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Mr. Steen: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to protect badgers in areas where tuberculosis is increasing (a) in the West Country and (b) nationally. [143951]

Ms Quin [holding answer 8 January 2001]: Badgers are a protected species under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. The Government have a strategy in place to tackle bovine tuberculosis which includes the regular testing of cattle herds and extensive research (including the Krebs' trial) into the disease both in cattle and in wildlife, including badgers, as well as the development of TB vaccines. The Government's objective is to identify a sustainable policy to control bovine tuberculosis, based on sound science, which will allow healthy cattle and wildlife to co-exist successfully in the future.

Beef (Fraud)

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has made to his counterparts in EU member states on the prevention of fraud in relation to the import of over-30-month beef into the UK. [144325]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 8 January 2001]: This is a matter for the Foods Standards Agency.

South Africa (Foot and Mouth Disease)

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what actions the Government have taken in respect of meat and livestock products imported from South Africa following the current outbreak of foot and mouth disease there. [144261]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 8 January 2001]: Following notification from the European Commission of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in South Africa, the Government have acted to prohibit the importation of fresh meat from South Africa. All UK Border Inspection Posts, where imports of animal products from third countries must be checked before entering the UK, have been alerted. The European Commission have also informed us that South Africa has put in place a prohibition on exports of fresh meat to the EU.

Meat products and other products of animal origin derived from fresh meat of South African origin are also prohibited as Community import rules require the meat to come from countries or regions free of foot and mouth

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disease for a period of 12 months. There are currently no South African establishments approved to export dairy products into the UK. Any FMD susceptible products of animal origin which fall outside of the scope of European legislation would have to comply with UK national requirements which include safeguards against the introduction of FMD.

Commission Decision 2000/623/EC prohibits the import of livestock from South Africa with the exception of horses.


Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on shellfish fisheries in the United Kingdom. [144260]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 8 January 2001]: My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary announced on 10 January an industry-wide consultation on a licensing scheme to control shellfish activity. The proposal was developed within the UK Fisheries Conservation Group comprising members of the fishing industry, scientists and representatives of Fisheries Departments. I hope the wider industry will support this initiative so that appropriate controls can be introduced as soon as possible to conserve crab, lobster and crawfish throughout the UK.

Swine Fever

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what commitment he gave to visit personally a pig farm placed under swine fever restrictions before the end of the summer recess. [144376]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 8 January 2001]: I visited a pig farm affected by classical swine fever restrictions on 15 November 2000.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans the Government have to make emergency loans available to pig farmers affected by swine fever restrictions. [144391]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 8 January 2001]: None.

Hydro-power Schemes

Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will publish the advice his Department has issued on how the introduction of hydro- power schemes can assist flood prevention. [144867]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 11 January 2001]: No such advice has been issued by the Government. Relevant extracts from the Environment Agency's internal guidance in their Development Control Manual are as follows:

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While there is a policy of generally supporting such schemes, there is a need to ensure that they are compatible with other interests, including environmental considerations and the risks associated with development in the flood plain. Environmental issues are likely to weigh particularly heavily in any proposed large-scale impoundment for hydro-electric generation. There are unlikely to be many circumstances in which such schemes could be managed to provide genuine flood defence benefits and be economically viable. However, novel approaches to flood risk management including this can be considered in the whole river catchment assessment studies that will be conducted using part of the £51 million additional funding recently secured for flood defence.

Early Retirement

Mr. Curry: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his answer of 9 January 2001, Official Report, column 521W, on early retirements, how many (a) male and (b) female officials have accepted the offers of early retirement, and at what grade in each case. [145272]

Ms Quin: Seven (a) four male and (b) three female, all at Senior Civil Service level.

Sea Wall, Pagham

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what English Nature's policy is regarding the criteria for use of the pumps positioned at the sea wall at Pagham. [144969]

Mr. Morley: I understand that English Nature have agreed to the Environment Agency's emergency plans for pumping at Pagham, provided that pumping takes place only when flow diversion is operating around Chichester.

Flooding, Tewkesbury

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assistance he plans to give to areas which suffered from the recent flooding, with particular reference to the Tewkesbury area; and if he will make a statement. [144918]

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Mr. Morley: On 4 November, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced improvements to the Bellwin scheme, including an increase in the rate of payment for eligible expenditure from 85 per cent. to 100 per cent. and a promise to settle all claims within 15 days. The revisions will help local authorities to deal with the immediate requirements. No claim has yet been received from Tewkesbury borough council.

My right hon. Friend also announced that the Government were making a further £51 million available over the next three years to accelerate river flood defence schemes and allow whole catchment assessment studies to be carried out. This additional funding is on top of the increases in funding for flood and coastal defence announced in 2000 Spending Review. Total expenditure on flood and coastal defence now approached £400 million a year.

It has been the policy of successive Governments not to pay compensation to householders or businesses for any losses suffered as a result of flooding as this is an insurable risk. I have joined with my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury in maintaining close contact with the insurance industry and have urged insurers to give priority to claims arising from the floods.

In cases of genuine hardship, help may be available from the social fund. Assistance may also be available from local disaster funds where these have been established.

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