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1 Jul 1999 : Column WA45

Written Answers

Thursday, 1st July 1999.

Kosovo Settlement

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the endorsement by European Union Foreign Ministers of the involvement of President Ahtisaari of Finland in the diplomatic track on 19 May, what role it is intended that he should play in the brokering and implementation of a peace agreement in relation to the roles of the United Nations Secretary-General's special advisers, Carl Bildt and Mr. Kukan of Slovakia, and that of the Russian peace envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin.[HL2632]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): EU Special Envoy President Ahtisaari of Finland played a key role in the diplomatic track which has now led to the withdrawal of Belgrade's forces from Kosovo. Following a series of meetings in late May/early June with President Yeltsin's Special Envoy Viktor Chernomrydin and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, President Ahtisaari and Mr. Chernomyrdin visited Belgrade on 2 June to present President Milosevic with a text elaborating the general principles for a Kosovo settlement agreed by G8 Foreign Ministers in Bonn on 6 May. President Milosevic informed them on 3 June that the Serb Parliament and the Federal Yugoslav Government had accepted the text.

The main role envisaged for the UN Secretary-General's envoys Carl Bildt and Eduard Kukan was to look at the longer term, including regional aspects of the implementation of a Kosovo settlement. UNSCR 1244 of 10 June authorised the Secretary-General to establish an international civil presence in Kosovo to provide an interim administration for Kosovo. The UK is currently providing all possible support to the early establishment of this mission.

Kosovo

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention that Kosovo should be restored as a Moslem or as a multicultural society.[HL3048]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Our goal is for Kosovo to be a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the British and other KFOR forces are prepared to use force to disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army.[HL3176]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Mr. Hashim Thaqi, as Commander in Chief of the KLA, signed on 21 June, an undertaking on behalf of the KLA to demilitarise. The KLA has agreed to comply with the Undertaking and with the directions of the KFOR Commander. Any KLA forces failing to do so will be, as the Undertaking makes clear, liable to military action as deemed appropriate by the Commander of KFOR.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is now the legal status of NATO forces in Kosovo, in view of the United Nations Security Council having determined in its resolution that the effective international civil and security presences, including KFOR, are there under United Nations auspices and that no specific role was designated for NATO.[HL3175]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The legal status of NATO forces in Kosovo derives from UNSCR 1244, adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which authorised member states and relevant international organisations to establish an international security presence with substantial NATO participation and under unified command and control, and the Military Technical Agreement which NATO military authorities agreed with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on 9 June.

GUUAM Group

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their view of the GUUAM Alliance reputedly signed in Washington in late April between Georgia, the Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova and the United States; whether this alliance has been registered at the United Nations; and, if so, for what purposes.[HL3162]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova formed the GUAM group in late 1996. In April 1999 Uzbekistan announced its intention to join, making it the GUUAM group. The United States is not a member of the group. It is an informal grouping for co-operation on security and economic issues, rather than an alliance, and has not been registered at the United Nations. Her Majesty's Government support the principle of regional co-operation, but have not taken a formal view on the GUUAM, which is a matter for the countries concerned.

EU Enlargement Negotiations

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 7 May (WA 116), whether they will enumerate the eight chapters of the Acquis Communautaire on which negotiations have not yet begun with the six applicant countries; and whether they can give an idea when these negotiations are due to begin.[HL2795]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There are 31 Chapters in the acquis communautaire. The Austrian Presidency opened seven chapters (listed in WA 116). The German Presidency opened eight further chapters (Free Movement of Goods, Company Law, Competition Policy, Fisheries, Statistics, Consumer and Health Protection, Customs Union and External Relations). The Finnish Presidency has indicated that it plans to open a further eight chapters (Free Movement of Services, Free Movement of Capital, Transport, Taxation, EMU, Social Policy and Employment, Energy and Environment) between July and December 1999. The EU is committed to opening the remaining eight chapters (Free Movement of People, Agriculture, Regional Policy, JHA, Financial Control, Financial and Budgetary Provisions, Institutions, and finally others) as early as possible next year.

Meat Hygiene

Lord Rowallan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What expenditure and how much time is being expended by officials of the Meat Hygiene Service on its integration into the Food Standards Agency; and whether the meat industry should be contributing to the set-up costs of the Agency by this means when the rest of the food industry is now being relieved of charges.[HL3112]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): Two additional short term appointments have been made to the administration staff at MHS headquarters in York. They are responsible to the MHS Chief Executive for taking forward the programme of work that is being identified to achieve the successful transfer of the MHS into the Food Standards Agency. The costs of these staff are being met by the Government and are not a charge on the industry.

Lord Addington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies they have carried out to assess the effect of increasing the transport distance between slaughterhouses and farms on the depletion of post-mortem glycogen levels in cattle; and whether those effects have any significant influence on the terminal pH levels in the deep muscle of finished carcasses and the microbiological quality of those carcasses.[HL3028]

Lord Donoughue: A recent MAFF-funded review of the scientific literature pertinent to the road transport of cattle found that the major influence of transport on lean meat quality is through the depletion of muscle glycogen stores by physical activity and physical stress. If glycogen levels are reduced, the decrease in pH, which occurs after slaughter, is also reduced. As a result, the resistance of the meat to microbial action, and thus its keeping quality, are also reduced. The review also found that journey time is generally more important than the distance covered.

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Reference: KNOWLES, T. G. (1999) A review of the road transport of cattle. Veterinary Record 144, 197-201.

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether veterinary surgeons are given any specific training to enable them to assess the content and adequacy of slaughterhouse training schemes and their execution during the course for conversion to Official Veterinary Surgeons; and what criteria are used in the assessment of these schemes.[HL2963]

Lord Donoughue: The legislation specifies that occupiers of licensed premises should arrange or establish in consultation with Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVSs), a programme to train their staff in the hygiene requirements specific to those operations carried out at their premises.

No specific training in assessing the content and adequacy of slaughterhouse training schemes is given to OVSs as part of the OVS course. However, in order to pass the course, veterinary surgeons have to demonstrate that they have a thorough understanding of the hygiene requirements specified within the Operations Manual. This knowledge puts them in good stead to assist occupiers of licensed premises in establishing appropriate training programmes for their staff.

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action is expected of Meat Hygiene Technicians when they find Specified Risk Material (SRM) attached to a bovine carcass to which an official health mark has been applied; and what measures are in place to ensure that the expected action is in fact carried out.[HL2965]

Lord Donoughue: They would be expected to report the incident to the Official Veterinary Surgeon so that an investigation and appropriate action could be undertaken.

All Specified Risk Material (SRM) controls are subject to intensive audit to ensure full compliance.


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