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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): It is up to the Special Rapporteurs themselves to decide which incidents to investigate. We deplore the attack and have called for those responsible to be brought to account.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have reports that Mulla Anwar Hamad Amin was released on 28th June. We understand that the ICRC visited the area to pursue their usual humanitarian work. We do not expect to receive a report. We also understand that United Nations personnel visited the area to consider the implications for the security of the UN humanitarian programme. We are not able to offer individual protection to residents of northern Iraq. But we have written to local leaders urging them to prevent further violence.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: There are currently 15 accredited representatives of the Government of Iran in London, all of whom have full diplomatic status. Additionally, according to the Iranian Embassy, there are 14 locally recruited staff. Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic missions are not obliged to inform the host country of the number of locally engaged staff employed, as they receive no diplomatic privileges and immunities.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Chemical Weapons Convention has not yet entered into force. Even when it does, the provisions of the convention will apply to Libya only if she ratifies. We therefore urge Libya to ratify in order to help dispel doubts about her chemical weapons activities.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We share US concerns at reports that Libya has a chemical weapons programme and we have noted recent US statements on this issue. Most recently, on 7th May, a US Defence Department spokesman stated that the first line of defence was to prevent the chemical plant at Tarhuna being built, using diplomatic and economic means. He said that no consideration was being given to using nuclear weapons and any implication that the US would use nuclear weapons pre-emptively against Tarhuna was wrong. We continue to urge Libya to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in order to help to dispel doubts about her chemical weapons activities.
Lord Lucas: The Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Amendment) Order 1996 makes it an offence for anyone to feed livestock with feedingstuff in which they know or have reason to suspect mammalian meat and bone meal (MBM) has been incorporated.
The draft legislation issued for comment on 10th June proposes to make it an offence for anyone to keep in any premises where farmed animals are housed or fed, or where feedingstuff for such animals is prepared or stored, any feedingstuff which they knew or should have known contained MBM. Farmers in any doubt as to the contents of any feedingstuff they are using have been told that they should contact their supplier for clarification.
As currently drafted, the proposed legislation requires the prosecutor to show that the farmer who kept or fed to his animals feedingstuff contaminated with MBM knew or should have known that the feed was contaminated. Since all farmers using compound feeds have been advised where in doubt to contact their supplier to determine whether the feed contains MBM, it would be difficult in practice for a farmer to deny that he should have known what the feed contained.
Interested organisations are now being consulted about the proposed legislation and it would be possible to change the burden of proof explicitly, by making the offence simply to feed/keep MBM feeds, but introducing a defence of "not knowing that the feed contained MBM, in circumstances where it was not reasonable for the farmer to be expected to know".
This would protect the farmer in a case where MBM was contained in a feed where no one would expect to find it (perhaps by contamination), while ensuring that there is no let-out for the careless or lazy.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.
Following the recommendations of the Woodcock report, the Prison Service has created an Information Management Unit (IMU) which is responsible for the distribution of all updates and new documents as well as a review of the way in which such information is published and distributed. The Prison Service has yet to consider how the Internet can be used for the distribution of public domain information but will be doing so in the near future.
All Prison Service establishments already have access to electronic mail facilities which provides both inter- and intra-organisational electronic mail by a connection to 'World Talk'. Negotiations are currently under way with Mercury over the provision of access to the Internet for electronic mail purposes by the World Talk gateway. It is expected that such access will be available within four months.
As you are aware, our policy on allowing prisoners computers in their cells is currently under review. No final decisions have yet been made, but it is most unlikely that prisoners will be allowed unsupervised access to the Internet, and this would limit the benefits associated with your suggestion. Additionally any savings that may be achieved from Internet access are very difficult to quantify.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): The Drinking Water Inspectorate published its sixth Annual Report today. Once again it shows that drinking water in England and Wales is of a very high quality. In 1995, 99.5 per cent. of the 3.2 million tests carried out by water companies, on drinking water met the relevant standard, compared with 99.3 per cent. in 1994.
The report provides a detailed picture of water quality in England and Wales, which has been tested against the stringent criteria of the Water Quality Regulations, which incorporate the limits in the EC Drinking Water Directive.
The inspectorate also published today two leaflets for consumers. How Good is Your Drinking Water? summarises the main points of the report. About Your Water Company gives brief details of the quality of drinking water supplied by individual water companies.
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