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Iraqi Prisoners

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Bach: The taking of prisoners of war is a legitimate means of reducing an enemy's strength and fighting capacity. Iraqi military personnel who fall into the hands of United Kingdom forces are prisoners of war and therefore will be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Paramilitary forces who are engaged in fighting coalition forces but are not members of the regular Iraqi armed forces will be treated as prisoners of war pending determination of their status. This status will depend on whether the group to which the person belongs can properly be regarded as part of the armed forces of Iraq and on whether he has distinguished himself from the civilian population by carrying his arms openly during and preceding any attack.

BSE: Over Thirty Month Scheme

Lord Varley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will announce the future of the over thirty month scheme (OTMS).[HL2510]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): In 1996, at the height of the BSE crisis, the then government and European partners introduced a raft of measures aimed at protecting public health, supporting the market and restoring consumer confidence in beef.

The OTMS was introduced to provide an outlet for cattle affected by the over thirty month rule, which bans beef from cattle more than 30 months old from being sold for human consumption. It is operated under EU Regulation 716/96 and farmers are paid for animals more than 30 months old which are slaughtered and destroyed. The scheme costs around £400 million a year, and more than £3.2 billion has been spent on it since 1996.

The over thirty month rule is currently being reviewed by the Food Standards Agency; although no decisions have been taken it is possible that the review will lead to changes and that beef from older cattle will again be available for human consumption, subject to testing negative for BSE.

This possibilty offers exciting new challenges and opportunities for the UK beef industry. It has led the Government to take a number of strategic actions to assist the industry in preparing for an orderly return to more normal market conditions.

Our officials asked the European Commission to reduce the rates paid to farmers for animals entering the OTMS. On 28 March the EU Beef Management Committee unanimously agreed a proposal by the European Commission. The rates for cows will fall by 20 per cent and the rate for steers, heifers and bulls by 8 per cent. The new rates, which reflect changes to market prices elsewhere in the EU since 1997, are 0.64 euros per kg liveweight for cows and 0.83 euros per kg liveweight for other animals.

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The new rates will come into effect on 28 April and will apply to all animals slaughtered from that date. This action will ensure that taxpayers do not pay farmers prices well above the level that they could expect to get on the market and will help discourage the entry of cattle which may be slaughtered for beef following any changes to the rule.

Our officials are setting up a core stakeholders group to explore with the industry the way forward if the rule is changed. They will be talking to the European Commission about how any disruption to the beef market can be minimised and any further changes to the scheme that may be required.

The UK currently imports 30 per cent or around 290,000 tonnes of its domestic beef requirement. Changes to the rule are expected to allow large quantities of cow beef for manufacturing and some prime beef for retail use onto the domestic market, which will assist in reducing the import requirement and increasing the availability of both prime quality and cow beef for export. In order to capitalise on these increased supplies for export and to minimise domestic market distortion, my officials have alerted the European Commission to our intention to seek a change to the 30 month limit in the date based export scheme (DBES) in line with any change to the over thirty month rule.

Our officials are also working with stakeholders to ensure that effective arrangements for BSE testing and removal of vertebral column will be in place.

Tobacco Advertising

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether public houses and licensed premises are exempt from the provisions of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 in respect of point of sale material such as beer mats, vending machines and display cabinets; and[HL2385]

    Whether the provision by tobacco companies of display cabinets, free of charge, to public houses and other licensed premises to encourage impulse buying of cigars is consistent with the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002.[HL2386]

Baroness Andrews: When fully in force the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 will provide a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and promotion, with certain limited exceptions.

Public houses and licensed premises are not exempt from the provisions of the Act. Any new measures to advertise or promote tobacco products in order to encourage impulse buying of cigars are not in the spirit of the Act.

The Act provides for regulations to be made to control advertising wherever tobacco products are offered for sale. There is also provision in the Act to prohibit or restrict the use of tobacco branding on non-tobacco products or services (brandsharing). The Government have consulted on draft regulations

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governing point of sale (including in pubs) and brandsharing. The responses received during the consultation are being considered.

Once the regulations are in final draft they will be notified to the European Commission under the Technical Standards Directive 98/34/EC, as amended by Directive 98/48/EC.

Railways: Rimini System

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the Rimini system, which is applied by the railway authorities and relates to track worker safety, works.[HL2344]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The Rimini (risk minimisation) system is the colloquial name for Network Rail's company standard RT/LS/S/019, Protection of people working on or near the line, which came into force in December 2002.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which body was responsible for introducing Rimini.[HL2345]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Rimini was introduced by Network Rail, the infrastructure maintenance controller, who as the health and safety dutyholder is legally responsible for ensuring that risks to trackside workers are reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is estimated to be the total cost of Rimini, including both track maintenance and additional bus services provided, when trains are cancelled.[HL2346]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Network Rail estimates the implementation cost of Rimini will be £4 million. Network Rail does not think that Rimini will require additional bus services.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many train services it is anticipated will be cancelled in a typical week when Rimini is implemented.[HL2347]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Network Rail does not anticipate that train services will be cancelled as a result of the implementation of the Rimini standard.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many lives of track workers engaged in maintaining railway infrastructure it is estimated will be saved as a result of introducing Rimini.[HL2348]

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Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Network Rail has not made an estimate of the effect of track worker fatalities as a result of introducing Rimini.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the value attributed to lives saved by Rimini; and what is the value of a life saved by a typical road safety scheme.[HL2349]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Network Rail says that the business case for Rimini is not based around the value for preventing a fatality (VPF) but around the wider benefits to the industry from the improved planning, resourcing and quality of the work which the process drives. The average VPF used in the assessment of road safety schemes is £1.2 million.

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Gatwick to London Rail Tickets

Viscount Astor asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider the lack of inter-available rail tickets at Gatwick Airport damaging to the tourism industry.[HL2425]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: No. As fares from Gatwick to London do not have to be inter-available, this allows the Gatwick Express, which provides a premium dedicated, high-speed travel link between central London and Gatwick Airport, to be able to set its own fares while other train operators serving the same route set theirs. This allows for competition on price between operators and provides a choice for passengers and tourists alike.

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