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Caroline Flint: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what assistance his Department is providing for farmers who have lost crops through persistent wet weather in Don Valley; 
Ms Quin: The recent exceptionally wet weather in Don Valley and South Yorkshire has caused a number of difficulties for farmers, ranging from delay in normal seasonal cultivations to the actual loss of certain crops, in particular potatoes and sugar.
The Government have taken a number of steps to try to protect CAP payments to farmers and to provide £11.6 million in flood-related funding to the operating authorities to help defray exceptional emergency costs which would otherwise fall in part on farmers and the wider public.
In addition to the measures announced in reply to the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) on 24 January 2001, Official Report, columns 594-95W, my right hon. Friend the Minister informed the House on 1 February that the European Commission had confirmed a number of further changes to our national implementing
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arrangements for the Arable Area Payments Scheme this year. These include the ability to pay aid on certain partially failed crops and to allow farmers to set-aside land after 15 January where they have been unable to re-sow crops or where existing crops have been so flood damaged as to be incapable of yielding a harvest. We will shortly be writing to all farmers to explain in full what can now be allowed.
Mr. Harvey: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assistance he will give to the relevant authorities and agencies in Devon to secure EU funding towards sea defence projects in the county. 
Mr. Morley: There are limited opportunities for EU funding towards sea defence projects. Relevant authorities and agencies are aware of these opportunities and can apply for funds. Of course the Government provide substantial funding for sea defences.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what research has been undertaken to establish the means by which a normal prion becomes a rogue prion; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Quin: The generally accepted theory is that exposure to the rogue prion protein causes the normal protein to convert into the disease or rogue form. The mechanism by which this conversion occurs is not fully understood, but is the subject of research in a large number of laboratories throughout the world. Officials in MAFF keep updated on the progress of this research. They also monitor the progress on other, less widely accepted, theories for the conversion, such as exposure to organophosphates and manganese. Details of all the publicly funded work on prion diseases being undertaken in the UK can be found on the Medical Research Council's website at www.mrc.ac.uk.
Mr. Burnett: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the progress of the European Commission case against France in relation to the French ban on the import of British beef. [R] 
Ms Quin [holding answer 9 February 2001]: The progress of European Court of Justice cases is a matter for the Court. The French Rejoinder to the Commission Response and Observations on the UK Statement in Intervention were submitted by 22 December 2000. This concluded the written part of the procedure. There may be an oral hearing at the request of the French Government or the Commission. Judgment is not expected before the summer.
Mr. Reed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of agricultural land in Leicestershire is subject to set-aside; and what the annual cost was to public funds of the set-aside in the most recent year for which figures are available. 
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Ms Quin: The area of set-aside in Leicestershire on claims made in 2000 under the Arable Area Payments Scheme (AAPS) was 12,694 hectares or 12 per cent. of the total area claimed for. But because not all agricultural land is either eligible or claimed for under AAPS, the proportion of set-aside in relation to agricultural land in the county as a whole is estimated at around 6.7 per cent.
At the 2000 payment rate, the payment for this area of set-aside would have been £2,712,000 from EU funds, to which the UK Exchequer contributes. In addition some £92,000 will be paid shortly as agrimonetary compensation of which half will be funded by the EU and half direct by the UK Exchequer.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the annual loss of income to commercial fishing resulting from the recreational angling industry's catch under the total allowable catch terms of the Common Fisheries Policy. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 12 February 2001]: The economic effect of the quota reductions for 2001 will vary according to the extent to which the UK is able to catch its quota allocations. In some cases the quotas for 2001 are higher than the catches made in 2000.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what representations he has received calling for the removal of the recreational angling industry from the total allowable catch terms of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 12 February 2001]: On 16 January 2001, officials met with representatives of sea angling and vessel chartering interests. The discussion was constructive and covered a number of matters relating to the Common Fisheries Policy including the application of TACs and quotas to landings made by boat anglers. It was confirmed following consultation with the European Commission that account had to be taken of such activity in managing fisheries.
Mr. McDonnell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the Government's policies to prevent cruelty to animals exported live from the United Kingdom. 
Mr. Morley: The Government operate a twin-track policy to protect the welfare of animals exported from the UK. We ensure that the rules are met while animals are within our jurisdiction and urge the European Commission and other member states to give enforcement the same high priority. We will continue to promote improvements when the Commission's report on member states' implementation and enforcement of the EU rules is discussed in Brussels.
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Ms Quin: The Regional Service Centre at Worcester started to make payments on 16 November; the earliest date that payments could be made after the amendments agreed under the Agenda 2000 proposals. To date, the Regional Service Centre has 98.5 per cent. of Gloucestershire's applications processed for payment. This equates to over £18 million. The RSC expects to be able to pay those of the remaining claims that can be paid in the next few days.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will discuss with the Environment Agency the introduction of a floodgate at Gloucester and a guillotine gate at Tewkesbury; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: The responsibility for deciding which projects to promote and their timing rests with local operating authorities, such as the Environment Agency. I am advised that the agency has no plans to promote such works at Gloucester or Tewkesbury since they would provide limited reduction in flood risk. Consequently the question of discussions does not arise.
Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) if he will make a statement about the accuracy of his Department's database submitted to television licensing for the purposes of adjudicating upon applicants for free TV licences; 
Mr. Rooker: The administration of the free TV licence scheme has been a considerable success, and some 2.8 million free licences have been issued with the help of the database supplied by this Department.
Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many staff are employed by TV Licensing; and how many of them are engaged in reconciling applications for free licences from those aged 75 years and over with the Department of Social Security database. 
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