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Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answer of 21 November 2001, Official Report, column 322W, on market towns, what has been the progress of the Countryside Research Project to assess the health and viability of market towns; and if she will make a statement on the different economic and social indicators that are being considered. 
28 Nov 2001 : Column: 1021W
Alun Michael: The Research Project was let in January 2001 and progress to date has been towards a methodological approach to developing a national headline indicator. The broad scope of the work has been to focus on the key influencing attributes of market towns including: size and spacing of market towns; urban/rural shift of economic activity; the economic base of market towns; and the clustering of economic activity. In addition, considerable work has gone into examining market towns in relation to the Index of Deprivation 2000.
Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will take into account the financial situation of rural enterprises in setting target dates for payments under the countryside stewardship scheme at the end of this year. 
Alun Michael: In recognition of the problems experienced by farmers hard hit by foot and mouth disease, we have specifically extended the deadline for the receipt of countryside stewardship scheme claims to 31 December, to allow more time for completion of claim forms. We are currently processing the claims so far received as quickly as available resources permit, to ensure payments are made as soon as practicable. Our published aim is to pay claims within two months of receipt.
Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will announce the target date for the payment of amounts under the countryside stewardship scheme at the end of this calendar year. 
Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has had regarding timely payment of amounts under the countryside stewardship scheme; and if she will make a statement. 
Alun Michael: I have received no recent representations on this subject. Claims for this year's payments under the countryside stewardship scheme were invited from 1 October onwards. Our published aim is to make payments within two months of receipt and the Department is currently working hard to achieve this.
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the size of the fox population in England (a) at the latest available date and (b) in November 2000. 
28 Nov 2001 : Column: 1022W
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will announce the outcome of bids for funding under round three of the Agricultural Development Scheme. 
Between 1967 and 1994, there were requirements to submit records of the waste deposited at the site under various waste and planning controls. This information was collected by the relevant local authorities at the time. Some of these records were passed to the Environment Agency, though full records do not exist for the complete period that the landfill site operated.
The situation changed in 1994. Under paragraph 14 of Schedule 4 to the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994, operators are required to keep a record of the quantity, nature and origin of the waste disposed of at each site; and to make that information available, on request, to the Environment Agency. However, the agency must act reasonably in its use of this power. The agency would be open to legal challenge in the event of unreasonably seeking detailed information on all the substances, and the source of those substances, disposed of at the Pitsea landfill site since 1994. Nevertheless the detailed licence for the site which specifies the quantities and types of waste able to be deposited at Pitsea is available for inspection at the local Environment Agency office. The following is an extract from the licence which details the general limits on the amount of waste able to be deposited at the site.
28 Nov 2001 : Column: 1023W
Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the Food and Agriculture Organisation's recent paper, "State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture", concerning genetic modification of aquatic species and their potential to increase the quantity and quality of aquaculture products. 
Mr. Meacher: The paper published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2000 recognises the potential for genetic modification to increase the quantity and quality of aquaculture products. It goes on to consider the areas of concern with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These include possible adverse side effects on human health and the environment, trade impacts, intellectual property rights, labelling and ethics. It outlines possible solutions including the adoption of suitable legislation, codes of conduct or guidelines, and possible technical answers. The paper says that solutions will come only from addressing all sides of this complex issue. It also notes that technically there must be good scientific support with adequate testing and monitoring to reduce the uncertainties of environmental impact.
The Government note the potential of genetic modification but at this stage of development GM technology has yet to demonstrate any proven benefits in relation to aquaculture. It is feasible that the technology could be used to increase yields from fish farms or make farmed fish easier or cheaper to produce, but this is unlikely in the short term. There have been no environmental releases of GM fish in the UK and none is expected to be proposed in the foreseeable future.
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 27 November 2001]: There are currently no GM salmon in this country therefore the situation does not arise. The Government's policy on containment of GM fish was outlined in the answers given to the hon. Member on 19 November 2001, Official Report, columns 7879W, and on 20 November 2001, Official Report, column 198W.
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