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Stakeholder Pensions

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to allow members of occupational schemes to make contributions to stakeholder pensions. [129604]

Miss Melanie Johnson: We will shortly table an amendment to the Finance Bill to allow members of an occupational pension scheme, who earn under £30,000 per year and who are not controlling directors, to contribute up to £3,600 a year to a personal or stakeholder pension scheme. This will extend the opportunity of new low cost, good value, portable stakeholder pensions to about 8 million more people. It will allow nearly 90 per cent. of employees who have an occupational pension to also pay into a stakeholder pension.

A copy of the joint Inland Revenue/Department of Social Security press notice, giving further details of the arrangements, will be placed in the Library of the House.


Animal Exports

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to seek a change in EU law to limit the number of cycles of travel and rest for animals while being exported to other European countries; and if he will make a statement. [126903]

Mr. Morley: We shall be seeking substantial improvements to the EU requirements on the welfare of animals in transit when the Commission brings forward the updating proposals that it has promised for later this year. We shall wish the improvements to include strict and enforceable provisions on the permissible length of journeys.

Milk Quotas

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on milk quotas; and if he will make a statement. [126959]

Ms Quin: During the Agenda 2000 negotiations, regular meetings were held with agriculture ministers from other EU member states regarding milk quotas. Further discussions will be held in the run up to the review of the milk quota system in 2003.

Organic Farming

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations he has received from commercial organisations about the percentage of food consumed in the UK which is (a) organically produced and (b) produced by (i) genetic

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modification and (ii) biotechnology; and what estimates commercial organisations have given him of the amount that will be so produced in 2010. [127015]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 20 June 2000]: I have received no recent representations from commercial organisations about the percentage of food, provided by any of the above methods, that is currently consumed in the United Kingdom, or estimated for production in the year 2010.

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his answer of 10 April 2000, Official Report, column 57W, on organic farming, what have been the major conclusions of the organic research programme on (a) constraints on production, (b) costs of the conversion period and (c) the environmental impact. [126475]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 27 June 2000]: The majority of the projects funded under the Ministry's organic R&D programme address issues relating to constraints on production and the cost of conversion. These projects have considered a considerable number of issues both specifically and in the context of ongoing studies of agricultural systems. Research on the environmental impact of organic farming has concluded that organic regimes can benefit biodiversity at the farm-level although, the impact is farm-specific and dependent on the management of the farm both before and after conversion to the organic system. Lists of projects funded from 1997-98 are posted on the Ministry's website. Reports containing the conclusions of completed projects are available from the Ministry on request.

Common Fisheries Policy

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will identify those elements of the Common Fisheries Policy which operate in (a) Baltic and (b) Mediterranean waters; and if he will account for the differences in applicability of the policy to Atlantic waters. [127191]

Mr. Morley: Baltic Sea fisheries are managed by the International Baltic Sea Fisheries Commission (IBSFC), of which the EU is a member. EU regulations are made under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to implement management measures adopted by the IBSFC. General CFP conservation measures are also applicable in the Baltic Sea to the extent specified in individual regulations.

Coastal states in the Mediterranean Sea have not generally extended their exclusive fisheries limits beyond 12 miles, reflecting the narrowness of the continental shelf in the area. This has restricted the extent to which general CFP provisions have been applied. The EU has, however, implemented various conservation measures under the CFP covering Mediterranean fisheries, including tuna management measures adopted by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) and a limited number of technical conservation measures.

The Government consider that the application of the CFP in Atlantic waters can be improved and will continue to pursue opportunities for achieving this.

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Press Releases

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the average length of time which it took for press releases to appear on his Ministry's website in the past 12 months. [128059]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 28 June 2000]: The Department publishes its press releases on the MAFF website within 24 hours of the time they are issued. Many are published on the day of release, and we are investigating ways of upgrading existing updating methods to ensure that all do so.


Mr. David Heath: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what evidence he has assessed on the efficacy of biological control of ragwort. [128339]

Mr. Morley: My Department is not currently involved in any research and development on the biological control of ragwort. Depending on its location and degree of infestation, ragwort can be controlled effectively by a number of means.

Farrowing Crates

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the extent to which expectant and nursing sows suffer from being kept in farrowing crates; and if he will make a statement. [129032]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 July 2000]: This Ministry has funded a considerable amount of research on the behaviour and physiology of sows kept in farrowing crates. Part of this research has been directed towards determining which aspects of confinement in farrowing crates could, potentially, cause frustration in pregnant and lactating sows. We are also funding research to develop and test commercially viable farrowing systems, which encourage freedom of movement for the sow, and provide adequate protection to piglets from crushing by their mother.

Shellfish Stocks

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the state of shellfish stocks around the United Kingdom coast. [128540]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 July 2000]: Monitoring of the state of shellfish stocks by marine fisheries scientists at the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) suggests that the current rate of fishing on crab, crawfish and lobster could jeopardise stock sustainability. Work is now proceeding on the introduction of a restrictive Shellfish Licensing Scheme to aid stock conservation.

Fishing Industry

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what plans he has for the remainder of the year 2000 and for 2001 for (a) netters, (b) beamers, (c) the pelagic sector and (d) all

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other fishing sectors to financially assist those fishermen who wish to decommission their boat and leave the industry; [128842]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 July 2000]: There is currently no financial scheme to encourage fishermen to decommission their vessels.

We are currently considering whether there is a need for a further limited decommissioning scheme, and will make an announcement as soon as possible.

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to (a) review the operational effectiveness of sea fisheries committees, (b) manage shellfish stocks and (c) regulate use of high-powered under 10m fishing vessels. [128546]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 July 2000]: I keep the operational effectiveness of the sea fisheries committees under regular view. The introduction of a restrictive shellfish licensing scheme, which is now in preparation, should usefully add to existing action at EU, national and Sea Fishery Committee level on the management of shellfish stocks. A cap of 100 VCUs (vessel capacity units) has applied to the aggregation of under 10m fishing vessel licences since February 1996 and earlier this year arrangements were made to link the registration and licensing of all fishing vessels to the declaration of maximum continuous or permanently derated engine power. From 1 January 2001 it will no longer be possible to aggregate licences from vessels under 8m onto vessels between 8 and 10m and a cap of 70 VCUs will apply to the aggregation of fishing vessel licences onto vessels below 8m.

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the operation of the legislative framework under which sea fisheries committees operate, with particular reference to (a) consistency of approach to minimum landing sizes, (b) the evidence required to achieve a prosecution, (c) the management of charter fishing vessels and (d) the impact of high-powered under 10m vessels. [128574]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 July 2000]: Under the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act 1966, Sea Fisheries Committees (SFCs) have powers within their districts to control the size and power of vessels fishing and to set minimum landing sizes for fish and shellfish, provided these do not fall below those set by EU regulations. The Government are aware of SFC concerns about the inland extent of enforcement powers and is considering appropriate action. SFC bylaws apply as appropriate to the activities of under 10m fishing vessels and charter fishing boats. Responsibility for the registration of fishing and other vessels rests with the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen and vessels fishing for profit must hold a valid licence issued by one of the four Fisheries Departments in the UK.

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Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what assessment he has made of the trade in fishing licences and quota in the last three years; [128838]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 July 2000]: Trade in fishing vessel licences and the fishing opportunities associated with them have been initiated by fishermen themselves. The trade enables new entrants to join the industry and gives fishermen the opportunity to restructure their operations to meet their own business needs. All licensing transactions and exchanges of quota between groups with quota management responsibilities must be conducted in accordance with the rules on licensing and quota management drawn up by the Fisheries Departments in the UK.

These arrangements are the subject of regular consultation with the fishing industry and are currently under review by two working groups comprising representatives of industry and the Fisheries Departments. A report on possible modifications to the quota management rules, including arrangements for adjusting the fixed quota allocation units attached to fishing vessel licences to take account of transfers between fishermen, is expected shortly and a further report on licensing is expected towards the end of the year.

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the advantages and disadvantages of a renewable 10-year derogation for national fishing rights within 12 miles of the United Kingdom shore, with particular reference to (a) the length of the derogation, (b) its operation by his Department, (c) its operation by the sea fisheries committees, (d) the exercising of historic rights of other EU member states, and (e) the ability to conserve stock for the future benefit of the fishing industry. [128575]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 July 2000]: As I have already made clear, the Government wish to maintain national 6/12 mile limits when the current EU derogation (under which they operate) expires at the end of 1992, together with current access arrangements based on historic rights under the Common Fisheries Policy. Restrictions on access to waters between six and 12 miles, together with the setting in the EU of Total Allowable Catches and quotas for commercial stocks and EU national, and local technical conservation rules assist, in conserving fish stocks for the future benefit of the fishing industry and of consumers. I shall shortly be discussing with the Association of Sea Fisheries Committees a paper they are preparing entitled "2002 and Beyond" which will, I understand, argue for change in the extent of Sea Fisheries Committee jurisdictions from their present limit of six miles.

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Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what assessment he has made of the efficiency and probity of giving producer organisations in the fishing industry opportunities to manage the distribution of some quota allocations to their members; [128840]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 July 2000]: In the UK, annual quotas are allocated to groups of fishermen rather than individual vessel owners. The groups are producer organisations (POs), the non-sector (all vessels over 10 metres not in membership of a PO) and the under 10 metre fleet. The quota allocations for the non-sector and the under 10 metre fleet are managed directly by the Fisheries Departments in the UK in consultation with the fishing industry.

Producer organisations have played an active part in managing quota for more than 10 years. It is for each PO to decide how to manage its allocations in the interests of its members. Before a PO is recognised for the purposes of quota management it must satisfy the appropriate Fisheries Department that it has the necessary systems in place to manage its quota allocations, to monitor landings by its members and to penalise any members who exceed their quota allocations. PO's management of quota is subject to the overall supervision of Fisheries Departments who prohibit further landings of fish by a PO's members once its quota allocations have been taken in full.

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