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17 Jul 1997 : Column WA119

Written Answers

Thursday, 17th July 1997.

Law Commission Bills

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Law Commission Bills are at present waiting for parliamentary time.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The question whether Law Commission Bills should be included in the Government's legislative programme is for government. The Government value the work done by the independent Law Commission highly but law reform proposals must be assessed against wider legislative priorities. The Government are, however, content to bring forward legislation on two topics covered by Law Commission reports, namely Law Com 220, Delegation by Individual Trustees and the first part of Law Com 227, Restitution for Mistake of Law: Ultra Vires Public Authority Receipts and Payments, when time permits. Other reports remain under consideration and the Government's decisions will be announced in due course.

Judges' Duties

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the duties of a Judge of the High Court take precedence over the duty to give top priority and as much time as it proves to require the job of an Inspector under Sections 432(2) and 442 of the Companies Act 1985, if previously appointed as such and continued in the appointment after promotion.

The Lord Chancellor: It is a matter for each High Court Judge, in consultation with their Head of Division, to determine their duties as they see fit, including such duties as those imposed by appointment as an Inspector under the Companies Act 1985.

Child Care Vouchers

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether child care vouchers have ceased to be issued to staff of the House during recesses.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): Child care vouchers are issued during recesses in respect of any days on which a recipient member of staff is required to work. The vouchers may be used to defray costs of child care for children of pre-school age and attendance at holiday playschemes for children up to the age of eleven. There has been no change in practice.

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NHS Waiting List Reduction

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Baroness Jay of Paddington's statement of 18 June (WA 120) that "Our manifesto commitment is to treat an extra 100,000 patients through reducing bureaucracy" should be taken to imply that the pledge in the manifesto to "cut NHS waiting lists by treating an extra 100,000 patients" is no longer operative to the extent that there is now no commitment to cut NHS waiting lists; and if not, by what measure the commitment to cut NHS waiting lists should be judged.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The Government have already made a significant investment into direct patient services and away from bureaucracy, in line with our commitment to ensure that more of every pound spent in the NHS goes into frontline patient services. We have also honoured our commitment to increase NHS income in real terms by providing an extra £1.2 billion for 1998-99.

Our legacy from the previous administration is record numbers waiting for treatment and longer waits. The action the Government are taking now will deliver our manifesto commitment to treat an extra 100,000 patients from the NHS waiting lists during this Parliament.

Medicines Control Agency

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the annual report and accounts of the Medicines Control Agency.

Baroness Jay: We have received the report, and copies have today been laid before both Houses of Parliament in accordance with the requirements of Section 5(2) and 5(3) of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1921. Copies have also been placed in the Library.

Medicines Commission

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to receive the annual report of the Medicines Commission for 1996.

Baroness Jay: We have received the report, and copies have been laid before both Houses of Parliament today in accordance with the requirements of Section 5(2) of the Medicines Act 1968.

Bound volumes have been placed in the Library containing the 1996 reports of the Medicines Commission, the Committee on Safety of Medicines, the Advisory Board on the registration of Homoeopathic Products, the British Pharmacopoeia Commission and the Veterinary Products Committee.

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We are glad to acknowledge the valuable work done by the distinguished members of the Medicines Act Advisory Bodies and thank them for the time and effort dedicated in the public interest to this important work.

Illicit Beef Exports

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what date they were informed by the European Commission of their suspicions that British beef had been exported to Europe, and on what date the European Commission made their suspicions public.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The European Commission formally notified the Government of its concern over alleged illegal exports of UK beef on 2 July, the same day that it made its suspicions public. Government officials have been involved in investigations into the allegations, in co-operation with officials from some other member states and the Commission's anti-fraud unit, since May.

Gyrodactylus Salaris

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to prevent the spread of the parasite gyrodactylus salaris into United Kingdom rivers.

Lord Donoughue: At the request of the United Kingdom, a safeguard measure was adopted last year by the European Commission prohibiting the import into the UK and Ireland of all live salmonids and requiring all imported salmonid eggs to be disinfected. While the risk of introducing gyrodactylus salaris on angling equipment or clothing is very low, we also advise all those fishing abroad to ensure that any such equipment or clothing is either thoroughly dried or is disinfected before or on return to the UK.

Agri-environment Schemes

Lord Morris of Castle Morris asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the Second Report of the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee on Environmentally Sensitive Areas and Other Schemes Under the Agri-Environment Regulation (HC 45, Session 1996-97) published on 19 March 1997.

Lord Donoughue: The Government yesterday published their response to the conclusions and recommendations of the Agriculture Select Committee's report on these agri-environment schemes. Copies of the publication have been placed in the Library of the House.

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Beef: Illegal Export Allegations

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action he has taken over allegations of illegal exports of United Kingdom beef.

Lord Donoughue: The department's officials, in conjunction with officials from other member states, the Commission's Anti-Fraud unit and DGXXIV, are pursuing investigations in this country and elsewhere into allegations of the illegal export of UK beef. It will be some time before those investigations are complete. Criminal proceedings will be instigated if sufficient evidence of illegal activity is found. All allegations of illegal exports of beef are urgently and rigorously investigated.

As a result of serious hygiene concerns arising out of our investigations, however, my department yesterday issued Notices preventing two meat plants in the UK from trading in beef.

In the light of recent events my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has undertaken a thorough review of the measures currently in place to implement the ban on the export of UK beef imposed by EC Decision 96/239, as amended by EC Decision 96/362, and has concluded that those measures should be enhanced and extended. He has yesterday informed the European Commission that he intends to:


    introduce new secondary legislation to both clarify and strengthen the powers available to UK officials where illegal exports are suspected;


    to enhance the checks that are carried out at ports of despatch.

My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is also giving urgent consideration to enhancing veterinary checks at beef plants.

The UK is under an obligation to implement and enforce the export ban firmly and effectively for as long as it is in place. Only in this way will we regain the trust of our European partners, which is an essential prerequisite to an early lifting of the export ban.

Licences to Shoot Piscivorous Birds

Viscount Addison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many applications have been received in (a) England, (b) Scotland and (c) Wales to kill cormorants, grey herons or goosanders; how many licences have been issued and how many of each of these birds have been reported shot under these licences, in each of the last five years, including this year to date.

Lord Donoughue: The information requested is as follows.

(a) England

January to December 1992January 1993 to April 1994May 1994 to April 1995May 1995 to April 1996May 1996 to April 1997
CormorantsNumber of applications received010211793108
Number of licences granted425355047
Number of birds shot138299152147
GoosandersNumber of applications received011282412
Number of licences granted07051
Number of birds shot039023
HeronsNumber of applications received64111618
Number of licences granted43246
Number of birds shot14035

Note:

Prior to 1994, figures were collated on a calendar year basis.


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(b) Scotland*

January to December 1993January to December 1994January to December 1995January to December 1996January 1997 to date
Total number of applications received for piscivorous birds3336324831
Total number of licences granted for piscivorous birds3336304124
Number of licences grantedCormorants3033223720
Goosanders1920162114
Herons10021
Number of birds shotCormorants248205208280173
Goosanders456305339468403
Herons00078

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(c) Wales*

January to December 1993January to December 1994April 1995 to March 1996April 1996 to March 1997April 1997 to date
Total number of applications received for piscivorous birds31612101
Total number of licences granted for piscivorous birds0912100
Number of birds shotCormorants038100
Goosanders0111350
Herons00000

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* Applications and licences can be for more than one species.

17 Jul 1997 : Column WA123


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