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Kuwait: Iraqi Contribution to Mine Clearance

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Coalition forces carried out initial battle area clearance of mines in Kuwait in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War. The responsibility then passed to the Kuwaiti Ministry of Defence which sub-contracted the work out to private firms.

Kuwait may have submitted a claim for compensation for this work to the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC), which compensates individuals, companies and governments who suffered losses as a result of the invasion and occupation of Kuwait. If so, Iraq would be contributing financially to these costs as 30 per cent. of the revenue raised by the UN "oil for food" programme is allocated to the UNCC. Her Majesty's Government is not privy to the detail of Kuwaiti claims to the UNCC.

Kuwaiti Prisoners of War in Iraq

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government continues to play a leading role in the Tripartite Commission and its Technical Sub-Committee set up under ICRC chairmanship to review the case files on the missing Kuwaitis. We are disappointed at the lack of progress made to date and are concerned at Iraq's

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refusal to attend recent meetings. We fully support the ICRC's efforts to bring the process back on track, in order to end the anguish of the families of the missing.

A panel set up by the UN Security Council on 30 January is also considering Iraq's compliance with its obligations towards the Kuwaiti missing. As a member of the Tripartite Commission, the UK gave a presentation to the panel.

The Cornish Language

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a Department has been identified to co-ordinate policy on the Cornish language.[HL1860]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It has now been agreed that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, through the Government Office in the South West, should co-ordinate government policy on the Cornish language. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will retain overall responsibility for the Council of Europe's Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Meat Hygiene Service and State Veterinary Service

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by Lord Donoughue on 15 February (WA 63) and 9 March, whether, as well as having a duty to act in good faith and being expected to act fairly in the enforcement of their statutory duties, officials of the Meat Hygiene Service and the State Veterinary Service have a common law duty to act fairly.[HL1461]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): There is no simple Yes or No answer to the question because there is no all-embracing common law requirement to act fairly. The courts do refer to fairness, but this has to be determined in the context of each case. The Ministry does, however, expect the MHS to act in good faith in carrying out its enforcement functions under Meat Hygiene Inspection Regulations.

Fish Landings: Designated Port Arrangements

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to amend the measures to control landings by vessels of 20 metres and over of whitefish and shellfish into the United Kingdom.[HL1866]

Lord Donoughue: Following representations from the fishing industry, the Fisheries Department have looked at the designated port arrangements which came

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into operation on 5 January 1999 to see whether any changes should be made in advance of the wider review to be undertaken this autumn.

The main concern was over the lack of flexibility in providing notice of landings into non-designated ports and outside specified hours at designated ports. After careful consideration we are allowing fishermen to give between 4 and 24 hours' notice of landing and 4 to 72 hours' notice where landings take place on a Sunday or Monday. The department will also exercise discretion to waive the requirement to give 4 hours' notice of landing in cases of force majeure or exceptional difficulty. Additionally, some adjustments are being made to the specific landing times for Brixham, Grimsby, Hull, Kinlochbervie, Lerwick, Lochinver and Oban and the specified landing location for Kinlochbervie.

As part of the Autumn Review, the Fisheries Departments will consider the role which satellite monitoring will play in the operation of the designated port arrangements from 1 January 2000 and the provision of satellite position reports as an alternative to the prior notification of landings at non-designated ports and outside designated landing times at designated ports.

The changes set out above will take effect from 19 April and are being notified to the owners of all vessels of 20 metres and over.

Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made towards the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs.[HL1867]

Lord Donoughue: We are pleased to announce the first appointment of this Committee. Professor Phillip Thomas, formerly Principal of the Scottish Agricultural College, has been appointed as Chairman of the new Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs. The full membership will be finalised within the next few weeks.

We believe that the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs will play a key role in ensuring that animal feed is safe for both animals and the ultimate food consumer. Professor Thomas has considerable knowledge of agricultural issues and animal nutrition and has the personal qualities needed to build an effective committee drawing together new members from diverse backgrounds. We are therefore delighted that he has accepted the invitation to chair this important new independent advisory committee.

Fisheries Council, 30 March

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Fisheries Council held in Brussels on 30 March.[HL1868]

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Lord Donoughue: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary, together with my noble friend Lord Sewel, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scottish Office, represented the UK. The Council adopted the Autonomous Tariff Quotas covering imports at reduced tariffs of fisheries products required by the processing industry in 1999. Ireland and Italy voted against. It had a first debate on Commission proposals implementing in the fisheries sector the reform of the EU structural funds. This revealed a wide range of views. The Commission presented its proposals on reform of the marketing regime and on the listing of serious infringements. The Presidency is aiming to reach agreement on these three regulations at the Fisheries Council on 10 June.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary raised the need for the Commission to make early progress, taking account of forthcoming scientific advice, on measures to conserve sandeel stocks for seabirds which are dependent on them particularly during the breeding season. He also pressed the Commission to bring forward its promised proposals on the allocation of the new Total Allowable Catches for spurdog and for northern shrimp and the existing Total Allowable Catch for blue whiting.

Covent Garden Market: Leases

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect the Covent Garden Market Authority to begin negotiations with market tenants concerning new leases.[HL1869]

Lord Donoughue: It is clear from the legislation which set up the Covent Garden Market Authority that it is for the authority to determine the length of leases offered to market tenants. We understand that the authority will shortly begin negotiations on a basis which best meets the needs of the market.

We will shortly be beginning discussions, with all those with an interest, on the future of the market.

Veterinary Qualifications in the EU

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a veterinary in Europe is identical to a veterinary surgeon in the United Kingdom; and, if not, what are the differences.[HL1595]

Lord Donoughue: Yes. All nationals of a member state of the European Economic Area who hold veterinary qualifications approved by EU Directives 78/1026 and 78/1027 are of equivalent status.

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Abattoirs and Cutting Plants: Closures

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many abattoirs and cutting plants have been closed but retained their licences since 1 May 1997.[HL1598]

Lord Donoughue: The number of slaughterhouses and cutting plants that have been closed but retained their licence since 1 May 1997 is as follows:

Cutting plants10

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