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The Lord Chancellor: The Government plan to undertake a full public consultation. Any organisation or member of the public will be able to respond to consultation if they so wish. Some of these organisations will be in receipt of public funds.
The Lord Chancellor: It is not possible to give the numbers of those who supported or opposed the proposals outlined in the Law Commission's Report and draft Bill on Mental Incapacity, as not all of the comments sent to the Lord Chancellor's Department represented an accurate understanding of the Law Commission's recommendations.
The Lord Chancellor: The Government place a high priority on the protection of incapacitated people. The Government will make no decisions on the content of any Mental Incapacity Bill in advance of full public consultation, given the importance and sensitivity of this subject.
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.
The question of payment to the central authorities for the helpful advice which they provide is under consideration. Future consultation will, if required, involve representatives of non-Christian faiths.
The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The Joint Working Programme between the Inland Revenue and the Contributions Agency of the DSS, which has responsibility for National Insurance, was introduced in September 1995 and now has more than 30 projects in hand. As part of the programme, opportunities are taken where possible to maximise the compatibility of Information Technology strategies. The integration of income tax with National Insurance is a matter that has been considered in some detail but the issues that arise are not issues about the computer technology but concern the structure of tax and NICs. In particular, the contributory principle that underpins National Insurance would need to be addressed before any integration with the tax system would be possible. Any change would have far-reaching consequences for large numbers of taxpayers. This area is kept under regular review.
Whether they will reconsider the decision of the Secretary of State for the Environment not to call
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Careful consideration was given to English Heritage's request for the Secretary of State to call in proposals for the construction of netball/tennis courts and landscaping adjacent to earthworks which form the Wallingford Town Wall, which is a scheduled monument. However, applications are called in only exceptionally and my department concluded that this proposal, which did not include any buildings, was one which should be left to Oxfordshire County Council to determine.
Furthermore, the development did not involve works to the scheduled monument itself and there was overwhelming local support for the sports proposals. Conditions were imposed on the development, including one to safeguard the recording and inspection of matters of archaeological importance on the development site.
A later, separate application for a new science block and sports buildings at Wallingford Lower School is at present being considered by Oxfordshire County Council. English Heritage have asked that an Article 14 "holding" direction should be issued on this new application so that the impact on the setting of Wallingford Town Wall and the Wallingford Conservation Area can be considered.
The county council does not intend to determine this further application until September. This period may provide the opportunity for the issues to be resolved. If this does not prove possible and the county council still wishes to proceed with the proposed buildings, very careful consideration will be given to whether the Secretary of State for the Environment should call in the application.
Lord Lucas: When the first case of BSE in an animal born after the July 1988 feed ban was confirmed in March 1991, extensive investigations were put in place to look at the food sources to which the animal had been exposed as well as at other possible risks of transmission such as vertical or horizontal transmission to determine whether feed or some other route was responsible for the infection. Initial studies showed that some feed manufactured before the ban had been retained on farms and used after the ban had been introduced. The investigations continued as born after the ban (BAB) cases occurred in animals born in 1989 and subsequent years. By autumn 1994 it was apparent that the geographical distribution of BAB cases differed from that of pre-feed ban BSE cases generally. BAB cases were more prevalent in areas with a high percentage of pig and poultry farms. Pig and poultry feed could legitimately contain meat and bonemeal (MBM) and in such areas there was a higher possibility of cross contamination of ruminant feed with MBM. Also, in August 1994 samples of cattle feed taken on a farm were shown to be cross contaminated with MBM, demonstrating that such cross contamination could occur in practice. Finally, the results of the so-called case control study looking in detail at possible causes of BSE in BAB animals were obtained at the end of 1994. This study found no evidence of horizontal or vertical transmission of BSE in BAB cases and concluded that a foodborne source of infection was the most likely explanation. (Details of this work were published in the Veterinary Record of 1st April 1995 and given in the May 1995 Progress Report on BSE, a copy of which is in the Library of the House.) Putting together all this evidence allowed the conclusion to be drawn that most BAB BSE cases have resulted from exposure to accidentally contaminated ruminant feed. Subsequently, development of an ELISA test to detect the presence of mammalian protein allowed the introduction of a programme of surveillance at feedmills earlier this year. This has shown that the cross contamination of ruminant feed with MBM then legitimately being used in feed for pigs and poultry did in practice occur.
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