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Blood Products: Pooling

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): All blood products manufactured by the National Health Service plasma fractionation centres are sourced from pooled non-UK plasma. However, fresh frozen plasma (FFP), a blood component for transfusion, is sourced from UK donated blood in the same way as red cells and platelets. Like red cells, FFP is not pooled before use, although samples from up to 10 donor units of FFP are pooled to enable nucleic acid amplification testing for the earlier detection of hepatitis C infection.

Irish Sea: Temporary Prohibition of Fishing

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

23 Mar 2000 : Column WA40

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The closure of the Irish Sea during the cod spawning season is designed to promote the recovery of the stock which is currently in a very poor state. Shrimp fishing is not affected by the closure. Fishing for nephrops may also continue in designated parts of the closed area.

Compensation will not be paid to fishermen whose activities are curtailed as a result of the closed area. The Government do not believe that it is appropriate to compensate fishermen for a decline in stocks or for conservation measures designed to improve stocks and hence fishing opportunities in the future.

Fishermen unable to work in the nephrops and shrimp fisheries or in other fisheries outside the closed area may well be entitled to claim job seekers allowance and other benefits.

Cows: Slaughter Scheme Weight Limit

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will remove the maximum weight limit on payments for cows slaughtered over three years old.[HL1532]

Baroness Hayman: The over month scheme provides a voluntary outlet for cattle which are excluded from the food chain by virtue of their age and for which there is thus no market. The weight limit and other payment terms are set by the European Commission; it is not within the Government's gift to amend them unilaterally. The Government consider that payments under the scheme are fair to taxpayers and producers and have no plans to seek the agreement of the Commission to any change in payment terms.

Forestry: Investment Yield

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they define "a good return on their investment in public forests" (H.L. Deb, 14 March col. 1530); and whether they consider that the investment yield should be capable of significant variation from year to year, in accordance with market conditions and to protect the interests of private timber producers.[HL1555]

Baroness Hayman: We expect the forests managed by the Forestry Commission to provide a rate of return of 6 per cent overall. This is an economic measure which includes not only the operating surplus from commercial activities but also the many non-market benefits provided by the forests. These include public recreation, increasing biodiversity and other environmental benefits. The value of these non-market benefits is such that, to date, we have not needed to vary the target rate of return. On the other hand, the expected annual cash surplus is revised regularly to take account of changing circumstances.

23 Mar 2000 : Column WA41

MAFF Restructuring

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes they expect to make to the structure and location of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's offices in the light of the recent review of the common agricultural policy administration in England, and[HL 1556]

    What account they will take in any reorganisation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's local structure of the proximity of offices to the farmers they serve.[HL 1557]

Baroness Hayman : The recent review of CAP scheme administration was commissioned to help us to identify the best way to improve the service we offer to farmers and traders eligible to claim CAP payments, taking full advantage of the benefits offered by modern technology.

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We are now considering, in the context of the Spending Review 2000, how best to restructure MAFF's regional service centres and the Intervention Board Executive Agency. No decisions have yet been taken on future locations for CAP scheme processing. Any major restructuring will only be possible if funding can be made available.

My right honourable friend the Minister has made it clear that he will not implement the recommendations of the review unless he is satisfied that we will be able to deliver real improvements in the service which MAFF and the Intervention Board currently provide to farmers and traders, as well as reductions in the cost to the taxpayer of administration of CAP payments.

We are also taking forward plans to align MAFF's other regional activities, particularly on rural development, with the Government Offices for the Regions. This will ensure that we are able to work effectively with other regional partners, including the regional development agencies.

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