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Further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 21 April (WA 214), saying that spines removed by vacuum are randomly checked, why all United Kingdom sheep over the age of 12 months have their spinal columns split and are individually checked. [HL3655]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): All consignments of fresh meat imported into the United Kingdom are subject to random inspection to check they are compliant with the relevant legislation.
It is the responsibility of the member state of origin to health mark each individual carcase as fit for human consumption, which indicates compliance with the Community (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy) Regulations and that all appropriate specified risk material has been removed. In the UK, we have taken the view that currently the only fully effective method of removing spinal cord from sheep over 12 months of age is by splitting the carcase first so that both the food business operator and enforcement officers can clearly see whether or not spinal cord remains present.
As I mentioned in my earlier Answers, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has advised the department that it is currently examining the effectiveness of alternative methods of removing spinal cord and verifying removal that do not require the carcase to be split. This will involve witnessing these alternative methods in action. The FSA has advised the department that they will arrange to meet with industry representatives to discuss the issue once their initial investigations have been completed.
What influence they expect to have on any decisions of the European Union on the registration and traceability of sheep, in view of the United Kingdom having the largest sheep flock in the European Union. [HL3657]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The Government are in regular contact with the European Commission and other member states on the registration and traceability of sheep. We are working, in conjunction with UK stakeholders, to secure amendments to the legislation that reduces the burden on the UK sheep industry, consistent with our objectives of ensuring that livestock disease can be identified and eradicated as quickly and efficiently as possible.
(a) what measurable improvements in traceability and disease control would result from the introduction of identification of sheep through electronic implants; (b) to what extent this would improve traceability beyond the existing double-tagging regime; and
22 May 2008 : Column WA206
Further to the Written Answers by Lord Davies of Oldham on 22 April (WA 2756) and 12 May (HL3251), what is the relevance of the possession of information by Arts Council England about the sexuality of members of the management committees, boards, governing bodies and councils of theatre organisations to the discharge of the public functions of Arts Council England. [HL3563]
Lord Davies of Oldham: Arts Council England collects the information to provide assurance that applicants are not discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Arts Council also has a duty as a public authority under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 to ensure it does not discriminate against any group.
What representations they are making to the Government of Belarus concerning (a) the beating and arrests of peaceful protesters on 25 March 2008; (b) the re-arresting of some persons recently released following European UnionBelarus dialogue; (c) requests for amendment of the law of 2002 on religious groups; and (d) generally on procedures guaranteeing freedom of religion. [HL3168]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Government continue to have serious concerns about the lack of respect for human rights in Belarus, including religious freedom, and monitor the situation closely. Our embassy in Minsk monitors details of arrests and detentions. We work closely with our EU and US partners to raise our concerns and maintain effective pressure for improvement, including through regular meetings of EU heads of mission in Minsk where human rights, religious freedoms and options for further action are discussed.
We are very concerned by the Belarusian Government's actions against protesters involved in the demonstrations on 25 March (and on 26 April). On 29 April the EU issued a statement highly critical of recent regime actions and the French ambassador, as EU presidency in Minsk, made a formal demarche on Foreign Minister Martynov. We were similarly concerned to learn of the
22 May 2008 : Column WA207
We are aware of a fine, equivalent to US$650, imposed upon a Protestant leader and pastor of the New Life Church for organising a signature campaign to petition amendments to the 2002 religious law. The organisers of the campaign were judged not to have registered the group collecting signatures. The harsh treatment of the New Life Church pastor reflects a wider issue about the registration of non-governmental organisations and civil society groups and human rights violations in general, about which the EU regularly raises concerns. Meanwhile, the continued curtailment of religious freedom for Christians is of concern.
Whether they will arrange a joint EU demarche calling on the Government of Belarus to implement all their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and, in particular, to cease deporting or barring the re-entry of foreign clergy and religious personnel. [HL3169]
Lord Malloch-Brown: The Government continue to have serious concerns about the lack of respect for human rights in Belarus, including the intimidation of civil society activists and detention of political prisoners, and monitor the situation closely. The continued curtailment of religious freedom, especially for Christians, is also of serious concern.
Our embassy in Minsk, along with EU partners, continues to raise human rights concerns with the authorities. They also maintain regular contacts with civil society organisations devoted to human and civil rights and observe their public demonstrations. The recent crackdown on civil society in general, including the severe sentencing of two more political prisoners, Sergei Parsyukevich and Andrei Kim on 22 and 23 April 2008 for their active participation in demonstrations in January 2008, is of particular concern especially since we understand that Mr Parsuykevich is in poor health.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 30 April (WA 24) about the cost of the Saville inquiry, whether an apology was offered for Tessa Jowell MP's statement that the inquiry had cost about £400 million. [HL3442]
Lord Rooker: My previous Written Answers dated 17 March (Official Report, col. WA 2) and 30 April (Official Report, col. WA 24) set out when the accurate costs of the Bloody Sunday inquiry were placed on record.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that net deforestation rates (which include felling have fallen since 1990-00, but that some 13 million hectares (about the same area as England) of the world's forests are still lost each year, including 6 million hectares of primary forests.
The FAO expects croplands in the developing world to expand by a net 3.8 million hectares a year over the next three decades. Gross expansion will be greater, because some farmland is abandoned and new demands may increase the pressure. The 10 countries with the largest net forest loss per year between 2000 and 2005 had a combined net forest loss of 8.2 million hectares per year.
The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from deforestation to be about 5.8 GtCO2/yr during the 1990s, and more recently 8.5 GtCO2/yr in 2004, which accounts for just over 17 per cent of global CO2 emissions. This is similar to the estimate in the Stern review, which was just over 8 GtCO2/yr for the year 2000. Deforestation has a particularly strong effect on emissions because trees in tropical forests typically hold, on average, about 50 per cent more carbon per hectare than trees outside the tropics.
In Montreal in 2005, the Conference of Parties (COP) under UNFCCC called for a two-year process to explore how deforestation in developing countries could be integrated into the climate process. A decision was agreed by the COP in Bali in 2007 which recognised that deforestation should be included in a post-2012 climate agreement and set out a process under the Bali action plan for establishing how to achieve this before the COP in Copenhagen in 2009. The UK Government are highly supportive of this decision, and are taking forward research in line with the Bali action plan to inform the development of an EU position.
What plans they have to increase funding for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's young witness support services beyond the seven areas so far given priority (Northern Ireland, Cheshire, Devon and Cornwall, Essex, Hull, Surrey and Swansea); and [HL3497]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): As part of the £37 million grant made to Victim Support this year (2008-09), £2 million is to provide an enhanced service for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses, including children.
In 2006-07 (the most recent year for which figures are available) Victim Support's witness service helped almost 31,000 young witnesses (under 18). Nine thousand volunteers contributed to the service provided by Victim Support.
The Office for Criminal Justice Reform is currently working on good practice guidance, based on existing schemes run by local safeguarding children boards, the NSPCC and Victim Support using both volunteers and paid staff, which will help local areas develop schemes to support young witnesses.
Which law enforcement agency, department or other statutory body has responsibility for investigating and prosecuting possible criminal breaches of (a) the Data Protection Act 1998, (b) the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and (c) the Computer Misuse Act 1990. [HL3267]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): (a) Investigation of breaches of RIPA would be investigated by the police or other relevant law enforcement agency; any subsequent prosecution would be taken forward by the CPS or other relevant prosecuting agency.
(b) The Information Commissioner is an independent body created by statute with responsibilities for investigating complaints made to him under the Data Protection Act 1998. Proceedings for offences in England and Wales can be instituted by the commissioner or by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. In Northern Ireland, offences would be instituted by the commissioner or by or with the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland. In Scotland, potential breaches investigated by the commissioner are prosecuted by the procurator fiscal.
(c) Under normal circumstances, the police would investigate any breaches of the Computer Misuse Act, and any subsequent prosecution would be handled by the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS has a number of high tech crime prosecutors who are trained to prosecute offences contrary to the Computer Misuse Act.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The UK/Croatia strategic partnership is delivering in many key areas. Among other projects, the UK has supported the development of alternative dispute resolution in the Croatian courts helping to reduce case backlogs and speed citizens' access to justice. There has been a wide programme of scholars visiting the UK, many with funds matched by host institutions or Croatian ministries. A UK anti-corruption adviser has provided legal and practical advice to the Ministry of Justice, towards meeting the requirements of the accession process. Co-operation between the two sides has led to UN-accreditation for the annual police peacekeeping training, held in Croatia, which also brings in participants from regional neighbours. Trade missions in both directions have developed direct business links, especially in priority sectors such as ports, financial services, and the environment. The two partners have also communicated the benefits of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership to the Croatian public, paving the way for a rise in levels of popular support and an invitation at the Bucharest summit.
Lord Malloch-Brown: The UK/Croatia strategic partnership that was launched in 2007 is a valuable tool in progressing co-operation between the two countries. This is a two-way partnership which has brought momentum to build upon in the ongoing process of reforms undertaken by Croatia. Close co-operation between the UK and Croatia will continue in the framework of this strategy and we will continue to explore new possibilities for our partnership.
To what extent the current United Kingdom/Croatian strategic partnership in Europe may provide a useful precedent within south-east Europe for states not yet candidates for membership of the European Union. [HL3635]
Lord Malloch-Brown: The UK/Croatia strategic partnership launched in March 2007 is a valuable framework for co-operation between the two countries. It sets out the areas in which the UK supports Croatia in which there is a two-way exchange of ideas, experiences and best practice in light of the shared strategic goal of Croatian membership of the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)and Croatia's role in spreading stability and prosperity to its neighbours.
Croatia's progress towards EU and NATO membership, and in making difficult but necessary reforms, shows what can be achieved through partnership and co-operation. In that context, Croatia has been playing a leading role in laying the basis for a stable and prosperous south-east Europe. This provides a useful model and precedent for other countries in the region.
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