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Farm Subsidies

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what subsidy payments have been made for growing flax and hemp in each of the past five years; and what percentage of the crops were not harvested or marketed. [133231]

Ms Quin: [holding answer 28 July 2000]: The following table provides details of area harvested and rate of aid per hectare for the five crop years 1995-96 to 1999-2000:

Area Harvested (Hectares) Rate of Aid (£ per Hectare)
Crop YearFlaxHempFlaxHemp
1995-9617,1511,128(16)646.87653.84
(16)561.47
1996-9720,6501,751591.16645.99
513.13
1997-9818,8622,333569.83575.97
494.61
1998-9916,7702,697535.46500.64
464.78
1999-200015,0521,489567.67487.92
497.74

(16) The higher and lower figures show the aid rates applicable to deseeded and non-deseeded flax crops


Porpoises

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how many porpoises have (a) been

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caught and (b) perished as a result of fishing activities in UK waters in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; [133706]

Mr. Morley: Information on the full extent of porpoise casualties caused by fishing is not available.

My Department is funding the Sea Mammal Research Unit to undertake a three year project following on from earlier EU-funded work, including research at sea on the use of pingers to deter porpoises from nets. The new project which began in July will consider in detail why harbour porpoises become entangled in gill nets and seek to identify modifications to fishing gear which will reduce bycatches. If this work is successful I will encourage the UK industry to make the necessary adaptations and will also seek action at the EU level. In this regard, I welcomed the statement by Franz Fischler, the European Fisheries Commissioner, at the June Fisheries Council on the need to address the problem of cetacean bycatch.

With the support of this Department, my colleague and hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), launched the UK's Harbour Porpoise Conservation Strategy at the 3rd Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) Meeting of Parties held in Bristol between 26 and 28 July. This strategy sets out how the species is to be protected from pollution, seismic and other disturbances, as well as incidental mortality as a result of fishing activity.

Cod

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what policies his Department is pursuing to ensure abundant supplies of cod in (a) the short term and (b) the long term; [133704]

Mr. Morley: The Government are committed to managing cod stocks on the basis of the precautionary approach in order to keep them away from levels at which there is a serious risk of collapse and to help rebuild them for the future. Cod stocks generally are in poor shape, with unusually low recruitment of young fish, which may be due in part to climatic factors. This is reflected in the reduced TACs agreed for 2000 and lower landings by fishermen this year compared with 1999.

We have already demonstrated our willingness to support strong short term measures when needed. The UK took the lead in securing the Irish Sea cod recovery programme developed in close consultation with the industry and adopted in the EU earlier this year. This should help rebuild the depleted cod stock in the Irish Sea. It includes closing spawning areas in the Irish Sea from mid-February to the end of April to protect spawning cod as well as new technical conservation measures to improve protection for young cod.

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Advice on cod stocks will be provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) in the autumn. We will then consider, in the light of ICES' assessment and recommendations, what management action is needed for 2001.

Telephone Steering Systems

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many individual lines are operated as part of the touch tone steering system installed at his Department's sites. [134052]

Mr. Morley: The number of lines available to members of the public calling in to MAFF's touch tone steering systems is variable. MAFF adjusts according to business need the number of lines which will at a given time connect callers to MAFF staff, the number of callers who will be put into a queue and the number of callers who may listen to recorded information.

These may be altered on a daily basis.

Expenditure

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how the Forestry Commission departmental expenditure limit set out in the 2000 Spending Review will be divided between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. [134013]

Mr. Nick Brown: The figures given in the Spending Review 2000 for the Forestry Commission cover its net expenditure for GB core functions and activities in England. Although the Commission's activities in Wales were not covered by the Review, a £5.5 million baseline for Wales is also included for each year because responsibility for the Commission's expenditure in Wales has not yet transferred to the National Assembly. Responsibility for the Commission's expenditure in Scotland has already been transferred to the Scottish Parliament. The Commission has no remit in Northern Ireland; forestry matters there are administered by the Forest Service of the Northern Ireland Assembly's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Annual Report (Error)

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he was informed of the drafting errors on page 15 of the Government's Annual Report; and what steps he is taking to publicise the error. [134030]

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Mr. Nick Brown: The hon. Member is assured that the drafting errors on page 15 of the Government's Annual Report (1999-2000) had already been rectified. The final sentence on page 15 should read


The publishers were asked to insert an addendum slip into copies of the Report, and the text lodged on the website (www. annualreport.gov.uk) has been corrected.

Ragwort

Sir Nicholas Lyell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his oral statement of 25 July 2000, Official Report, column 1090, on what basis he confines his Department's responsibility for the control of ragwort to seeding ragwort which is growing only on agricultural land as defined by the Agriculture Act 1947. [R] [133999]

Mr. Morley: MAFF deals with all complaints under the Weeds Act on their own merits, but gives priority to complaints where farmland or farmed animals are at risk. Such cases will normally be in respect of "agricultural land".

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the research projects being (a) carried out and (b) sponsored by his Department into rabbit haemorrhagic disease, and stating the nature of each project. [128309]

Mr. Nick Brown [pursuant to his reply, 12 July 2000, c. 587W]: A further search has revealed that MAFF is currently a contributor to one project on viral haemorrhagic disease of rabbits:


The project is jointly sponsored with the University of Stirling, the Institute for Virology and Environmental Microbiology, The British Association for Shooting and Conservation Ltd., The Game Conservancy Trust, The National Trust, English Nature and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

I regret that this information was inadvertently omitted from my earlier reply.

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