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Iraq: WMD Investigations

Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: From our analysis to date there is no evidence that components assessed to be of United Kingdom manufacture are of a specification that would warrant assessment as a dual use item for export licensing. Our investigations into the vehicles continue.

Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: The information was received in confidence from the government of the United States.

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Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any of the components of British manufacture from the two vehicles suspected of the production of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were bought using Export Credits Guarantee Department credits; and whether such credits were repaid by the Iraqi Government.[HL4336]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The coalition has not yet made a definitive identification of the vehicles and the components in question. As a result, it is not at present possible to determine whether any ECGD cover was involved. However, we currently assess that the vehicles were built in Iraq using Iraqi components and standard industrial components that had been obtained from several different countries, including the United Kingdom. The components of British origin would not have been restricted under the same sanctions regime.

Political Asylum

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Home Office, the Department of Social Security, the Inland Revenue or other government agencies have taken any action to ascertain the truth of the allegations made in the Sunday Mirror on 17 August that Jerzey Kacperowicz, Ewa Huczko and Tommy Kwiek are claiming political asylum from a member state of the European Union.[HL4367]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Information relating to the immigration status of an individual has to be treated as confidential and cannot be disclosed to other persons. This reflects the Home Office's legal obligations under common law, human rights and data protection legislation, and the treatment of private personal information under the Code of Practice on Access to Information. However, the Government will not hesitate to prosecute individuals, including asylum seekers, who have obtained benefit fraudulently where there is sufficient evidence to do so.

Common Agricultural Policy:Export Subsidies

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total amount of subsidy paid on agricultural exports from the European Union under the common agricultural policy in each of the last five years; whether they will break this down by commodities; and what was the effect of the subsidy in reducing prices (a) in total and (b) for each commodity.[HL4373]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The following table gives the total

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amount of subsidy paid on the export from the European Union under the common agricultural policy of the listed products in each of the last five years by commodity and in total.

Ecu/Euro millions

Arable Crops429.4883.1823.6259.899.3
Olive oil24.
Fruit and vegetables58.340.446.150.846.4
Other plant sectors49.630.538.438.741.1
Milk and milk products1,426.71,439.41,671.01,106.51,159.6
Pigmeat, eggs and poultrymeat165.2385.6348.2115.7104.4

In general export subsidies facilitate the export of products which would not otherwise be competitive on the world market. Export subsidies therefore reduce domestic EU supplies and increase extra-EU market supplies relative to the situation which would prevail in their absence. This implies that the EU price will be higher, and the external price lower, than in the absence of those subsidies.

However, the effect of any particular export subsidy on prices will depend on the method of administering the export refund system for that product, conditions on world markets, the geographical destination of

the exports and characteristics of the product consignment.

Brown Rot Eradication Campaign

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which watercourses have had restrictions relaxed following successes in the brown rot eradication campaign; and which section of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been responsible for this.[HL4396]

Lord Whitty: Potato brown rot is a serious disease of potatoes listed in the Plant Health Directive (2000/29/EC). A Control Directive (98/57/EC) is also in place, requiring member states to carry out surveys and take specific measures in the event of an outbreak. Potato brown rot is not established in the UK, but the organism which causes the disease has been detected in some watercourses, resulting in irrigation and spraying prohibitions for some potato and tomato growers. The organism persists in water through woody nightshade, another host plant, with roots in contaminated watercourses.

Defra (then MAFF) instigated a programme in 1998 to establish whether the removal of woody nightshade from the banks of selected watercourses would result

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in the elimination of the organism. This work is being co-ordinated by the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate with input from a number of government and industry organisations. Decisions about the introduction and removal of restrictions are taken by Plant Health Division, following an annual stakeholder meeting at which the plans and results for the monitoring and woody nightshade programmes are discussed.

In 2002, following two years of negative results, including testing at increased sensitivity in the second year, it was established that the organism had been eliminated from two watercourses associated with the River Nene (the Willowbrook and Ise) and part of the Nene itself, as well as the Hogwell Sewer in Kent. As a result, irrigation and spraying restrictions were lifted from these watercourses in March 2003. Defra's monitoring and woody nightshade removal programme is continuing in 2003 and details of plans and progress, as well as information about watercourses currently under restriction, are available on Defra's website at http://defra/planth/brownrot.htm

BBC: Accountability

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to make the BBC more accountable to the public.[HL4349]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): The charter review will provide the opportunity for a comprehensive appraisal of the BBC's role in the digital age. The review will be wide-ranging and will encompass an extensive process of public consultation and discussion, including opportunities for parliamentary scrutiny. It follows that the BBC's accountability will be an area for consideration. The Secretary of State will make an announcement about the charter review process over the next few weeks.

Olympic Games 2012: London Bid

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which dates the national governing bodies of the Olympic sports have met Barbara Cassani to hold detailed discussions on the London 2012 Olympic bid.[HL4473]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: London 2012 Ltd is liaising directly with the national governing bodies of the 28 Olympic sports in order to put together a sports proposal that will have the backing of both domestic and international federations. These discussions will be ongoing throughout the period of the technical bid preparations.

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NHS Dentistry

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for improving access to NHS dentistry in England.[HL4565]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): Subject to the will of Parliament, the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill will give primary care trusts new duties for commissioning local National Health Service dental services. Primary care trusts will have a duty to secure the provision of primary dental services either through contracts with individual practices or by providing services themselves. With these new responsibilities, the £1.2 billion currently held centrally for funding dental services will pass to primary care trusts.

Until then, we will continue to work with the NHS and the dental profession to support NHS dentistry and to reform it to meet local needs. We are today announcing additional funding of £65.2 million to support change and help improve access, quality and choice for patients. The funding will be targeted at those primary care trusts where access is a real problem and will be on top of the £1.2 billion which is currently held centrally and which will in time go to primary care trusts.

The £65.2 million will be used as follows:

    £35 million to enable primary care trusts to improve access, choice and quality for patients;

    £30 million for information technology to integrate dentistry within the national information technology programme;

    £200,000 to develop dental leadership skills within strategic health authorities and primary care trusts to support them with the dental change agenda.

This funding comes on top of the £9 million announced last month for the NHS support team that has been set up to work with those areas where it is hardest to find an NHS dentist and a further £1 million to help primary care trusts, local dental committees and dentists to prepare for the change in the way dental services are commissioned.

There are many examples of excellent NHS dental services and we want to reward NHS dentists and make practice in the NHS an attractive option. The programme of reform we are now embarked on will enable the NHS, dentists and patients to influence local services in the future.

As well as the changes flowing from the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill, we have also asked Harry Cayton, the director for patient experience and public involvement at the department, to undertake a review of patient charges for NHS dentistry. This review involves patient groups and other stakeholders and will be reporting to Ministers by April 2004.

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