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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on how many occasions in each of the past five years computer systems in his Department have been illegally accessed by computer hackers (a) within and (b) outside his Department. [106230]

Mr. Chris Smith: No DCMS computer system has been illegally accessed in the last five years.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many cases of computer (a) fraud, including fraudulent use of computer chips, and (b) theft his Department has recorded in the last five years. [106214]

Mr. Chris Smith: The Department has not recorded any cases of computer fraud over the last five years. There has been one incident of computer theft where a PC system unit was stolen from the Department. The police were informed.


Farm Incomes

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on farm incomes. [108103]

Mr. Nick Brown: Estimated figures show that total income from farming remains broadly unchanged in 1999 compared with 1998. The continued difficulties in the farming industry are as a result of lower prices for most agricultural commodities due to the oversupply of commodity markets. The strength of sterling, which affects all sections of the economy, has also been a factor. Detailed estimates of the income, output and productivity of United Kingdom Agriculture in 1999 were published this morning and have been placed in the Library of the House.

Soya Products (Glyphosate)

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he intends to publish results on glyphosate residues in soya products. [108104]

Ms Quin: Interim results on glyphosate residues, taken from the Government's ongoing monitoring programme for pesticides, are being published today. A summary of the results from the first six months of a year-long survey of residues in soya products appears in MAFF's Food Safety Information Bulletin. The results show that none of the samples tested contained residues of glyphosate above the reporting level. Copies of the Food Safety Information Bulletin and a more detailed information paper have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

31 Jan 2000 : Column: 480W

Pig Sector

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to assist pig producers. [106859]

Ms Quin: Steps have already been taken. Formal and informal pig farming co-operatives were eligible to apply for a marketing grant under the Agriculture Development Scheme 1999. The scheme closed for applications on 30 November 1999 and successful applications will be announced shortly. My right hon. Friend the Minister has also announced his intention that pig producers will benefit significantly from an extra £5 million earmarked to help farmers improve their marketing, collaboration and competitiveness. Discussions with the industry are currently taking place on ways of making best use of the money.

The "verification officer" appointed by the Minister will continue his work with industry bodies to identify cases where product is being sold at retail or catering level which might mislead the consumer into believing it contains pork of British origin when in fact it is imported. He will also continue to check progress on the commitment given some time ago by major retailers that all their own label fresh pork and certain processed products such as bacon would come from stall and tether and Meat and Bone Meal free production systems.

At the request of the Minister, the interpretation of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 as they affected origin marking are to be tightened up. New industry guidelines were put out for consultation and responses received. Those guidelines will be issued shortly.

We continue to try and persuade public authorities that buying to British welfare and other standards offers good value and meets the needs of their "customers". To back up this message, the Minister has written to local councils and health authorities in England to emphasise the importance of sourcing to British standards.

The Minister wrote to Commissioner Fischler on 20 October urging him to re-open the Aids to Private Storage scheme and re-instate the special refund on exports of fresh and frozen carcase meat and cuts to Russia. In addition, UK officials attending the monthly Pigmeat Management Committee meeting, chaired by the Commission, have called for similar action at each meeting since September 1999 (most recently, at the meeting on 18 January).

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent discussions he has had with the European Union Commissioner on state aids to the pig sector. [106858]

Ms Quin: My right hon. Friend the Minister has many discussions with Mr. Fischler on all manner of topics. The Minister wrote to Mr. Fischler on state aids on 20 December 1999 and both he and I discussed these with Mr. Fischler in the margins of the Agriculture Council on Monday 24 January.


Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what controls are in place to regulate the use of rodenticides; and if he will make a statement. [106655]

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Ms Quin [holding answer 25 January 2000]: All pesticides, including rodenticides, are subject to strict statutory control. Anyone wishing to gain an approval for a rodenticide is required to submit a substantial data package for rigorous assessment by the departments responsible for pesticides. Advice is also sought from the independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides on any application for a new use of an approved rodenticide where significant new issues arise as well as on any new rodenticide compounds. Only if, on the basis of these assessments, Ministers are content that there are no unacceptable risks to people or the environment will the rodenticide be approved. All approved rodenticides and their uses are subject to review and, if appropriate, approvals can be restricted or revoked entirely.

Research and Development

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the level of expenditure by his Department on research and development in each of the last 10 years. [106990]

Ms Quin: The Department's total expenditure on research and development in each of the last 10 financial years was:

Year£ million


Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what assessment he has made of the evidence assembled by other EU member states before their decisions to ban Lindane; [104528]

Ms Quin [holding answer 13 January 2000]: The Government act as necessary on pesticides in order to safeguard health. In the case of lindane, using a precautionary assessment, independent scientific advice is that currently approved uses (agricultural and non-agricultural) of lindane do not pose any unacceptable risk to people or the environment. In addition all UK pesticide approval holders are legally obliged to report any scientific information relating to the safety of their products and the Government's Pesticide Incident Appraisal Panel considers all investigated incidents where the use of agricultural pesticides may have affected a person's health.

31 Jan 2000 : Column: 482W

Both the EU and UK have programmes to review pesticides and lindane is under consideration in both programmes. Last June the Advisory Committee on Pesticides, an independent body, considered evidence from both the UK and EU reviews of lindane. In the light of the Committee's recommendations the Government moved swiftly to ban those uses of lindane that gave rise to unacceptable levels of exposure with the remaining uses being allowed to continue subject to further controls to reduce exposure and, where appropriate, companies being required to submit further data including environmental data for non-agricultural uses.

We do not routinely monitor and investigate the decisions taken by the regulatory authorities of other countries primarily because our decisions are based on the evidence and advice presented to UK Ministers about uses in the UK. Technical specifications, product formulations and uses are liable to considerable variation across the world and particular decisions elsewhere may have no direct relevance in the UK. Consequently, in the case of lindane, we have not attempted to establish its historic use overseas or the reasons why other countries have introduced partial or complete bans. The EU has yet to reach conclusions on the future European status of lindane but we have reported the action we have taken to the Commission and encouraged them to reach a European view as soon as possible.

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