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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 17 January 1997

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Newcastle Disease

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment his Department has made of the likelihood of the Ross on Wye outbreak of Newcastle disease spreading; what measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the disease; and if he will make a statement. [11551]

Mrs. Browning: All outbreaks of Newcastle disease pose a risk of the disease spreading. Following confirmation of the first outbreak of disease on premises near Ross on Wye, an order was made under the Animal Health Act 1981 imposing movement restrictions on poultry and hatching eggs within a 3 km protection zone and 10 km surveillance zone around the affected premises. The same action was taken following a further outbreak close to the original outbreak, and another outbreak--which may not be linked--in East Sussex. Restrictions are not lifted until 30 days after the infected premises have been disinfected assuming that there have been no further outbreaks. The State Veterinary Service is conducting investigations with the objective of tracing the source of the infection and preventing it from spreading.

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what guidelines his Department gives to farmers in respect of a suspected Newcastle disease outbreak; and if he will make a statement. [11555]

Mrs. Browning: All poultry farmers in the restricted areas are visited and given guidance as to the restrictions placed upon them, advice on the nature of the disease and how to avoid its being spread and the need to report to MAFF any suspicion of the disease.

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how many recognised outbreaks of Newcastle disease have been recorded on farms by area in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement; [11550]

Mrs. Browning: Other than the current outbreaks this year, there has been one incident of Newcastle disease in Great Britain since 1984, in May 1996. Following the death of 11 farmed pheasants on a farm in East Sussex, the remaining flock of about 3,600 birds and chicks was slaughtered.

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of birds contracting Newcastle disease currently die; and if he will make a statement. [11554]

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Mrs. Browning: The rates of mortality depend upon the species and age of the bird and the virulence of the virus concerned. The virus isolated from birds in the current incident near Ross on Wye has proved to be more virulent for chickens than for turkeys.

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated into the causes of Newcastle disease in (i) farmed poultry, (ii) other captive birds, (iii) wild birds, (iv) other species and (v) humans; and if he will make a statement. [11553]

Mrs. Browning: MAFF has funded a number of research projects into Newcastle disease in farmed poultry and continues to do so. The following research undertaken since 1991 into Newcastle disease virus has been completed and evaluated:




The following research projects into Newcastle disease virus are currently in progress:






The following research project into Newcastle disease virus will begin in the next financial year:


Research into Newcastle disease in humans is a matter for the Department of Health but I understand that no research in this area has been undertaken recently.

EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT

Jobsearch Assistance

Mr. Alan Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what is her estimate of the cost of extending eligibility for jobsearch assistance to (a) partners of (i) unemployed claimants and (ii) sick and disabled people, (b) lone parents and (c) sick and disabled claimants. [10962]

Mr. Forth: All of these people can get help in looking for a job from the employment service. In addition, subject to certain eligibility conditions, people in each of these groups are eligible for our employment and training programmes. Any individual is eligible if he or she has been (a) in direct or indirect receipt of one or more of a number of relevant benefits for a specified minimum period, and (b) out of work for a specified minimum

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period. Some groups, including people with disabilities, are eligible for programmes whether or not they meet these conditions.

Assisted Places Scheme

Mr. William Powell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many assisted places have been financed for pupils in each education authority, and at what public cost, in each of the last five years. [11077]

Mrs. Gillan: Information on the local education authority area in which assisted pupils reside is not collected centrally. Schools participating in the scheme recruit widely beyond the area in which they are situated and admit pupils from a number of different LEA areas.

Teaching Methods

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many maintained schools use (a) formal and (b) informal teaching methods. [11218]

Mr. Forth: Information is not collected in this form. Schools generally use a range of teaching methods. The Government's education reforms encourage the use of the most effective methods to maximise the attainment of pupils.

Science Teachers

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans she has for funding increased in-service training for (a) primary teachers teaching science and (b) science teachers in secondary schools. [10957]

Mr. Forth: The Government support in-service teacher training, for both primary and secondary school teachers, through elements of the grants for education support and training programme. GEST-supported expenditure will rise from £266.4 million in 1996-97 to £296.8 million in 1997-98. Schools generally have considerable flexibility in deciding how to spend GEST funds, although some is ring-fenced, including funding to enhance primary teachers' subject knowledge.

Reading Skills

Mr. Thurnham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what is the current proportion of 11-year-olds achieving a reading age appropriate to their age; what the figure was two years ago in (a) England, (b) the north-west region and (c) Bolton; and what action she is taking to improve the reading abilities of 11-year-olds. [11032]

Mrs Gillan: National curriculum assessment results for English encompass reading, writing, speaking and listening. In 1995, the first year of national curriculum assessment for 11-year-olds, 48 per cent. achieved the level expected for their age in tests and 56 per cent. did so in teacher assessments. In 1996, these figures had improved to 58 per cent. and 60 per cent. respectively. The first primary school performance tables will report by school and LEA the 1996 key stage 2 results including English. In 1997, the key stage 2 reading test will generate separate optional national curriculum levels and age

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standardised scores. The Government have a range of strategies to improve literacy standards, including their network of literacy centres national curriculum for initial teacher training and family literacy initiative.

Personalised Number Plates (Executive Agencies)

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many personalised number plates there are in the ownership of the executive agencies operated by her Department; and if she will list them. [11414]

Mr. Robin Squire: None.


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