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19 Sept 2002 : Column 411W—continued

GM Crops

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on recent research regarding genetically modified DNA material from crops finding its way into human stomach bacteria. [72447]

Ms Blears: Research funded by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has demonstrated that the likelihood of gene transfer from genetically modified crops into gut bacteria is extremely low and that fragments of DNA that survive in the gut are too small to change the nature of human gut bacteria.

Reports of the research are published on the FSA web site and copies have been placed in the Library.

19 Sept 2002 : Column 412W

Vaccinated Meat

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to prepare (a) consumers and (b) retailers for the possibility of eating or selling meat that has been vaccinated for foot and mouth disease. [72451]

Ms Blears: The Food Standards Agency has advised that there are no health concerns for consumers from eating meat, milk or other produce from animals vaccinated with any of the foot and mouth disease vaccines that are being considered for possible future use in the United Kingdom. The vaccine cannot infect people. All of the other ingredients in the vaccine are commonly used and do not give rise to safety issues.

Press Office

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) full time equivalents were employed by his press office and (b) secondees were placed in his press office in the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [70551]

Mr. Lammy [holding answer 22 July 2002]: Detailed information on the number of press officers employed by the Department during the financial year 1997–98 and 1998–99 was provided in Appendix II of the report "The Government Information and Communications Service" (HC 770) published by the Select Committee on Public Administration in 29 July 1998. Copies are available in the Library.

The table shows press office staff for January 2000, 2001, 2002

Jan 2000Jan 2001Jan 2002
No. Staff in Media Centre—Press Officers161922

Two secondees have been placed in the Department's press office over the last five years.


Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the costs were relating to the Department's websites for the financial year ended March; which company dealt with the website development; and if he will make a statement. [72490]

Mr. Lammy [holding answer 23 July 2002]: The cost of the Department's website for the financial year ending March 2002 are shown in the table.

Hosting and maintenance (£0,000)Website development and user research (£0,000)Estimated staff costs (£0,00)TOTAL (£0,000)

Website development and user research was undertaken by Worth Media and Planetary Tribe respectively in conjunction with Department staff.

The website regularly receives in the region of five million hits per month and is consistently placed in the top six most-visited Government website's.

19 Sept 2002 : Column 413W

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) whether it is his policy to ensure that documents referred to in parliamentary answers are available via his Department's website; [72271]

Mr. Lammy: The Department aims to be as helpful as possible in responding to hon. Members' Questions. Where it is helpful to refer hon. Members to other documents as part of the substantive reply, this may be done by making hard copies of documents available in the Library, or by reference to material available on the Department's website.

The majority of departmental publications are made available on the website through the Publications Library (POINT). The Department current policy is to retain all published online material on our website. This will be reviewed in the context of The Office of the e-Envoy's guidance on archiving websites when available.

The Department complies with minimum requirements set out in the Office of the e-Envoy's "Guidelines for UK Government Websites".

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average time taken by his Department to answer questions has been this Session; and if he will make a statement. [70048]

Mr. Lammy: The information requested can only be provided at a disproportionate cost. This is because the Department's Parliamentary database does not readily provide this information, which could only be obtained therefore by a manual count of the records. The Department has received over 10,000 written questions this Session so far. Even to perform the calculations on a reasonable sample would incur a disproportionate cost. A new database is being developed for the next session that should be able to provide this kind of management information on a routine basis.

The Department fully recognises the need to ensure that hon. Members receive prompt, timely and helpful replies to their questions. Ministers make every effort to ensure that this important instrument of accountability is given the priority that it needs and deserves. Where there are regrettable delays in answering questions this stems from a proper desire to maintain high standards of accuracy and helpfulness in replies. We will, however, continue to strive to make further progress with the equally important yardstick of timeliness.



Mr. Wareing: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will seek the co-operation of British companies engaged in oil exploration in Azerbaijan in assisting that country to deal with refugees; and if she will make a statement. [61600]

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Clare Short: Resolution of the refugee problem in Azerbaijan is ultimately dependent on a political settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh dispute with Armenia, which would permit resettlement of those displaced by the conflict.

My Department is currently funding a number of activities in Azerbaijan which seek to encourage greater responsibility from the private sector in ensuring that the benefits of their activities are widely shared.


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what contribution her Department is making to the efforts to achieve quality epidemiology and behavioural surveillance in the fight against AIDS in Asia. [67481]

Clare Short: We are supporting major HIV/AIDS programmes in six countries in the Asia: China, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, and Bangladesh. We are also considering programmes in other countries eg. Pakistan and Burma.

In all cases a critical component of that work is more effective epidemiology and enhanced behavioural surveillance, particularly in the two most populous countries of China and India. We are seeking to integrate such activities into national programmes and thereby enable improved chances for sustainability.

Due to the weaknesses in knowledge about the nature and scale of epidemic, this is key to organising a more effective response to HIV/AIDS in the region.

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on her Department's plans to target resources at supporting HIV/AIDS projects in developing nations. [67866]

Clare Short: My Department's plans for supporting HIV/AIDS projects are outlined in the HIV/AIDS Strategy Paper which was published in May 2001. A copy is in the Library of the House.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, pursuant to the answer of 25 February 2002, Official Report, columns 883–886W, what is meant by rights-based response to HIV/AIDS in Nepal; and if she will make a statement. [73294]

Clare Short: The UK has contributed £1.6 million to assist the Government of Nepal to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS into the general population, through interventions to stabilise and contain the concentrated epidemic among female sex workers and injecting drug users. These are vulnerable groups that are often harassed, stigmatised and have restricted access to services. The rights-based approach recognises the need to protect them from further marginalisation and discrimination, and to uphold their rights with regards to privacy, health and education.

The UK is also assisting the Government of Nepal with the development of its HIV/AIDS strategy for the next five years, and plans to make more resources available to implement the strategy.

19 Sept 2002 : Column 415W


Mr. Randall: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had recently with representatives of the Government of Yugoslavia about refugees within Yugoslavia. [67184]

Clare Short: Assistance for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia falls under the remit of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the European Commission Humanitarian Affairs Office (ECHO). We are supporting the work of these agencies by contributing significant amounts of funds, including 19.7 per cent. of the C=69.3 million ECHO budget (made up of C=47.8 million to Rep. of Serbia, C=14 million to Kosovo and C=7.5 million to Rep. of Montenegro).

In addition to this, we are working very closely with the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities on a programme of social and economic reforms that will help to improve the living conditions of the poorest people in the FRY, including refugees and IDPs. We are funding a £3.2 million programme of social policy reforms that will strengthen the delivery of social welfare, health, employment and education services in Serbia. We are also working closely with the World Bank on a major social services adjustment credit that will enable the Serbian authorities to make further progress in these areas.

These plans are described in detail in our Country Strategy Paper for the FRY, which is available in the library of the House.

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