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30 Mar 1999 : Column WA27

Written Answers

Tuesday, 30th March 1999.

Crime and Disorder Act: Ethnic Monitoring

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements are in place to monitor the provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 on an ethnic basis.[HL1701]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): As far as local crime reduction partnerships are concerned, Home Office guidance has emphasised the importance of measures to tackle racially motivated crime. Partnerships should actively encourage participation by ethnic minorities, and secondary legislation requires partnerships to invite at least one different racial group to participate in their work. As part of its work on the Lawrence report, the Home Office will be looking at the extent to which racist crime has been addressed in the strategies.

We are considering how monitoring arrangements for anti-social behaviour orders can include an ethnic breakdown. Guidance already recommends that local monitoring of the orders should include the defendant's ethnicity. The police have been asked to record incidents of racial harassment where the orders are used or considered, and the local authority has a duty to keep such records under the Race Relations Act 1976.

Research is in hand to monitor the effectiveness of the provisions in the Act on racially aggravated offences so that we can ensure that, where there is inter- communal violence, they are not used disproportionately against one group.

The evaluation of home detention curfew will be examining its impact on ethnic minorities.

The Youth Justice Board will be promoting good practice in collating and using ethnic monitoring information in the youth justice system.

Human Rights Act 1998

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to bring the Human Rights Act 1998 into force during the year 2000.[HL1665]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have not yet reached a final view on when to bring the Human Rights Act into full effect. We will do so as soon as we can.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will decide to bring the Human Rights Act 1998 into force.[HL1666]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We will make the decision as soon as we can.

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Asylum Interviews: Tape Recording

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to introduce tape recording of asylum interviews.[HL1828]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have decided to pilot tape recording of asylum interviews. Some interviews, at ports and in Croydon, should be tape recorded from May. A report on the pilot, including its impact on the Immigration Appellate Authority, is planned for the New Year.

Football Hooliganism

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to announce the outcome of the public consultation exercise on football-related legislation which was published on 27 November 1998.[HL1829]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The document entitled Review of Football-Related Legislation set out 29 proposals for discussion on measures to help prevent and minimise football hooliganism at designated football matches in England and Wales and overseas.

The consultation period ended on 27 January and some 50 responses were received from organisations and individuals. The overwhelming response to the measures was supportive. Respondents to the document as a whole recognised the need for measures to be introduced to deal with the loopholes in the present legislation. They also indicated strong support for those proposals aimed at dealing with measures to help prevent those convicted of football-related offences from attending designated football matches. A summary of the responses will be placed in the Library.

Bone-in Beef: Sale Ban

Viscount Exmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are now able to inform the farming industry, meat suppliers and consumers when the ban on the sale of beef on the bone is likely to be lifted.[HL1614]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My right honourable friend (the Minister) announced in another place on 4 February that the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, had considered the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee's latest scientific assessment of the public health risk from beef bones and had concluded, in a memorandum, that a public health intervention to lift the Beef Bones Regulations 1997 would allow that element of the food hazard which was originally eliminated (albeit reduced in magnitude) to pose a renewed, though very small, risk. He therefore recommended that, in line with the

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Government's risk reduction strategy on BSE, the existing controls on the sale, use and disposal of beef bones should continue for the time being.

Given the anticipated further decline in the number of BSE infected cattle during 1999, Professor Donaldson recommended that the controls should be reviewed again six months from 1 February 1999, paying particular attention to a number of points which he has specified in his advice. He also asked that during 1999 a full analysis of the age structure of new cases of BSE be conducted, that the success of control measures be audited and new predictions of the incidence the disease be made. In addition he undertook to continue work on providing estimates of risk in terms which will allow greater public understanding of the level of risk compared to other potential hazards, and to ensure that new cases of nvCJD continue to be monitored carefully.

The Government welcomed the Chief Medical Officer's memorandum and fully accepted all his recommendations. As has been made clear throughout, the beef bones controls were put in place to protect public health from the risk of nvCJD and will only be lifted in the light of scientific and medical advice. However, Ministers are encouraged that Professor Donaldson sees grounds for hoping that the situation will improve, and, if we can, consistent with a further assessment of the medical and scientific evidence, we will lift the ban after the review recommended by Professor Donaldson for six months' time from 1 February.

We appreciate that the delay in lifting the controls has come as a disappointment to many in the industry and to many would-be consumers. Nevertheless, the need to protect public health and retain confidence in beef and beef products remains the Government's paramount concern. In consequence we expect that the Beef Bones Regulations 1997 will continue to be complied with fully and enforced.

A copy of the Chief Medical Officer's memorandum is available in the Library of the House.

Meat Hygiene Inspection Charges

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the impact of the charges due to begin on 1 April on small abattoirs and their viability.[HL1596]

Lord Donoughue: The level of Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) charges to apply in 1999-2000 for hygiene/welfare inspections and for the enforcement of Specified Risk Material controls has yet to be decided. Ministers are still carefully considering proposals made by the MHS to ensure they are fully cost justified. They will then be subject to full consultation with all plant operators. The results of that consultation will be reported back to Ministers who will then take final decisions on the level of the rates to apply and their operative date.

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Rural Businesses: Policy

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they balance their concerns for animal welfare, small businesses and rural communities with their policies towards smaller abattoirs.[HL1597]

Lord Donoughue: The Government recognise that the additional costs being placed on the meat industry are unwelcome and may lead to the closure of some small abattoirs. This is regretted.

From an animal welfare point of view, it is preferable for slaughter to take place as close as possible to the farm of origin. However, detailed rules are in place to protect animals from unnecessary suffering whenever they are transported: these include limits on journey time, and are enforced by local authorities.

The Government have made clear their wish to see a vibrant and thriving rural economy. To that end, they have taken action including the provision of additional funds for rural transport initiatives and the introduction of rate relief for single village shops and post offices. They are due to publish a White Paper on their policies for rural areas in the autumn. In addition, the Government have made an exceptional effort in the past year to provide additional support to the livestock industry, in particular through the special livestock aid package last November.

Forestry Strategy: Conifer Production

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their policy on forestry in England that there should be no further new planting of conifers in England.[HL1671]

Lord Donoughue: No. Our forestry strategy for England, published last December, makes it clear that we wish to ensure that all forests bring multiple benefits to society. The new planting of conifers will continue to play an important part in helping us achieve this aim.


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