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Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: The Meat Hygiene Service is set performance targets each year by Ministers. These targets, and the MHS performance against them, are published in the MHS annual report and accounts, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.

Viscount Long asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Donoughue: The Meat Hygiene Service does not keep a record of the number of times official veterinary surgeons overrule meat hygiene inspectors on recommendations for carcass condemnations. However, the MHS does record the reasons for rejection of any meat that is condemned.

Viscount Long asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To whom, and in what manner, a meat hygiene inspector may appeal in the event that his recommendation to condemn a carcass in a slaughterhouse, following his post-mortem inspection, is rejected by his official veterinary surgeon; and what arrangements are in force for the retention of such a carcass pending the determination of any appeal; and[HL3322]

    In the event that a meat hygiene inspector determines, following a post-mortem inspection in a slaughterhouse, that a carcass should be condemned, and his recommendation is rejected by his official veterinary surgeon, whether the meat hygiene inspector is obliged to apply his personal stamp; and who takes responsibility for the condition of the carcass in the event that the meat derived from it is subsequently found to be unfit.[HL3323]

Lord Donoughue: The ultimate decision and responsibility as to the fitness of a carcass for human consumption rests with an official veterinary surgeon. A meat hygiene inspector can therefore be instructed by an OVS to apply a health mark to any carcass.

If a meat hygiene inspector is aggrieved with an OVS's professional judgment, those concerns can be raised through the Meat Hygiene Service's grievance procedure.

No arrangements are in force for the retention of a carcass pending the determination of any appeal.

Lord Palmer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many letters to slaughterhouse owners and operators were written and signed by the chief executive of the Meat Hygiene Service in the financial years 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99; and how many letters sent by slaughterhouse owners and operators, addressed to the chief executive, were received by the Meat Hygiene Service in the same periods.[HL3327]

Lord Donoughue: The chief executive of the Meat Hygiene Service has written to slaughterhouse owners and operators on numerous occasions in the period 1995 to 1999 and has also received many letters from slaughterhouse owners and operators. Information relating to the exact number of letters sent and received is not held centrally and could be produced only at disproportionate cost.

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BSE

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish in the Official Report an updated table showing the numbers of cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy confirmed in Great Britain each week during 1999 to date, together with the moving annual total of cases reported in each 52-week period.[HL3853]

Lord Donoughue: The following table shows the number of cases of BSE confirmed in Great Britain during each week of 1999 up to 23 July, together with the moving annual total of cases reported for each 52-week period.

Week numberNumber confirmed each week52-week total reported
1164,233
21314,227
3904,174
4904,151
5504,127
61274,120
7464,080
8744,053
91494,025
10724,020
11914,000
12603,975
13533,943
14313,909
15743,876
16443,850
17593,823
18483,814
19233,821
20663,781
21723,787
22193,771
23243,762
24153,738
25713,724
26793,698
27503,663
28303,643
29383,619

Note:

Week 1 is the week ending Friday 8 January 1999.


Hormone-treated Cattle

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the United Kingdom is alone among European Union members excluded from the United States trade sanctions in the hormone-treated beef and cows dispute.[HL3869]

Lord Donoughue: The decision was taken by the United States on the basis of member states' voting records on the European Union ban on the import of meat and meat products derived from animals treated with hormonal growth promoters.

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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the possibility that hormone-treated beef and milk from hormone-treated cows contributes to human obesity and to human milk production disorders has not been studied by the Department of Health.[HL3870]

Lord Donoughue: There is no evidence that the ingestion of small amounts of unmetabolised growth promoting hormones from cattle influences metabolism or growth in human beings. Even if there were some effect, one of the main reasons for treating animals with growth promoting hormones is to increase the muscle content of the carcass and decrease the fat content.

The European Commission has not included a study of obesity in its assessment of potential risks to human health from growth promoting hormones used in cattle. Furthermore, the recent report of the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health (SCVPH) made as part of that risk assessment has made a thorough review of the latest science in this area and makes no reference to growth promoting hormones in cattle leading to overweight in humans.

So far as bovine somatotropin is concerned, it occurs naturally in all cows' milk and is not biologically active in humans. There is a continuing moratorium on the use of the bovine milk enhancer, recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), in the European Union. The Veterinary Products Committee has been asked to review the latest scientific evidence on human and animal health effects of the use of rBST and is expected to offer advice shortly. It is our intention to put the VPC's report into the public domain.

Biotechnologically-Modified Crops and Animals

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will request the World Trade Organisation (a) to review the use made by its panels of claims originating in the United States regarding the safety of biotechnologically-modified crops and animals, and (b), if necessary, to review any fines or other penalties imposed by the WTO as a result of the judgments of these panels.[HL3877]

Lord Donoughue: There have been no World Trade Organisation panel cases involving biotechnologically- modified crops and animals.

Cattle Health Scheme

Baroness Mallalieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide an update on the future of the Cattle Health Scheme.[HL3979]

Lord Donoughue: Under new animal health trade rules agreed during the last UK Presidency of the EU Council, a case requesting designation of Great Britain as officially EBL-free was submitted to

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the EU Commission in May. The Standing Veterinary Committee voted in favour of a Commission decision granting the status to Great Britain on 2 July. It came into effect on 1 July. The decision also retained EBL-free status for Northern Ireland. From 1 July 1999 all herds in Great Britain are to be regarded as officially EBL-free unless the presence of the disease is suspected in a particular herd.

The Cattle Health Scheme attests herds as being individually free of EBL, so may not be needed now that Great Britain's freedom is achieved. Officials are writing to all members of the scheme and to the cattle industry to consult them on the future of the scheme. The formal acknowledgement of our EBL-free status from the EU is good news for farmers and will reduce bureaucracy. We will of course maintain controls on cattle imports in accordance with EU rules.

MAFF: Service Delivery Targets

Baroness Mallalieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has made in meeting the service delivery targets set out in the paper Commitment to Service.[HL3980]

Lord Donoughue: The table below sets out the performance achieved by the regional service centres during 1998-99 against the targets published in the charter document Commitment to Service, second edition.

RSC Performance Data (per cent.) for Financial Year 1998-99 (unless otherwise specified)

Total
Arable Area Payments Scheme OilseedsMain payments99
Advanced payments99
Final payments99
Beef Special Premium SchemeAdvance payments (1998)99
Balance payments (1997)99
CID applications issued (1998)99
Premium paid CIDs issued (1998)99
Suckler Cow Premium SchemeBalance payments 199799
Advance payments 199898
Hill Livestock Compensatory AllowancesClaims 199899
Sheep Annual Premium SchemeClaims marketing year 199899
Environmentally Sensitive AreasApplications84
Claims96
Environmentally Sensitive Areas Conservation PlanApplications73
Claims84
Farm Woodland Premium SchemeApplications84
Claims (1998)98
Injurious WeedsComplaints99
New Nitrate Sensitive Areas SchemeApplications (1998)92
Claims99
Protection of Badgers Act 1992Licence applications98
Strychnine PermitsApplications99
Agricultural Wage InspectionsComplaints95
Wildlife & Countryside ActLicence applications98
CorrespondenceAnswered within 10 working days97
ComplaintsNumbers receiving response within 10 working days87

Footnotes:

(i) The relatively high failure rate for the FWPS applications was due to the diversion of staff resources in two of the RSCs to higher priority work.

(ii) The relatively poor performance for the ESA schemes was primarily caused by uneven workloads, staff turnover and the introduction of a new computer system.

(iii) The 87 per cent. response rate to complaints to the RSCs is explained by the fact that often cases require referral to HQ or the national scheme management centres and thus take some time to resolve. It must be stressed however that in all cases where the 10-day target was not met a holding letter was issued to the complainant.

General Notes:

(i) The total percentage has been calculated by setting the entire number of applications or claims cleared within the target time, against the total number received. Applications and claims not cleared due to reasons beyond our control (incorrect information supplied by applicant, etc.) are not included as failures to meet target.

(ii) The Farm Conservation Grant Schemes 1989 and 1991 applications and claims and pilot NSA claims have been omitted from the table since these schemes are now closed.

(iii) During the year 16 formal complaints were made to MAFF's central Complaints Adjudicator, of which 2 were referred elsewhere and 3 are still outstanding. Of the cases dealt with, 6 were determined in the complainants favour and 5 were not upheld.


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