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Lord Lucas: Copies of Coopers & Lybrand's second report on the UK beef industry have been placed in the Library. The report examines the problem of unsaleable stocks in the beef chain, against the background of my noble friend Lord Lindsay's statement on 16th April (Official Report, col. 597), when he said that the Government did not consider that financial assistance equivalent to that being made available to the slaughtering and cutting sectors should be paid to other sectors.
Coopers & Lybrand note that many parts of the UK beef industry are entering a period in which realignment and downsizing will take place, but state that they could not suggest any public interest argument to justify government financial intervention at this stage. As foreshadowed in my noble friend Lord Lindsay's statement of 16th April, the Government will introduce a scheme to support the disposal and, where necessary, the storage of unsaleable beef and beef products held in the supply chain outside the slaughtering sector. This aims to help rebuild market confidence and ensure that appropriate disposal methods are used in the interests of the environment and public health. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will shortly issue a consultation document asking for expressions of interest in the scheme. It will be entirely voluntary and no payments will be made to companies for ownership of the stocks.
Lord Lucas: The decision to offer intervention beef for sale for export rests with the European Commission. We do not expect such a decision in the short term, in particular whilst significant quantities of beef are being purchased into intervention. The export of UK stored intervention beef is currently prohibited by Commission Decision 96/239/EC.
Lord Lucas: According to latest available figures presented by the European Commission to the Beef Management Committee, 184,309 tonnes-worth of export licences were applied for during the period 28th March to 9th June 1996.
Lord Lucas: It is not possible to determine precisely the value or volume of beef exports which would have taken place if the ban on British beef had not been applied. Assuming, however, that exports would have followed the same pattern as in 1995, lost fresh, chilled and frozen beef exports in the 12 weeks since the ban was put in place can be estimated at 60,000 tonnes product weight, worth approximately £130 million.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): Early estimates indicate that approximately 14,200 individuals (all first entrants) are expected to qualify as nurses in the United Kingdom in 1997-98 and 15,000 in 1998-99.
Baroness Cumberlege: Figures on vacancies for registered nursing posts in England, Wales and Scotland are collected by the Office of Manpower and Economics and published in the annual reports of the Review Body for Nursing Staff, Midwives, Health Visitors and Professions Allied to Medicine, copies of which are available in the Library. Figures on vacancies for registered nursing posts in Northern Ireland are not collected centrally by the Health and Personal Social Services Executive of Northern Ireland.
For each of the last five years, how many pre-registration nursing and midwifery students who began training as initial entrants by means of
(a) salaried student places, (b) Project 2000 and (c) undergraduate study respectively:
(i) qualified, and
(ii) registered with the United Kingdom Central Council of Nurses.
Baroness Cumberlege: This information is not held centrally. I refer the noble Baroness to the National Boards for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for information relating to student numbers and the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting for information concerning the numbers registering.
Baroness Cumberlege: The Government have always sought the advice from experts in the field of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, notably the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), and have always followed their advice.
SEAC advised the Government that, although there is no direct evidence of a link, on current data and in the absence of any credible alternative, the most likely explanation at present is that these cases could be linked to exposure to bovine spongiform encephalopathy before the introduction of the specified bovine offals ban in 1989. The Government acted on SEAC's recommendations to reduce any possible risk to public health.
". . . especially in view of the massive decline in hospital post-mortem examinations that are needed to confirm the diagnosis" (Boulton et al, Journal of Neurodegeneration, December 1995).
Baroness Cumberlege: Retrospective studies carried out at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have investigated autopsy rates for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and other related dementias in individuals under the age of 45 over the period 1979-95. The studies found that an overall autopsy rate of 45 per cent. existed in these disease groups for individuals of the stated age, which is substantially higher than the overall general hospital autopsy rate. From this data there seems to be no evidence of a sustained increase of CJD due to ascertainment bias following a higher post-mortem rate in suspected cases since the inception of the CJD Surveillance Programme in 1990. It therefore seems unlikely that cases of CJD and, in particular, the new variant of CJD, would have been overlooked had they occurred during the period in question.
Baroness Cumberlege: The Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh forms part of a European surveillance network for CJD involving comparable surveillance projects in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.
Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about articles of a religious nature which prisoners may have in their possession or which may be used in religious meetings.
In general prisoners are allowed to have sufficient property to lead as normal and individual an existence as possible within the constraints of the prison environment. Negotiations have taken place over a substantial period between Prison Service headquarters and the official consultants for each faith about what should be allowed for religious purposes and what should be restricted. The results have been incorporated fully in the appropriate denominational articles and the general sections of the third edition of the Directory and Guide on Religious Practices in HM Prison Service, which is to be issued shortly and copy of which will be placed in the Library. Should a situation arise that has not been envisaged, governors will seek advice from the appropriate Assistant Chaplain General.
Articles used in religious meetings and services are such as may be reasonably required by each religion. Normally this would be at the discretion of the visiting minister or chaplain. However, certain matters have given cause for concern and special regulations have been made regarding them.
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