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Mr. Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact on the fox population of the ban on hunting during the foot and mouth crisis. 
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when she first was informed of the results of the tests conducted by the Laboratory of the Government Scientist in relation to BSE in sheep; and if she will make a statement; 
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Margaret Beckett: The results of DNA testing undertaken by the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC) were made known to me on the afternoon of Wednesday, 17 October. Only at around 6.00 pm on Wednesday evening was information received suggesting that the material analysed by the LGC might be representative of the brain pool used in the Institute of Animal Health experiment.
The finding that there was no sheep material in the sample sent to the LGC was a totally unforeseen development. Nevertheless, a statement was made the same evening and within a few hours of Ministers being informed of the results. This statement was given to the Press Association at about 9.00 pm, then issued to other news organisations.
Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of young people living in rural areas in the United Kingdom gained five GCSEs at grade levels A* to C compared to the national average in (a) 1996, (b) 1997, (c) 1998, (d) 1999, (e) 2000 and (f) 2001. 
Alun Michael: The Department for Education and Skills, which is responsible for the publication of statistics on participation in education, does not produce figures on the basis of an urban/rural breakdown. Figures for individual local education authorities and local skills councils are available in their statistical bulletins available on their website.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of young children living in rural areas in the United Kingdom did not reach the national average for Key Stage 2 assessment in (a) 1996, (b) 1997, (c) 1998, (d) 1999, (e) 2000 and (f) 2001. 
Alun Michael: The Department for Education and Skills, which is responsible for the publication of statistics on participation in education, does not produce figures on the basis of an urban/rural breakdown. Figures for individual local education authorities and local skills councils are available in their statistical bulletins. The Key Stage 2 publication is a Statistical First Release 40/2001 "National Curriculum Assessment Assessments of 7, 11 and 14-year-olds by Local Education Authority" available on their website.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she has taken to ensure that the responsibilities of Lord Haskins within the Prime Minister's office are co-ordinated with the priorities, objectives and work of her Department. 
Alun Michael: My noble Friend Lord Haskins does not have any responsibilities within the Prime Minister's office. His report as rural recovery co-ordinator for Cumbria was submitted to me on 2 October. My noble Friend Lord Haskins continues to chair the Better
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Regulation Task Force, which submits reports to Government on regulatory issues. The response of Government to any specific report is co-ordinated by the Government Department which has lead responsibility for the policy area covered by that report.
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 20 November; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett: I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Agriculture Council in Brussels on 20 November, Agriculture Ministers of the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland attended.
It was not possible to reach agreement on the main item of business, the proposed reform of the sheepmeat regime. I am disappointed with this outcome since I believe that a satisfactory outcome was close. I hope that the Council will be able to complete discussions at its next meeting.
The Council reviewed the situation in the beef and veal market and the Commission, while not proposing any new action, agreed to monitor developments closely. I supported several member states who stressed that high standards of animal welfare should be maintained when cattle are exported live from the EU; the Commission did not however accept that export refunds on this trade should be discontinued. The Council received information on the current situation with regard to action to control BSE in the member states. The Commission reported that it was examining the compatibility with EU law of recent action by the French trade in respect of beef imports from other EU members. I reminded the Council that one member state had still to lift its ban on imports of British beef.
On sheepmeat, the Commission noted that the EU's Scientific Steering Committee (SSC), which provides advice on food safety and risk management issues, had considered but not approved the further requirements that France proposed to introduce in respect of Specified Risk Material (SRM), especially spinal cord, in carcases. France was invited to supply further information for consideration by the SSC and meanwhile to defer implementation of the measures.
The Council took note of a report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the evaluation of active substances in pesticides. The Council also congratulated the Commission on the successful conclusion of the discussions on agriculture at the Doha meeting of the WTO.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what was the average time taken between the initial identification of positive cases of foot and mouth disease and (a) disinfection of carcases and (b) disposal of carcases in each month from February to October. 
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Margaret Beckett [holding answer 1 November 2001]: The table provided shows average times from the initial report of potential foot and mouth disease to disposal. Information on disinfection of carcases is not available as the initial cleansing and disinfection relates to the whole premises.
|Month||Average time taken (hours)|
DEFRA Disease Control System Database as at 17:30 30 October 2001. Figures subject to revision as more data become available.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the risks of spreading foot and mouth disease associated with (a) fox hunting with dogs, (b) riding a horse, (c) walking a dog and (d) rambling; and if she will make a statement. 
Alun Michael: A full list of Veterinary Risk Assessments relating to foot and mouth disease can be found on the DEFRA website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/ footandmouth/disease/risks/index/htm. No. 4 deals with opening footpaths to the public; No. 10 deals with Horse Race meetings; No. 12 deals with specified equestrian events; No. 14 deals with official equestrian events and non agricultural land, and No. 26 covers activities relating to hunting with dogs.
Mr. Meacher: I am delighted to announce that "Greening Government: Third Annual Report 2001" will be published tomorrow. The report will be presented in two parts; Part 1 is a summary of the achievements across Government against the commitments set out in the work programme in last year's report. Part 2 of the report will be in the form of a database giving details of the performance of every Department. The database will be available on the Government's sustainable development website: www.sustainable-development.gov.uk.
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