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16 May 1996 : Column WA63

Written Answers

Thursday, 16th May 1996.

Committee of the Regions: UK Nominee

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to announce the nomination of a new United Kingdom member to the Committee of the Regions to replace Mr. Roy Cross, who resigned last year.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary has recently nominated Councillor Robert Eccles, JP, an independent Member of Ryedale District Council and of the new Unitary York District Council to replace Mr. Cross.

EC Human Rights Commission Report: Greece v UK

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the report of the European Commission of Human Rights of 26th September 1958 in Application No. 176/56 Greece v United Kingdom (the first Cyprus case).

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Her Majesty's Government have no plans to publish the report of the case in question.

South Tripura Camps: Assistance for Refugees

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have seen the report on the visit of 20th April 1996 to the South Tripura camps, in which refugees from the Chittagong Hill Tracts are located, by Mr. Jayanta Bhattacharjee (Press Trust of India), Mr. Sekhar Dutta (The Telegraph, Calcutta) and Mr. Salyabrata Chakraborty (The Statemen, Calcutta), in which these journalists found that relief supplies had been cut off, and the refugees were not allowed to leave the camps without special permission; and whether they will propose to the Indian Government that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees be invited to send representatives to the camps to assess and help provide for the humanitarian needs of these refugees.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have seen the press reports concerned. Our High Commission in New Delhi is seeking comments from the Indian Government.

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Chechnya

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the recommendations by Medecins Sans Frontieres, in their report on violations of humanitarian law in Chechnya; and whether they will raise the case of Chechnya in the OSCE Council of Ministers as a severe and continuing breach of Russia's obligations under the OSCE's Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security agreed at the Budapest Summit in December 1994.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Yes. We have consistently called for an end to attacks on civilians and for all sides to offer full co-operation to agencies distributing medical and humanitarian assistance. The OSCE Assistance Group in Grozny continues to enjoy our full support.

As for raising Chechnya in the OSCE Council of Ministers, we shall review the situation nearer the date of the next meeting in early December.

IFOR Multinational Division: Participants

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which countries have contributed troops to the multinational division currently serving in IFOR-Bosnia under British command.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Dutch, Canadians, Malaysians and Czechs have contributed troops to the UK Divisional Area.

Judicial Appeals

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many appeals have been decided each year by the House of Lords during the past 10 years.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The number of appeals decided each year by the House of Lords following a hearing is as follows:


    1986: 50


    1987: 109


    1988: 74


    1989: 64


    1990: 52


    1991: 62


    1992: 63


    1993: 75


    1994: 63


    1995: 59

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Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the average annual period of time within which appeals have been determined by the House of Lords during the past 10 years.

The Lord Chancellor: The average length of time between lodgement of a petition of appeal and judgment by the House of Lords was 11 months two weeks in respect of judgments given in 1990, and 10 months two weeks for judgments given in 1995. Information for further years could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many appeals have been decided each year by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council during the past 10 years.

The Lord Chancellor: The number of appeals decided each year by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council following a hearing is as follows:


    1986: 71


    1987: 41


    1988: 27


    1989: 45


    1990: 50


    1991: 44


    1992: 43


    1993: 52


    1994: 58


    1995: 60

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the average annual period of time within which appeals have been determined by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council during the past 10 years.

The Lord Chancellor: The average length of time between registration of an appeal and delivery of judgment by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was 14 months and two weeks in 1990 and 12 months in 1995. Information for further years could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Premium Bonds: Third Party Purchases

Lord Grantley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will review the restriction on the purchase of premium bonds as a gift for a third party other than a child or grandchild of the purchaser; and whether they will permit the purchase of premium bonds by a godparent as a gift for a godchild under 16.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay or Ardbrecknish): We have no present plans to make any changes to the eligibility rules for the purchase of premium bonds. Third party

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purchases by grandparents are generally more expensive to handle than conventional purchases. Extending eligibility to godparents and others would add to the running costs of the scheme, which are borne by the taxpayer. Third party purchases tend to be for the minimum of £100 and are therefore disproportionately expensive relative to the average purchase of well over £1,700.

Habitual Residence Test

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of refusals of benefit under the habitual residence test are reversed on appeal.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The information requested is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Agriculture Council, 29th and 30th April

Lord Mountevans asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 29th and 30th April.

Lord Lucas: I refer my noble friend to the statement given by my noble friend Lord Lindsay on 1st May 1996 (Official Report, cols. 1685-1686).

High Protein Animal Feeds: Licensing

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in order to establish what were the errors on the basis of which they originally decided that cattle could be fed high protein diets including animal offal and bone and that these diets should be processed in new ways, and why this type of feed was licensed, they will now examine the evidence and the advice that they were given; and if culpable errors are identified, whether they will claim compensation from those who recommended these changes and have benefited from them.

Lord Lucas: The inclusion of processed animal, plant or fish by-products in livestock feed provides essential sources of quality nutrients and has been practised in many developed countries, including the UK, for decades. Statutory controls on rendering of animal by-products were first introduced in Great Britain in 1981 and these were aimed at reducing the contamination of feedingstuffs by salmonella. Council Directive 90/667 introduced harmonised rendering standards across the Community with effect from 31st December 1991.

In 1991 the European Commission commissioned a study to assess the rendering standards required to inactivate the BSE and scrapie agents. Based on the interim results of the study, new ruminant rendering standards were introduced by Commission Decision 94/382 (as amended by 95/29) and UK plants rendering

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met these by the end of 1994 as required. A Council Decision, based on further results from the study is now under discussion in Brussels.

The Government do not believe that culpable errors have been made and the question of seeking compensation does not arise.

BSE: Government-funded Research Projects

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether those scientists who were not convinced of the officially accepted accounts of BSE were prevented from participating in government-funded research on the subject.

Lord Lucas: No. We are prepared to consider applications from anyone but all applications do of course have to be subject to the normal scrutiny procedures to demonstrate that a particular proposal is scientifically valid and that the potential contractors have the expertise and the technical resources to undertake the proposal. One of the Ministry's known critics, Dr. Narang, has been involved as a consultant in a MAFF and BBSRC-financed research project specifically to look at his ideas.


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