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Euro Programme

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what work has so far been undertaken by his Department's Euro Programme team; what range of costs has been estimated by the DSS Euro Programme team for the cost of converting the social security system into euros; and when a report on the DSS Euro Programme team's work will be published. [159700]

Angela Eagle: The Department is conducting work in accordance with the guidance given in the Outline National Changeover Plans and reported in the Fourth Report on Euro Preparations published on 6 November 2000. Should the UK decide to enter the single currency, costs to the Department will depend on the approach taken and this is not yet known. There are no plans to prepare a report on the DSS Euro Programme team's work.

Fraud (Scotland)

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the recorded rate of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit fraud was in Scotland in each year since 1997. [159697]

Mr. Rooker: The information requested is not available.

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At the start of April this year we began the Housing Benefit Review which will, for the first time, deliver a continuous, comprehensive, national measurement of programme loss through fraud and error in Housing Benefit.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Incapacitated Patients

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many responses she has received to the consultation paper, "Who Decides? Making Decisions on Behalf of Mentally Incapacitated Adults" (Cm 3803); how many respondents were (a) in favour of and (b) against withholding food and fluids from incapacitated patients who are not dying; and if she will make a statement. [159181]

Jane Kennedy: Over 4,000 responses to the consultation paper were received. The question of whether respondents were in favour of or against withholding food and fluids from incapacitated patients who are not dying was not posed in the consultation paper. The consultation paper did ask whether the discontinuation of artificial nutrition and hydration should be lawful for defined patients if certain statutory criteria are met and whether "patients who have no prospect of recovery who are either unconscious or in a permanent vegetative state" is a suitable definition for this class of patients. There was a large and varied response to these questions.

Domestic Violence

Ms Moran: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will list measures she has taken to tackle domestic violence since 1 May 1997. [159417]

Jane Kennedy: The Government implemented Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996, with the exception of section 60 of the Act, in October 1997. Part IV of the Act provides for a single set of civil remedies to deal with domestic violence and to regulate occupation of the family home, through two specific types of order: the occupation order and the non-molestation order. These remedies are available at all levels of court (magistrates, county, High) with jurisdiction in family matters. The remedies are available to both men and women. A much wider range of people are able to apply for orders under Part IV than under the previous law. In addition, police powers to deal with domestic violence have been strengthened. Consideration is currently being given to the implementation of Section 60, which provides for third-parties to make applications under Part IV.

During 2000, the Children Act Sub-Committee of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Board on Family Law proposed guidelines on child contact and domestic violence. These guidelines have recently been endorsed by the Government and have the support of the President of the Family Division. Although primary legislation is felt to be premature at this stage, the guidelines have been partially incorporated into law following the judgment in Re L, V, M. & H. The Government are promulgating the guidelines, with the help of the President of the Family Division, through the Judicial Studies Board and a variety

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of other sources. The Government will also monitor the effectiveness of the guidelines and keep under review the possible need for legislation in the future.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Animal Transports (EU)

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he next plans to meet the President of the European Commission to discuss transport of animals between EU states; and if he will make a statement. [158640]

Mr. Morley: There are no plans to meet the President of the European Commission at ministerial level. However, officials have been working closely with the Commission on expected proposals to strengthen the European Union Directive on the protection of animals during transport.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will investigate the reasons why the chief executive of the Intervention Board has not replied to the letter dated 6 April from Shropshire county council's chief trading standards officer regarding concerns over the handling of the foot and mouth crisis. [159984]

Ms Quin: Johnston McNeill, chief executive of the Intervention Board, replied to the letter from Shropshire county council on 27 April. This was one day outside the target IB sets itself for replying within 10 working days, owing to the exceptionally high workload generated by the Livestock Welfare (Disposal) Scheme.

Mr. Luff: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how long he estimates carcases buried at Throckmorton will take to decay fully; [157065]

Ms Quin [holding answer 5 April 2001]: Different parts of mammalian corpses decay at different rates (for example, horn and hair are slowly degradable). It is estimated that 60 per cent. of the carcase is readily degradable, 15 per cent. is moderately degradable, 20 per cent. is slowly degradable, and 5 per cent. is effectively inert. With respect to leachate production, it is estimated that within approximately 10 years the contaminant load will be reduced to background levels.

Mr. Luff: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what advice he is giving pig farmers with a build-up of stock during the foot and mouth outbreak about the disposal of slurry when they have no on-farm disposal facilities and their normal outlets refuse to take the slurry for use on agricultural land; and if he will make a statement. [157014]

Ms Quin [holding answer 5 April 2001]: Advice for farmers on agricultural practices during the foot and mouth outbreak is included in MAFF's literature and website, and is also posted on the NFU website.

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The Environment Agency has issued guidance on the management of organic wastes on farms. The Agency recognises that storage capacity for slurry storage may need to be increased as a result of the foot and mouth outbreak. Additional storage lagoons may be constructed provided they meet basic Agency requirements on siting, lining and construction in order to avoid any immediate risks to water. The Environment Agency should be contacted before proceeding with construction and use so that appropriate guidance can be given, and the location noted. The Agency can be contacted on 0845 933 3111 (9 am to 5 pm) or on their Emergency Hotline 0800 80 70 60.

Ms Walley: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what specifications are required from rendering plants receiving foot and mouth carcases. [156857]

Ms Quin: Rendering plants must meet a list of specifications, drawn up by the Ministry, in order to be permitted to receive carcases. It is crucial that all rendering plants used for the disposal of animals slaughtered as a result of the foot and mouth outbreak have adequate biosecurity measures in place. The Ministry also takes various factors into account when considering the use of a rendering plant, including the proximity of the nearest livestock holding and road access to the plant.

Any effluence from, and air exhausted by, the rendering plant is treated to kill the foot and mouth virus, and strict procedures are in place to ensure thorough cleansing and disinfection of all people and vehicles coming into contact with carcases.

Carcases for disposal at a rendering plant must be transported in leak-proof lorries. Leaks are checked for by part filling the lorries with water and tilting them to 30 degrees. All carcases are individually disinfected after slaughter and the lorries are covered with plastic sheeting, which is weighed down with straw or sawdust which is also heavily disinfected. The lorry is then covered with a tight fitting tarpaulin. This procedure reduces any risk of spread of the infection during transportation to a very low level.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer concerning VAT default surcharges enforced on VAT liabilities subject to time to pay arrangements introduced in response to the foot and mouth outbreak. [156814]

Ms Quin [holding answer 3 April 2001]: The Ministry has not raised this matter with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, the Rural Task Force under my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment will look at aspects of costs and burdens relating to the rural economy that arise as a result of the foot and mouth outbreak.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on what date the final decision on the slaughter of individual infected herds and flocks was devolved to inspecting vets without reference to (a) regional or divisional departmental offices and (b) the Department's offices in London. [156654]

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Ms Quin [holding answer 2 April 2001]: During an outbreak, foot and mouth disease may be diagnosed clinically by the vet on the ground when there are links apparent to other cases. This has been the case from the early stages of the current outbreak.

The normal practice is that the clinical diagnosis is phoned through to Head Office in London and authorisation to slaughter stock is then given during the same telephone call. However, my right hon. Friend the Minister and Chief Veterinary Officer advised on 27 March 2001 that the inspecting veterinary surgeon could authorise slaughter immediately to ensure the slaughter process was not delayed if any problem in communicating with Head Office occurred.

Mr. Baldry: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) when he expects that pigs at Manor Farm, Bucknell will be able to be moved for slaughter; [155655]

Ms Quin [holding answer 27 March 2001]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 24 April 2001, Official Report, column 256W.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what temperature the pyre is required to reach in the burning of animal carcases; how long it takes to reach that temperature; and what assessment he has made of the risk of airborne travel of the virus in the intervening period. [153954]

Ms Quin: The Pirbright Institute of Animal Health has informed the Ministry that the virus is inactivated at temperatures above 55 degrees centigrade. It is not possible to set a definite time required to reach this temperature. There may be small termo-resistant factions in which the virus survives up to 70 degrees, but the expert opinion is that these factions are insignificant in the possible spread of infection from pyres.

Once rigor mortis sets in (approximately 24 hours after slaughter) lactic acid accumulates, destroying the virus in the muscles. Carcases are sprayed with an approved disinfectant before being burnt which destroys a large amount of the virus, greatly reducing the risk of spread of infection from the outside of the carcase. These procedures ensure that much of the virus is destroyed before the pyre is lit, and reduces the risk of transmission of the disease via plumes from the pyre.

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received from the RSPCA in respect of the cull of sheep and cattle following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease; and if he will make a statement. [157898]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 23 April 2001]: I have been in regular contact with the RSPCA who are also represented on the foot and mouth disease stakeholder group and the foot and mouth Animal Welfare Consultative Group. They also have staff at the Intervention Board at Newcastle. Along with local government officers and MAFF staff their assistance with identifying priorities for the Welfare Slaughter Scheme and help with feed distribution has made an invaluable contribution to protecting animal welfare.

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Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if the veterinary surgeon who visited the Heddon-on-the-Wall farm in February and found evidence of foot and mouth disease in the pigs was the same veterinary surgeon who visited on 25 January; and if some of the same pigs were inspected on both occasions; [158445]

Ms Quin [holding answers 23 April 2001]: These matters are under inquiry. It would therefore not be appropriate to comment at this stage.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to ensure that no dead farm stock will be dumped at landfill sites adjacent to land on which sheep and livestock are kept. [157780]

Ms Quin [holding answer 10 April 2001]: It may not always be possible to use only landfill sites without neighbouring livestock. We will, however, arrange to purchase stock on land adjacent to a disposal site, if there is a pressing need.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when animals will be allowed to be slaughtered for food. [157392]

Ms Quin [holding answer 6 April 2001]: A licence to slaughter scheme was introduced on 2 March, with strict conditions to ensure that animals were moved directly to abattoirs approved by the Meat Hygiene Service on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Minister.

In addition, from 23 April animals from farms in the Infected Areas may be moved direct to slaughter to an abattoir within the same Infected Area. These movements are subject to a veterinary visit by a MAFF Local Veterinary Inspector who will carry out an inspection of the animals to check for clinical signs of foot and mouth disease.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ensure that his Department's website is kept up to date with comprehensive and accurate information, with particular reference to the location of new outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. [157370]

Ms Quin [holding answer 6 April 2001]: The website is updated a number of times every day. When new cases are confirmed, details of the infected premises are added to the site.

Mr. Luff: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made in (a) digging trenches and (b) burying carcases at Throckmorton airfield; and if he will make a statement. [157248]

Ms Quin [holding answer 6 April 2001]: The army has made good progress in constructing the mass burial site at Throckmorton airfield. The burial process began on 3 April 2001. As of 25 April, the carcases of 102,722 animals had been disposed of on site. This includes 89,404 sheep, 9,071 cattle, 3,842 pigs, 400 deer, three goats and two longhorns.

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Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the average price for (a) a cow and (b) a sheep was at markets on 1 February; and what it is currently. [159175]

Ms Quin: On 1 February, the average price for clean lambs was 111.44p/kilogram liveweight. Liveweight sales are not currently taking place, but the average price reported by abattoirs slaughtering sheep for human consumption in the week ending 6 April (the latest week for which confirmed figures are available) was 193p/kilogram deadweight, equivalent to 91p/kilogram liveweight. Cows are not normally allowed to be slaughtered for human consumption and their market price is therefore determined by the rates of payment fixed under the over-30-months scheme. In February, the rate of payment was 50.936p/kilogram liveweight. The scheme is currently suspended but, were it operational, the rate for April would be 49.536p/kilogram liveweight. The change in rates results purely from movements in the euro/sterling exchange rate.

Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the market price was for a pig on 1 February; and what the current price is. [159349]

Ms Quin: The average weekly GB pig price on 1 February was 95.85p per kg dead weight. The equivalent current market price, as reported on 25 April, is 95.54p per kg.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received about the application of the welfare disposal scheme to livestock from restricted areas. [159258]

Ms Quin [holding answer 27 April 2001]: We are conscious that there have been concerns about the ability of some farmers to dispose of animals through the Livestock Welfare (Disposal) Scheme. The scheme applies in Infected Areas as it does in all other parts of the country. Where premises are subject to more stringent restrictions, on-farm slaughter under the LWDS remains an option, and we are assessing applications to ensure that the most pressing welfare cases receive priority. We are endeavouring to maximise other avenues of disposal for animals in these areas, both in the LWDS and through slaughter for the market.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to review the compensation payments for cattle over-30- months old that could not be moved to slaughter because of foot and mouth restrictions; and if he will make a statement. [159423]

Ms Quin [holding answer 27 April 2001]: The rates of payment for cattle entered into the over-30-months scheme are set by EU regulations. As far as we are aware, the Commission has no plans to review these. The Government are keeping the position of producers affected in these ways under review. In the meantime, cattle of all ages may be entered into the Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme if the circumstances are appropriate.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what consideration he has given to the possible re-introduction of the disease in determining the 'stamp out' policy on foot and mouth disease; [157590]

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Ms Quin [holding answer 9 April 2001]: The UK and European Union import controls, based on recommendations in the International Office of Epizootics (OIE) International Animal Health Code, are designed to prevent the introduction of exotic diseases. This code sets out the conditions that will allow safe trade between countries of differing disease status.

The last outbreak of foot and mouth disease in this country was in 1981. Investigations at the time indicated that the likely transmission of the virus was wind-borne from France. A range of controls to prevent the introduction of foot and mouth disease (e.g. on imports and waste food disposal) have therefore been effective for the last 34 years.

If the existing controls are fully observed, the probability of reintroduction of foot and mouth disease is low. In addition, my Department is looking at what lessons can be learned from the current outbreak. Including putting in place measures to strengthen our current controls.

Once the country is free of foot and mouth disease, and in the event of any future outbreaks, our control policy will be in line with the EC Foot and Mouth Control directive and OIE's recommendations for re-establishing disease free status.


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