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13. Dr. Godman: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he discussed regional management of the fisheries when he last met his European counterparts to discuss the review of the common fisheries policy. 
Mr. Morley: I regularly raise the need to develop regional management of fisheries when I meet my European counterparts. I look forward to the opportunity of pursuing this in the Fisheries Councils on 25 April and 18 June when the Commission's suggestions on the issue contained in its Green Paper on the future of the CFP will be discussed.
14. Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals he has for the reform of the common agricultural policy in relation to farmers' incomes; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Quin: Farm incomes have been seriously depressed latterly, principally as a result of the weakness of the Euro against sterling, low world commodity prices, the impact of BSE and now the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. There are also longstanding structural weaknesses in the agricultural sector arising from the tradition of production-based subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy. That is why the Government are firmly committed to securing further reform.
Ms Quin: At the outset of last year's outbreak of classical swine fever, we established a joint Government/ industry working party to consider what measures the livestock industry could take to protect itself in future against the commercial consequences of animal disease outbreaks. The working party is looking at the existing and potential role of animal disease insurance.
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17. Mr. Coaker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the change in the number of veterinarians employed by the state veterinary service was (a) from 1979-80 to 1997-98 and (b) from 1997-98 to date. 
Ms Quin: The State Veterinary Service employed 597 full-time equivalents in 1979. In 1997 there were 289 full-time equivalents in the Service. At present there are 286 full-time equivalent veterinarians in the Service. There are currently over 1,200 veterinarians working to control foot and mouth disease.
Mr. Morley: I am aware of concerns in the south-west about the conservation of mackerel including some requests for a reopening of the Mackerel Box. The scientific advice is clear that the Box should remain. I am however seeking ICES advice on the issue.
Ms Quin: My right hon. Friend the Minister announced on 15 February that all scientific appraisals prepared to inform policy decisions in MAFF will be put into the public domain. We have also taken a number of steps to increase the openness of the Scientific Advisory Committees advising MAFF, including holding open sessions, publishing agendas and minutes of meetings and issuing public reports.
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Ms Quin: The hill farm allowance scheme has been approved by the Commission as a basis for hill farm support in England up to 2006. However, we will keep the scheme under review, and will propose modifications taking account of the report of the Hills Task Force, commissioned research into alternative approaches to land classification, and other developments including the foot and mouth disease outbreaks.
Mr. Morley: MAFF has policy responsibility for flood and coastal defence in England. Operational responsibility falls to the "operating authorities", the Environment Agency, internal drainage boards and local authorities.
The Government's policy aim is to reduce the risks to people and the developed and natural environment from flooding and coastal erosion by encouraging the provision of technically, environmentally and economically sound and sustainable defence measures. Our three objectives for delivering this aim are:
Mr. Morley: Responsibility for deciding which flood defence works to promote and their timing rests with operating authorities such as the Environment Agency. I understand that the agency has embarked on a programme of studies with a view to formulating a strategy for flood risk management in the whole Thames estuary, with more specific studies planned for elements such as the Medway estuary.
Mr. Morley: The Ministry has policy responsibility for flood defence in England and administers grant aid for capital defence works. However it is for local operating authorities, normally the Environment Agency or the local council, to determine which projects to promote and their timing. I understand that the agency has commissioned a number of strategic studies for the River Aire with a view to considering options for flood alleviation measures in Leeds and other towns on the river.
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Ms Quin: The health status of flocks and herds in Great Britain is the subject of ongoing surveillance for notifiable and non-notifiable diseases. For flocks and herds abroad, we rely on advice from the Office of International Epizootics and on information collected by the European Commission. The 1999 Annual Report of the Chief Veterinary Officer gives an overview of the work undertaken.
Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to increase the proportion of Common Agricultural Policy expenditure devoted to rural development. 
Ms Quin: The Government are committed to further expansion of rural development measures: the "second pillar" of the CAP. In England some £1.6 billion is being injected into rural areas over seven years. In practice, this means increasing spending from 1999 levels by about 60 per cent. over the period. £300 million of this will be money redirected, or "modulated", from direct support mechanisms. The Government are supplementing this modulated money with a further £300 million. At Community level, we will continue to press for a greater share of EU funding from the second pillar.
Mr. Stunell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the administrative costs of the Hill Farm Allowance scheme as a percentage of grants disbursed. 
Ms Quin [holding answer 4 April 2001]: The budget for HFA payments has been determined in the context of the England Rural Development Programme, the Action Plan for Farming and the Spending Review and is entirely separate from the Ministry's running costs. However, this year the costs of administering HFA payments in England, ignoring design and setting up costs, are expected to be about 1.5 per cent. of the payments made.
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