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Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: We have no evidence to suggest that any of the BSE cases so far confirmed in cattle were caused by deliberate, as opposed to accidental or inadvertent, feeding of ruminant protein after the

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introduction of the feed ban. In these circumstances, and given the difficulty and cost of establishing precisely what happened in individual cases up to eight years ago, it is inappropriate to seek to distinguish between farmers in terms of compensation payments.

Farm Animals: Protocol to European Convention

Lord Finsberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention to sign the 1992 Protocol of Amendment to the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes; and if not why not.

Lord Lucas: The provisions of this protocol are already reflected in UK legislation. The necessary formalities for signature and ratification will be completed as soon as possible.

Rat Infestation: Control

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their answer of 1st July (WA 87) on rat infestation in British homes, whether they can confirm that responsibility for this question lies with the local authorities and not with the water companies.

Lord Lucas: Yes. The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 puts the responsibility for the enforcement and monitoring of rodent control with local authorities.

Water companies, like other owners and occupiers of land, have a duty to carry out the necessary control measures, when ordered to do so by local authorities.

Abattoir Waste: Use as Fertiliser

Baroness Carnegy of Lour asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the spreading on pasture of fertiliser containing blood or bone of sheep or cattle is lawful; and if so, whether it is presently subject to any contrary advice, or if not, whether it is under investigation as to its desirability.

Lord Lucas: The use of all mammalian meat and bonemeal, including that derived from sheep and cattle, as a fertiliser was banned for use on any agricultural land under the Fertiliser (Mammalian Meat and Bone Meal) Regulations 1996, which came into effect on 19th April 1996.

Blood and gut contents from abattoirs can be used as a fertiliser for the benefit of agriculture or ecological improvement. Land spreading of this kind is a recovery operation for the purposes of the amended EC Framework Directive on Waste and is controlled under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and

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the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994. Spreading of such waste must be carried out without endangering animal or human health or posing a risk to the environment. The Code of Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Water provides guidelines for the application of these wastes to land to avoid water contamination.

The independent Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) has recently considered the impact of disposal of abattoir waste on the environment, including the spreading of blood and gut contents on agricultural land. It concluded that since no BSE infection has ever been detected in blood there is no reason to recommend that this practice should be prohibited or be thought to be inadvisable.

SEAC keeps all aspects of the controls on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) under constant review and advises the Government where further measures are necessary.

Scrapie

Baroness Carnegy of Lour asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of recent research (The Lancet, 20th April 1996, p.114), whether they consider that mites in grass or hay might act as vectors of scrapie from infected sheep to scrapie-free sheep.

Lord Lucas: This work has been reviewed, both by Ministry experts and by SEAC at its meeting on 5th September. A number of scientific questions have been raised about the validity of the experiment and until these are answered the significance of the results remains unclear. The experiment relates solely to the alleged demonstration that hay mite material injected into mice could cause scrapie and there is no evidence in the paper that hay mites can act as a vector for the natural spread of scrapie under farming conditions. We understand that further work is under way to validate the original findings. The Government are also considering proposals for research in this area.

HM the Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales: Self Assessment for Tax

Baroness Young asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes are to be made to the Memorandum of Understanding of 5th February 1993, under which the Queen and the Prince of Wales pay income, capital gains and inheritance tax on a voluntary basis, to take account of the introduction of the new system of self assessment for income tax and capital gains tax.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): Changes are required to reflect the new tax payment dates under self assessment. The Memorandum of Understanding has been amended, and I am placing a copy of the amendment in the Library.

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The Memorandum of Understanding provided that income tax and capital gains tax would be payable on 1st December following the end of the tax year. However, under self assessment 1st December will no longer be a tax payment date, and instead income tax will be payable on 31st January and 31st July and capital gains tax on 31st January. The Memorandum of Understanding has therefore been amended to make income tax and capital gains tax for 1996/97 (the transitional year) payable on 31st January 1998; and income tax and capital gains tax for 1997/98 and subsequent years will be payable on 31st January and 31st July in accordance with the normal rules of self assessment.

These new arrangements mean tax will be paid under the Memorandum of Understanding several months earlier on average than at present.

Changes have also been made to the provisions relating to payments on account, and interest on tax underpaid or overpaid, to bring them into line with the new self assessment rules.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Health Service Commissioner for England, Scotland and Wales

Baroness Young asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have concerning the offices of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Health Service Commissioner for England, for Scotland and for Wales.

Viscount Cranborne: In accordance with Section 1(3) of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 and Schedule 1 to the Health Service Commissioners Act 1993, Sir William Reid will be retiring from these offices on 2 January 1997.

Her Majesty has been pleased to approve the appointment of Mr. Michael Sydney Buckley as Sir William's successor as Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Health Service Commissioner for England, for Scotland and Wales, with effect from 3rd January 1997.

I am sure all Members of the House would wish me to express their gratitude and admiration for the very able and thorough manner in which Sir William Reid has fulfilled these duties over the last seven years. He has made an outstanding contribution to our public life.

Questions for Written Answer

Lord Marlesford asked the Leader of the House:

    Whether there is a maximum time by which parliamentary Questions for Written Answer have to be answered; and in how many instances during the present Session written Questions from Members of the House of Lords have taken more than one month to received a reply.

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Viscount Cranborne: The Government aim to answer written Questions within a fortnight of tabling. Thirty questions have been identified which have, during the course of this year, taken more than one month to answer.

"Hansard" Internet Publication

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked the Leader of the House:

    Whether Her Majesty's Government will ensure that members of the public are made aware of the availability of Hansard on the Internet and of the printed version at marginal cost, so as to widen public access to information about the working of Parliament.

Viscount Cranborne: Steps will be taken to publicise the availability of Hansard on the Internet when the service becomes available at the beginning of the next Session of Parliament. The opportunity will be taken to draw attention to the availability of the printed version, for which the price was reduced in June 1995.

House of Lords Judgments: Internet Publication

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether he will arrange to publish judgments of the Appellate Committee on the Internet in the same way as other proceedings of the House are to be published electronically.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): I understand that the Leader of the House has written to the noble Lord to inform him that it is hoped that from November of this year all judgments of the House of Lords will be included on the Internet.


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