Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 9 February 1999

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Written Answers

Tuesday, 9th February 1999.

Sudan: Kidnappings

asked Her Majesty's Government:Which British and other European Union citizens, and Commonwealth nationals, have been kidnapped in Sudan since 1990; who was responsible for the kidnappings; and what was the outcome of the kidnappings. [HL753]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

Our records show that one British citizen has been kidnapped in Sudan since 1990. He was kidnapped on 25 May 1998 by members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army and released unharmed on 19 June 1998.We do not keep records of European Union or Commonwealth citizens.

Iraq: No-Fly Zones

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the new United States policy of attacking Iraqi air defence systems in the United States/United Kingdom-declared "no-fly zones" whether or not these systems' radar locks onto United States or United Kingdom aircraft (as announced by Mr. Berger, President Clinton's National Security Adviser,

International Herald Tribune, 27 January), is permitted in international law; whether this escalation was agreed between them and the United States; and, if so, whether they will spell out those United Nations Security Council resolutions or articles in the United Nations Charter under which such attacks may be lawful. [HL784]

UK and US aircraft continue to enforce the No-Fly Zones. In response to the threat from the Iraqi aircraft and air defence systems, allied aircraft have responded in self-defence, in a proportionate manner. The action is justified under international law, on the basis of self-defence.

The UK and US keep in close contact over all issues relating to patrolling of the No-Fly Zones.

Sudan: Al-Shifa Chemical Factory

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they obtained any independent information to confirm President Clinton's assurance to the Prime Minister that the al-Shifa factory in Khartoum which United States forces attacked last summer was engaged in the production of weapons of mass destruction: and, if not, why they have not accepted the Sudanese Government's invitation to the United Nations Security Council and to the international community to inspect the factory and other facilities in the Sudan concerning which the United States has expressed similar suspicions. [HL787]

The US said at the time of the strike that they had compelling evidence that the plant was being used for the manufacture of chemicals for use in chemical weapons.The invitation from the Sudanese Government is in the form of a draft resolution submitted to the UN Security Council, which is the appropriate place for such an invitation to be considered.We shall, in any case, continue to encourage Sudan to become a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibits the acquisition, development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. It is supported by a verifications regime consisting of data declarations and on-site inspections.

Iraq: Military Operations

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are inclined to accept the "demand" from the Arab Foreign Ministers, meeting in Cairo last weekend, that "military operations against Iraq" be not repeated; and whether (a) Kuwait, (b) Saudi Arabia and (c) Turkey are content that the United States and the United Kingdom should continue to use their territory from which to carry out military operations over Iraq. [HL788]

Her Majesty's Government share the wish of the Arab League to find a diplomatic way forward on Iraq. In this respect we welcome the agreement reached in the Security Council on 30 January. We look to Baghdad to co-operate so that the progress we would all like to see can be achieved. But we have made clear that we remain ready to take further military action if Iraq attempts to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction or threatens its neighbours.We enjoy good relations with the governments in the region who generously host RAF detachments. Our aircraft could not operate from their territory without their consent.

Embassies: Terrorist Threats

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the United States decision to heavily fortify its embassies in Muslim countries may leave British embassies increasingly vulnerable to retaliatory attack, in the light of the unique support this country is giving to United States military action. [HL789]

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, working with the security and intelligence agencies, keeps the level of threat to our diplomatic missions and staff from terrorist or other forms of violence under constant review. The risk to each mission is assessed and appropriate physical or other protective measures are introduced as necessary, taking account of relevant local factors.

Hearing Aids: Prescriptions

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many hearing aids outside the normal NHS range have been prescribed so far. [HL832] The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The information requested is not held centrally. NHS Supplies only holds information relating to the goods it provides to the National Health Service.

Propellant: Procurement

asked Her Majesty's Government:For each propellant currently supplied to the Armed Forces from the Royal Ordnance factory at Bishopton, what is the intended future source of these propellants after the closure of the plant, indicating for each if a contract has been entered into, and what guarantees have been given as to the secure continuity of supplies. [HL852]

Further to my answer of 28 January (WA 165), the supply of sub-components, including propellant, for equipment supplied under existing MOD contracts is a matter for Royal Ordnance and other prime contractors until completion of the contract. Future MOD requirements for propellant will be subject to procurement decisions in due course. We expect that alternative sources of propellant will be available from friendly and reliable sources in Europe, or further afield. Suitable arrangements will be made to ensure security of supply of equipment and ammunition.

Spratt Report: South Coast Biological Defence Trials

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish the independent review conducted by Professor Brian Spratt into the south coast biological defence trials. [HL935]

Professor Brian Spratt has now completed his review of the microbiological defence trials conducted along the south coast in the 1960s and 1970s. The MOD welcomes his main findings:

  • That the trials would have caused no harm to the vast majority of people.
  • That, although there may have been an unquantifiable risk of infection in a small number of people who had a serious underlying disease, such as cystic fibrosis, any such infections would have been infections of the chest or blood and would have occurred within days of release of the bacteria.
  • That it is extremely unlikely that there is any link between the bacteria released in the trials and health problems reported by people who have suffered chronic ill health, miscarriages, or who have had children with disabilities.
I have arranged for a copy of Professor Spratt's full report to be placed in the Library of the House.

House Of Lords Appellate Committee: Composition

asked the Lord Chancellor:Whether, in the light of the opinion contained in the report of the European Commission of Human Rights of 20 October 1998 in

McGonnell v. United Kingdom, he intends to make any changes in the composition of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords so as to satisfy the requirements of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. [HL719]

The commission has referred the case of McGonnell v. United Kingdom to the European Court of Human Rights for consideration. The Government will consider the court's decision on the case in due course and any relevance it may have for the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.

Scotland: Pig Industry

asked Her Majesty's Government:What estimates have been made of the optimum number of breeding sows in Scotland to sustain a viable pig industry; what the current numbers are; and by how much Scotland is over or under provided. [HL853]

The size of the Scottish breeding herd is determined by many factors, including domestic as well as international supply and demand. 74,000 breeding pigs were recorded at the 1998 June Agricultural Census. Numbers will have dropped substantially since then, as a result of major market over-supply.Recognising the difficulties facing the Scottish pig industry, I initiated an in-depth study last summer into the challenges it faced. The report, by the Scottish Agricultural College, will be published in the near future.

Scottish Department Of Agriculture, Environment And Fisheries: Funding

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the sums which are now going to be added to the Scottish block grant, in the form of the departmental expenditure limit of the Scottish Department of Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries, will remain separately identifiable under the next Comprehensive Spending Review. [HL780]

Following devolution, this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

asked Her Majesty's Government:What role of management and accountability the Scottish Parliament will have over the annual managed expenditure funds provided to the Scottish Department of Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries. [HL781]

Following devolution, expenditure on support for the common agricultural policy (CAP) (which will be part of the annually managed expenditure for which the Parliament will be responsible) will be managed, and accounted for by the Scottish Administration in accordance with the requirements of the Scottish Parliament and of the relevant European legislation.

A7 Trunk Road: Improvements

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will name each section of the A.7 trunk road between Hawick and the English border that has been improved during the last 15 years, giving the cost and date of each improvement. [HL885]

The information requested is as follows:

Canonbie Bypass£7.1m1984
Colterscleuch Overtaking Improvement£1.6m1994
Mosspeeble—Bush Overtaking Improvement£1.5m1995
Binks—Castleweary Diversion£2.5m1997

Drug Treatment And Testing Orders

asked Her Majesty's Government:When future sentences include drug treatment and testing orders and sentenced persons are willing to accept treatment, whether funds will be made available to pay for residential and day-care treatment. [HL838]

The Comprehensive Spending Review settlement provided funds for the pilot and, subject to successful evaluation, national roll-out of the drug treatment and testing order during financial years 1999–2000 to 2001–2002. The probation service will be responsible for purchasing treatment for offenders sentenced to the new order from statutory, voluntary and private drug treatment agencies, both residential and non-residential.

General Pinochet

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish in the

Official Report a list of people who have written to the Prime Minister, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Home Office indicating their support for the return of General Pinochet to Chile. [HL822]

An estimated twelve thousand people have written to the Prime Minister, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Home Office about the case of Senator Pinochet, either supporting his extradition to Spain or his return to Chile. It is not usual practice to provide the names of individual correspondents unless they have agreed to publication.Up to 31 January 1999, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had received seven letters from Members of both Houses of Parliament, of which four supported Senator Pinochet's return to Chile. Other correspondence was largely passed on to the Home Office or Foreign and Commonwealth Office and is included in their total estimated figures.Up to 31 January 1999, the Home Office had received 226 letters about Senator Pinochet from members of both Houses of Parliament. Fifteen of these supported or covered letters from constituents who supported Senator Pinochet's return to Chile. The Home Office had received an estimated 10,000 letters and petitions from people writing from the United Kingdom and abroad, of which around 1,000 supported Senator Pinochet's return to Chile. One of the petitions received by the Home Office contained an estimated 100,000 signatures from Chilean citizens supporting Senator Pinochet's return to Chile.Up to 31 January 1999, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had received 44 letters from Members of both Houses of Parliament, of which two supported Senator Pinochet's return to Chile. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office had received an estimated 2,000 letters and petitions from people writing from the United Kingdom and abroad, of which around 100 letters supported Senator Pinochet's return to Chile.

Teachers: Pay Award

asked Her Majesty's Government:What will be the total cost of the recently announced pay award for teachers in each of the next three years. [HL863]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment
(Baroness Blackstone)

The estimated cost in England will be £409 million in 1999–2000, £420 million in 2000–01 and £420 million in 2001–02. The equivalent figures for England and Wales are £435 million. £448 million and £448 million.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether all teachers who qualify to pass through the recently announced performance threshold will be paid at the higher level. [HL861]

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether schools which have a higher than average number of teachers passing through the performance threshold will be funded to meet the higher level of salaries. [HL862]

The Technical Consultation Document on Pay and Performance Management, published on 1 February, set out our objectives for the design of the funding mechanism for the early years of the new arrangements. These are:

  • to ensure that the distribution of resources reflects the extra costs as fairly as possible;
  • to get money to schools and teachers quickly and with a minimum of bureaucracy; and
  • to minimise any interference in the responsibility of heads to manage their staff and their resources.
The technical consultation document puts forward two options for the design of the funding mechanism, and final decisions will be taken in the light of responses to consultation.

Class Sizes

asked Her Majesty's Government:By what date they expect all local education authorities to have achieved the target of limiting class sizes for 5, 6 and 7 year-olds; and what sanctions are proposed for any LEA which does not meet the target. [HL864]

There will be no infant classes containing more than 30 children by September 2001 at the latest. Furthermore, as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the infant class size pledge will be achieved in virtually all schools by September 2000. The Secretary of State has made available sufficient capital and revenue funding to ensure that all local education authorities and governing bodies do fulfil their statutory duties to achieve class size limits.

European Social Fund: Repayments By London Boroughs

asked Her Majesty's Government:What action they have taken, in the light of the letter dated 23 June 1998 from Mrs. Anita Gradin, Member of the European Commission, to the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, indicating that "serious irregularities have occurred in the London Borough of Camden and certain other London boroughs in relation to moneys from the European Social Fund from 1989 onwards", and in particular whether the papers on the question have been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. [HL882]

A copy of the report was sent to the Audit Commission and the Metropolitan Police Fraud Squad. The case is still under consideration by the police and has not been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.The report also requested that a number of London boroughs and the Migrant Training Company repay £550,000 of European Social Fund money. The boroughs have now repaid the amount due and the Migrant Training Company have agreed a repayment schedule with the department.

European Union: Vat Rates

asked Her Majesty's Government:When was the last occasion that the European Commission laid a report before the Council of Ministers, as they are obliged to do under Article 28(2) of the 6th Directive on VAT, on the question of reduced rates; and with what results. [HL835]

The European Commission last presented a report on the scope and impact of reduced VAT rates in member states of the European Community in November 1997. The report concluded that the present reduced VAT rates structure is not an obstacle to the effective functioning of the current EC VAT system and that, overall, there have been no significant Community-wide distortions of competition brought about by excessive disparities in VAT rates between member states.

Tuberculosis Organisms In Milk And Cheese

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is possible to detect tuberculosis organisms in milk and cheese. [HL650]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Lord Donoughue)

Yes. There are procedures to detect Mycobacterium bovis in milk and cheese. However, the nature of microbiological testing is that it cannot give complete assurance of food safety.

Meat Hygiene Directive

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is their estimate of the effects on the meat production and processing industries of the requirement that abattoir owners strictly adhere to the Meat Hygiene Directive 91/497 and of the recent Government decision that they should bear the cost for disposal of all specified risk material; and what consequences this will have for domestic beef, lamb and pork production by sector. [HL673]

Based on the current size and structure of the meat production and processing industry in Great Britain, it is estimated by the Meat Hygiene Service that it will be necessary to secure the services of an additional 300 Official Veterinary Surgeons in order to bring veterinary supervision levels in licensed fresh red meat and poultry meat plants (i. e. slaughterhouses, cutting plants and cold stores) up to the levels required by the EU meat hygiene Directives. In accordance with EU rules, the costs of this additional veterinary supervision, estimated at £21 million in a full year, will have to be recovered from plant operators in the normal way. However, given the shortage of veterinarians willing to undertake meat hygiene work in the UK, full compliance with EU requirements is not possible immediately and it may be some years before the required levels and frequency of veterinary supervision is achieved in all licensed plants.The industry already bears the cost of disposal of all SRM and has done so since the relevant controls were introduced in 1989. The Government have recently announced their intention of charging industry for the enforcement of these controls. The cost to industry is estimated to be £21.5 million in the first year. It is not possible to give separate figures for the beef and lamb sectors.The effect of these increased costs will be to reduce producer incomes and to encourage further rationalisation in the primary production and meat slaughtering sector. However, since the throughput of any plant closures will be taken up by those plants remaining in business, there should be no effect on overall beef, lamb and pork supplies.

Organophosphate Sheep Dips: Adverse Reactions

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many suspected adverse reactions to organophosphate sheep dips have been reported to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate for each year since 1994 by (a) general medicinal practitioners (b) the Health and Safety Directorate and (c) self reporting. [HL671]

The number of reports received in each year since 1994 of human suspected adverse reactions to OP sheep dips are as follows:

Reports fromNumber
General public12
State Veterinary Service1
General public4
County Council1
Veterinary Surgeon1
General public3
Fatstock Officer1
General public4
General Public1
Animal Health Inspectors1
HSE=Health and Safety Executive.
EMAS=Employment Medical Advisory Service.
NPIS=National Poison Information Service.