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Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: We support the efforts of the working group, which was set up in March 1998, to consult widely with bank staff, management, the inspection panel, claimants, executive directors and others to build a consensus on an operational framework for the panel. The working group was originally mandated to report to the board within three months. It has had a number of meetings, and its consultations continue. To date no draft proposals have been formally tabled for consideration by the board.

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Chemical and Biological Weapons

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy with regard to nuclear retaliation in the case of aggressor states contemplating the use of chemical and biological weapons.[HL3331]

Lord Hoyle: The use of chemical or biological weapons by any state would be a grave breach of international law. A state which chose to use chemical or biological weapons against the United Kingdom should expect us to exercise our right of self defence and to make a proportionate response.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest position on Negative Security Assurances in the context of the possible use of chemical and biological weapons by aggressor states; and whether they have considered the adoption of a "no first use of any weapon of mass destruction" policy at least with regard to non-nuclear weapon states.[HL3350]

Lord Hoyle: We have long given assurances to non-nuclear weapon states who are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and who meet their obligations under that treaty that we would not use nuclear weapons against them unless they first attacked us in association with a nuclear weapon state. We considered No First Use in the Strategic Defence Review but saw no reason to change our and NATO's current nuclear policy. As for our policy on responding to attacks using chemical or biological weapons, I refer the noble Lord to my answer to him earlier today.

Underwater Archaeology

Lord Onslow of Woking asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to reallocate responsibility for underwater archaeology in English and Welsh waters.[HL3415]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We have recently completed a consultation exercise on all the proposals resulting from our Departmental Spending Review, including that of transferring responsibility for underwater archaeology to the new heritage lead body. We are considering responses to the consultation, and hope to make an announcement on the outcome by the end of the year. We are, in the meantime, beginning discussions with English Heritage on how the proposed transfer of responsibility might be implemented. Legislation will be needed to give English Heritage the wider powers to carry out certain functions in waters off England.

It is not envisaged that there would be changes to the current work carried out by CADW off Welsh waters.

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Herbicide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be the remit of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides when assessing applications for the use of herbicide on crops genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide. [HL3397]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The remit of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides is to give advice to Ministers, either when requested to do so or otherwise, on any matters relating to the control of pests in furthering the general purposes of Part III of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985.

No herbicide (or any pesticide) may be used unless Ministers, advised by the committee, have given approval to that use. The use of a herbicide on a crop genetically engineered to be resistant to that herbicide would be a new use requiring a new ministerial approval. When considering whether to recommend that such an application to use a herbicide should be approved by Ministers, the committee will apply its usual standards of human and environmental safety.

British Cattle Movement Service

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made at the British Cattle Movement Service since the launch of the computerised Cattle Tracing System for Great Britain on 28 September 1998.[HL3493]

Lord Donoughue: The British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) launched the new Cattle Tracing System for Great Britain on 28 September 1998. As of 14 October, the BCMS has issued 120,666 passports and processed 26,520 notifications of cattle movements. The BCMS has also dealt with over 50,000 calls to the local call rate Helpline since it opened on 1 July 1998.

Passport production peaked on 10 October when 23,747 passports were issued. The busiest day for the Helpline was 29 September, when 1,914 calls were received.

Intervention Board Corporate Plan

Lord Evans of Parkside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Intervention Board intends to publish a revised corporate plan, as set out in its Policy and Resources Framework Document.[HL3507]

Lord Donoughue: The Intervention Board published a new corporate plan in September 1998, to cover the years 1998-1999 to 2002-03. Copies are held in the Library of the House.

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Agriculture Council

Lord Evans of Parkside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 28 September.[HL3506]

Lord Donoughue: My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the European Union Agriculture Council in Brussels on 28 September.

The Council held a first debate on a Commission proposal to reform the EU wine regime. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food welcomed many elements in the proposal, in particular measures to redirect EU production away from its traditional reliance on market intervention and towards improved quality and competitiveness. However he questioned the need to increase the budgetary cost of the wine regime in order to achieve those ends.

The Council also debated the impact of the crisis in Russia on EU agricultural markets, and invited the Commission to keep the position under constant scrutiny in view of the importance of the Russian market for EU agricultural exports. More generally, the Commission circulated updated market forecasts for the principal EU agricultural commodities in the period up to 2005, forecasts which will form part of the Council's consideration of proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy within the framework of Agenda 2000.

In the context of CAP reform my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food introduced in the Council a paper prepared jointly with Italian, Swedish and Danish colleagues which proposes a mechanism and a timetable for the removal of milk quotas by 2006. He collectively called for the paper to be examined in detail as part of the ongoing Agenda 2000 negotiations.

Discussion of the proposal to improve the welfare of laying hens revealed continuing differences amongst member states over the desirability of the measure, and the economic effect of the proposal if implemented. In common with several other member states, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food stressed the UK view that the EU should commit itself to an eventual phasing out of the battery cage system.

The Council also took stock of the difficult economic conditions prevailing on the pigmeat market and invited the Commission to keep the situation under review. There was also an exchange of views on the incidence of BSE in Portugal in which the Commission reported that its own inspection team was currently examining the measures taken by the Portuguese administration to protect human health and combat the disease in animals.

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EU Pig Producers: State Aids

Lord Stanley of Alderley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they have taken to clarify the legality of the state aids to pig producers recently announced by the French and German governments.[HL3418]

Lord Donoughue: Assessing the legality of state aids is the responsibility of the EU Commission. I understand that the Commission is currently considering French and German proposals for schemes targeted at pig producers in those countries. According to Commission regulations, no measures may be put in place unless and until approval is granted.


Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest estimate of the total cost to public funds so far of dealing with BSE; and whether they will break down this information by financial year.[HL3431]

Lord Donoughue: The gross cost to public funds since 1 April 1996 of dealing with BSE is approximately £3.2 billion. For the financial years 1996-97 and 1997-98 costs were £1.5 billion and £1.0 billion respectively. We have, however, received EU contributions of approximately 45 per cent. towards these costs. Costs in 1998-99 are forecast to be about £0.7 billion.

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish in the Official Report an updated table showing the number of BSE cases that have been confirmed during each week during 1998 together with the moving annual total of cases reported in each 52-week period ending in 1998 to date.[HL3432]

Lord Donoughue: The following table shows the number of cases of BSE confirmed in Great Britain during each week of 1998 up to 16 October, together

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with the moving annual total of cases reported for this period.

Year 1998

Week numberNumber confirmed each week52 week total reported


Week 1 is the week ending on the first Friday of the year.

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