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Animal Experiments

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy to establish a mandatory central database for registering animal experiments to enable the sharing of results. [40373]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 4 March 2002]: It is already Home Office policy to encourage the publication of the findings of research licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate, which assesses and advises on licence applications made under the 1986 Act, uses a range of resources to keep abreast of developments and results in research. The scientific community also maintains and uses databases to the same end.

However, the establishment of a mandatory central database for this purpose would be problematic. There would, in particular, be significant difficulties in ensuring the completeness and quality of the data and in ensuring that intellectual or commercial confidentiality were not compromised.

We believe that there is scope for further reducing the risk of duplication in the use of animals in scientific procedures by encouraging companies to share data. To this end, in August 2000, we announced an inter- departmental concordat on data sharing to enable Government Departments to reduce the duplication of tests on animals. The concordat commits United Kingdom regulatory authorities to help resolve legal and other obstacles and encourage data sharing between clients and thereby reduce animal tests. Progress in implementing the concordat will be reviewed in the next few months.

Moreover, there are a number of international and national initiatives to encourage data sharing. Most recent European directives under which regulatory work is done provide for the sharing of data. International assessment programmes have well-established and effective methods for data sharing, ensuring mutual acceptance of data and dissemination of information on chemicals. This also extends to dissemination of data to developing countries.

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Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department is taking to promote investment in alternatives to animal experiments; and if he will make a statement. [40372]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 4 March 2002]: The use of alternatives is widely encouraged and the use of animals in regulated procedures is prohibited by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 in cases where a scientifically valid non-animal alternative is available. Any lack of progress in research into alternatives is more often due to the limitations of science rather than inadequate funding.

Most work on alternatives is neither done by Government nor with Government money, as industry spends many millions of pounds each year on the search for and development of alternatives. None the less, every year the Home Office makes available to the Animal Procedures Committee a budget for research aimed at developing or promoting the use of alternatives which replace animal use, reduce the number of animals used, or refine the procedures involved to minimise suffering. Details of completed research projects are published in the annual report of the Animal Procedures Committee, which is available from The Stationery Office. The amount made available to the Committee for 2001–02 for this specific purpose has increased to £280,000.

This is not the only money spent by the Government on the development of alternatives, as other Departments are also active in this area. Indeed, it is estimated that the total spent by the United Kingdom Government is in the region of £2 million each year. To take this further on an international level, we will continue to support the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) through contributions to the European Union.

Working Conditions and Practices

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment has been made of the effect of the working time directive on his Department's employees; how many employees are working in excess of 48 hours per week; what steps he is taking to reduce this number; and if he will make a statement. [35889]

Angela Eagle: No formal assessment of the effect of the working time directive has been undertaken but it forms part of the Department's drive to reduce long-hours working by its staff. The Home Office is committed to achieving a proper work life balance for all staff as one part of its plans for greater diversity. Guidance to staff issued in November 2001 highlighted the requirements of the directive and emphasised the importance the Department places upon ensuring that employees are not required to work excessively long hours and the steps that managers should be taking to reduce them. Standard terms and conditions for staff employed by the Home Office are well within the limits set by the Working Time Regulations.

Centrally held records show that 83 Home Office staff have signed voluntary waivers, indicating that they have agreed to work in excess of 48 hours per week, averaged over a 17 week period. Records of staff signing these

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waivers in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and the Home Office agencies are not currently available centrally though the information is held locally.


Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the activities of the European Task Force of Police Chiefs, as identified in Council Document 13416/2/01, JA1 133. [39660]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Council Document referred to reports on the achievements of the Tampere action plan, when Heads of State and Government agreed, at Tampere in October 1999, to an ambitious programme of measures, which amplify and supplement the Amsterdam Treaty obligations but serve also to support the Treaty goal of creating an "area of freedom, security and justice". One of the areas for action is the Union-wide fight against international organised crime. The Police Chiefs Task Force (PCTF) was established to redress the problem that there was no forum in which senior police officers could decide to launch police operations against organised crime on the basis of Europol analyses.

The task force has met on four occasions. Work still needs to be done to ensure that it focuses on the planning and execution of actual law enforcement operations at Union level, though these operations need not involve all member states. We also need to ensure that the task force is adequately supported, and that it has a defined place within the institutional architecture of the European Union. This could mean it having a similar role and status to the existing working groups, such as that on Police Co-operation and Europol. The possibility that Europol, as well as providing intelligence could also provide a secretariat, serving both the Europol Management Board and the PCTF is being examined.

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the report to the Justice and Home Affairs Council by the Director of Europol on the coalition against terrorism. [39655]

Angela Eagle: The Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) of 20 September 2001 urged member states' police and intelligence services to ensure that relevant information on terrorist activity be passed to Europol and invited the Director of Europol to report to the JHA Council on 6/7 December 2001 on member states' input. In his report, the Director noted member states' increased willingness to share information with Europol. The Government are committed to enhanced international co-operation against terrorism both within and outside the European union and fully supports Europol's counter-terrorist remit. This commitment is reflected in the Europol Director's recognition of the level of contributions offered by the police and intelligence services, in accordance with the terms of the Europol Convention, to Europol's counter-terrorism effort.

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Europol-US agreement. [39654]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: This agreement concluded on 6 December 2001 provides for exchanges of information between Europol and the United States of America, covering strategic information including trends and

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developments in the methods used to commit offences, prevention strategies, threat assessments and crime situation reports. It specifically excludes the transmission of personal data. The Government attach importance to this agreement in the fight against organised crime.

Laeken Summit

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what programmes are envisaged under paragraph 40 of the Laeken conclusions, combating discrimination and racism. [39638]

Angela Eagle: Paragraph 40 of the conclusions of the Laeken Council identifies areas in which further work is needed in order to progress towards a common European Union immigration and asylum policy. It was agreed at the Tampere Council in October 1999 that measures to ensure the fair treatment of third country nationals, including measures to tackle discrimination and racism and xenophobia, should form part of such a policy. Key developments in implementing the Tampere Conclusions in this respect have included the adoption by the Council of two equal treatment directives in June 2000 and November 2000 respectively and the adoption of a Council Decision in November 2000 on a Community Action Programme (2001–06) to support member states' efforts in this area.

The Community Action Programme will explore practical ways of overcoming the barriers created by discrimination in many areas of everyday life by comparing and contrasting experiences in different parts of the European Union. The programme will work with national, local and regional bodies, social partners, non-governmental organisations, universities and research institutes, national statistical offices and the media on issues such as equality in public administration and the media, equal participation in political, economic and social life; equal access to housing, transport, culture, leisure, sport etc., and the monitoring and mainstreaming of anti-discrimination policies.

The Council has also recently started to consider a Commission proposal for a Framework Decision on combating racist crime.

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his policy towards increasing the number of JHA sessions under paragraph 37 of the Laeken conclusions, with reference to an increase in legislation and parliamentary scrutiny requirements. [39636]

Angela Eagle: The Laeken European Council concluded that holding more frequent meetings of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Ministers would help to overcome delays in implementing the conclusions of the Tampere European Council of October 1999. The Government attach great importance to the implementation of the Tampere European Council's conclusions and support more frequent meetings of JHA ministers provided that such meetings are focused on resolving obstacles to agreement on key measures in the Tampere programme. We also consider that two-day JHA Council meetings should be the exception rather than the rule.

The legislative work programme agreed at the Tampere European Council is substantial. Measures under negotiation in the Council are subject to scrutiny by

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Parliament, and some will require domestic legislation to implement. The increasing volume of justice and home affairs business at European Union level will have implications of our Parliament.

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his policy towards paragraph 43 of the Laeken conclusions, on the Public Prosecutor. [39640]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Commission Green Paper on Criminal Law protection of financial interests of the Community and the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor was published in December 2001. Its purpose is to launch a wide-ranging public debate about the possible creation of a European Public Prosecutor, responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of fraud against the Community budget. Member states have been asked to provide responses to the paper by 1 June 2002, and the Commission intends to hold a public hearing for interested parties in 2002.

A European Public Prosecutor as proposed by the Commission could be created only after amendment of the European Community Treaty. The Government remain unconvinced of the need for a European Public Prosecutor, and sees difficulties of both principle and practice in this proposal. We are preparing a response to the Green Paper, in consultation with interested departments and agencies, including non-governmental organisations.

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