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Agriculture Review

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made on her review and reform of agriculture. [9143]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 19 October 2001]: The independent Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food have commenced their work and are undertaking a written consultation exercise. We expect their report at the end of the year.


Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent measures she has taken to promote British farming. [8428]

Mr. Morley: Since 1997 the Government have injected some £1.35 billion into the farming sector. We are promoting the modernisation of farming through key policy initiatives including the Action Plan for Farming, the England Rural Development Programme, and measures in the Rural White Paper. We are also now working on how to help the livestock sector move forward to a more secure future in the aftermath of the foot and mouth disease outbreak.

The independent Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food will give further impetus to this work.

Cereal Producers

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what support her Department is giving to cereal producers in the East Midlands. [8140]

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Mr. Morley: The principal means of support for cereal producers in the East Midlands, as elsewhere, is the EU's Arable Area Payments Scheme (AAPS). Claimants in the East Midlands in 2000 received some £107 million for cereals under AAPS, as well as £3.6 million in agrimonetary compensation. Cereal producers also benefit from support measures which operate under the EU's common market organisation for cereals, and many of them also participate in agri-environmental schemes under the England Rural Development Programme.

Payments under AAPS for 2001 will start later this year. The aid rate for cereals will be £225.64 per hectare, compared with £217.27 per hectare in 2000.

Pyre Waste

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government have taken to dispose of waste arising from pyres used to incinerate livestock in the last 12 months; and if she will make a statement. [8092]

Mr. Morley: Where possible, and subject to groundwater authorisation from the Environment Agency, ash has been buried on site. This activity is carried out by contractors and staff working to local disease emergency control centres. Where groundwater authorisations could not be given, ash has been collected under a national scheme and transported to a suitable landfill site and buried.

Waste Plastic

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures are being taken to encourage the collection and recycling of waste plastic. [8504]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 22 October 2001]: The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997 place obligations on certain businesses to recover and recycle specific tonnages of packaging waste, including plastic. The recovery and recycling targets for 2001 under the packaging regulations are 56 per cent. for recovery and 18 per cent. for material-specific recycling of packaging waste. We are currently consulting on recovery and recycling targets for packaging waste in 2002.

All local authorities have been set statutory recycling performance standards, to underpin the national targets established in the Waste Strategy 2000 for England and Wales, of recycling or composting at least 25 per cent. of household waste by 2005. Future standards will be considered in the light of technological advances, with the aim of maximising the recycling and composting of waste. It is for local authorities to decide which waste streams they should tackle in meeting their performance standard.

The Government have also established the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to promote more sustainable waste management through tackling the barriers to increased reuse and recycling.

WRAP has identified plastics as a priority area in its business plan to 2003–04. One of WRAP's priorities is marketing existing recycled plastic products and removing discriminatory standards. These are linked to the development of 'buy recycled' policies and a research and

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development programme to develop plastics recycling technology and support composite product development. One of WRAP's aims is to achieve a 20,000 tonne increase in the mixed plastics processing for industrial products by 2003–04.

Flood Defences

Mr. Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what requests for funding she has received from the Environment Agency to prevent future flooding of the (a) Ouse, (b) Uck and (c) Cuckmere; and if she will make a statement. [8676]

Mr. Morley: Following the severe flooding last year, this Department has responded with a number of funding initiatives, some of which have benefited the Environment Agency's flood management of the Ouse, Uck and Cuckmere directly as shown in the table.


InitiativeBenefit to Ouse, Uck and Cuckmere
Contribution to emergency response and repairs costsover 500
Special funding of design and feasibility costs of, for River Ouse strategy150

The agency has made some estimates for possible capital works in its medium term plans and these will be considered for grant aid in the normal way when detailed applications are submitted.

Mr. Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received from the Environment Agency regarding the funding of the agency's four proposed schemes to combat flooding of the River Uck. [9768]

Mr. Morley: None. We understand that the Environment Agency are still considering a range of options for schemes to alleviate flooding from the River Uck. No doubt when the agency has identified its preferred options, applications will be submitted to this Department for grant aid. Any such applications will be considered sympathetically against the normal economic, technical an environmental criteria and priority score arrangements.

Form A and D Notices

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what records are kept of Form A and D notices in Herefordshire. [9436]

Mr. Morley: A computer record is maintained by the Worcester Animal Health Divisional Office of all Form A and Form D notices in Herefordshire.

Oak and Horse Chestnut Trees

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent information she has collated about the spread of diseases, viruses or bacteria adversely affecting (a) oak and (b) horse chestnut trees; what her assessment is of the risk they pose to those trees; and if she will make a statement. [9117]

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Mr. Morley: We have collected information about two diseases that affect oak trees, neither of which is thought to pose a significant risk to trees in Britain.

The first is known as Oak Dieback. The Forestry Commission has been investigating this over the last decade, and a similar decline in the health of oak trees has been reported from many other countries in Europe. The cause remains unclear but our experts consider that a strain of fungus may be thriving as a result of climate change. Drought and insect defoliation are also thought to be playing a part. The species affected is the Common oak (Quercus robur) while our native, the Sessile oak (Q. petraea), appears to be immune.

The second is known as Sudden Oak Death. This new disease, recently named Phytophthora ramorum, was identified in parts of California last year. The principal host is Tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflorus) although some species of true oak (Quercus spp.), which do not occur in Europe, and certain other plants including rhododendron and viburnum have also been affected. Similar symptoms were recorded on rhododendron and viburnum plants in Germany and the Netherlands as long ago as 1993 although it was only earlier this year that it was established that P. ramorum was the causal agent. The Forestry Commission and DEFRA are working together to establish whether any British oak trees have been affected or are, indeed, even susceptible to this disease. Early indications are that European oaks may not be susceptible. Current quarantine controls on plants exported from the USA, aimed at other pests and diseases, are considered sufficient to provide protection against accidental import of the disease. This disease and controls against it are being considered by the EU Standing Committee on Plant Health.

There are no specific pests or diseases affecting horse chestnut trees in Britain, although we are monitoring the progress of the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner (Cameraria ohridella) in continental Europe. This pest was first detected in Austria in 1989 and has since spread to many parts of Central and Eastern Europe. It is only found in leaves and leaf litter, and is dispersed when leaves are moved to new areas. Unfortunately, cars, lorries and trains often carry leaves long distances, and this is probably how it has spread across Europe. Leaves are, of course, also dispersed by the wind. Attacks are not fatal and trees may survive repeated attacks by successive generations of larvae. Our scientists are closely involved in research into control methods. The Forestry Commission is also planning to publish an illustrated leaflet describing the biology and symptoms of infestation of the moth next spring, to coincide with the period of the moth's activity.

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