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New Deal

Mr. Brady: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many employees of his Department and its agencies have been recruited from the New Deal; and what percentage this represents of total staff. [129098]

Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 6 July 2000, Official Report, column 286W.

The number of New Dealers within my Department and its Executive Agencies as at 1 April 2000 represents under 1 per cent. of total staff.

Soil Erosion

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to encourage the Environment Agency to issue advice

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to farms in areas where soil erosion and runoff from the land exist about how to stop or alleviate erosion and runoff. [129608]

Mr. Morley: My Department and the Environment Agency are working closely together to ensure that appropriate advice is made available to farmers whose land may be vulnerable to erosion and runoff.

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will issue farms in those areas where there is soil erosion and runoff from the land with (a) codes of practice on protection of soil and water and (b) publications from his Department on controlling soil erosion. [129607]

Mr. Morley: My Department has already made available free of charge copies of the Water, Air and Soil Codes. In addition, advisory leaflets on controlling soil erosion, are also available free of charge. These leaflets have been promoted by a series of on-farm seminars, in areas which are vulnerable to erosion which were attended by farmers and the Environment Agency.

Sheep and Goat Identification

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on sheep and goat identification. [131060]

Ms Quin: Consultation documents were issued by my Department on 17 April to seek views on proposals to introduce a requirement for the tagging or tattooing of all sheep and goats in England before they leave their holding of birth. The consultation period ended on 12 June.

We have taken account of the comments given and we now intend to introduce new Sheep and Goat identification legislation in England in early September. Given the need to ensure that the industry has enough time to order and be supplied with the appropriate tags, we have decided that the tagging and tattooing requirements of the new legislation will not take effect until 1 January 2001. We will be writing to all sheep and goat keepers with full details of the new rules shortly.

International Whaling Commission

Ms Atherton: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of this year's annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission. [131061]

Mr. Morley: The International Whaling Commission's 52nd annual meeting was held in Adelaide from 3 to 6 July. I attended the meeting, together with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions and representatives of environmental organisations.

Australia and New Zealand put forward a proposal to create a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. This would have complemented the existing Southern Ocean Sanctuary by protecting the breeding areas and migration routes of whales that feed in the Southern ocean. It was endorsed by the South Pacific Forum, which represents all the range states affected by the proposed sanctuary. The UK was one of the co-sponsors of the proposal, and I spoke strongly in favour of it. But although it was supported by the majority of those voting, it unfortunately did not

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receive the three-quarters of votes cast necessary for adoption. Both the Australian and New Zealand Governments indicated that they would be submitting the proposal next year; the UK will again be supporting it.

The UK took the lead in proposing a resolution condemning Japan's whaling under special permit (so-called 'scientific' whaling) and urging Japan not to proceed with its plans for a new programme in the North Pacific; this would involve, among other things, taking for the first time sperm and bryde's, as well as minke, whales. In introducing the resolution, I made it clear that the UK Government regarded this as a serious development and one that we would continue to raise both bilaterally and in other fora. The resolution was adopted by a large majority, as was a similar resolution on Japanese whaling under special permit in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.

A resolution was adopted by consensus establishing a programme of further work on the Revised Management Scheme (RMS), which is being developed to regulate all aspects of any future commercial whaling. This followed a two day working group on the RMS which immediately preceded the IWC meeting itself. The resolution makes it clear that it does not affect, or in any way commit Governments to lift, the moratorium on commercial whaling. In agreeing to form part of the consensus we emphasised that the resolution did not commit us to accepting anything that we had not already agreed to, and that it did not preclude the inclusion of other elements in the RMS.

At the meeting I reaffirmed the UK's opposition to whaling. There was only a limited discussion of the Irish proposals for a package of measures on whaling; we made it clear that the UK's position on these remains unchanged. I am pleased to say that efforts by Japan to secure a quota of 50 minke whales, despite the moratorium on commercial whaling, was again defeated by a substantial majority. We also strongly criticised Norway's continued whaling activities.

I made clear the UK's continuing concern about the cruelty involved in whaling, and drew attention, in particular, to the need to improve the regulation and humaneness of hunts for small cetaceans such as dolphins and porpoises. Earlier in the meeting the UK made use of a video of a dolphin drive hunt in Japan which graphically illustrated the need for such improvements. Although it is primarily for the Government of the country concerned to regulate the killing of small cetaceans in its waters, I believe that the IWC has a useful role to play in helping to raise awareness of this issue and in improving standards.

A number of other issues were considered. In particular, resolutions were adopted supporting the IWC's research programme on the effects of environmental change and pollution on cetaceans; drawing attention to the need to improve the protection of North Atlantic right whales, one of the most critically endangered species of whales, from mortalities caused by ship strikes and entanglement in fishing nets; drawing attention to the need for improved measures to conserve freshwater cetaceans (river dolphins); and calling on Canada to reconsider takes of bowhead whales from highly endangered stocks by indigenous peoples.

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While the failure to adopt the South Pacific Sanctuary was disappointing, in other respects this was a successful meeting for the UK, and demonstrated the continuing commitment by the majority of IWC members to upholding the moratorium on commercial whaling. The next IWC meeting will be held in London in July 2001.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

European Court of Justice Cases

Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make a statement on the number of cases which are currently before the European Court of Justice, listing the arraigned party in each case and the date on which each case was notified to the Court; [127915]

Mr. Vaz [holding answer 3 July 2000]: It will take some time to collate the information requested. I will write to my hon. Friend shortly with the information. Copies of the letter will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

National Insurance

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what has been the policy since 1989 on writing annually to those of his Department's staff who are paying reduced rates of National Insurance contributions, reminding them of the rules governing the payment of reduced rates, as recommended in the Inland Revenue guidance note on reduced rate National Insurance contributions for married women. [129487]

Mr. Hain: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not issue any specific guidance on National Insurance obligations for married women. However all staff are expected to be aware of Diplomatic and Home Service Regulations. These require all officers to advise the administration of any changes in their marital status, including those that will have effect on their National Insurance contributions.

Austria

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the sanctions imposed by EU member states against the Austrian Government. [129813]

Mr. Vaz: Measures were implemented by the 14 member states to limit the bilateral relationship as an expression of our concern at the inclusion of a far right party in the Austrian Government. Chancellor Schuessel has now accepted the EU 14's proposal that a group of "three wise persons", appointed by the President of the European Court of Human Rights, should report on the Austrian Government's commitment to common European values and on the evolution of the Freedom

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Party. We fully support this initiative, and will, together with our other EU partners, consider the report and its implications when it is submitted.


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