Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Kudu: Spongiform Encephalopathies

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: Yes, although some of the cases have been in animals born after the feed ban, epidemiological investigation suggests that there may well have been cross contamination and that a feedborne hypothesis can explain all of the cases in the greater kudu.

1 Jul 1996 : Column WA87

Rat Infestation

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they can confirm that there has been a 39 per cent. increase in rat infestations in British homes, and whether tackling the infestation is the responsibility of local authorities or the water companies.

Lord Lucas: The results of the 1993 National Rodent Survey published last summer showed that, whilst there had been little change in the overall level of rodent infestations since the late 1970s, the number of rat infestations in domestic premises had increased from 3.3 per cent. to 4.6 per cent. equivalent to an increase of 39 per cent. However, as the 1993 survey represented only a single year's observation since the last survey in the late 1970s, a further survey will be carried out in the near future to provide more up to date information on current trends in the level of rodent infestations.

The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 requires local authorities to keep their districts, including sewers, as free as practicable from rats and mice and gives local authorities the powers to require owners and occupiers of land to take the necessary action to remove rodents from their land.

Agriculture Council, 24th-26th June

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Luxembourg on 24th to 26th June.

Lord Lucas: My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at this Council, accompanied by my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office. Following the decision by Heads of Government in Florence to increase the amount of financial aid for EU beef farmers affected by the current crisis, the Council unanimously allocated 850 mecu amongst member states for urgent income support measures. Of this, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food secured some £112 million for UK farmers which, at about 15.5 per cent. of the total sum, compares favourably with our 13.8 per cent. share of the EU beef cattle herd.

The Council discussed in detail the Commission's proposals to set CAP prices for 1996/97 and to reform the EU fruit and vegetable regimes. It reached no conclusion on these dossiers and will resume discussion on them at its July meeting. However, in order to avoid a legal hiatus, the Council unanimously adopted five regulations setting prices at the same levels as currently apply, in sectors where regulations are due to expire on 30th June.

At my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's request, the Agriculture Commissioner undertook an urgent review of the arrangements applying to malt export refunds and agreed to come forward with appropriate proposals in

1 Jul 1996 : Column WA88

time for the 1996/97 export season to ensure stability and confidence in this important sector, taking account of the need for market balance and the EU's international commitments.

My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food pressed the Commission and incoming Presidency for early progress on the proposals to improve the welfare of veal calves. He also supported a German request for urgent steps to be taken on the welfare of hens in battery cages.

The Council adopted by qualified majority (Germany and Sweden voting against) a proposal concerning the financing of veterinary inspections. It adopted by qualified majority, with Germany and Greece opposing, a proposal to reduce the entry price relating to imports of sour cherries. The Council also appointed Dr. Bart Kiewiet as President of the Community Plant Variety Office.

BSE in Great Britain: New Report

The Earl of Clanwilliam asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan next to publish a report on bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Lord Lucas: A further report on BSE in Great Britain will be placed in the Library of the House on Monday 1st July. Copies will also be made available at the Royal Show.

Electronic Monitoring of Offenders

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many offenders were made subject to electronic monitoring in the pilot trial areas up to 31st March 1996, and of these how many have to date been (a) returned to court for breach of their order; and (b) charged with or convicted of an offence during the period of the order.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): As at 31st March 1996, 46 offenders had received curfew orders subject to electronic monitoring since the trials began in July 1995. At 21st June, 14 had been returned to court for breaches of their orders. In six of those cases breach action was combined with criminal proceedings for alleged offences committed before or during the period of the sentence.

Judicial Studies Board

Lord Dixon-Smith asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the status of the Judicial Studies Board.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): I have today placed a memorandum of understanding in the Library which gives the Judicial

1 Jul 1996 : Column WA89

Studies Board greater autonomy in the organisation of judicial training, and greater responsibility for planning and financial control. It is right that the nature and content of judicial training should be primarily a matter for the judiciary, if it is to remain relevant to the judiciary's needs. I am convinced that this memorandum will over time help the board to enhance the quality of the training facilities made available to the judiciary, and to improve the advice and assistance which the JSB gives towards the training of magistrates and chairmen and members of tribunals.

The Derwent Ings

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Secretary of State for the Environment intended in the context of condition 2 of the Selby Coalfield planning consent 1976 that the specific additional consent of the local planning authority must be gained before any mining could take place which would physically affect the Derwent Ings habitats; and

    Whether the Secretary of State for the Environment intended at paragraph 19 of his decision letter of 31st March to afford the Derwent Ings habitats protection under condition 2 of the planning consent for the Selby coalfield; and

    Whether the land covered by condition 2 of the Selby Coalfield planning consent means land lying between the half depth of the Barnsley Seam and the River Derwent; and

    Whether the Derwent Ings habitats west of the River Derwent, including those at Thorganby and at North Duffield which are internationally important for their plants and birds, lie within the area covered by condition 2 of the Selby Coalfield consent.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Once the Secretary of State has issued a decision letter on a planning application he ceases to have any jurisdiction over the case. The interpretation of planning conditions thereafter is the responsibility of the local authority concerned.

The Derwent Ings is a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention and a Special Protection Area. It is also a candidate Special Area of Conservation. Under the provisions of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations, 1994, local authorities are obliged to review extant planning permissions in relation to classified Special Protection Areas and I understand that North Yorkshire County Council is currently proceeding with such a review. This will provide it with the opportunity to reconsider the 1976 Selby Coalfield planning permission, including its conditions, in the light of the much enhanced nature conservation status of the Derwent Ings which has come about since the initial planning permission was granted.

1 Jul 1996 : Column WA90

Asylum Seekers: Withdrawal of Benefits

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their plans for special grants to local authorities following the Court of Appeal's judgement on 21 June in respect of regulations withdrawing benefits from asylum seekers.

Earl Ferrers: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Security announced on 24th June that the Government intend to amend the Asylum and Immigration Bill so as to exclude from eligibility for benefit certain asylum seekers and certain other persons from abroad. Other provisions in that Bill would make similar changes to eligibility for assistance under the homelessness legislation at about the same time as the benefit rules are changed. Any remaining costs to local housing authorities should be minimal.

Because housing benefit payments are now available to persons housed under the homelessness legislation since 5th February, the Government have decided that the proposed "Persons from Abroad Housing Benefit Special Grant" to local housing authorities is no longer required.

There is likely to be some continuing burden on social services departments in connection with supporting children in need and their families, and the Government's commitment to assist social services authorities with those costs, given earlier this year, remains unchanged. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health intends to lay a revised Special Grant Report proposing a special grant to social services authorities. The terms of this grant are likely to be similar to the "Persons from Abroad Children's Grant" in the Special Grant Report (No. 19) which was laid before Parliament on 6th June. The Special Grant Report (No. 19) has been withdrawn.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page