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Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she proposes to implement the increased sheep premium payments to the herds recommended by the European Parliament. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 18 October 2001]: The Opinion of the European Parliament on the European Commission's proposal for reform of the sheepmeat regime, under which sheep annual premium payments are made, has not yet been delivered. We expect that the European Parliament will vote on the Opinion later this month. We further expect that the Commission's proposals will be considered by the Council of Ministers in November. Amounts of premium to be paid will be decided by Council taking into account the Opinion of the European Parliament.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what contingency plans she has for (a) a rhizomania epidemic in sugar beet crops and (b) potato brown rot. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 18 October 2001]: The Department has written contingency plans against outbreaks of a number of serious plant pests and diseases, including rhizomania of sugar beet and potato brown rot.
Statutory measures have been taken against rhizomania since the first UK finding in 1987, to slow the spread of the disease until such time as high-yielding disease tolerant varieties became available to UK farmers. Action has been taken against a further 210 outbreaks discovered during annual official surveys, including 68 so far this year. Disease tolerant varieties are now available and we will be consulting shortly on the future of the containment policy and the UK's "protected zone" status within the EC. This status imposes precautionary measures on the movement of certain commodities from other countries where rhizomania is already widely established.
Our contingency plans for outbreaks of potato brown rot reflect the measures set out in EC Directive 98/57 which are aimed at eradication and containment of that disease. Over the last three years we have co-ordinated an exercise to eradicate the bacterium which causes brown rot from a number of river systems in east Anglia and one in Kent. We are currently evaluating the results of that exercise.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what basis municipal incineration is classified as a renewable energy source. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 18 October 2001]: All energy from waste was classified as a renewable energy source under the original Non Fossil Fuels Order. However, the EU Directive on the promotion of electricity from renewable energy sources in the internal energy market classifies only the biodegradable element of waste as a renewable source.
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The Government have recently consulted on their view that waste incineration should not be promoted through the Renewables Obligation (RO) and that such projects will not contribute to the Government's proposed target that by 2010 renewable sources eligible for the RO should comprise 10 per cent. of sales by licensed electricity suppliers.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to reinstate the former MAFF regional advisory panels. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 18 October 2001]: We are currently consulting a wide range of rural interests, including farmers, on the detail of proposed new national and regional advisory structures to reflect the new Department's range of responsibilities and our fresh regional focus through the Government Office in each region. We are proceeding with plans to set up regional rural affairs forums as proposed in last year's Rural White Paper. These will involve the regional development agencies and other service providers and external stakeholders. They will also be able to refer issues to a new Rural Affairs Forum for England. Regional consultation groups which already advise on the specific provisions of the England Rural Development Programme will continue to operate as before but will also be able to raise wider issues with the new regional forums.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many hectares of UK farmland produced biomass in the last 12 months. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 18 October 2001]: There are approximately 1,500 hectares of purpose grown energy crops in the UK. In addition, material from forests and straw from agricultural crops is used for the production of renewable energy.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many tonnes of (a) glass, (b) paper, (c) metals and (d) textiles which are collected for recycling were disposed of in landfill sites in the last 12 months; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 18 October 2001]: The Department does not record this information. However, what is known is that in 19992000 approximately 29 million tonnes of municipal waste was collected by local authorities. Of this approximately 81 per cent. was sent to landfill and 11 per cent. was considered to have been recycled. 395,000 tonnes of glass, 922,000 tonnes of paper and card, 277,000 tonnes of metal and white goods and 46,000 tonnes of textiles were collected for recycling by local authorities in 19992000. Figures for 200001 are not yet known.
Mr. Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what was the
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average length of time taken for her Department to provide substantive replies to letters from hon. Members in the last year for which figures are available. 
Mr. Morley: Since June 2001 the average length of time taken for the Department to provide replies to letters from hon. Members was 29 working days. Although this is longer than the departmental target of 15 working days we are working hard to ensure that this record is improved and the target met. The Department has suffered severe disruption due to allocating priority to defeating the foot and mouth epidemic. I accept this is not an excuse for not giving hon. Members good service, and now that normality is returning to the Department one of our urgent priorities is to rectify any weakness in our service delivery.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cases are being investigated by her Department for (a) fraudulent claims and (b) the deliberate transmission of foot and mouth disease. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 22 October 2001]: Two claims for compensation in respect of animals slaughtered due to foot and mouth disease are currently being investigated by DEFRA's legal department.
As regards possible cases of deliberate transmission of foot and mouth disease, the Department has investigated three cases and found them to be unsubstantiated. One further case is currently under investigation.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures she is taking to ensure animal welfare in areas defined as high risk in relation to foot and mouth disease. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 15 October 2001]: The Animal Movement Licensing System allows foot and mouth disease susceptible animals to move for commercial and welfare reasons. Limited movement in high risk counties in infected areas is also possible. The arrangements are intended to strike a balance between the commercial and welfare needs of farmers and their animals, and the need to contain and eradicate foot and mouth disease.
Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason further blood tests are carried out in protection zones after blood test results from the infected premises and contiguous cull farms have proved to be negative. 
Mr. Morley: Many foot and mouth disease (FMD) infected premises are confirmed on clinical grounds, by the vet on the spot in liaison with vets at DEFRA HQ. Subsequent negative results from blood tests do not necessarily mean that there was no disease on the premises. Blood tests for FMD antibodies are carried out on all farms with sheep and goats within 3 km of infected premises to check for presence of the disease. Blood sampling has to take place at least 21 days after preliminary cleansing and disinfection of the infected premises and this interval should allow time for any infected animals to produce detectable antibodies. A
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similar procedure was followed in France, Ireland and the Netherlands as part of the process of demonstrating freedom from FMD.
David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made of the (a) safety and (b) marketing in the UK of milk and meat from animals vaccinated against foot and mouth disease. 
Mr. Morley: The Veterinary Medicines Directorate has assessed the foot and mouth disease vaccines that might be used in the UK for safety in relation to the consumer. They concluded that there are no risks to human health associated with vaccination of animals intended for the production of milk or meat for human consumption. This assessment is based on the fact that these vaccines consist of purified, inactivated viruses together with a number of other ingredients which are widely used in other vaccines for animals. The Food Standards Agency has also considered this issue and is satisfied that the use of such a vaccine would not have implications for food safety.
There has been no official assessment on marketing in the UK of milk and meat from animals vaccinated against foot and mouth disease. Information about the disease concerning vaccination against foot and mouth disease can be found on the DEFRA foot and mouth disease website www.defra.gov.uk/footandmouth.
David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what reports she has received of bovine body parts being found in the countryside on land where animals have not previously been slaughtered because of foot and mouth disease. 
Mr. Morley: A report was received by DEFRA's Newcastle office that part of a cow's tongue had been found by a gateway on a farm in Northumberland. The Veterinary Officer who inspected the tongue did not consider it to be infected. A report was also received in June by the Leeds office that a decayed tongue was lying in a road. It was collected and disposed of by a Veterinary Officer.
Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to promote support schemes for those affected by the foot and mouth crisis, in accordance with the twelfth recommendation of the Haskins report. 
Alun Michael: We will shortly respond to both the Haskins report and the report of the Rural Task Force.
Meanwhile, the Government have been actively raising awareness among affected businesses of the financial aid available to help cope with the impact of foot and mouth disease. The Small Business Service has sent out 3.7 million copies of their leaflet "Coping with Foot and Mouth Diseasehelp for business" via banks, post offices, trade associations, employer organisations, etc. Business advice fact sheets have been posted on DEFRA's website, http://www.defra.gov.uk/, and we have set up help lines. The regional development agencies have also been actively promoting the Business Recovery Fund.
Preliminary results from research by Prism Consulting for the Department in September reveals that 40 per cent. of businesses had sought assistance from an outside organisationcentral or local Government, or through the
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regional development agencies, Business Links etc.which is an improvement on earlier results. We continue to look at the most effective means to engage the rural business community in order to make sure that assistance gets to those businesses with the most pressing need.
Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when farmers can continue with normal farming practice after their land has been used for the incineration of livestock as part of the eradication of foot and mouth. 
Mr. Morley: Monitoring carried out by the Environment Agency for the Department of Health has confirmed that there is very little risk to human health following the removal of ash from the incineration of carcases. The Food Standards Agency considers that the available results indicate that there is no additional risk to health through the food supply. Farmers may therefore resume farming once the removal of ash has been completed.
Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment the Government have made of pollution of land where incineration of livestock took place as part of the eradication of the foot and mouth epidemic; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: Where possible the Government have arranged for ash from the incineration process to be buried on site. This has only occurred following Environment Agency permission in accordance with the Groundwater Regulations. The Government are currently consulting with the Environment Agency on a programme of on-going monitoring of ash burial sites.
In circumstances where the Environment Agency has assessed that ash cannot be buried on site then it has been disposed of at a licensed landfill site.
Monitoring carried out by the Environment Agency for the Department of Health has confirmed that there is very little risk to human health following the removal of ash from the surface of the land.
David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) holdings and (b) other premises in Cumbria (i) refused to give up sheep for the 3 km cull and (ii) still have sheep on their premises. 
Mr. Morley: In total, 375 holdings in Cumbria did not participate in the 3 km cull which ended on 24 May. All premises involved had or were allocated a holding number so no "other premises" were involved. Approximately 242 of these holdings still have sheep on the premises.
Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will set out the number of payments to farmers following foot and mouth disease of (a) less than £100,000, (b) between £100,000 and £200,000, (c) between £200,000 and £300,000. (d) between £300,000 and £400,000, (e) between £400,000 and £500,000, (f) between £500,000 and £600,000, (g) between £600,000 and £700,000, (h) between £700,000 and £800,000, (i) between £800,000 and £900,000, (j) between £900,000 and £1 million, and (k) in excess of £1 million; 
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Mr. Morley [holding answer 15 October 2001]: The numbers of individual payments made to farmers since the beginning of the foot and mouth disease outbreak are as follows:
|Amount||Number of payments|
|£0 to £99,999||10,180|
|£100,000 to £199,999||1,257|
|£200,000 to £299,999||603|
|£300,000 to £399,999||364|
|£400,000 to £499,999||223|
|£500,000 to £599,999||141|
|£600,000 to £699,999||92|
|£700,000 to £799,999||58|
|£800,000 to £899,999||43|
|£900,000 to £999,999||29|
|£1,000,000 and over||68|
The number of payments does not equate to the number of infected premises since the Department has, in some cases, made separate payments for animals slaughtered, and for seized or destroyed items.
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