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The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): In 1998, we requested information, through Agricultural Attaches in our Embassies in member states, about the implementation of EU requirements on veterinary supervision in meat plants in those countries. The level of information received was somewhat patchy and covers only 10 of the 14 member states surveyed. The results show that supervision levels and frequencies vary between member states and that supervision levels in GB premises are not significantly higher than in other member states. Indeed, they are probably lower than in some.
In addition, the Meat and Livestock Commission's report on meat inspection charges and other enforcement costs, published in October 1999, found that most other member states operate national inspection systems under arrangements similar to those operated by the Meat Hygiene Service in Great Britain, although the role of the official veterinarian and the meat inspector varies between member states. Moreover, the MLC found that in the nine member states surveyed, official veterinarians were fully qualified veterinary surgeons who had undertaken a minimum of five years' training as required by EU law.
The results of our own survey and the MLC report have been published and are available in the Library of the House. We have also passed copies of both to the European Commission. We agree with the conclusions of the Meat Industry Red Tape Working Group that a modern hazard-based control system is the way forward and are actively pressing the Commission to progress the fundamental changes required to EU legislation. Indeed, my right honourable friend the Minister, at his meeting with Commissioner Byrne on 6 March, pressed hard the case for a review leading to its replacement with rules based on more targeted risk assessment. Member states' officials are due to discuss the Commission's proposals for a fundamental review of ante and post mortem inspection procedures later this month.
Baroness Hayman: The availability of quota does not serve as a brake on those wishing to enter organic production. Our policy remains to seek an orderly removal of all milk quotas, rather than introducing further complications into the system.
Baroness Hayman: In the UK, a ban on feeding ruminant protein to ruminants was introduced in 1988. Since June 1994, the EU has prohibited the feeding of mammalian protein to ruminant species in all member states including the UK.
Gelatin and blood products are exempt from the feed ban in both EC and UK legislation. Tallow, being fat rather than protein, is also a permitted ingredient in cattle feed. Tallow and gelatin for inclusion in animal feed, however, must be produced to standards laid down in Community law. Such materials are not widely used in animal feed in the UK.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We have pressed the Government of Sudan to use their oil revenues for development projects and to show transparency in their oil accounts. They have given public assurances to this effect and we shall continue to monitor this expenditure as information becomes available. We have no evidence of such expenditure at present.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are unequivocally committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which remains the cornerstone of our non-proliferation policy. We have made a positive contribution to implementing the agenda agreed at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and will work for a positive outcome to this year's conference, which will advance the goal of nuclear disarmament.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have received reports of human rights violations in the Sudan, including aerial bombings. We have raised these issues with the Government of Sudan in general and on specific occasions. At last year's UN Commission on Human Rights, an EU sponsored consensus resolution on Sudan was agreed which called on the Government of Sudan to stop immediately the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian and humanitarian centres, which runs counter to the fundamental principles of human rights and humanitarian law.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The long-running civil war has caused great suffering to the Sudanese people, including displacement. We are aware of reports of displacement in oil-producing areas such as the recent Canadian Harker report. We shall continue to press for a peace settlement which will benefit all Sudanese.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): To support its review of the Mental Health Act 1983, the Department of Health has commissioned a programme of research into the use of the Act. A number of projects within the programme are designed to identify the extent of variation in the use of the Act. They include analysis of age, gender, race and a range of socio-economic factors which may account for such variation. We have not yet received final reports from all the projects in the programme but a summary of the main findings taken from preliminary reports has been compiled. The summary report will shortly be available on the DH website at www.doh.gov.uk/mentalhealth.htm. The results from this programme of research will help to identify the possible reasons for variation in use of the Act, including over-representation of black people in the detained patient population.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The nature of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) agent is such that conventional methods of sterilisation such as autoclaving cannot always be relied upon to inactivate the agent completely. The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee in September 1999 advised that rigorous implementation of washing, decontamination and general hygiene procedures were key measures in minimising the risk of TSE infection.
The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP)/Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) publication, Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Agents: Safe Working and the Prevention of Infection, 1998, copies of which are available in the Library, provides guidance on cleaning, decontamination and waste disposal and cites the following scientific papers:
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