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Potatoes: Disease

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: Defra inspectors carried out over 1,000 visual inspections of potato lots from outside the UK during the 2002–03 season and 451 laboratory tests for ring rot and brown rot. Defra aims to inspect all imports from third countries and a proportion of intra EU consignments depending on the level of risk. In addition, all imported seed potatoes entering the seed potato classification scheme are tested for the presence of potato ring rot.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The Netherlands carries out regular surveys for potato ring rot and potato brown rot as required by EC legislation. We understand that in addition, the Netherlands carries out a ring rot and brown rot test on every lot of seed potatoes produced in the country, including those exported to the UK.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The cause of the outbreak is still under investigation. Once the source has been confirmed, a decision will be taken on any further action that is necessary.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The Netherlands are still undertaking tests at the farm of origin, and will take action in compliance with the terms of the EC Directive 93/85/EC on the control of potato ring rot.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The contingency plan for potato ring rot was reviewed during 2003, before the current outbreak, and is available on the department's website. The contingency plan for Colorado beetle was reviewed after an exercise based around a simulated outbreak in 2002. Other pests and diseases are covered by a generic plant health contingency plan which was last reviewed in 2002.

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Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many inspections were carried out in the last year for which figures are available on potato seeds by the plant health and seeds inspectors.[HL5583]

Lord Whitty: During the 2002–03 season, 425 visual inspections were carried out by Defra's plant health and seeds inspectors of seed potatoes grown in England and Wales. In addition, 133 samples were taken for laboratory testing for ring rot and brown rot.

Publicly Owned Utility Companies

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which European treaties or legislation are the basis for any United Kingdom regulation governing the creation and generation of publicly owned corporations which provide services relating to national rail, urban passenger transport, the generation and distribution of electricity, and potable water supplies and urban drainage.[HL5031]

Baroness Crawley: None.

Migrant Workers: Protection

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

    Whether they intend to sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1990 and which entered into force on 1 July.[HL5494]

Baroness Crawley: The Government have no plans to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. The scope of the convention is wider than the UK's existing immigration laws. No EU states are signatories and most of the 12 existing signatories are migrant workers' countries of origin. The Government consider that they have already struck the right balance between the need for immigration control and the protection of the interests and rights of migrant workers, who have the protection of our existing commitments under international law.

EU Draft Constitutional Treaty

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What institutions will have responsibility for interpreting, implementing and enforcing any new constitution for the European Union.[HL5496]

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Baroness Crawley: The European Court of Justice will be responsible for ensuring respect for the law in the interpretation and application of the constitution. Implementation of the constitution will be carried out by the member states, the Council, the Commission and the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Belarus: Religious Freedom

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make representations to the Government of Belarus on the decree banning a number of religious organisations, including the Ahmadiyya Muslims.[HL5554]

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Baroness Crawley: The UK, with EU partners, has made several representations to the Government of Belarus on their religion law, both before its signature by President Lukashenko in October 2002 and then during 2003, urging the authorities to respect religions and beliefs in all forms. In April 2003, the Government supported EU co-sponsorship, with the United States, of a UN Commission on Human Rights resolution on Belarus. This expressed deep concern about restrictions on religious organisations. Our Ambassador in Minsk has also raised our concerns with the Belarusian Foreign Minister. General human rights violations in Belarus have led EU member states, including the UK, to suspend ministerial contacts with their Belarusian counterparts.



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