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Foot and Mouth Disease Contingency Plan

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: We have laid before Parliament Defra's foot and mouth disease contingency plan, in accordance with Section 18 of the Animal Health Act 2002, which came into force on 24 March 2003.

This plan sets out the operational arrangements Defra will put in place to deal with any occurrence of foot and mouth disease.

It replaces the version placed on Defra's website on 6 November 2002, announced to the House in a Statement made on the Government's response to the foot and mouth disease inquiry reports.

Defra's contingency plan is very much a living document. It will be subject to ongoing revision taking on the latest scientific advice, developments in policy and comments from operational partners and stakeholders.

To meet the provisions of the Animal Health Act, the plan will also be subject to formal annual review.

Copies of the contingency plan are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Pregnant Women: Risk from Contact with Ewes

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Where women of childbearing age are employed, it is the responsibility of the employer to assess the risks to new and expectant mothers and to introduce measures to protect their health and safety. Employers and the self-employed also have a responsibility to assess and minimise the risks to those not in their employment, such as members of the public. The self-employed have a similar duty to protect their own health and safety.

The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance to assist employers and publishes an annual news release with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to alert farmers and others to the risks to pregnant women who come into close contact with ewes during lambing periods.

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Vaccines Interactions Research

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What interim results from the vaccines interactions research programme being carried out at the Defence Scientific and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down will be published.[HL2342]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The Ministry of Defence's vaccines interactions research programme is studying whether the combination of vaccines and nerve agent pre-treatment (NAPS) tablets used to protect United Kingdom personnel during the 1990–91 Gulf conflict can give rise to adverse health effects. The study involves four groups of 12 marmosets. One group was given the full range of vaccines which could have been administered during the 1990–91 Gulf conflict (anthrax, plague, pertussis, yellow fever, cholera, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B, typhoid and meningitis); one was given pyridostigmine bromide, which is the active ingredient of NAPS; one was given both vaccines and pyridostigmine bromide, and the last was the control group, which received neither. The marmosets are being monitored over a period of 18 months and a number of indices, such as cognitive performance, EEG, sleep, endocrine functioning and immune responsiveness, are measured at regular intervals.

Preliminary results from the first three months of the study are now available and are being presented by means of scientific poster at the British Toxicological Society's annual conference at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. These preliminary results provide data on behaviour, sleep, EEG, body weight, cholinesterase inhibition and muscle function and indicate no apparent adverse health consequences three months following the administration of vaccine and/or pyridostigmine bromide. We have placed copies of the abstract and poster in the Library of the House. They will also be available on the Ministry of Defence's website.

In addition, preliminary immunology results will be reported at the 3rd international meeting of the Edward Jenner Institute for Vaccines Research from 12 to 16 April. Copies of the abstract and poster presentation will then be placed in the Library of the House and will be made available on the Ministry of Defence's website.

The study as a whole is due to complete in December 2003 and the results are expected to be published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature thereafter.

Former Yugoslavia: Call-out of Reservists

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements are in place to allow reservists to continue to be called out to support operations in the former Yugoslavia.[HL2365]

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Lord Bach: A new call-out order has been made under section 56 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to allow reservists to continue to be called out into permanent service to support operations in the former Yugoslavia. This replaces the existing order that expired on 31 March. The new order is effective until 31 March 2004.

Since 1995 when NATO operations commenced in the former Yugoslavia, the reserve forces have historically provided around 10 per cent of the total UK manpower in theatre. At present, there are around 230 reservists from all three services serving in Bosnia and Kosovo. They are providing specialist skills in fields such as logistics, signals and medical support.

I am also announcing two compulsory mobilisations under the new order. One is an extension of the existing deployment of small numbers of specialist medical personnel (anaesthetists and surgeons) to provide critical support to our forces in theatre. Since April 2002, we have called out 17 personnel to serve three-month tours. This will continue for another 12 months. We anticipate a requirement for around six personnel at any one time. Given the small numbers involved and our intention to spread the burden across the NHS, we are confident that the impact on patients in the UK will be minimal.

The second compulsory mobilisation will be of further specialist medical and logistics personnel from the Territorial Army. They will provide general practice, ambulance, and postal and courier capabilities in theatre. In total, we will call out 150 personnel from 251 and 253 Field Ambulance (Volunteers) and up to 20 personnel from 87 and 88 Regiments Postal and Courier Services. Personnel will serve for up to seven months, with the first deployments in June.

Defence Estates

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to relaunch Defence Estates.[HL2366]

Lord Bach: Defence Estates (DE) is being relaunched today as an agency of the Ministry of Defence with new responsibilities. This follows consideration, within Project Alexander, of how the defence estate should best be managed as a corporate asset. In particular, the new arrangements will clarify customer/supplier relationships.

The changes are in line with the overarching and comprehensive strategy for the defence estate set out in In Trust and On Trust in June 2000 and also represent a further application of the principles of Smart acquisition within the department.

In future, Defence Estates will be responsible and accountable, through its chief executive, for managing the delivery of estate maintenance and new works to meet internal customers' requirements. This will be achieved by: managing the defence estate as a

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corporate asset; developing, maintaining and implementing an estate strategy, consistent with policies and standards (including environmental sustainability criteria); devising and implementing an agreed programme with customers that provides a corporate and long-term view of requirements consistent with the estate strategy; delivering the solutions and estate management services to meet the agreed estates programme to time, cost and quality; developing and maintaining an agreed core sites strategy; focusing MoD's activities onto fewer, larger sites; the management, maintenance and improvement of land, buildings and facilities to standards delivered, where appropriate, through robust and well-managed contracts with service providers.

In parallel, and working closely with DE, six customer estate organisations (CEstOs) are being established to specify estate requirements in output terms for each of the main areas of the department (Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force, Defence Logistics Organisation, the Centre/Defence Procurement Agency, and the Permanent Joint Headquarters).

Copies of DE's framework document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Financial Services Authority Chairman

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who has been appointed to the chairmanship of the Financial Services Authority.[HL2364]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Chancellor of the Exchequer has today announced that Callum McCarthy has agreed to be the next chairman of the FSA. With experience of the public sector, as a senior practitioner in the financial services industry and as chairman of a highly successful regulator, he will prove invaluable to the FSA as it tackes the regulatory challenge of the future. Callum McCarthy will take up his new duties in September.

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