Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

30 Jan 2003 : Column WA173

Written Answers

Thursday, 30th January 2003.

Iraq: Call-out of Reservists

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to call out further reservists as part of their continuing contingency preparations for Iraq.[HL1409]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): In the statement made by my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary (Mr Hoon) on 7 January (Official Report, cols. 23–5) in another place we informed the House that we had made an order under Section 54(1) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable the call-out of reservists for possible operations against Iraq. We explained that the overall scale of mobilisation would depend upon the continuing evolution of our contingency planning, that we envisaged initially sending out sufficient call-out notices to secure around 1,500 reservists, and that we would issue further notices as appropriate.

That process of calling out and mobilising reservists is under way. By 24 January, the services had issued 2,063 notices. As was explained in the Statement on 7 January, the number of notices issued has to be significantly larger than the number of reservists required to allow for the proportion who are likely to be genuinely unavailable.

Further contingency planning has now clarified the likely size and shape of our additional requirements, in particular in the light of the decision we reached recently on the size and composition of land forces that we plan to deploy, which was described in the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary (Mr Hoon) on 20 January (Official Report, cols. 34–5) in another place. Our latest assessment is that our overall requirement for reservists is likely to be up to 6,000, including those currently in the process of mobilisation. We will now issue further call-out notices over the coming weeks to enable us to meet this requirement. The size of the requirement will remain under review as our planning continues.

Legal Services Ombudsman

Lord Prys-Davies asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they are making with regard to the recruitment of the Legal Services Ombudsman.[HL1362]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I am pleased to report that I have appointed Dr Zahida Manzoor as Legal Services Ombudsman.

30 Jan 2003 : Column WA174

The appointment is for a three-year fixed term in the first instance and Dr Manzoor is expected to take up post on 3 March 2003.

Dr Manzoor is co-founder and marketing director of her own company. She was formerly a member of the NHS Policy Board, regional chair of the NHS Executive, Northern and Yorkshire Regions, Commissioner and deputy chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and chair of the Bradford Health Authority.

British Energy plc

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What estimates they have received from (a) Credit Suisse First Boston and (b) Slaughter and May of the fees they are likely to charge for advising them in relation to the financial restructuring of British Energy plc; and [HL1221]

    What fees they have so far paid to (a) Credit Suisse First Boston and (b) Slaughter and May for advising them in relation to the financial restructuring of British Energy plc. [HL1222]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): In the light of the uncertainty over the duration and nature of any restructuring of British Energy while its restructuring proposals are considered by the company's creditors, the Government have not requested estimates from any adviser of likely fees over the longer term. Short-term estimates are requested, as appropriate, as part of overall adviser monitoring. To date, the department has been invoiced for or paid around £2.7 million to Credit Suisse First Boston and around £2 million to Slaughter and May.

British Electricity (Trading and Transmission) Bill

Baroness Gale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the draft Electricity (Trading and Transmission) Bill. [HL1408]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The draft Electricity (Trading and Transmission) Bill, which will bring forward the British Electricity Transmission and Trading Arrangements (BETTA), is being published today. The Trade and Industry Committee will now undertake pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill and will issue a report by Easter. Copies of the draft Bill and draft explanatory notes are available in the House Library. A regulatory impact assessment has been published on DTI and Ofgem's website.

30 Jan 2003 : Column WA175

Glyphosate Resistant Weeds

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will investigate the emergence of round-up resistant (glyphosate tolerant) weeds in the states of Delaware, Maryland, Western Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and California before taking further decisions about genetically modified crops in Britain. [HL1114]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The Government are aware of the emergence of glyphosate resistant weeds resulting from the continuous use of this herbicide on some genetically modified herbicide tolerant (GMht) soya crops in Amercia. Over the past 30 years or more (before the advent of GM crop cultivation), continual use of herbicides has imposed selection pressure for increased resistance within weed species that were formally susceptible. There are several characteristics of herbicides and their use that are thought to contribute to a high risk for selection of resistance in weeds. Glyphosate meets these criteria and is one of the herbicides to which resistant weeds have evolved.

An international survey of herbicide resistant weeds identified Horseweed (Conyza canadensis) as the main glyphosate resistant weed in America (in Delaware, Tennessee, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey and Ohio). The only other glyphosate resistance species identified in this survey was in California—rigid ryegrass (Lolium rigidum—please refer to As Horseweed and rye grass are not sexually compatible with soya (Glycine max), glyphosate resistance was not acquired through the transfer of genes from the herbicide resistant soya.

Part of the UK's pesticide regulatory regime requires pesticide approval holders to address the risk of resistance and, if applicable, produce a management strategy to avoid or manage resistance. This applies equally to GMht and conventional crops alike. In addition, under the GMO safety legislation (Directive 2001/18/EU), management strategies applied to GM crops are considered as part of a detailed risk assessment.

Scott Henderson Inquiry

Lord Henley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the conclusions of the 1951 Scott Henderson inquiry with particular regard to cruelty and suffering. [HL1159]

Lord Whitty: The definition of cruelty adopted by the Scott Henderson inquiry into cruelty to wild animals was the causing of unnecessary suffering.

The report recommended that all wild animals should be brought within the provisions of the Protection of Animals Acts, but:

"nothing in the Act should apply to the commission or omission of any act in the course of hunting, pursuit, capture, destruction or attempted destruction

30 Jan 2003 : Column WA176

of any wild animal unless such hunting etc., was accompanied by the infliction of unnecessary suffering" (paragraph 419).

The Government agree with the definition of cruelty contained in the Scott Henderson report, which is well established in law. The key purpose of the Hunting Bill is to prevent the unnecessary suffering—that is, the cruelty—associated with hunting with dogs. The Bill recognises the need to deal with pests and to protect livestock and crops but would permit hunting for this purpose only where there is no other method reasonably available that would cause less suffering.

The Government set up their own inquiry, the Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales (the Burns report). The Burns report and related documents were published in 2000. My right honourable friend the Minister for Rural Affairs also undertook a wide-ranging consultation exercise which has been praised by both sides of the debate as uniquely open, transparent and fair, My right honourable friend met a large range of organisations and individuals to listen to their views. He also undertook three days of public hearings in Portcullis House in September. This work has informed the drafting of the Hunting Bill, published on 3 December 2002.

Farm Income, Output and Productivity of Agriculture

Lord Prys-Davies asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish revised estimates of farm income, output and productivity of agriculture during 2002. [HL1363]

Lord Whitty: Revised estimates of farm income, output and productivity of agriculture during 2002 were published on 30 January. These confirm the increase in farm incomes forecast last November and indicate a rise of 15 per cent (14 in real terms) compared to 2001.

Details have been placed in the Library of the House.

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council held on 3 December; and what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including their voting record. [HL1410]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health represented the United Kingdom for the health element of the first day of the Employment, Social

30 Jan 2003 : Column WA177

Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council in Brussels on 2 December 2002; the consumer affairs items were also taken on that day.

The main health business of this Council related to tobacco. The Council reached qualified majority on a first reading deal on the Tobacco Advertising Directive. My right honourable friend emphasised that the UK supports European Union legislation on tobacco advertising, having strong domestic legislation in place. He made clear the Government's determination to ensure that the legal victories secured by the tobacco companies over previous European legislation would not be repeated with this directive. He therefore voted against the directive because he did not think that the drafting of some provisions was good enough or that it went as far as it could in some areas (for example, by not covering cigarette papers).

A Council recommendation on the prevention of smoking and on initiatives to improve tobacco control was adopted by a qualified majority, with support from the UK. The Commission also gave an update on the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Member states set out their positions on the pharmaceuticals reviews, with a discussion on three key outstanding issues in the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA) Regulation. There was no vote on this item. On scope, the UK was among several member states who spoke out against extension of the centralised procedure for human medicines and in favour of a choice for companies. Others supported the Commission. Most felt that member states should appoint at least one member to the management board. Many were willing to consider also accepting representatives of patient groups or the European Parliament. A majority of member states and the Commission were able to accept the Presidency compromise of a single renewal of an authorisation after five years.

Council adopted a recommendation on the prevention and reduction of risks associated with drug dependence. Council conclusions on action against obesity were adopted unanimously. The UK voted in favour of both of these items.

The Presidency presented a progress report on negotiations on a directive setting standards of quality and safety for the donation, procurement, testing, processing, storage and distribution of human cells and tissues. The Commission said that it would look carefully at the changes in scope the Council was proposing in relation to the medicinal products and medical devices directives.

The Commission updated the Council on the high level process of reflection on patient mobility and health care development and on the programme of co-operation on bioterrorism and health security. The Commission will be tabling a proposal to set up a network centre for disease control in May 2003, to be set up in 2005. The aim is to enhance the EU capacity to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, working closely with member states' own institutions.

30 Jan 2003 : Column WA178

The Commission reported that it had established a working group to consider the quality of information on Internet sites in the health sector. The group, consisting of representatives from government, non-government organisations and industry, has reported and agreed actions, including measures on transparency, privacy and accountability. The Commission will monitor work through the E-Europe 2005 Action Plan.

Items under any other business included an information paper from Ireland on post-polio syndrome. There was also a brief discussion on the follow-up to the G10 initiative on the pharmaceutical industry. A Commission communication was under preparation and should issue in May 2003. Italy announced it would have an informal ministerial meeting on this during its Presidency. Finally, there was a presentation from Belgium on its candidate for the director-generalship of the WHO, Peter Piot.

The consumer part of the Council met with minimal discussion over a short agenda.

The Council adopted a resolution on Community consumer policy strategy 2002–06 without debate, endorsing the aims and objectives of the Commission's strategy as published in May 2002, namely a high common level of consumer protection, effective enforcement and the involvement of consumer organisations. The UK voted in favour, as did all other member states.

The Council and the Commission endorsed the Presidency's conclusions on a joint Commission-UK seminar held in November on using consumer statistics to inform and prioritise consumer policy. In accordance with the conclusions, the Commission will take forward technical work on definitions and the comparability of consumer statistics.

As an information point only, the Council took note of a Commission presentation on the preliminary results of the European Extra-Judicial Network (EEJ-Net), the EU network of clearing houses designed to facilitate and resolve cross-border, out-of-court consumer disputes.

Finally, Greece informed the Council that it wanted to contribute to the consumer agenda during its forthcoming Presidency by strengthening its involvement in the internal market. It highlighted in particular a seminar on the Commission's Green Paper on consumer protection to be held with the Commission and Sweden on 24 February 2003 and a ministerial conference on unfair trading to be held on 7 May 2003.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page