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Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, may I congratulate the Minister on confirming that MAFF is working on the proposed code of conduct for good agricultural practice? Perhaps I can press him further. The department seems to have been working on it for a considerable period of time--not quite since the Inclosure Acts, but almost. Could my noble friend encourage the Minister to tell us when the proposed code of conduct of good agricultural practice will be available? I understand that his department is finding it difficult to allocate resources and time to that issue at the moment.
Lord Donoughue: Yes, my Lords, a number of other issues have recently occupied some of our time and resources. However, this issue is being pursued vigorously by my honourable friend Elliot Morley and his group. Following our conclusions, we shall need to consult, but we would hope that during this year the benefits of those considerations will be available.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I am not sure that that is wholly within my power. I am equally not sure to which downs the noble Lord refers. If he is referring to the High Weald near the South Downs, I can assure him that the proposals now being considered for that area contain proposals for afforestation and, where relevant, hedge-growing.
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, will my noble friend note that the inclosure protection does not differentiate between important hedgerows and other hedgerows? Where the protection is local, it applies to all.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, my noble friend is correct. It is a feature of the 1997 regulations, and consideration of improvements to those regulations, that they involve a definition of an "important hedgerow" and a hedgerow that is "important for environmental reasons". The Inclosure Acts appear stronger than that, but it is our view that they do not form a practical basis. We would encourage all farmers, all landowners and all local authorities to bear in mind their obligations under the Inclosure Acts, but our judgment is that they are not an ideal basis for pursuing the environmental objectives which my noble friend has. I also want to congratulate him on the work that he has done through a long career, over many years, in this area.
Lord Rowallan: My Lords, given that hedges do not grow overnight, would the Minister please ensure that insurance companies adequately compensate farmers after a car has roared through one of their hedges, removing 50 years' worth of growth, and ensure that they do not receive just small compensation for that?
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that very comprehensive reply. Is he aware that the symptoms of PTSD are shared with other illnesses; for example, organophosphate poisoning manifests symptoms that are very similar to PTSD? In the light of the fact that there are two suicides a month among the Gulf veterans, and that there are well over 200 former Gulf veterans in prison for offences which may well be
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Countess for her first remark. As I am sure she is aware, when we encounter servicemen or women who might be suffering from PTSD, they are normally first examined by their service medical officers, and consultant psychiatrists consider the possibility of physical causes only if there is a clinical reason for doing so. Patients may require a whole range of medical investigations, and from time to time brain scans may be undertaken if there is--I emphasise--a clinical reason for doing so.
Lord Burnham: My Lords, with the forthcoming closure of Haslar, can the Minister tell us where the problems of PTSD and other problems described by the noble Countess will be treated, as there will not be a military hospital which is able to do that work?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, as I am sure the noble Lord realises, there is no intention whatever of closing Haslar before adequate facilities are provided in the civilian community in the immediate neighbourhood. Whether those facilities will include treatment of the conditions to which the noble Lord has referred, I cannot tell him without notice.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, can the Minister assure us that anybody who is suspected of suffering from post traumatic stress disorder will be treated immediately and that there will be no delay? Bearing in mind that the Defence Medical Services are acutely short of personnel, what assurance can the Minister give the House that PTSD sufferers will be seen rapidly?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, as I am sure that the noble and gallant Lord recognises and recalls, one of the important conclusions of the recently published Strategic Defence Review was greatly to enhance the resources available to the Defence Medical Services. It will be some time before those decisions will take practical effect. I am sure that the noble and gallant Lord recognises that we shall do everything in our power to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays. If he knows of any cases where delay has occurred, I should be grateful if he would let me know.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a number of psychiatric cases are cared for at Catterick and that, on the whole, members of the Gulf veterans community are extremely satisfied with the services provided? However, there seems to be a problem with one psychiatrist at Catterick who, despite
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I was not aware of the problem to which the noble Countess refers. I am always happy to receive letters from her or for her to call on me to discuss such matters in great detail.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords--
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I look back on the squirrels with nostalgia! There is a considerable amount of research being conducted on genetic modification worldwide. All genetically modified foods and food ingredients go through a very thorough scrutiny process by a committee of independent experts, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, which keeps fully up to date with the latest scientific thinking.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. Will he tell his noble friend Lord Sainsbury that noble Lords in this corner of the House are not clamouring for his resignation because, to all intents and purposes, he has behaved in the best tradition with regard to upholding professional standards in public life?
I have two concerns. First, I refer to the fact that the public are concerned about genetically modified foods. Is not now the time to have an informed debate on the matter? Should we not err on the side of caution, and would not a moratorium on such research allow that to happen? Secondly, with regard to the environment, does the noble Lord recognise the need for long-term safeguards and adequate evaluation of the effect of GM crops? No one would forgive us if we ruined the flora and fauna of this country.
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