Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

7 Jul 1998 : Column WA119

Written Answers

Tuesday, 7th July 1998.

Agriculture Council, 22-26 June

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Luxembourg on the 22 to 26 June.[HL2521]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My right honourable friend chaired a meeting of the European Union Agriculture Council in Luxembourg on 22 to 26 June. I represented the United Kingdom.

This four-day Council took decisions on a large package of important legislative measures concerning the Common Agricultural Policy and animal welfare. The package included agreement on changes to the bananas regime to bring it into conformity with World Trade Organisation rules while ensuring continued access to the EU market for Caribbean ACP bananas; significant reform of the olive oil regime, abolishing public intervention and the consumer and small producer aids which have been particularly susceptible to fraud; and measures setting common welfare standards for the rearing of farm animals throughout Europe. This measure is an important further step to improve animal welfare following the agreement to phase out fishing for tuna and swordfish with drift nets which we secured at the Fisheries Council earlier this month.

The package also included adoption of the 1998-99 CAP price proposals and the 1999-2000 compulsory set-aside rate, giving farmers certainty for the coming marketing year, as well as limited reforms to the tobacco regime to encourage producers to become more market-oriented and less dependent on subsidy.

The package was agreed by a qualified majority of member states, as were each of the individual elements. The Netherlands voted against all elements, Denmark against the bananas and set-aside proposals and France against the set-aside proposal. The Council also adopted by qualified majority, with Greece voting against, a proposal changing the rules for payments of aids to cotton producers.

The Government are very pleased that the United Kingdom presidency was able to broker a satisfactory deal on this complex package of measures. Coming on top of the conclusions on CAP reform which were unanimously agreed by the Agriculture Council at its May meeting, and subsequently endorsed by the European Council meeting in Cardiff, it concludes the substantial programme of work which we set out at the outset of our presidency.

7 Jul 1998 : Column WA120

TB in Cattle: Research Proposals

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have to increase understanding of the risk factors underlying outbreaks of TB in cattle in the light of the recommendations in the Krebs Report.[HL2522]

Lord Donoughue: In order better to understand the relative importance of badgers and other factors contributing to TB incidents in herds, Professor Krebs recommended that high priority should be given to a multivariate analysis of risk factors. Research proposals to assess correlates of risk, to be financed from April next year, were invited in the Ministry's research requirements document published on 20 April, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House.

However, in view of the importance which both Professor Krebs' group and the Ministry attach to research in this area, we are also inviting proposals for a retrospective analysis of data collected during previous investigations. This will start this autumn, in advance of the main research programme. Notices calling for proposals will appear in the relevant scientific journals shortly.

Organophosphates: Questions to COT

The Earl of Clanwilliam asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the list of questions that they will put to the Committee on Toxicology (COT) as proposed in paragraph B6 on page 7 of the Green Paper Official Group on OPs--Report to Ministers.[HL2490]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The questions proposed in Official Group on OPs--Report to Ministers are as follows:

    (i) What evidence is there that it is possible to develop long-term symptoms from recognised acute organophosphate poisoning?

    (ii) What evidence is there that an unrecognised acute poisoning incident could cause long-term effects?

    (iii) What evidence is there that people can develop chronic symptoms from low-level exposure to organophosphates?

    (iv) Does the picture become clearer if the studies to which the Institute of Environment and Health report refers are divided up between those which purport to show objective or subjective end points?

    (v) Does the committee agree that a number of the studies discussed in the report had methodological flaws? If so, what were the flaws and how serious were they?

    (vi) Is it possible, nonetheless, to deduce anything from these "flawed" studies?

7 Jul 1998 : Column WA121

    (vii) Does the committee agree with the evaluation of the five particular studies suggested by Dr. Ray as being the most reliable?

    (viii) Is it possible that the chronic symptoms and signs from low-level exposure could be different from delayed symptoms from acute exposure?

    (ix) Have the epidemiological studies that have been carried out on the effects of low dose exposure to organophosphates been of the right design and of sufficient statistical power to detect a biologically significant effect?

    (x) Is OP induced delayed polyneuropathy (OPIDP) relevant to the controversy about organophosphate sheep dips and does this aspect of the problem need further investigation?

    (xi) What evidence is there of variable individual susceptibility to the extent that some people are more likely to suffer ill effects from OP exposure than others and could this account for long-term effects?

    (xii) Are there indications of possible mechanisms other than the inhibition of acetylcholinesterase at work?

    (xiii) Is it the committee's view that the animal models being used to investigate mechanisms of effects of OPs are the right ones to predict how OPs will affect humans?

    (xiv) What recommendations would the committee make for further research?

    (xv) Is it the committee's view that those epidemiological studies identified to be sufficiently well-conducted could be used as the basis for a meta-analysis?

    (xvi) How do the symptoms experienced by those who attribute illness to OPs relate to effects observed in the epidemiological studies? (These questions are given on pages 31 and 32 of Official Group on OPs--Report to Ministers.)

This issue was put to the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT), which has set up a working group to discuss the topic. The questions were presented to the sub group at its first meeting (on 22 May). Some refinements were suggested, but without altering the substance of the questions. In addition, the group may add to these questions during their deliberations.

Organophosphates: Research

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the reported statement of the Appraisal Panel of the Veterinary Products Committee (Official Group on OPs--Report to Ministers, paragraph 8.3) that there is "no scientifically recognised and widely accepted clinical syndrome associated with low level exposure to OP dips", they have any plans to remedy the deficiency by commissioning work to develop a definitive diagnostic scheme.[HL2555]

7 Jul 1998 : Column WA122

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The working party of the Royal College of Physicians of London and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which is expected to report in a few weeks, has been asked to make recommendations on how clinical studies on those who attribute illness to organophosphate (OP) sheep dips might be carried out. Their report will be considered by the Official Group on OPs. We shall then be able to decide what work would be appropriate to be commissioned in this area.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention to arrange for the review, Organophosphate esters: an evaluation of the chronic neurotoxic effects, commissioned by the Department of Health from the Medical Research Council Institute for Environment and Health, to be published in a peer review journal in addition to the review to be undertaken by members of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment in accordance with the recommendation of the Official Group on OP's in paragraph 3.11 of its report to Ministers.[HL2559]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Institute for Environment and Health report has already been published and it would not now be accepted for publication as it stands. However, an abridged version of the review will appear in a forthcoming issue of Archives in Toxicology following a presentation at the International Congress on Toxicology to be held in Paris on 5-9 July 1998.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether appointments to the sub-group of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment to examine the review of the Institute for Environment and Health have been made; and, if they have, whether they will list the names of the members together with their interests and current employment positions.[HL2560]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The appointment of members to the Working Group on Organophosphates of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment have only recently been made. The members are listed as follows; the list of members' interests has not been finalised yet and will be published in due course.

Professor H. F. Woods (Chairman)Department of Medicine, Royal Hallamshire Hospital
Professor Peter G. BlainUniversity of Newcastle Upon Tyne, The Medical School
Mrs. Judy BranderIndependent lay person
Professor David N. M. CoggonMedical Research Centre, University of Southampton
Professor Sarah DarbyICRF Cancer Epidemiology Unit, The Radcliffe Infirmary
Professor Anthony DayanSt. Bartholomew's and The Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London
Mrs. Rosemary EdwardsIndependent lay person
Professor Richard HughesGuy's Hospital
Dr. Michael JoffeSt. Mary's Hospital Medical School
Dr. Nicolas MurrayNational Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery
Professor Andrew G. RenwickUniversity of Southampton
Professor Michael RuggSt. Andrew's University
Dr. Allister J. ValeWest Midlands Poisons Unit, Birmingham

7 Jul 1998 : Column WA123

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page