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Written Answers

Monday 10 March 2008

Agriculture: BSE

Lord Vinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The Community TSE Regulations ((EC) 999/2001) lays down the rules for prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE). This requires that the spinal cord of sheep and goats over 12 months of age, or which have a permanent incisor erupted, must be removed and stained and disposed of as specified risk material (SRM). The Community regulation does not specify any method of removal and no particular methods of removal are specifically European Union approved.

We have been advised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that the latest Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) advice on the prevalence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United Kingdom sheep flock is that it may be zero or in the worst case no more than 10 flocks would be affected. SEAC has also advised of the importance of maintaining current SRM controls in order to minimise public health risk were BSE ever to enter the sheep flock and that a possible human health risk from atypical scrapie (another TSE of sheep) cannot, at present, be ruled out. SEAC has not issued any advice on the method of removal of spinal cord in sheep and goats.

We have also been advised that the FSA will be re-examining the effectiveness of the suction method for removal of sheep spinal cord and the possible methods of verification of complete removal. The agency will remain in close contact with the industry during this re-evaluation of the issue.

Agriculture: Foot and Mouth Disease

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Testing of swill for the presence of the foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus was not carried out, either on a general or specific basis.



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The noble Baroness may be aware that more than one inquiry into the 2001 FMD outbreak found that there were strong grounds for concluding it was caused by feeding unprocessed swill to pigs at the index premises. All the epidemiological evidence points towards this being the correct conclusion, although the body of evidence would not include empirical results from testing of swill.

However, testing of unprocessed swill for the presence of the FMD virus would be of limited value. The chances of detecting FMD in a batch of swill, if present, would be minimal and would not help reliably to establish the absence of such virus with any degree of confidence. With such a virulent disease, a little virus goes a long way, and as we have seen, its presence combined with any failure in processing requirements has disastrous consequences.

Once the FMD epidemic unfolded in 2001, it became imperative that the ban on swill feeding should be introduced urgently. This was due to the background level of virus which would have been present. Testing of batches of swill prior to processing would not have helped in those circumstances. The greatly increased risks with its use needed to be curtailed as soon as it was practicably possible.

Agriculture: Potatoes

Lord Taylor of Holbeach asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The financial element of the British Potato Council's (BPC) 2005-06 annual reports and accounts was completed on time.

However, a number of issues arose during both the drafting of the commentary at the BPC, and clearance of the commentary section through Defra and its auditors, as well as in the printing of the final document. This led to the eventual delay in publication.

The BPC's audit committee and Defra were kept up to date with these issues, and lessons were learnt for the production of future documents. The format of the BPC's report and accounts is laid down in its parent legislation, the Industrial Development and Organisation Act 1947. This Act specifies no requirement to include statistics along the lines the noble Lord refers to. However, the BPC does gather and publish such data, which are available on its website at www.potato.org.uk.

Armed Forces: Compensation

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): As at 12 February there were fewer than 30 cases whose serious multiple injuries were sustained before the Amendment Order 2008 (SI 2008/39) came into force and who were paid an exceptional additional benefit under Article 15B of the new rules. Under the rules of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, individuals have up to five years in which to make a claim. Accordingly, there may be others who have yet to claim. It is estimated that payment of additional benefits will cost an additional £2 million to £4 million following the revised rule coming into effect. Total cost for the cases paid so far amount to £1,009,481. This has been met from within the existing costs of the scheme. No other areas of the scheme have been reduced to supplement the changes.

Armed Forces: Healthcare

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): This issue was raised in the House of Commons Defence Select Committee report Medical Care for the Armed Forces, published on 18 February 2008. The Government are currently considering the committee's recommendations and will submit their formal response to the committee within the next two months.

However, the MoD already has a number of processes in place to ensure that best practice is shared between the Defence Medical Services and the National Health Service.

When not deployed overseas, DMS medical personnel who work in secondary care maintain their clinical skills in the NHS, ensuring cross-pollination of the skills they develop while on deployment and NHS best practice. Similarly, NHS reservists bring the clinical and crisis management skills they learn on operations back into the NHS.

We also share the results of defence medical research. DMS personnel undertaking research publish their papers in the wider scientific press, and deliver presentations at both national and international civilian clinical conferences. Advances in military emergency medicine have influenced recommendations from the Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee. Also, our Royal Centre of Defence Medicine is hosted at University Hospital Birmingham Foundation Trust, a centre of excellence for polytrauma medicine, and the closest cross-fertilisation exists between them, and with field hospitals in theatre.



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We also share best practice with the Medical Research Council, for example to increase awareness of our recent enhancements in battlefield medicine that may have wider A&E applicability. We have also engaged with Dame Carol Black's review of health in the workplace, where our rehabilitation programmes are seen as leading the field in getting severely injured people back to work. Such work is taken forward within an overall framework that is overseen by the cross-government MoD/UK Health Departments Partnership Board.

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: This issue was raised in the House of Commons Defence Select Committee report Medical Care for the Armed Forces, published on 18 February 2008. The Government are currently considering the committee's recommendations and will submit their formal response to the committee within the next two months. However, the MoD already has measures in place for the transfer of medical records of personnel leaving the services.

All individuals leaving the Armed Forces are given a summary of their medical records, which they are advised to give to their new civilian GP when they register. If the GP wishes, they can request a copy of the full medical record from the appropriate single service.

For medical discharges that require an ongoing medical care plan to be put in place, the military consultant in charge of medical care will arrange the handover of care to his civilian counterpart, much in the same way as a handover of care is arranged for civilians moving from one primary care trust to another. The transfer of medical records will form an integral part of the process.

Buncefield Explosion

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): There is currently no intention to extend the scope of either the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 or the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 to include “Buncefield type” sites (both of these regulatory regimes will be replaced by the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 on the 6 April 2008). These “Buncefield type” sites are regulated under the Control of Major Accident Hazards

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Regulations 1999 (COMAH) by the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, as the competent authority.

The incident has been investigated by the Buncefield Major Incident Investigation Board. The board has produced several investigation reports containing recommendations for the design and operation of fuel storage sites and emergency preparedness for response to and recovery from incidents. The competent authority is working with industry and others to implement these recommendations.

Buses

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government are aware of the concerns of bus operators and local authorities but are confident that the overall level of funding for the statutory minimum provision of concessionary travel is sufficient. The Government provided an extra £350 million in 2006-07 and £367.5 million in 2007-08 for the statutory concession and are now providing councils with a further £212 million dedicated to funding rollout of the extension to the statutory scheme. For many local authorities this will equate to increases of more than 33 per cent against what they currently spend on concessionary travel. Our proposed distribution of additional funding for an extension to an England-wide concession from April is through a formula-based special grant, as requested by local authorities. A report on the grant has been laid before the House.

The formula used to allocate the funding takes explicit account of the likely drivers of cost of the new concession and is based on the most popular options among respondents to our recent consultation on the issue.

In agreeing reimbursement with bus operators, authorities must work to ensure that they are left “no better and no worse off”. If an operator considers that the reimbursement arrangements are not appropriate they may appeal to the Secretary of State.

Climate Change: Carbon Emissions

Lord Taylor of Holbeach asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced the

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framework for the code of best practice for carbon offsetting on 19 February. The code is designed to set standards for how offsets are sold to consumers.

The code will initially allow only Kyoto-compliant credits from the regulated market which includes certified emissions reductions (CERs).

However, the Secretary of State has challenged the industry to develop a standard for voluntary emissions reduction credits (VERs). If this industry standard is sufficiently robust, VERs accredited under this standard can also be included in the Government's code of best practice.

Cuba: Religious Freedom

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Although there are some controls placed on their administrative management, religious organisations in Cuba are numerous and are expanding. The UK's policy on Cuba aims to encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as set out in the EU Common Position of 1996. The UK makes regular representations to the Cuban Government on human rights issues and will continue to do so. We welcome existing dialogue between religious organisations and the Cuban state, including the recent visit of Cardinal Bertone from the Vatican.

Department for International Development: Access to Justice

Baroness Stern asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: The Department for International Development's project reporting system does not currently collect this information, although we will be able to report annual expenditure for next financial year onwards. The department is currently committed to spending £135 million on projects to improve security and access to justice in 13 countries around the world. The department also contributes to the management of the conflict prevention pools. Current commitments to security and access to justice programmes within the pools total £28 million.

Baroness Stern asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Baroness Crawley: Yes. There are 218 governance, conflict and social development advisers currently working across the Department for International Development on country programmes, in policy roles and influencing international organisations. Analysis of conflict, insecurity and access to justice are core skills for these advisers.

The White Paper sets out objectives for the whole of government. DfID's advisers work with colleagues from a range of other government departments in order to realise the commitments in Chapter 4 of the paper.

Department for International Development: Air Miles

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: DfID does not hold records of accrued air miles. The staff handbook contains guidance on the use of air miles, which can be used only for official purposes.


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