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Policy Proposals (Quality of Life)

Mrs. Roe: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what methods of measurements, and from what base lines, his Department employs in assessing the quality of life implications of policy proposals; and how these were selected. [55766]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 2 November 1998]: My Department uses a range of measures to assess policy proposals consistent with relevant guidance from HM Treasury and other Government departments. Assessments of risks, costs and benefits to businesses, the citizen and the environment are made, as appropriate, for each regulatory proposal. Policies such as that for the agri-environment schemes assess applications for environmental benefits. My Department is also developing a set of indicators to measure sustainable agriculture which include measuring its role in the rural economy.

Fatal Accidents (Farms)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many fatal accidents there were on farms in England and Wales during 1997. [57433]

Mr. Morley: Between 1 April 1997 and 31 March 1998, the Health and Safety Executive recorded 45 fatal accidents in farming, forestry and horticulture in England and Wales.

Cattle Welfare

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the 1994 Welfare of

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Livestock Regulations with a view to the provision of a continuous supply of fresh drinking water being made available to cattle. [57192]

Mr. Morley: Schedule 4 to the Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994 requires livestock, including cattle, to be provided with an adequate supply of fresh drinking water each day. These Regulations will shortly be reviewed, in their entirety, as part of the process of implementing Council Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes.

Genetically Modified Crops

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what approvals for what herbicides will be necessary for the planting of those herbicide-tolerant genetically modified seeds which will be planted, pursuant to the agreement between the Government and industry; when he expects such approvals to be in place; and what proposals for public participation in decisions relating to such approvals he intends to make. [57713]

Mr. Rooker: No herbicide may be used unless Ministers have given approval for that use. The use of a herbicide on a crop genetically engineered to be resistant to that herbicide would be considered a new use requiring a new approval.

The timing of the issue of any approval will depend upon the date of application and the complexity of the evaluation required. Evaluations are carried out by the Pesticides Safety Directorate in line with its published targets.

The results of such scientific evaluations will be considered by the independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides, which now contains two lay members, and will be passed to Ministers for decision. These decisions will be informed by a review of the environmental implications of herbicide use on genetically modified crops which I have commissioned from the Pesticides Safety Directorate. Arrangements are being made for monitoring the use of herbicides on genetically modified crops and for an ecological study of the first farm-scale plantings of such crops. All pesticide approvals will be announced publicly.

Environmentally Sensitive Area Scheme

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the payments made under the Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme to farmers where the farmer is not the landowner. [57303]

Mr. Morley: The Ministry has a contractual obligation to review payments under the ESA scheme every two years. Reviews are based on an assessment of the costs incurred by agreement holders in complying with the terms of the agreements, and any necessary incentive, in accordance with relevant EU legislation.

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The total costs of complying with an agreement should be independent of the tenure status of the agreement holder or holders. The Ministry considers at each review whether the payment rates are adequate to attract sufficient applicants to the scheme to meet the targets set.

New Forest

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will make a statement about the number of broadleaf trees currently being felled in the New Forest; [56501]

Mr. Morley: The subjects of these questions relate to matters undertaken by Forest Enterprise and I have asked the Chief Executive to reply to the hon. Member direct.

Letter from Bob McIntosh to Mr. Desmond Swayne, dated November 1998:

    I am pleased to be able to advise you that there is no clear felling of broadleaved trees in the New Forest. The only felling which is conducted involves silvicultural thinning, and the Forestry Commission proposes to remove some 500 cubic metres of hardwood logs during the coming winter, together with 200 cubic metres of cordwood and 4,000 cubic metres of pulpwood.

    With regard to the restoration of the Iron Age village, staff from the Forestry Commission met the contractor who caused the damage, together with officials from English Heritage and English Nature in August, to agree restoration measures. These measures chiefly consisted of minor levelling works, but these cannot take place until conditions on the ground are drier, as the site is currently waterlogged.

    I would like to re-assure you that new procedures have been put in place to reduce the likelihood of recurrence. These include:

    revised operational planning procedures

    increased staff levels on planning

    a tightening of contract controls

    a continuing review of unscheduled sites by the Hampshire Field Club, at two yearly intervals

    I hope that this is helpful.

Ponies (Transport)

Sir Richard Body: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he has taken to prevent the Minimum Values Order being circumvented by exporters transporting ponies to Scotland and then to Ireland and from there shipping them to France and Belgium. [55588]

Mr. Morley: A licence is not required to export ponies from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. However, horse and pony sales, in particular sales of native breeds, are monitored to ensure rigorous enforcement of the rules governing animal welfare in transit. Checks are also carried out at ports. This activity should act as a deterrent to the development of any trade of the kind described and is a proportionate response to the suspicions that have been voiced.

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