welcome and positive. However, does she agree that while the matter of forming a new government in Israel is entirely a matter for the Israeli people, it would be good to see emerge some kind of centrally inclined coalition, including statesmen such as Shimon Peres?

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That would prepare the way for taking the opportunities for peace that should arise as a consequence of changes in Iraq.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I agree very much with the noble Lord that we should not involve ourselves in the agreed final make-up of the new Israeli Government—that is a matter for the Israeli people and their representatives. But whoever becomes the new Israeli Government must give a signal to the international community that they are serious about going down the route of a negotiated peace settlement. As a famous Member of this House and a former Prime Minister used to say, there is no alternative.

Meat Imports

3.17 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the first annual report on combating the illegal imports of animal products required by Section 17 of the Animal Health Act 2002, and whether they will publish the service level agreement between Her Majesty's Customs and Excise and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the detection of smuggled imports.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, Section 17 of the Animal Health Act 2002 came into effect on 14th January 2003. The first annual review of import controls covering the financial year 2002–03 is being collated and will be laid before Parliament as soon as possible after the end of the financial year.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, when will the risk assessment be completed and published? Will the Minister's department publish the statistics as a baseline for comparison in future years on this vexed question?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the risk assessment that was commissioned in the autumn has produced its preliminary results and is in the process of being quality controlled and peer reviewed. It raises some complex questions and does not, of itself, yield a baseline. Nevertheless, the risk assessment, which should be published within a month, will give us information on which to judge the effectiveness or otherwise of import control systems and internal disease control systems thereafter.

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, in the absence of an annual report or a completed assessment, does the Minister believe that there is now effective control of illegal importers?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, there will never be 100 per cent effective control. The measures that we have

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taken in terms of carrying out checks, raising awareness, increasing resources and co-ordinating intelligence should make for a more effective system of control over imports in personal luggage and on the commercial side. But there will never be 100 per cent success in controlling all imports—no country in the world can achieve that.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, while I accept the Minister's answer, does he agree that the Meat Hygiene Service has made a huge impact on some of these areas?

Lord Whitty: Yes, my Lords. That underlines the importance of the Meat Hygiene Service not only at ports but in operating internal checks on internal movements further down the food chain. The risk assessment will show, in broad terms, that there is a problem of imported meat, but only a very small proportion of that will be contaminated, and only a very small proportion of that contaminated meat is likely to get into livestock. The risk of it then getting into livestock more generally and then into the food chain is substantially greater. Therefore, internal disease controls on farms, between farms, at market and down the food chain are vital.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, will the Minister accept my thanks for what DEFRA has already done in trying to raise awareness of this problem and in controlling illegal meat imports? However, does he agree that the general perception of travellers entering this country is that very little is still being done—that is, it is easy to enter this country without seeing such a poster or being subjected to a check? Will he urge the department to increase dramatically the amount of work that goes into this vital precaution?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I accept that anecdotally a large number of travellers seem not to see the posters that are there. A total of 26,000 posters have been established in airports, agencies and places of embarkation. A further wave of posters will follow on 1st February, incorporating the new rules and, it is hoped, being displayed to better effect for travellers. But the use of posters forms only part of the deterrence. The Government are also taking care of the rest of the deterrents—that is, issues concerning the number of checks, resources, co-ordination and so on. Those will be brought together in a few months' time when Customs and Excise takes over the co-ordinating role in dealing with illegal food imports.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, can the Minister say whether the wording which is proposed to be used on landing cards with regard to animal products has been agreed with the carriers, and when those cards are likely to be introduced?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, a decision has not yet been made on landing cards. The system involving those cards applies only to non-EU travellers coming into

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the country, who account for less than 14 per cent of all people who land at UK airports. We are examining the possibility of including that information, but it will not deal with the bulk of people who enter the country. Therefore, if we go down that road, it will form only a very minor part of the total information system.

The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, can the Minister say whether the European food authority will be able to make a positive contribution towards the reduction of imports of illegal meat into the European Union and therefore into the United Kingdom?

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