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Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, does the Minister agree that 15 years ago the Waterhouse inquiry, for which I take some responsibility, looked at the whole serious problem of rabies in this country? No change has taken place which would justify the repeal of the Act which Parliament implemented on the recommendations of that report.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, for reminding the House of the conclusions of the Waterhouse Report which, as he rightly says, reached the conclusion that quarantine should stay and, indeed, that it should be tightened up in certain respects. Since that time, there has been no case of rabies outside of quarantine, and that in itself tells a very powerful story.
Lord Kimball: My Lords, will my noble friend assure the House that, before any steps are taken to relax the regulations, he will satisfy himself that the veterinary standards in the countries to the south and south-east of the European Community are as high and as well managed as those in this country?
Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend makes a very powerful point. It is the case that some European Union states are defined as "rabies-free" and others have had great success in reducing the incidence of cases through a widespread campaign of wildlife vaccinations. But there are countries in the Community and bordering it where rabies is still common.
The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, will the noble Earl tell the House whether there are any other countries in the European Union which, like us, do not have a dog registration scheme? As we do not have such a scheme, does that not put us in a very vulnerable position as regards having any sensible liaison with other countries
Earl Howe: My Lords, I shall need to take advice regarding which members of the European Union have a dog registration scheme and which do not. However, I am sure that the noble Viscount will agree that it is the simplicity of the quarantine system which has, in many ways, proved its success. It is automatic that any animal, whether registered or not, enters quarantine on arrival at these shores. I do not believe that the question of a registration scheme in this country would assist or indeed detract from that fact.
Lord Geddes: My Lords, in regard to the reply that my noble friend gave to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwynnamely, that there were no recent cases of rabies outside of quarantinecan he advise the House how many cases there have been of infected animals inside quarantine?
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am aware that there was a case of an animal developing clinical rabies while in quarantine in 1990, when a dog from Zambia developed the disease. Before that I believe there was a further case in 1983. Cases do occur from time to time, but they are by no means common.
Lord Gallacher: My Lords, the noble Earl has discounted the effectiveness of a dog registration scheme. However, if the quarantine system were to be abolished in this country, leading to demands from large sections of the public for the reintroduction of dog licensing in this country, would Her Majesty's Government respond to such a request?
Earl Howe: My Lords, some of the proposals put forward by the Select Committee would involve a de facto system of licensing. If any change were to be made, I believe that such a system would be necessary. It would be necessary to identify animals in a fail-safe manner.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I can reassure my noble friend on that score. Strict hygiene, supported by the use of poisoned bait, is being maintained in the Channel Tunnel to minimise the risk of colonisation by rodents. Should regular site inspections reveal any infestation by rodents, intensified treatment of specific areas will be carried out. Members of the state veterinary service and wildlife officers visit the whole area regularly to check on the measures and to give advice.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am not aware of any plans to introduce dog registration at short notice. However, I shall inquire of my right honourable friend and write to the noble Baroness if I am wrong in that respect.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, as the only common land border that we have with another EC country is that between Northern Ireland and the Republic, can my noble friend say whether it continues to be desirable for the Irish and ourselves to go step by step in the matter? Further, can my noble friend tell the House the attitude of the Irish Government?
Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend has made an important point. The Republic of Ireland is itself defined as rabies free as, of course, is the United Kingdom. My understanding is that the Government of the Republic are of one mind with ourselves.
The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Earl Ferrers): My Lords, Her Majesty's Government do not consider that the World Trade Organisation should be a specialised agency or a formal affiliate of the United Nations.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply, which I welcome. I wish the new organisation well in its future administration of GATT. However, is there any pressure from other governments and organisations for it to be part of the United Nations? Should not GATT be kept separate, if possible, from the horse-trading that has become a feature at the United Nations on different subjects? GATT negotiations such as those in the recent Uruguay Round seem difficult enough without wider complications.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the United Nations Secretariat did raise the idea of affiliation. However, it met with unanimous opposition from members of the World Trade Organisation. I entirely agree with my noble friend that the organisation should be kept separate from the United Nations.
Baroness Elles: My Lords, in view of the difficulties of ratifying the accords of the Uruguay Round, can my noble friend confirm that every member state of the European Union will be an individual member of the World Trade Organisation and not merely represented by the European Community as a whole?
Lord Ennals: My Lords, is there not a case for a very close liaison between the new World Trade Organisationwhich we all wish successand other UN specialised agencies in order to ensure very close contact? Was the decision taken a final or an interim one? Further, can the matter be reconsidered if it is thought that that would be helpful?
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I do not believe that we want to reconsider the question. The UK Government do not agree with that idea; nor, indeed, do any other members of the World Trade Organisation. However, I agree with the noble Lord that co-operation is important. We would support the establishment of observers among the World Trade Organisation and other inter-governmental organisations such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and so on. We are all in favour of co-operation, but that is different from saying that the organisation should be a part of the United Nations.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, UK scientists have been collaborating with international researchers for many years. For example, one of three World Health Organisation collaborating centres for influenza is based in the UK and is funded by the Government through the Medical Research Council. The Department of Health also funds research directly and further money has been provided by the European Commission for international surveillance.
Lord Molloy: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that worthwhile reply. It gives us some encouragement. However, is the Minister aware that influenza is still the greatest killer on earth? Indeed, 20 million people died in 1970, and millions die every year. People are a little concerned. Will the Minister consider the situation where there is a threat of infection when people are gathered together; for example, school children in their schools?
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