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Litter

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to review the litter laws; and if she will make a statement. [8329]

Mr. Meacher: In March 2001, I announced that the litter legislation was to be reviewed. We will be looking in particular at litter in water, storage and collection of trade waste, providing and using civic amenity site, fly-tipping, managing trade wastes, litter on private land and easing the route for local authorities to prosecute offenders.

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Recycling

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of levels of recycled household waste in (a) the UK and (b) other European countries. [7769]

Mr. Meacher: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) on 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 1052W.

Departmental Staff Costs

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will estimate total annual staff costs for her Department and its agencies by nation and region of the UK; and if she will make a statement. [6841]

Mr. Morley: The estimated staff costs (pay, national insurance contribution, pension provision) for my Department, for the 2001–02 financial year, are given in the table.

£ million

English Government Office Regions
East Midlands7.5
Eastern23.4
London78.4
North East9.0
North West16.0
South East115.4
South West26.2
West Midlands11.0
Yorkshire and Humberside32.6
Total England320.1
Scotland2.9
Wales0.7
Total323.7

These figures do not include the additional costs incurred in tackling foot and mouth disease. They include full year costs for the following agencies: Central Science Laboratory, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Pesticides Safety Directorate, Rural Payments Agency (which came into being formally on 16 October), Veterinary Laboratories Agency and Veterinary Medicines Directorate. The Agency costs have been included in the region where their headquarters is based, for example the Rural Payments Agency has been included in the figures for the south-east. The figures for London reflect the large concentration of the Department's policy and senior staff being based there.

Departmental Spending

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the total amount of spending by her Department was in each nation and region of the UK, in the last year for which figures are available; what proportion of her Department's total spending this constitutes; and if she will make a statement. [6845]

Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 854W.

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Correspondence

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what was, for each year since 1995, the average response time for providing a substantive answer to (a) hon. Member's correspondence, (b) correspondence from members of the public and (c) written parliamentary questions in the (i) Commons and (ii) Lords; [7043]

Mr. Morley: The effective handling of correspondence and PQs is an issue to which I, and ministerial colleagues, attach great importance.

General information on the volumes of correspondence received across Whitehall and on overall performance is published by the Cabinet Office. Figures for 2000 were published on 6 April 2001, Official Report, columns 324–28W, and 19 July 2001, Official Report, columns 454–56W.

This Department was created on 8 June 2001, bringing together some groups from the former Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and animal welfare issues and fox hunting from the Home Office. The information requested is therefore not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will answer the question tabled by the hon. Member for Yeovil (ref 148) on 20 July. [9963]

Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him on 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 1073W.

Agriculture Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 23 October; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [10369]

Margaret Beckett: My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Whitty, attended the meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers in Luxembourg on 23 October.

We reported on the experiments to identify whether UK sheep had been exposed to BSE. We emphasised that the UK was conducting a large programme of research into BSE, of which the experiments on brain material from the early 1990s was a small part. Other continuing experiments had shown no evidence of BSE in the flock. Commissioner Byrne reported on progress with the EU programme of cattle testing for BSE and concluded that the Council would need to keep current measures under review.

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The Commission presented a number of new proposals: proposals for measures to improve the monitoring and control of animal diseases transmissible to man; a report on the evaluation of the active substances in agricultural pesticides to which the Council will revert in November; and proposals for improving the control of genetically modified food and feed and for the traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms.

On foot and mouth disease, we updated colleagues on progress towards stamping out the disease in this country. The Council also discussed the situation in the beef market and agreed to keep it under examination.

There was in addition a brief exchange of views on the Commission's proposal to withdraw the authorisation for use of certain feed additives. A number of member states, including the UK, voiced concern over some of the possible withdrawals. The Commission noted that the necessary technical information had not been supplied to support continued authorisation.

Over lunch Commissioner Fischler updated Ministers on the agricultural aspects of the preparations for the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting at Doha.

Livestock Markets

Mr. Collins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects to announce conclusions about the future of livestock markets. [9627]

Mr. Morley: For reasons of foot and mouth disease control, there are no plans to re-open livestock markets in the immediate future. Veterinary and scientific advice is that there is an inherent risk of spreading the disease by mixing animals together and then dispersing them. Any livestock keeper with poor standards of biosecurity might attend markets from anywhere in the country and put at risk others attending the market. Even in designated free counties it would take only one such lapse in biosecurity precautions to spread the disease. It is right to be cautious at this stage but the situation will be kept under review.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many representations have been made by farmers with regard to the difference in valuations of stock with regard to foot and mouth disease (a) before and (b) after 22 March. [9071]

Mr. Morley: The Department has received representations from 1,224 farmers (as at 21 October) about the valuation of stock with regard to foot and mouth disease. Of these 370 were received before 22 March (when standard values were introduced) and 854 after this date.

Mr. Collins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she last met Professor Fred Brown of the US Department of Agriculture to discuss foot and mouth disease; and when she next plans to do so. [7512]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 18 October 2001]: The Secretary of State has not met with Professor Brown and at the moment does not have a meeting planned.

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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received from farmers on the fall in income they have incurred since the outbreak of foot and mouth disease; and if she will make a statement. [8158]

Mr. Morley: The Department has received a number of representations in relation to revenue losses suffered by farmers and farming organisations as a consequence of foot and mouth disease. We are very much aware that the outbreak is having a considerable impact on farming and a range of industries throughout the UK. However it is not possible at this stage to make a reliable estimate of the overall loss of revenue caused by the outbreak. DEFRA is working with a number of other Government Departments to prepare such an estimate and the results of this work will be made publicly available. We are also developing proposals for a survey to collect information from farmers on the direct and indirect impact of foot and mouth disease.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent action she has taken to ensure that the UK is returned to foot and mouth disease-free status. [8156]

Mr. Morley: While we cannot rule out the possibility of a resurgence of the disease at this stage, the Department is taking a number of measures to reduce the risk of further outbreaks. We will continue to stamp out disease whenever it occurs and we are conducting a comprehensive programme of blood testing sheep flocks as part of our arrangements for the gradual relaxation of movement controls. We also have in place a system for cleansing and disinfecting previously infected farms.

We are providing advice to farmers on the controls that need to be exercised when reintroducing animals on to their land. This is not only intended to minimise the risk of foot and mouth disease, but other important diseases of livestock.

Biosecurity measures are also vital in helping to prevent the spread and resurgence of foot and mouth disease. As part of the on-going campaign to provide timely and accurate information and advice to all concerned, we have mailed biosecurity guidelines, leaflets and letters and placed adverts in local, national and specialist publications. In addition, local veterinary inspectors have contacted their clients to discuss biosecurity and other aspects of the disease.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the farms and farm buildings which have been demolished to eradicate foot and mouth disease, indicating the nature of the building, its age, features of architectural significance and its location. [7249]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 15 October 2001]: The Department is unable to publicly identify those farmers whose farm buildings have been demolished as part of the measures to control foot and mouth disease because this would contravene the Data Protection Act 1998. General information on the type or age of buildings that have been demolished can be obtained only at disproportionate cost. Following the suspension and revision of secondary cleansing and disinfection costs, guidelines have been issued making it clear public funds will not be used for

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betterment of farm buildings, or where they are in poor conditions and health and safety is compromised or where the costs are disproportionate.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if all the previously outstanding payments to farmers in Chorley as a result of the outbreak of foot and mouth have been paid. [8429]

Mr. Morley: All statutory compensation due to farmers in Chorley for animals slaughtered during the current outbreak has now been paid. The Department has received a number of other claims from farmers related to the outbreak. These are currently under consideration.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the operation and logistics of the cleansing and disinfecting operation following foot and mouth disease. [8154]

Mr. Morley: Preliminary cleansing and disinfection (C&D) is carried out during the slaughter and disposal stage on all premises known, or believed, to be contaminated with foot and mouth disease in order to minimise the risk of the virus spreading to neighbouring farms.

Twenty-four hours after this stage has been completed, secondary cleansing and disinfection can commence, the purpose of which is to allow restocking and reduce the risk of recrudescence. Secondary C&D is generally undertaken by either farmers themselves or commercial contractors. Subject to preparatory work being undertaken by the farmer, secondary C&D is normally undertaken at DEFRA expense.

The secondary C&D operation is well advanced, with 60 per cent. of premises subject to secondary C&D now complete, and a further 30 per cent. in progress.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on ecological changes arising from the de-stocking of hill areas during the foot and mouth outbreak. [7885]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 15 October 2001]: There has been little opportunity to observe the changes that are taking place because of biosecurity restrictions. However, it is unlikely that there will be any lasting changes providing normal grazing resumes within a reasonable time.

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the promptness of payment of (a) livestock compensation to farmers whose animals have been slaughtered in the foot and mouth crisis and (b) contractors who have assisted in the disposal and clean up operations. [7722]

Mr. Morley: Throughout the outbreak the aim has been to make payments as soon as possible subject to the necessary checks to protect public funds, but at the peak of the outbreak payments were delayed due to the large volume of claims received.

The Department's target is to pay all contractors/ suppliers of goods and services we employ within 30 days of receipt of a valid invoice. Given the large number of suppliers of goods and services which the Department has

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contracted—all of whom expect to be paid promptly—this target has proved difficult to meet. However, the time taken to process invoices is being reduced.

In addition to this, there is a duty to ensure proper, effective and efficient use of public money. This means that the Department cannot pay invoices for goods and/or services that are not accompanied by accurate supporting information as to the nature and extent of the goods and services supplied. Unfortunately this information is not always provided by some of the suppliers we have employed. This has made the Department's task much harder, and it is often one of the reasons for delays.

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what is the (a) highest, (b) lowest and (c) average payment of compensation made to farmers following the foot and mouth outbreak. [7652]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 15 October 2001]: As at 10 October the highest amount paid for a valuation for statutory animal compensation is £4,238,800; the lowest is £20; and the average is £104,395.


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