I met representatives of the organic farming movement on 15 November last year and agreed that there should be further discussions with officials and another ministerial meeting in the spring concentrating on the role of organic farming in relation to reform of the European Community's common agricultural policy.
21. Mr. Kenneth Carlisle : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans she has to make changes to the current set- aside arrangements in order to make the system more sympathetic to wildlife ; and if she will make a statement.
In addition, the introduction of non-rotational set-aside will provide new opportunities for farmers to manage their land positively for conservation benefits, for example, to create wildlife corridors or "green veins" throughout the countryside, to provide habitats for birds.
The recent agreement at the December Council will permit member states to allow farmers to transfer their set-aside obligations to other farmers in areas where additional set-aside will bring environmental benefits.
Once detailed EC rules for transfers have been adopted, I shall be considering whether to introduce appropriate arrangements in the United Kingdom for 1995.
Mr. Jack : My right hon. Friend has no plans to discuss aid being paid to French pig producers with the French Minister for Agriculture but we have questioned the legality of the aid at meetings of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in October 1993 and January 1994.
Mr. Jack : Pig producers in the European Community operate in a free market and their prices are determined by supply and demand. Production levels are high at the moment, because of recent expansion in most member states, including the United Kingdom. Producer prices will improve once supplies are cut back.
The European Commission has just announced a programme of special export refunds to Russia, Ukraine and Belorous which will remove 40, 000 tonnes of pigmeat from the Community market.
The pig industry also benefits from Government spending on research and development in the pig sector. Spending in the current year by the Agriculture Departments amounts to £14 million. A further amount is spent by the Agriculture and Food Research Council.
Mr. Soames : The most recent results for dioxin concentrations in milk from farms in the Bolsover area of Derbyshire were announced in the November edition of the Food Safety Directorate information bulletin and I wrote to the hon. Member on 15 December 1993 enclosing a copy of the announcement and details of the results.
These indicated that the degree of dioxin contamination in the area was falling.
The Ministry will undertake a further survey of milk from farms in the area this year.
25. Mr. Coe : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her Department intends to carry out research into the impact of agricultural policies on the diet and health of the citizens of the European Union.
The study concluded that the CAP does not have a major effect on either the total or the broad pattern of food consumption in the United Kingdom, nor does it present significant barriers to healthy eating.
There is a secure supply of a wide range of nutritious foods in the United Kingdom from which our consumers can construct healthy diets. Similar exercises with regard to the citizens of other European Union countries are outside the responsibilities of the United Kingdom Government.
We await their proposals for a revision of the directive and for new standards for other systems.
We shall be pressing for the highest welfare standards to be set on a Community basis for laying hens in all systems of production.
27. Mr. Tyler : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations she has received on changes in the format and timing of the implementation of the new milk marketing scheme.
We shall be issuing a further consultation document as soon as we are in a position to do so.
If the reorganisation scheme were to be approved the existing milk marketing scheme would come to an end on vesting day.
28. Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the latest available figure for the average weekly earnings of female agricultural workers in the United Kingdom.
Column 366part-time in the United Kingdom for the year ending September 1993 is estimated to be £111, working an average of 28.8 hours per week. This includes payments for basic, overtime and holiday hours, plus value of annual bonus, perquisites and other payments. It also includes the value of employer's contribution to employee's council tax in England, Wales and Scotland, if any.
29. Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when she last met representatives of the Forestry Commission to discuss her proposals for the future of forestry in England.
Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations she has made to her European counterparts in opposition to the EC's latest proposals on the transport of live animals ; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Soames : The Commission's proposals published in July 1993 were discussed in the December Agriculture Council. Regrettably, agreement could not be reached as it was clear that the measures proposed would have failed to improve the welfare of animals during transport.
Mr. Burden : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans she has to take measures to ensure that the journey time for animals being transported for slaughter does not exceed the maximum eight hours.
Mr. Soames : The Government will continue to press for improved Community rules on animal transport and strict enforcement in all member states. In the meantime our national measures, which require feeding, watering and resting of animals to take place at maximum 15 hour intervals during a journey, will remain in place. In preparing for further Community discussions the Government is taking full account of the case for journey limits.
Mr. Etherington : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations she has received concerning the ban on comfrey and comfrey products ; and what is the estimated number of consumers affected by the ban.
Mr. Soames : I refer to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) on 12 July 1993 at column 397. I continue to receive representations from the Society for the Promotion of Nutritional Therapy on this matter. Consumption data are not collected for comfrey, but I take action whenever necessary to protect consumers.
Mr. Michael Spicer : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will make a statement detailing the policy of her Department for identifying and destroying badgers which carry tuberculosis and infect livestock.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what use has been made by her Department or consultants to her Department of satellite monitoring of grazing land to assess the degree of persistent radioactive contamination still present from the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986.
Mr. Soames : As part of a wider research programme this Department has engaged a contractor on a research project which uses global positioning satellite systems to record the grazing behaviour of the most highly contaminated sheep from a flock. The objective is to check whether the technique provides a means of identifying the areas of greatest post- Chernobyl contamination. In the light of the outcome of the project, appropriate means of treating contaminated areas will be considered.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will list the schemes her Department operates to assist staff facing financial hardship following a transfer, showing (a) the particular criteria and rules applying to each one, including the circumstances under which any loans can be written off, (b) the total amount loaned or granted under the schemes in 1992-93 and so far in 1993-94 and (c) the number of staff assisted in 1992-93 and so far in 1993-94.
Mr. Jack : The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food operates a scheme to assist staff facing financial difficulties where the current market conditions result in their existing property realising less than the amount of the original mortgage.
The normal line of assistance by the Ministry to meet these shortfalls is an interest-bearing loan at commercial rates repayable over up to 12 years. However, where individuals would face genuine financial hardship as a result of being required to pay interest on a loan and a mortgage, an interest-free advance of salary up to a maximum of one year's gross pay repayable over up to 15 years may be granted. In very exceptional cases, where a combination of these measures is not sufficient to solve the problem, some level of write-off may be made.
In the financial years 1992-93 and 1993-94 to date, my Department has awarded one member of staff an advance of salary under this scheme. This was made in the year 1993-94 for an amount of £5,913. No write-offs have been made.
Dr. Strang : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the equivalent numbers in terms of hill and upland sheep, cattle, and mixed cattle and sheep of four, 15, 16, 39, 40, 69, 70, 99, 100, 199 and 200 British farm size units.
Mrs. Shephard : British size units were used for farm classification in the United Kingdom between 1987 and 1992 and were based on 1980 standard gross margins, SGM. The current system of farm classification uses European size units, ESU, which are based on 1988 SGM. There are slight regional differences in the values, but in the north of England one ESU equals either 24.5 hill ewes or 3.7 hill beef cows. The relationship between the old BSU and the ESU measures is not straightforward but one BSU was equivalent to 57.1 hill ewes or 8.4 hill beef cows.
Mr. Hoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many cases the Child Support Agency has dealt with in (a) Birkenhead, (b) Bolton, (c) Bury, (d) Chorley, (e) Crewe, (f) Ellesmere Port, (g) Preston and (h) Warrington ; and how many are pending in each of these towns.
Mr. Burt : Information is not available in the form requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. I would, however, refer the hon. Member to the national report of the agency's performance, which is placed in the Library each month.
Mr. Ingram : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) in what percentage of the total number of cases where absent parents are in receipt of income support maintenance payments deducted from benefit have not been passed on to the parent with care ; (2) in how many cases to date the minimum child maintenance has been deducted from the benefit paid to absent parents on income support but not passed on to the parent with care.
Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. Adam Ingram, dated 23 February 1994 :
I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Social Security asking about the payment of child maintenance by absent parents receiving income support. Where the absent parent is receiving income support, and has been assessed to pay the minimum amount of £2.20 and the parent with care is not receiving benefit, payment is transferred to the parent with care quarterly in arrears.
There have been a number of cases where maintenance payments have not been forwarded. The Child Support Agency very much regrets that this should have occurred. Payments are now being made, and in all cases should be up to date within a fortnight. New arrangements have also been put in place to ensure that payments will be made on time in future.
I hope that you find this reply helpful.
Sir David Knox : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many (a) single people and (b) married couples had marginal tax rates from wages, including benefit withdrawal, of (i) 40 per cent. but less than 50 per cent., (ii) 50 per cent. but less than 75 per cent., (iii) 75 per cent. but less than 100 per cent. and (iv) 100 per cent. or more in (a) 1989-90 and (b) the latest year for which figures are available.
Mr. Burt : Estimates for 1989-90, in the precise form requested, could be produced only at disproportionate cost. Information on marginal deduction rates for 1989-90 can be found in "The Government's Expenditure Plans 1990-91 to 1992-93" Command 1014 published 30 January 1990, a copy of which is in the Library. Estimates in 1993-94 are in the table.
Marginal deduction rates for single people and couples-1993-94 Marginal deduction rate |Single<1> |Couples<2> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 100 per cent. and over |0 |0 75 per cent. to 99 per cent. |230,000 |270,000 50 per cent. to 74 per cent. |55,000 |35,000 40 per cent. to 49 per cent. |75,000 |10,000 <1> Includes lone parents. <2> Includes cohabitating couples.
Mr. Alan Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he makes of the numbers of people and the proportion of claimants receiving the new lower rate of benefit under incapacity benefit between the 28 and 52 week who will be eligible for income support.
Mr. Scott : We estimate that around 25 per cent. of people awarded incapacity benefit after April 1995 will also be entitled to income support between the 28th and 52nd weeks of incapacity. This represents an average at a point in time of 20,000 people in 1995-96, and 30,000 in 1996-97.
(1) Estimates rounded to the nearest 5,000.
(2) Estimates take account of the effect on incapacity Benefit recipients of the planned changes in the qualifying conditions for the disability premium paid with the income related benefits.
Mr. Harris : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the Government intend to publish their response to the first report of the Social Security Committee on the operation of the Child Support Act 1991, House of Commons Paper 69.
Mrs. Angela Knight : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he will announce a decision on the recommendations by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council, in Cm 817, to extend the list of prescribed occupations for which industrial injuries disablement benefit can be paid in respect of occupational deafness.
Column 370include those occupational activities mentioned in the report. Regulations will be laid to implement the recommendations from October 1994.
The occupational activities mentioned in the council's report are :
air arc gouging
the use of band saws, circular saws or cutting discs for cutting metal in the metal founding or forging industries
the use of circular saws for cutting products in the manufacture of steel
the use of burners or torches for cutting steel based products work in the immediate vicinity of skid transfer banks
work in the immediate vicinity of knockout and shake out grids in foundries
mechanical bobbin cleaning
the use of vibrating metal moulding boxes in the concrete products industry
the use of high pressure jets of water or a mixture of water and abrasive material in the water jetting industry
work in ships' engine rooms
the use of circular saws for cutting concrete masonry blocks during manufacture
the use of pneumatic percussive tools on stone in quarry works burning stone in quarries by jet channelling processes
in connection with work on gas turbines :
installation testing of replacement engines
acceptance testing of Armed Service fixed wing combat planes work involving the use of, or in the immediate vicinity of, grinding tools on metal other than sheet metal or plate.
Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many claimants for (a) disability living allowance and (b) attendance allowance have requested a medical ; and what those figures represent as percentages of the total number of claimants for each of those allowances.
About 20 per cent. of all claims for both disability living allowance and attendance allowance are decided after a report by an examining medical practitioner has been obtained. The information collected by the Department does not identify why such a report has been requested. This may be at the request of the customer, as part of the monitoring of the claims process, or to provide additional evidence for the adjudication officer when reaching his decision.
Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secetary of State for Social Security what was the total number and percentage of claims for disability living allowance where the adjudication officer required further evidence ; and what were the number and percentage requiring (a) an examining medical practitioner report, (b) general practitioner factual reports, (c) other evidence and (d) both general practitioner and examining medical practitioner evidence.
Mr. Scott : Information is not held about the number of cases in which both a general practitioner's factual report and an examining medical practitioner report is required. The other information is in the table.
Decisions requiring further evidence 1 February 1992 to 31 January 1994 |Number |Percentage of |all decisions -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (a) An examining medical practitioner report |193,836 |20 (b) General practitioner's factual report |262,587 |27 (c) Other evidence |25,266 |3 |------- |------- Total |481,689 |49 Source: DSS (Analytical Services Division): 100 per cent. count of cases. Due to rounding the percentages do not sum.