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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Government regularly raise their concerns about human rights issues affecting prisoners detained by the Israeli authorities and remind them of their responsibilities under the 4th Geneva Convention. We do not, however, have the right of access to non-British nationals in any country. The ICRC is in constant contact with prisoners and we are in regular contact with it.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are watching developments closely. The Maoist insurgency has intensified in recent weeks, and we deplore the violence which has claimed an estimated 2,000 lives over the last five years. The Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary both visited Nepal last year and urged the Nepalese Government to pursue a peace process with the Maoist insurgents. We have also joined our European partners in issuing a statement on 11 April urging all parties to search for a peaceful solution. FCO travel advice for Nepal is regularly updated in the light of events. The embassy keeps a close eye on the situation and discusses security issues on a regular basis with NGOs, UK companies and British Gurkhas, Nepal.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Government are already committed to reviewing the rehabilitation periods in the Act, following a recommendation from the Better Regulation Task Force in its review of fit person criteria in 1999. The sentencing framework and its application have changed considerably since 1974 and may change further in the light of current reviews. We believe that the time is right for a fundamental review of the Act as a whole, rather than looking at just a part of it. We are working on preparations for such a review and will give further details in due course.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Sir Peter Lloyd presented his report to the Home Department on 30 March and copies have been placed in the Library. We are very grateful to him for the great care and trouble that he and his working party have given to this review of the boards of visitors and the complex issues that arose from it.
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): In so far as departmental records show, no employed barrister, other than three public servants and five academics, has been awarded Honorary Queen's Counsel in the last five years. Employed barristers have been eligible to apply to become Queen's Counsel only from 27 September 1999 (when Section 36 of the Access to Justice Act came into force) and no employed barrister applied in either the 2000 or the 2001 competitions.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The former convalescent home has been deregistered and all the furniture and equipment disposed of. The Government have no plans to reopen the home. Even if the home were reopened, eligibility would continue to be restricted by the Osborne Estate Act 1902 to serving or retired members of the Armed Forces (and their families) and the Civil Service.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: English Heritage will continue to manage, maintain and present to the public the Osborne House estate and gardens. Subject to Parliament's approval of repeal of part of the Osborne Estate Act 1902, a large part of the former convalescent home accommodation and the gardens previously restricted to convalescent home use will be opened to the public by English Heritage.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The International Foot and Mouth Vaccine Bank at Pirbright holds stocks of an emergency vaccine which would protect against the O-type virus which is causing the present outbreak in the UK: 500,000 doses are ready to use in case they are needed. The acquisition of stocks of additional vaccine strains is considered annually, based on the perceived threat to International Vaccine Bank member countries.
Baroness Hayman: The Government are precluded by EU rules from taking direct action to support market prices. The measures in place to control the spread of foot and mouth disease impose significant additional costs on the meat processing supply chain and some of these costs will inevitably be passed back to producers. Even when more normal marketing conditions return, the closure of export markets is likely to result in significant over-supply and weak demand. In that situation, the Government will consider pressing the European Commission to introduce private storage aid for sheepmeat and (possibly) for beef and pigmeat as well. Under current market conditions, however, we and the Commission judge that such aid would not prove effective.
Guidelines set out by the Office International Des Epizooties in Chapter 2.1.1 of the International Animal Health Code describe the steps to be taken to regain FMD-free status in various circumstances. These distinguish between those countries where vaccinated animals are slaughtered and those where they are not.
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