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Written Answers

Volume 571: debated on Thursday 2 May 1996

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Written Answers

Thursday, 2nd May 1996.

Secure Training Centres: Tenders

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in view of the lapse of time, a further notice relating to secure training centres has been placed in the

Official Journal of the European Communities since the one placed there on 5th January 1994; if not, when a fresh note is likely to be placed in the journal; and whether it is intended to invite all those who tendered for Cookham Wood and Gringley to submit revised bids.

Invitations to tender for the provision of secure training centres at Cookham Wood and Gringley were issued on 31st March 1995 under the terms of the restricted procedure notice placed in the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJEC) on 5th January 1994. Following receipt of the tenders on 12th June 1995 it was deemed necessary to discontinue the restricted procedure and adopt the negotiated procedure. Negotiations with tenderers are continuing with the aim of signing contracts for the provision of secure training centres at these two sites as soon as possible.A fresh notice for the remaining three sites was placed in the OJEC on 9th August 1995 seeking expressions of interest under the negotiated procedure. All those who expressed an interest under the original notice were invited to re-apply. Bids were invited for the third site, Onley in Northamptonshire, under the terms of this notice on 4th March 1996.

Prisons: Education Provision

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether 60 per cent. of gaols are reducing education classes.

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.

Letter to Baroness Hilton of Eggardon from the Director General of the Prison Service, Mr. Richard Tilt, dated 2nd May 1996.

Lady Blatch has asked me to reply to your recent Question about education reductions in prisons.

Education is an essential part of the opportunities which must be provided in prisons. The Prison Service has given guidance to governors which identifies the core curriculum areas to which priority should be given. This includes the necessary support for prisoners who lack the basic skills of literacy and numeracy. But it is right for governors to review all regime activities and make considered decisions on how available financial provision can best be utilised. There is, for example, scope for improving the targeting of education provision and for considering whether other activities, like work and programmes to tackle offending behaviour, can better address identified prisoner needs.

Prevention Of Terrorism Legislation: Searches

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many searches have been carried out under the Prevention of Terrorism (Additional Powers) Act 1996, and how many charges (a) for terrorism-related offences and (b) for other offences have so far been made as a result of these searches.

The Prevention of Terrorism (Additional Powers) Act 1996 came into force on 3rd April. Figures are not yet available.

Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti

asked Her Majesty's Government:What information they have on the wellbeing of Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, the Commonwealth Medical Association's representative on the Commission of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, and President-elect of the Nigerian Medical Association, who was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment by the Nigerian military tribunal in 1995 and whether they have made representations for his release from prison.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

We are aware of reports that Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti's health is deteriorating in Katsina Prison. Our High Commission in Lagos is in regular contact with members of the Ransome-Kuti family and the Nigerian Medical Association. We have raised our concerns about Dr. Ransome-Kuti, and other human rights activists in detention, with the Nigerian authorities and continue to press for their release.

Outer Space Treaty

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is their belief that any military activity other than those specifically precluded by Article 4 of the space treaty is (a) permitted, and (b) is not governed by Article 1 of the Treaty.

The Outer Space Treaty as a whole applies to all activities in outer space. Whether particular activities in outer space are lawful depends on whether they are consistent with the Treaty (and, as reflected in Article III, with international law generally).

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it has been generally understood by signatories of the space treaty that only those military activities specifically precluded by Article 4 of the space treaty are prohibited and that no other military activity in space is governed by Article 1 of the Treaty.

It is for each party to a treaty to express its own understanding of its provisions.

Un Register Of Conventional Arms

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether by 30th April they submitted to the UN Secretary-General a return from the UK to the UN Register of Conventional Arms and whether a copy of the return will be placed in the Library.

We submitted our return to the UN Register covering calendar year 1995 to the UN Secretary-General on 30th April 1996. A copy has been placed in the Library.

Eu Council: Forthcoming Business

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union.

Subject monthly forecast of business for May 1996.1. The following Councils are scheduled:

  • 3rd May: Special Planning and Regional Development (Informal)
  • 4th May: Special Planning and Regional Development (Informal)
  • 5th May: Agriculture (Informal)
  • 6th May: Agriculture (Informal)
  • 6th May: Education
  • 7th May: Agriculture (Informal)
  • 7th May: Energy
  • 13th May: Foreign Affairs Council
  • 14th May: Foreign Affairs Council
  • 14th May: Health
  • 20th May: Industry
  • 20th May: Agriculture
  • 21st May: Agriculture
  • 23rd May: Civil Protection
  • 28th May: Development
  • 28th May: Internal Market
  • 29th May: Telecommunications

2. The following subjects are likely to be discussed:

3rd/4th May: Special Planning and Regional Development Council (Informal)

Agenda not yet available.

5th/7th May: Agriculture Council (Informal)

Agenda not yet available.

6th May: Education Council

"A" Points

As advised by Council Secretariat.

"B" Points

  • Open debate on White Paper on Education and Training
  • Draft resolution on Multimedia Software
  • Draft conclusions on synergies between Academic Recognition and Professional Recognition of Qualifications
  • Commission note on the assessment of the quality of higher education
  • Commission note on the assessment of the quality of school education
  • Commission information on:
  • European year of Lifelong Learning;
  • Cooperation with third countries;
  • Progress on Green Paper on Obstacles to Mobility; Key education figures (1996 edition)
  • Communication from Greece on setting up a European Centre for Classical Literature

7th May: Energy Council

"A" Points

As advised by Council Secretariat.

"B" Points

  • Electricity liberalisation: common position (possible item)
  • Euro-Mediterranean energy cooperation: Council conclusions
  • Commission's Energy Policy White Paper: Council resolution
  • Commission communication on gas supply: Council conclusions
  • SAVE II energy efficiency programme: political agreement (possible item)
  • SYNERGY programme for energy cooperation with third countries: debate
  • Integrated Resource Planning Directive: debate
  • Energy Charter Treaty: programme report
  • Commission report on civil protection, tourism and energy;
  • Commission presentation
  • Commission report on oil supply: Commission presentation

13th/14th May: Foreign Affairs Council

Agenda not yet available.

14th May: Health Council

"A" Points

As advised by Council Secretariat.

"B" Points

Adoption of the draft agenda

Proposal for a decision adopting a programme of Community action on health monitoring within the framework for action in the field of public health; adoption of a common position

Proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the council creating a network for the epidemiological surveillance and control of communicable diseases in the European Community: orientation debate

Creation of an EU/US (EU/United States) action group charged with developing a global early warning system and response network for communicable diseases: information on work to date

Proposal for a decision of the EP and the Council adopting a Community programmme of Community action on the prevention of drug dependence with the framework for action in the field of public health: second reading, in preparation for conciliation with EP

Amended proposal for a Council directive on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to the advertising of tobacco products: orientation debate

BSE and the potential risks for transmission to man: information from the commission and exchange of views

20th May: Industry Council

"A" Points

As advised by Council Secretariat

"B" Points

SMEs: draft Council Decision for new multi-annual programme for SMEs: orientation debate

Industrial cooperation with third countries, and the Mediterranean Basin in particular: draft Council resolution

Automobile industry: Commission report on follow-up on Council Resolution of 22nd April 1994

Competition policy: 25th Annual Commission Report on Competition Policy


  • State Aids—Commission monitoring report
  • Extension of Steel State Aid Code: presentation and exchange of views
  • Commission document on expiry of ECSC Treaty in 2002: exchange of views
  • Draft Council regulation on state aid for shipbuilding: exchange of views

20th/21st May: Agriculture Council

"A" Points

As advised by Council Secretariat

"B" Points

  • Reform of the fruit and vegetable regime
  • Price fixing
  • Bananas (possible item)
  • Wine reform (possible item)
  • Olive oil reform (possible item)
  • Tobacco reform (possible item)
  • Plant health: solidarity and responsibility (possible item)
  • Veterinary and fish fees (possible item)
  • BSE

23rd May: Civil Protection Council

"A" Points

As advised by Council Secretariat

"B" Points

  • Community action programme on civil protection
  • Resolution on civil protection research
  • Resolution on cooperation with the CEEs on civil protection

28th May: Internal Market Council

"A" Points

As advised by Council Secretariat

"B" Points

  • Sweeteners: common position
  • Traditional foodstuffs: common position
  • Miscellaneous additives: common position
  • Foodstuffs for particular nutritional uses (PARNUTS): common position (possible item)
  • Food irradiation: orientation debate

28th May: Development Council

1. Links between emergency aid, rehabilitation and reconstruction

Debate on priorities for immediate action

2. Conflict prevention

Presentation by the Commission

3. Operational Coordination

Council conclusions

4. Council conclusions on:

Environmental Impact Evaluation

Decentralised Cooperation

Migration and Development

Counterpart funds

5. (poss.) Proposals for legal bases for EC development cooperation [i.e., draft EC Regulations governing EC aid].

6. AOB:

Cocoa (requested by Belgium)

UN Reform (requested by Sweden)

29th May: Telecommunications Council

"A" Points

As advised by Council Secretariat

"B" Points

Directive on a common framework for general authorisations and individual licences in the field of telecommunications services: common position

Directive on common rules for the development of Community postal services and the improvement of the quality of service: common position

Directive on the processing of personal data and protection of personal privacy in the telecommunications sector in particular ISDN and in digital mobile networks: common position

Decision on the adoption of a multi-annual programme to promote the linguistic diversity of the Community in the information society: common position (possible item)

Commission communication on universal service for telecommunications in the perspective of a fully liberalised environment

Political debate

Department Of Transport

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have any plans to merge the Department of Transport with another department, and if so which.

Eu Fishing (Moroccan Waters)

asked Her Majesty's Government:In what proportions does the recent agreement to reduce the European Union's Moroccan fishing catch by 30 per cent. fall on which European nations, and whether those countries are to be allowed to make up that reduction in European Union waters, and if so, where.

The reduction in European Union fishing opportunities in Moroccan waters will fall to Spain and Portugal. Spain will be most heavily affected as it is the only member state to have access to the cephalopod and shrimp fisheries. No additional fishing opportunities will be made available in European Union waters to make up for reduced opportunities in Moroccan waters.

Chocolate Directive

asked Her Majesty's Government:What progress the Commission has made in formulating proposals to amend the 1973 Chocolate Directive.

I understand the Commission has agreed proposals to amend the 1973 Chocolate Directive. These would allow all countries to authorise the addition of small amounts of vegetable fat should they wish to do so; require the use of such fats to be separately labelled; allow the continued manufacture of a high milk formulation of milk chocolate in the UK and Ireland; but require designation of such chocolate as "household milk chocolate" when marketed in other member states.The Government welcome the emphasis given in these proposals to subsidiarity and coherence of the single market but is disappointed by the proposals for double labelling of vegetable fats and the continued pejorative description of some types of high quality milk chocolate. We shall seek changes in those parts of the proposal which seek to discriminate against British products, stifle innovation, limit consumer choice or impose undue regulatory burdens on industry.

Specified Bovine Material Handling: Surveillance

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the State Veterinary Service's surveillance of the handling of specified bovine offals in January, February and March 1996.

The controls on specified bovine offals (SBO), now termed specified bovine material (SBM), are central to the protection of public health from any risk from BSE. They require the removal of all those tissues known potentially to harbour BSE infectivity from all cattle at slaughter. Compliance with these controls is of paramount importance as my right honourable Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has made clear on a number of occasions in the House and directly to slaughterhouse operators.The State Veterinary Service (SVS) carries out regular unannounced visits to all plants handling SBMs to monitor their compliance with the controls. The result of their surveillance visits in January, February and March 1996 are shown in the table below.These results show that there has been a significant and sustained improvement in the handling of SBMs since the most recent intensive surveillance programme began in September 1995. It is disappointing, however, that deficiencies are still being found in a small number of slaughterhouses, hunt kennels and knackeries. We expect all plants to continue to work hard to ensure they do fully comply with the controls.It is important to note that many of the failings in SBM handling found were of a comparatively mild nature, for example problems with staining SBM or with record keeping, and which would not present a direct risk to public or animal health. There were, however,

January 1996February 1996March 1996
No. visitsNo. unsatisfacory visitsPercentage unsatisfactoryNo. visitsNo. unsatisfactory visitsPercentage unsatisfactoryNo. visitsNo. unsatisfactory visitsPercentage unsatisfactory
Hunt Kennels and Knackeries242156.218773.7219146.4
Rendering plants16116.76116.76116.7
Rendering plants1280015213.32514.0


1 Rendering plants and incinerators have to be specifically approved to handle SROs, only a small number of such plants are so approved.

four further instances of the most serious failing, three in which small pieces of spinal cord were left attached to carcases after dressing and one in which the entire spinal cord was left attached, from mid-January to mid-March (there have been no such instances since the middle of March). A total of 25 instances in which spinal cord was left attached to carcases have now been detected since the summer of 1995. In this same period over 2 million cattle were slaughtered.

The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) has the responsibility of enforcing the SBM controls in slaughterhouses. It does this most rigorously and we have made available extra resources to ensure that the agency can discharge its responsibilities effectively. The agency's staff are fully aware that they may face disciplinary action as a result of their failure fully to enforce the controls. Since the summer, 22 MHS officials have been subject to full disciplinary investigation as a result of their failure to ensure full compliance with the SBM controls. One officer has been dismissed, 12 have received formal disciplinary warnings, and no formal action has been taken against the other nine, although they have been issued with a written caution. In addition, two inspectors are currently under investigation. Before any of these staff have been allowed to begin their work again they have undergone retraining. In one of these cases the MHS has referred the plant to MAFF's legal services for investigation.

Slaughterhouses face prosecution for significant breaches of the SBM controls, when sufficient evidence is available. At present one such case is before the courts and several more are under investigation with a view to prosecution.

The SVS will continue their regular unannounced visits to all plants handling SBMs. The MHS will continue to enforce rules most vigorously, and press for prosecutions where there is sufficient evidence to support a case.