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GM Maize

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what opinions the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment has received from the Advisory Committee on Feedingstuffs (ACAF) on the dossier of evidence presented by Aventis in support of its application for marketing consent for T25 GM maize, with particular reference to their opinion on the chicken

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feeding study; and if she will place a copy of ACAF's opinion in respect of (a) the whole dossier and (b) the chicken feeding study in the Library. [4932]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 19 July 2002]: At the request of the department, The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) has, since November 2000, been considering the criticisms of the safety of Aventis' (formerly AgrEvo and now Bayer Cropscience) GM maize, T25, which has been raised at the hearing into the addition of CHARDON LL (a variety of T25) to the national list of seeds. ACRE subsequently requested advice from ACAF on the animal feed aspects of the criticisms.

AgrEvo applied in 1995 through the French authorities for approval under EU directive 90/220 to place its GM T25 maize on the European market for cultivation and use as animal feed. In June 1995 France circulated the dossier to the other member states with the recommendation that T25 maize be given approval. After due consideration European Union member states approved the marketing of T25 maize in 1998. As part of this process ACRE considered the French opinion and dossier supporting the application and gave its advice to the government in June 1996. This was prior to the formation of ACAF. The chicken feeding study was not part of the original dossier submitted in 1996 and so was not considered by ACRE. A summary of the study was circulated by the French in 1997 as supplementary information on the nutritional qualities of the maize. The French authorities were of the view that the study did not add any significant new information to the dossier. Officials in MAFF considered the study, but as it was a nutritional rather than a safety study, it was not sent to ACRE.

In reconsidering aspects of the T25 maize dossier ACRE has asked ACAF to look at the available data and advise on the substance of the criticisms raised at the CHARDONLL hearing in relation to animal feed and in particular the mortality rate in the chicken study. The growth rates in the two groups were broadly equivalent, but of the 140 fed T25 maize grain, 10 chicks (7 per cent.) died, whereas only 5 of the 140 (3.5 per cent.) died in the control group. In this type of experiment up to 8 per cent. would be expected to die. So the mortality rate is within the expected range. The question raised in the CHARDONLL is whether this is of concern and worthy of further investigation.

A copy of the letter of 5 September 2001 from ACAF to ACRE setting out the committee's views on the whole dossier and the chicken feeding study has been placed in the Library. A copy is also on the public register held by my Department in Ashdown House

In summary, ACAF is satisfied that, on the basis of the information presented by AgroEvo, there is nothing to indicate that T25 maize grain or its products pose any more risk to animals or humans than non-GM maize varieties if used in animal feed. I have asked ACAF for their reasons for this conclusion. However, ACAF advised ACRE that the data in the dossier are not sufficient to conclude at this stage, that T25 silage (rather than grain) is substantially equivalent to other maize varieties. Although it is unlikely that T25 maize silage is unsafe to feed to animals, its equivalence should

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be confirmed. The UK regulatory authority has subsequently written to Aventis to request further data on the composition of T25 silage.

ACRE has given preliminary advice that nothing has been raised that warrants taking immediate action under the directive to withdraw T25 maize from the market. ACRE will shortly be issuing its advice on concerns raised during the CHARDON LL hearing, including criticisms of the chicken feeding study. This advice will also include ACRE's response to points raised at its T25 maize open hearing held in February 2002. At their hearing the Committee, in conjunction with ACAF, invited a number of witnesses and experts including Dr. Kestin and Dr. Knowles. Guided by the evidence taken at this meeting, any subsequent comments on the evidence from the public and the background information that is already available, ACRE will advise Ministers further on the validity of the T25 risk assessment.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) shelters, (b) bedsits and (c) houses in multiple occupation were registered as unfit for habitation in each year since 1997. [77421]

Mr. McNulty: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is not held centrally, and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations she has received concerning the adequacy of (a) safety standards, (b) energy efficiency standards and (c) furnishing and fixture standard regulations applied to homes of multiple occupancy; and if she will make a statement [77414]

Mr. McNulty: I have been asked to reply

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister receives regular correspondence from Members of Parliament, the public, local authorities, landlords, tenants, professional and other interested bodies about the adequacy of the current standards applying to houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), including those relating to safety standards, energy efficiency standards and furnishings and fixtures. The Government is committed to raising standards in such properties, which is why we will introduce legislation, as soon as parliamentary time permits, to require local authorities to licence HMOs which pose the greatest risk to the health and safety of their occupiers in their areas.


Devolution Cases

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Advocate General, how many devolution cases have proceeded up to the Privy Council; and in what percentage of those she has intervened. [77258]

The Advocate-General [holding answer 28 October 2002]: Eleven cases have proceeded to the Privy Council and I have intervened in seven.

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Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Advocate General, what is the total sum of court expenses incurred as result of her intervention in devolution cases since the inception of her Office. [77259]

The Advocate-General [holding answer 28 October 2002]: The question of expenses in a court action is a matter for the discretion of the court and any expenses awarded to or against a party may be referred to the auditor of court. Since the inception of my Office, no expenses have been awarded to or against the Advocate-General in devolution cases in which I have intervened.

Budgetary Provision

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Advocate General, what the (a) total cost and (b) budget provision for her Office has been each year since its inception. [77260]

Advocate-General [holding answer 28 October 2002]: I refer to the answer I previously gave to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) for the period from the inception of my Office until 2000–01, in Official Report, 25 January 2002, column 1127W The figure for 2001–02, in respect of identifiable costs of staff and related administration for my Office, was #1,431,426. Approximately half of the costs of the Office relates to work on litigation and advisory work, including the preparation of Bills, carried out by lawyers from the Office of the Solicitor to the Advocate-General on behalf of Government Departments other than the Advocate-General. These costs were met from within the overall budget of the Scotland Office.

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Advocate-General, how many devolution cases have been intimated to her since the inception of her Office. [77257]

The Advocate-General [holding answer 28 October 2002]: Devolution issues are intimated to me in accordance with the Scotland Act 1998 as devolution minutes. There may be more than one minute intimated in the course of a case. As at 6 November 2002, approximately 1746 minutes were intimated to me in connection with a total of 1575 cases.

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Advocate General, in how many devolution cases she has intervened since the inception of her Office. [77256]

The Advocate-General [holding answer 28 October 2002]: I have intervened in 24 cases since the creation of my office in May 1999.


Departmental Websites

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, if she will list the website links associated with her Department, including sites now dormant or closed, and indicating whether they are live, dormant or closed; what the start-up costs were for each site listed; what the operating costs were in each year since start up for each site; which company hosted each site; what assessment takes place for each site; which company does the assessment; if she will place the assessment reports in the Library; and if she will make a statement. [75592]

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Mrs. Liddell: The Scotland Office website is and was set up by departmental staff. Identifiable costs for the Scotland Office were #2,700. Operating costs for the site are currently estimated at #2,000 per year. The site is hosted by Scotland On-Line.

My department is also responsible for the Friends of Scotland website (, which was established on 23 July 2002. Start-up costs were #62,623. Details of annual operating costs are not yet available but maintenance and development costs to date are #4,711. The site is hosted by Ed Net.

Both of these sites are live. My department also set up an initial Friends of Scotland website ( earlier this year. This site was set up within the department and the start-up and operating costs were minimal. The site was hosted by Scotland On-Line and is now closed.

No external companies have been commissioned to provide an assessment of the department's websites. The content and use of the sites is kept under review within the department.

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