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Funeral Payments

Mr. Goggins: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what changes he proposes to make to the rules regarding funeral payments. [156685]

Angela Eagle: Social Fund funeral payments are intended to enable those on the lowest incomes to provide for a simple, respectful funeral where no other family member can meet the cost. We are acting to remove an anomaly in the regulations so that claimants' relatives in receipt of help under the National Asylum Support Service are treated in the same way as those receiving qualifying benefits. Amending regulations to achieve this will be laid before the House shortly.



Mr. Dobbin: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will publish the most recent figures for confirmed BSE cases broken down by year of birth. [156642]

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Ms Quin: The position in Great Britain as at 26 March 2001 was as follows:

Year of birthTotal number of confirmed cases

(33) A fourth case of BSE in an animal born in 1996 was confirmed on 9 February. The animal was born in January 1996, before the feed ban is considered to have been fully effective.

A fifth case of BSE in an animal born in 1996 was confirmed on 22 March. The animal was born in May 1996, before the feed ban is considered to have been fully effective.

The unknown dates of birth relate to cattle born before 1 July 1996 when it became mandatory for cattle to have passports which show their date of birth. In some cases it is not possible to confirm the date of birth of these animals from farm records.

Animal Movement Licences

Mr. Webb: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the application by Bristol Zoo for a licence to move animals on welfare grounds was given priority over other similar applications by farmers in South Gloucestershire; and if he will make a statement. [156136]

Mr. Morley: The application from Bristol Zoo took its place in the queue. A licence has now been issued.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Luff: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received on behalf of pig farmers about the welfare implications for pigs on farms within areas under foot and mouth restrictions; and if he will make a statement. [155622]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 26 March 2001]: In response to representations from pig farmers, we have arranged for them to be able to take advantage of the wide range of movement schemes which we have recently introduced.

They can also use the welfare disposal scheme and a scheme for the movement of finished animals to slaughter.

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Agriculture Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the outcome was of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 19 and 20 March; what the Government's voting record was at the Council; and if he will make a statement. [155102]

Mr. Nick Brown: I represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers on 19 March in Brussels.

I gave the Council a full account of the present state of the foot and mouth outbreak in the UK and the measures which we are taking to eradicate the disease. A similar report was made to the Council by the French Minister of Agriculture in respect of the FMD outbreak confirmed last week in France. The European Commission supported the tough measures being taken in both countries, and discussion revealed a consensus in the Council in favour of a policy of eradication by slaughter rather than one based on vaccination.

In relation to BSE, the Commission brought the Council up to date on progress in extending to third countries the rules for removing specified risk material from cattle. Preliminary results were given from the BSE testing programme which was agreed in December.

In a brief discussion of proposals to adjust the EU beef regime, Commissioner Fischler reported some market improvement following the steep drop in beef consumption of recent months. Meanwhile the special purchase scheme had been passed by Management Committee on 19 March and should have an impact in firming up market prices.

In light of discussion of progress on reform of the sugar and cotton regimes, the Council agreed to work to early conclusions, if possible in April. The Commission introduced a report on prospects for the vegetable protein market which would be further examined at the technical level.

Flood Defences

Dr. Cable: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will make a statement on the allocation of statutory responsibilities for flood defence management in the (a) south-eastern and (b) eastern regions of England; and what plans he has to review flood defence management structures; [155607]

Mr. Morley: Throughout England MAFF has policy responsibility for flood and coastal defence while operational responsibility falls to the "operating authorities"; the Environment Agency, internal drainage boards and local authorities.

The Environment Agency has a statutory supervisory duty over all matters relating to flood defence and has permissive powers to undertake sea defence works and works on designated main rivers. Internal Drainage Boards have permissive powers to undertake works on ordinary watercourses within their districts while local authorities have similar powers on ordinary watercourses outside those districts. Where defences are privately

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owned, responsibility rests with the riparian owner. Finally, maritime local authorities have coast protection powers and may also undertake sea defence works.

A review of the funding arrangements for flood and coastal defence is currently under way and is due to report by September 2001. It is possible that the outcome of that review, and of a separate financial management and policy review of the Environment Agency which is also being undertaken, could give rise to the need to adjust the present institutional arrangements.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he plans to compensate landowners for work carried out on their land to maintain and establish flood defences in (a) Norfolk, (b) Suffolk, (c) Cambridgeshire, (d) Bedfordshire, (e) Hertfordshire, (f) Essex and (g) each London borough in (i) 1995-96, (ii) 1996-97, (iii) 1997-98, (iv) 1998-99, (v) 1999-2000, (vi) 2000-01 and (vii) 2001-02. [155610]

Mr. Morley: Ministry grants are available to operating authorities but not to private landowners. However, operating authorities may compensate landowners in certain circumstances when undertaking flood defence works. Where such compensation is regarded as a necessary part of grant aided works, Ministry grant is paid towards the compensation costs.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how much was provided for flood control to each of those local authorities affected by floods in 2000; [155606]

Mr. Morley: Local authorities' expenditure on flood defence falls into three categories: the levy they pay to the Environment Agency, special levies paid to internal drainage boards, and the local authority's own expenditure on flood defence works. Government support for local authority expenditure on flood defence is allocated through the flood defence standard spending assessment (SSA), and distributed as revenue support grant (RSG). RSG is not ring-fenced, as it is one of the key principles of the local government finance systems that local authorities should be able to decide how to allocate their own, and their own taxpayers', money, taking account of statutory requirements and local circumstances. These decisions will reflect each authority's policies for which it is accountable

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to local people. The SSAs for the local authorities and years specified, is set out in a table which is available in the Libraries of the House.

The Ministry provides grants (and Supplementary Credit Approvals to local authorities) rather than compensation to the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards for flood defence capital works that meet economic, technical and environmental criteria and achieve an appropriate priority score. Responsibility for decisions on which works to promote and their timing rests with those operating authorities. Information on specific Ministry flood defence grants is not readily available in the form requested and could be produced only at disproportionate cost.

Many local authorities incurred costs in responding to flood emergencies in 2000. Eligible costs may be refunded by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions under a Bellwin scheme. To date 14 local authorities have received a total of £3.8 million under the Bellwin arrangements. These are as follows:

East Sussex187,200
Newark and Sherwood8,361
Tonbridge and Malling59,026
West Sussex1,841,600
City of York708,060

With the exception of Newark and Sherwood, which has been paid in full, all are interim payments of 80 per cent. of the total claim. The balance will be paid on the basis of audited accounts. Claims from other local authorities are expected.

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