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CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

Tourism

Mr. Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport which European cities have been visited by Ministers to promote UK tourism during the past two months. [158900]

Mr. Chris Smith: Government Ministers and those in the devolved administrations are using every opportunity to promote the British Tourism industry overseas. Ministers in my Department have used recent visits to Valencia (Spain) and Portoroz (Slovenia) to get the message across that it is still perfectly safe to come to the United Kingdom and that there is plenty to see and do.

In addition, my hon. Friend the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting visited the USA in March to reinforce this message and I, myself have just returned from a similar visit to Canada.

Special Advisers

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the total cost was of employing special advisers in his Department from 1997 to date. [160044]

Mr. Chris Smith [holding answer 1 May 2001]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 1 May 2001, Official Report, columns 607-08W.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Derek Foster: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made towards eradicating foot and mouth disease; and if he will make a statement. [160584]

3 May 2001 : Column: 737W

Mr. Nick Brown: I am placing in the Libraries of the House today the latest graphs produced for the Chief Scientific Adviser's Group on the course of the disease. These demonstrate that in the seven day period ending Wednesday 2 May there was an average of approximately eight new confirmed cases each day compared with 16 in the seven day period ending 22 April and with a weekly average of 43 at the peak in late March. We can therefore be optimistic about the future course of the disease, although the Chief Scientific Adviser has warned that cases will continue to occur for some time yet.

It is clear that our policy to bear down on the outbreak swiftly and prevent spread of the disease through slaughtering of animals in infected premises within 24 hours of the case being reported, tracing dangerous contacts and tackling the disease on contiguous premises within 48 hours, has been effective. This has been crucial to the control of the epidemic.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the cause of the foot and mouth disease outbreak. [160407]

Mr. Nick Brown: Investigations into the cause of the outbreak continue. I will inform the House of the outcome as soon as I can.

Mr. Key: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will allow livestock markets to open as collection centres for slaughter stock. [156003]

Ms Quin [holding answer 29 March 2001]: We have consulted on the conditions under which collecting centres should be licensed and will issue guidance in the light of veterinary advice.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions have taken place with the Environment Agency at (a) national and (b) local level in respect of the merits of (i) burying and (ii) incineration of animal carcases arising from the slaughter of animals due to foot and mouth disease. [156374]

Ms Quin: The Ministry, National Assembly for Wales and the Environment Agency have agreed joint working arrangements and principles for disposal activities associated with foot and mouth disease. Ministry officials have held, and continue to hold, discussions with representatives of the Environment Agency and other Government Departments. These have included discussions on the merits of different options for the disposal of animal carcases.

At a local level the Ministry, (including the Divisional Veterinary Manager) Environment Agency, health authority, environmental health departments of local authorities and others are involved in assessing risk to human health and the environment and the options for disposal, taking account of the location, type and quantity of material for disposal.

Following a Risk Assessment, carried out by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), the Government decided to provide the option of burial for cattle born after 1 August 1996, as these younger cattle were born after animal feed controls were fully enforced and therefore pose the lowest risk of BSE infectivity of any cattle in the national herd. Older cattle will continue to be burnt or rendered.

3 May 2001 : Column: 738W

The Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright has also been involved in advising MAFF on the disposal of carcases, and the assessment of the level of risk.

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his oral statement of 27 March 2001, Official Report, column 843, on foot and mouth disease, what reasons underlay the decision not to consider the use of napalm as a fuel for burning carcases. [156464]

Ms Quin [holding answer 2 April 2001]: There are two forms of napalm available, which both produce very toxic compounds when they burn. We therefore cannot use them because of the public and environmental health risks.

We recognise that burning at higher temperatures is more efficient and cleaner, and so there is a need to increase the temperature of pyres, particularly at the beginning of the burn while the water in carcases is being driven off. We have therefore commissioned urgent studies, in collaboration with MOD, on the possible use of gelled fuel mixtures to increase the temperature.

Mr. Duncan: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what provision he has made for permitting persons to enter foot and mouth infected areas for the purpose of artificially inseminating dairy cows to avoid the drying-up of milking herds. [156912]

Ms Quin [holding answer 5 April 2001]: Inseminators are now permitted to visit a single premises on any one day for the purpose of artificial insemination, subject to strict hygiene conditions. A farm may not be visited for insemination more frequently than once a week and no semen may be taken off the farm.

Premises under Form A or Form D restrictions or within the 3 km zone around an infected premises, and those within 8 km of a premises subject to Form C restrictions are considered to be high-risk premises and, for disease control purposes, such visits are not permitted for these farms.

Helplines

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what telephone helplines to assist the public are administered by his Department and its agencies. [159510]

Ms Quin: The Department provides the following helplines:

MAFF Helpline--A general helpline providing information and assistance across the range of MAFF's activities. The MAFF helpline number is 08459 33 55 77, and the service is available from 09.00 to 17.00 hours, Monday to Friday.

British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) Helpline--This provides information and advice on the administration of the Cattle Tracing System. The BCMS helpline number is 0845 050 1234, and the service is available from Monday to Friday 08.00 to 17.30 hours, and on Saturday from 09.00 to 13.00 hours.

Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) Helpline--This handles inquiries on the operation of PETS. The PETS helpline number is 0870 241 1710, and the service is available from Monday to Friday 08.30 to 17.00 hours.

3 May 2001 : Column: 739W

MAFF have set up a helpline for callers wanting general advice on the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The helpline number is 0845 050 4141, and the service is currently available 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Animal Welfare

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make it his policy to seek to persuade the EU Council of Ministers to introduce a trade-restrictive measure designed to promote animal welfare. [159058]

Mr. Morley: Trading practices must comply with conditions set out in World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements. The Government have succeeded in getting animal welfare on to the agenda of the current WTO agriculture negotiations and will continue to promote the issue both there and in the EU.

ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS

East-West Rail Route

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he received from the Strategic Rail Authority its study of east-west rail connections through or under London; if he will make a statement about the Government's policy towards a new east-west route; and if he will place a copy of the study in the Library. [159688]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 30 April 2001]: The Strategic Rail Authority sent the report on their extensive study into the issues relating to rail travel on an east-west axis across London to the Secretary of State on 20 December 2000.

Following additional appraisal work within the High-Level Group (the Minister for Transport, the Mayor and the Chairman, Strategic Rail Authority), which was set up to develop a co-ordinated approach to London rail projects, we have agreed next steps. Work will start immediately on project definition and design development of a central, cross-London rail link, the tunnel section of which could follow the alignment of the CrossRail scheme. The work will look at alternative service patterns and access to Heathrow. This will lead to a recommendation on the option to be taken forward. At the same time, work will start on a feasibility study of a south-west to north-east London rail link, the tunnel section of which could follow the alignment of the Chelsea-Hackney scheme.

This work will be taken forward jointly by the Strategic Rail Authority and Transport for London, under the guidance of the High-Level Group.

I am arranging for copies of the Strategic Rail Authority's report to be placed in the Library and published on the SRA website.


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