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Mr. Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the answer of 15 November 2001, Official Report, columns 97677, if she will make a statement on the operation of the pig industry restructuring support scheme, indicating (a) the total taken up, (b) the purposes for which the fund was used, (c) the amount left from the scheme unused and (d) what plans she has to use the unused sum. 
Mr. Morley: The Pig Industry Restructuring Scheme (PIRS) is a Government funded scheme, introduced as part of the Action Plan for Farming, designed to offer short-term assistance to pig producers. Its aim is to help pig producers reduce breeding capacity, reduce costs, overcome any competitive disadvantage and restore long term viability; PIRS consists of two elementsoutgoers and ongoers.
Partly as a response to the outbreak of FMD, there were two outgoers schemes, both of which are now closed for applications. Under these schemes, a total of 937 bids were accepted, covering 150,000 sow places, at a cost of £16 million. In terms of the number of sow places removed from the herd and of the value for money, outgoers was extremely successful.
For ongoers, there were a total of 712 applications in the UK and £21.8 million has been offered to the successful applicantsat an average of £31,000 per applicant. 99 per cent. of all applications were successful; a good indication that the scheme was both straightforward and flexible.
On finance; all but £3 million of the £66 million allocated to PIRS was used to fund pig specific operations and schemes, even though PIRS itself was under subscribed. The unspent £3 million was re-allocated to a business recovery scheme from which pig producers could benefit.
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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the conclusions of the Rural Task Force. 
Alun Michael: We are currently considering all the conclusions of the Rural Task Force's report. Several of the recommendations have been acted upon, not least through the provision of an additional £24 million to extend the work of the Business Recovery Fund announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 18 October.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what date it was planned for the Rural Task Force to be wound up. 
Alun Michael: There has never been a fixed date for the Rural Task Force to be wound up: it will remain in being for as long as there is a need, and for as long as it can make a useful contribution towards kick-starting the rural economy following foot and mouth disease. The Task Force met last week and members made excellent and practical contributions from a variety of perspectives on ways in which the recovery of the rural economy can be assisted.
Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has held with the European Commission regarding prawn quotas. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 20 November 2001]: The Government requested the Commission, by letter of 20 July 2001, to bring forward a proposal to restore the 10 per cent. cut that the EU made in the Total Allowable Catches for nephrops in the Irish sea, the North sea and west of Scotland in order to protect stocks of cod and hake. It is our contention that these cuts are not needed for reasons related to the state of the nephrops stocks and make no significant contribution to the protection of cod and hake.
The Commission has not so far seen fit to grant our request, despite having declared last December that it would bring forward proposals if such a case were demonstrated.
We are continuing to pursue this matter, including through, in the last few days, representation of the case to Commission officials by a delegation of officials from all the Fisheries Departments in the United Kingdom. I have now taken this up myself directly with Commissioner Fischler as a matter of urgency and am currently awaiting his response.
Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) special advisers and (b) press officers were employed (i) full time, (ii) part time and (iii) on a contract basis by her Department in each year since 1992. 
22 Nov 2001 : Column: 436W
Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, on 21 November 2001, Official Report, column 340W.
Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the unavailability of Welsh medium forms for use by local authorities in Wales at the commencement of the autumn movement of livestock scheme. 
Mr. Morley: The Department has provided a standard template for forms to be used in connection with the livestock movement scheme. Local authorities may translate this into Welsh and I understand that a number may have now done so.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received from the National Beef Association and other farming organisations on her Department's proposal to make permanent the 20-day standstill on cattle and sheep movements on farms; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: The Department received comments from the National Beef Association and a number of other representative industry associations on the proposals for a 20-day standstill. The Government are reviewing their proposals in the light of responses to the consultation exercise and we are carrying out full veterinary and economic risk assessments. It has been decided to make this issue part of a total approach to future disease control, which will also include biosecurity, animal identification and licensing. In the meantime, current movement licensing controls will continue.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of those cattle tested for BSE are (a) fallen stock, (b) casualty animals and (c) over 30 months old; and what assessment she has made of the accuracy of the results in indicating the present level of BSE in the national herd. 
Mr. Morley: Of the cattle tested in active surveillance this year up to 9 November the proportions are as follows:
|Cattle tested for BSE||Percentage|
|Over 30 months old||98.6|
The Government's testing programme is continuously adjusted on the basis of scientific advice and to comply with EU legislation. Its recent significant expansion will give us a more accurate picture of the level of BSE infectivity in the national herd.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the number of cattle tested for BSE in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; what plans her Department
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has to increase the number of cattle tested annually for BSE; and what assessment she has made of the level of testing for BSE in (a) France and (b) Germany. 
Mr. Morley: The following table lists the number of cattle tested for BSE in each of last 10 years for which figures are available.
|Passive surveillance||Active surveillance|
(21) As at 19 November
The Government's active surveillance programme has recently been stepped up so that testing of over 350,000 cattle per year will be carried out. These include all fallen stock over 24 months of age, all casualty animals over 24 months of age, all casualty animals over 24 months of age, all cattle born between 1 August 1996 and 31 July 1997 which are slaughtered under the over-thirty-months scheme and a sample of 50,000 other animals over the age of 30 months.Passive surveillance will continue as before though numbers of cattle showing clinical signs suspicious of BSE are in decline.
The current level of testing in France and Germany, as in the UK, is determined by EU legislation. Unlike the UK, the EU member states are now required to test all cattle over 30 months of age intended for human consumptiononly meat from those with negative results is allowed to enter the food chain. The Food Standards Agency considers, however, that the UK's over-thirty-month-rule provides stronger protection.
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