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Sites of Special Scientific Interest: North-west England

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The North West Government Region contains 428 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) wholly or partly within its boundary. The table below provides a breakdown of the number of SSSIs by county, or counties in cases where the sites cross county boundaries within the region. A number of these SSSIs will also cross regional boundaries.

County NameNo. of SSSIs
Greater Manchester18
Cumbria and Lancashire2
Lancashire and Merseyside1
Lancashire and Greater Manchester1

English Nature has a statutory duty to notify land in England which in its opinion is of special interest, by reason of its flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features. Sites are selected on the basis of scientific criteria set out in publicly available guidelines prepared and maintained by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). Confirmation of SSSIs in England is carried out by the full council of English Nature at meetings which members of the public may attend.

Information on the location of SSSIs is available from the English Nature website or MAGIC, the Multi-Agency Geographic Information for the Countryside,

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Lord Selsdon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which mammals and other animals are classified as "vermin".[HL4559]

Lord Whitty: There is no definition of the term "vermin" in UK law. In such a situation the Oxford Dictionary definition should be applied.

The Oxford Dictionary defines "vermin" as "Animals of a noxious or objectionable kind. Originally applied to reptiles, stealthy, or slinky animals, and various wild beasts; now, excluding in US and Australia, almost entirely restricted to those animals or birds which prey upon preserved game . . ."

The Small Ground Vermin Traps Order 1958 and the various Spring Traps Approval Orders, refer to "small ground vermin". Neither the orders nor the Pests Act 1954, under which they are made, define this term or provide an exclusive list of species. However, the following animals are listed under various orders: moles, grey squirrels, rabbits, mink, stoats, weasels, rabbits, rats, and mice.

Traps approved under the Spring Traps Approval Order 1995 do not apply to small ground vermin listed in Schedules 5 and 6 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This means that red squirrels, dormice, water voles, shrews, hedgehogs, polecats and a number of other species are excluded.


Lord Palmer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What technologies, if any, are currently available to convert woody biomass into bioethanol; and what is the estimated cost per tonne of such fuels. [HL4564]

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Lord Whitty: At present, there are no commercially viable technologies for producing bioethanol from woody material. Significant advances are currently being made in developing ways to use this feedstock. The technologies can be broadly characterised as: ligno-cellulosic technologies—the enzyme-based hydrolysis of cellulose-rich biomass; dilute acid hydrolysis—the use of acids to break down cellulose into fermentable sugars; and gasification and reformation—the application of heat and pressure to break down biomass into syn-gas which is then reformed into ethanol, or other road fuels.

Large scale commercialisation of these technologies is unlikely for some years and firm costs are not yet available. Current research gives estimated production costs of 50 to 56 pence per litre from ligno-cellulosic enzyme hydrolysis and 30 to 40 pence per litre from gasification.

Prime Minister: TUC Speech

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Prime Minister's speech made at the Trades Union Congress dinner on 9 September was accurately represented by the text of that speech issued by his spokesman. [HL4399]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): Yes.

Guantanamo Bay: British Detainees

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have refused to have British prisoners of war from Afghanistan returned to Britain in early 2002 or subsequently. [HL4486]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We are pressing the US authorities to move forward with the process of determining the future of all the British detainees held by the US at Guantanamo Bay. The issues currently under discussion include the possibility of repatriation.

IRA Terrorism: Libyan-supplied Weapons

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek compensation from the Libyan Government for any terrorist crimes committed by the IRA using weapons supplied by that government. [HL4494]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No. The Government have already put in place structures and mechanisms aimed at addressing the needs of all victims of the Northern Ireland conflict.

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Iraq: Post-conflict Risks

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

    Whether, before embarking on the war in Iraq, they assessed the extent of risk of obstruction, resistance and armed opposition to the occupation of Iraq; and, if so, what was their assessment of the extent of the risk. [HL4521]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: In planning for a possible conflict in Iraq, the Government took into account a wide range of factors relevant to the post-conflict phase, anticipated the risks and planned accordingly.

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

    Whether, before embarking on the war in Iraq, they were warned by the intelligence and security services of the United Kingdom or the United States that there was likely to be a significant obstruction, resistance and armed opposition to the occupation of Iraq.[HL4522]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The intelligence and security services contribute to the provision of advice to the Government through Joint Intelligence Committee assessments. The JIC issued a number of assessments on Iraq prior to the conflict.

Blood Transfusions: Risks

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the recent publication of a letter by G. F. Reidler in Vox Sanguinis, which identifies deaths as a result of non-infective complications of blood transfusions, why they have not taken steps to prevent avoidable deaths and serious morbidity.[HL4251]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The safety of blood and blood products used in the National Health Service is of paramount importance. Although most United Kingdom sourced fresh frozen plasma (FFP) is not virally inactivated, high levels of safety are achieved by using single unit, as opposed to pooled plasma, by screening out potential high-risk donors and by testing every unit of donated blood for the presence of infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C before it is released to hospitals. In addition, the National Blood Authority (NBA) is conducting an options appraisal of means to minimise the risk of transfusion-related acute lung injury from FFP.

The decision taken to import single unit FFP sourced from the United States for young babies and children born after 1 January 1996 will provide additional protection to the most vulnerable group who will not have been exposed to bovine spongiform encephalopathy through the food chain. The NBA is

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involved in arranging for supplies of FFP for this group of patients. A commercially produced, pooled FFP product sourced from the United States is also available for the National Health Service to purchase.

The Government's Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Blood and Tissue for Transplantation will continue to review the risk of new emerging viruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) on the blood supply. There is no evidence at present that SARS can be transmitted by blood transfusion.


Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How long immunity from smallpox lasts in an individual who has been vaccinated one, two or three times at 10-year intervals; and[HL4359]

    What proportion of the United Kingdom population is estimated to have a degree of immunity from smallpox as a result of having been vaccinated.[HL4360]

Lord Warner: Routine smallpox vaccination stopped in 1971. Fifty five per cent of the population were born before 1971 and the uptake of vaccine in the immediate years preceding this stoppage was 35 to 40 per cent. The estimate for the proportion of the current United Kingdom population now who have ever been vaccinated is about a third. No laboratory test to measure the immunological response, most likely to confer protection against smallpox, existed at that time.

A recent study* from United States researchers has shown that the immunological response remains, in some degree, in 90 per cent of those vaccinated, but declines steadily over the decades since immunisation. It is not known whether, or to what extent, this protects against smallpox infection or development of disease. In that study, in those vaccinated one, two, three or more times, there was no correlation between the number of vaccinations received and the immunological response.

In the past, vaccination was required every three years for travel and yearly for those working close to smallpox cases.

    *Duration of antiviral immunity after smallpox vaccination.

    Hammarlund, E et al, Nature Medicine 9 (9) September 2003.

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