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6 Dec 2001 : Column: 487W
recommended average length of patient consultation times with (a) general practitioners and (b) hospital consultants. 
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 29 November 2001]: The Department does not issue guidance on how long general practitioners or hospital consultants should spend on consultations. It is up to clinical judgment how long they should spend on a consultation, as patients' needs differ on an individual basis.
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 30 November 2001]: The populations used to calculate health authority allocation targets are based on Office for National Statistics population projections. These are updated to take account of trends in births, deaths and migration.
Decisions on the level of housing required are for local planning authorities. Trends in population growth are taken into account when these decisions are taken. Issues concerning the provision of housing are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many and what proportion of letters received by his Department between 20 June and 20 July were replied to (a) in under 15, (b) in under 20, (c) in under 30, (d) in under 40 and (e) in over 40 working days; 
|Replies sent within||Number of replies||Percentage|
|Over 40 days||202||13|
|Over 40 days||74||3|
(14) In addition 199 letters were transferred to other Government Departments or no reply required.
(15) In addition 250 letters were transferred to other Government Departments or no reply required.
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Mr. Hutton [holding answer 5 December 2001]: In future primary care trusts will commission pathology services alongside other services. Pathology services are currently provided by national health service trusts. Through the Pathology Modernisation Programme, the Department is currently working with the NHS to develop a planning guide for pathology modernisation. As part of this process, we are considering the appropriate model for pathology services in the light of "Shifting the Balance of Power" and the proposed changes to NHS structures under the NHS Reform and Health Care Professions Bill. We aim to issue these proposals for wide consultation in spring 2002.
Mr. Hutton: The NHS Plan and the National Service Frameworks set out our vision for the high quality service we intend to deliver. The 10 core principles reflected in the NHS Plan are set out in the preface to the document.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list those persons who have (a) died and (b) been injured in suspicious circumstances since the Belfast Agreement was concluded, indicating which are (i) known to be as a result of terrorist or paramilitary activity and (ii) known not to be as a result of terrorist or paramilitary activity. 
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Jane Kennedy: The police do not keep information on people categorised as injured in suspicious circumstances. Listed are the statistics on deaths and injuries as a result of the security situation since 10 April 1998.
|Shootings (mainly paramilitary type)||11|
|Assaults (paramilitary style beatings)||11|
|Others (mainly public disorder)||65|
Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the implications are for other recruits in the event of Catholic recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland failing to complete recruit training. 
Jane Kennedy: There are no implications for other recruits in the event that Catholic recruits fail to complete training. The 50:50 requirement applies only to the appointment of recruits. It does not apply after police trainees have taken their place on the training course.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when she first learned of Professor Bostock's concerns about the possible contamination of samples of sheeps' brains on which tests were being conducted for evidence of BSE; 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 26 October 2001]: It has been known since the experiments began that there were some doubts about whether the brains involved could be cross-contaminated with bovine material. The sheep brains used in the study were not collected under the stringent sterile procedures normally used for such material. the possibility of contamination was raised by Professor Bostock and discussed by the Spongeform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee in February 2000. It was recognised in the public statement made by the Food
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Standards Agency on 2 August 2001, which explained that the possibility of contamination of the samples with BSE infected cow brains needed further investigation.
DEFRA first approached an independent laboratory asking if they would be able to conduct tests to determine whether the scrapie brain pool (collected in the early 1990s and used in the Institute of Animal Health experiment) contained bovine material in June 2001. Results of the work were reported to DEFRA on 17 October.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list by county the number of applications for livestock movement licences under the foot and mouth disease control restrictions made during the periods (a) 1 March to 30 May, (b) 1 June to 31 August and (c) 1 September to date; and how many licences were issued in the same periods. 
Mr. Morley: The number of applications for livestock movement licences under foot and mouth disease controls and licences issued for the periods involved are available in the Library of the House. Table 1 covers the period 1 March to 17 September 2001 when licences were issued primarily for slaughter and for welfare reasons. Table 2 covers the period 17 September to 28 November 2001 for licences issued under the Autumn Movements Arrangements.
The differences between the numbers of applications received and number of licences issued, is partly due to some applications being withdrawn and partly because the licensing procedures are a combination of manually and computerised processing.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the information given in the letter of 4 August from the Under-Secretary of State to the hon. Member for Vale of York concerning the bases on which premises subject to foot and mouth culling are decided and the advice given to farmers on cleaning of fields (refs 4430, 4431). 
I am sorry that I was unable to reply, but had I done so, I would have said any decision to cull animals is based on the following criteria:
All foot and mouth susceptible animals (normally cattle, sheep, pigs and goats) on a farm where foot and mouth disease is confirmed either on clinical grounds or laboratory tests (an Infected Premise) should be slaughtered within 24 hours of the infection being reported.
Susceptible livestock on farms adjoining an Infected Premises (Contiguous Premises) should be culled within 48 hours although local vets have some discretion not to slaughter cattle or rare breeds of sheep or pigs if it is considered that the level
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Animals which have been in contact with infected stock in some way, either directly, indirectly or which are on premises which have been exposed to infection are traced and slaughtered as dangerous contacts.
Susceptible livestock are also slaughtered where animals show signs which suggest foot and mouth disease is present but which are not sufficiently consistent with the signs of FMD to confirm the diagnosis on clinical grounds. In such cases, samples are submitted to the laboratory and animals on contiguous premises are not culled unless a positive laboratory test is obtained.
The following procedures should be applied to fields and pastures used by susceptible animals on an infected premises.
Items likely to attract vermin or scavenging animals must be removed from the land and either destroyed or soaked in disinfectant.
The land should be cleared of all equipment and structures (e.g. troughs, arks, temporary fencing etc.) and left for 42 days to enable maximum exposure of any surface contamination to the environment.
Land that had been grazed by susceptible stock, where possible, be harrowed to break down and disperse waste material e.g. dung.
The cleansing and disinfection of the paddock(s) or land can then be considered complete. However, re-contamination of pastures by vehicles, personnel etc. is feasible unless they follow the biosecurity measures when they leave the other parts of the premises that have not been cleansed and disinfected.
Detailed guidance in respect of individual premises is available to farmers through the local animal health office. In addition, general guidance on biosecurity is available on the DEFRA website."
Our policy for the slaughter of animals suspected of being infected of foot and mouth has changed slightly. We have introduced a further category. This is for cases where the clinical picture on the farm suggests that disease is not present (i.e. there are insufficient grounds for slaughtering on suspicion the entire herd/flock) but where we want to be sure we have not missed something. We have the option of placing the herd/flock under official movement restrictions while laboratory test are carried out.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will update and publish the information given in the letter of 8 August from the Under-Secretary of State to the hon. Member for Vale of York in response to questions concerning biosecurity measures in areas where culling takes place, closure of local roads and the impact of Thirsk Auction Mart (refs 4050, 4047, 4044, 4045, 4048, 4046). 
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The Government's key priority is to eradicate foot and mouth disease as quickly as possible and vigilance and high standards of biosecurity are crucial. It is therefore imperative that DEFRA staff are seen to be applying good biosecurity measures at all times and at every available opportunity officials are reminded of this. Any breaches will be treated with the utmost seriousness.
A number of allegations have been made that recommended biosecurity measures have been breached by DEFRA officials. All such allegations are investigated. So far most cases have been found either to be groundless or to be lacking in sufficient detail to enable a thorough investigation.
One case was proven where animal parts were left on a holding. The site was subsequently fully cleared and the staff reminded of the vital importance of maintaining full biosecurity and thoroughness in performing culling operations. The Foot and Mouth Disease Order 1983 allows a Ministry or local authority inspector to prohibit the entry of any person onto any land or into any agricultural building that lies within an "infected" area. This power could be used to close roads. However, veterinary judgment has been that, except in very rare cases, to do so would be disproportionate to the risk involved. Such recommendations are normally based, for example on epidemiological assessment where a road passes through the middle of an infected premise that has not yet been disinfected or where it is not possible to screen a cull from the public's view.
Nonetheless, to ensure that inspectors have sufficient powers to control the current outbreak, additional powers have been inserted in the Foot and Mouth Disease Order 1983 by the Foot and Mouth (Amendment) (England) (No 4) Order 2001 which would allow an inspector of the Ministry or a local authority (with prior written authority of the Minister) to close roads within a controlled area. It is a veterinary judgment as to whether a recommendation should be made to the local authority for a particular road to be closed pending a cull. This would happen if a road passed through or, particularly close to, an infected premise where culling was to occur and where there was no means of ensuring that the cull and all related activity could be screened from the public's view.
No assessment has been made on the impact of closing the Thirsk Auction Mart as a collection centre. Responsibility for authorising collection centres rests with the local authority which in this case, is North Yorkshire county council. However to be licensed as a collection centre strict guidelines laid down by the State Veterinary Service must be met. The Thirsk Centre was no longer able to meet the required criteria owing to the outbreak of the disease in that area. The situation will be kept under review but Thirsk is now subject to tight biosecurity emergency procedures announced by my noble Friend Lord Whitty on 23 July.
The three-kilometre zone (the Protection Zone) is required by EU legislation, and is based on scientific and veterinary advice and experience in dealing with this disease."
Biosecurity remains an extremely important issue and there will need to be a continuing discussion with all interested parties on the lessons that need to be learned on disease prevention measures to be followed by those responsible for livestock. As regards the biosecurity observed by DEFRA staff during the outbreak, no further examples of breaches have been proven by our investigation.
The disease situation is now much improved in Thirsk. North Yorkshire has had no outbreaks since 18 August although it remains an "at risk" county for the purposes of the Animal Movements Licensing Scheme. Thirsk Auction Mart was re-licensed as a collection centre on
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4 October and operates as such on Mondays. For the remaining days of the week, except Sunday, it operates as a cleansing and disinfection centre.
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