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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The dates on which Grenada, Dominica and Solomon Islands first went into arrears with repayment of United Kingdom loans were as follows:
Lord Lucas: All veterinary medicines are required to be considered against the statutory criteria of safety, quality and efficacy before a marketing authorisation can be issued. Safety in this context includes the animal and those who might handle the product. The product types referred to have all been assessed against these criteria, and have been authorised for use in accordance with the instructions and warnings on the product packaging. For organophosphate and carbonate based flea collars, the warnings include keeping the collar out of reach of children and not allowing them to play with it. It is the responsibility of the pet owner or parent to ensure that these warnings are followed. In any case of doubt, advice on alternative treatments should be obtained from a veterinary surgeon.
Lord Lucas: The Council had a first discussion on the 1996 farm price proposals. The UK regretted that the Commission had not taken this opportunity to propose a move towards the more market orientated CAP which their recent report had recognised was inevitable for the longer term. In particular, the UK regretted the failure to address the over-compensation of the arable sector which resulted from high Community and world market prices for cereals and unchanged area payments.
The Council also discussed Commission proposals on the use of hormones and so-called beta agonists in livestock farming. Most member states remain opposed to any use of hormones and, with few limited exceptions, beta agonists. The UK stressed the desirability of avoiding the adoption of a policy which would run serious risks of adverse judgments in the World Trade Organisation. However, this approach was supported only by Spain and the Netherlands. The President announced that he expected to take final decisions at the next meeting in March.
The Commissioner outlined his proposals to improve the welfare of calves used for veal production. The UK welcomed the proposal but criticised the proposed 12-year transitional period as being much too long.
Lord Lucas: With the aim of avoiding any such delays on this or other schemes, and despite a general reduction in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's running costs budget of over 5 per cent., the regional organisation (which makes payments under the arable area payments scheme) will benefit from an increased level of provision for the financial year 1996/97 compared with the current year. Various improvements in information technology and in management procedures are also in train.
The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): The Government see the development of multi-media and information technology as an exciting area of opportunity for the UK in which much is already being achieved. These technological innovations are having an important impact on all aspects of our way of life. In the future there will be further opportunities for business to develop new products, services and ways of working; for individuals to adapt their work patterns; for consumers to improve their quality of life with new electronic products and services; and for the providers of services such as health care, education and training to strengthen their quality and delivery.
The Government have been committed to the comprehensive development of these technologies since the early 1980s. By freeing up the market for our telecommunications and broadcasting industries through privatisation and deregulation and promoting the use of computers in schools we have made sure that the UK is in the vanguard of technological change. We are now undertaking a further range of initiatives, most recently through the Information Society Initiative launched last month.
A strong lead is rightly being given by the private sector's enterprise and initiative. That will continue to be supported by a focused and complementary partnership with Government. In order to reinforce that focus and driving force across Government, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has asked the First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister to convene a Ministerial Group with the following terms of reference:
Other Ministers will be invited to attend for items of which they have a departmental interest. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister's Efficiency Adviser and Chief Scientific Adviser will also attend.
The work of the group will build on the Information Society Initiative and the separate activities of the Central Information Technology Unit recently set up in the Office of Public Service to plan the Government's own use of technology. By these means the Government will ensure that there is strengthened stimulus and co-ordination within and beyond government to enable the UK to derive maximum benefit from the new technology.
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