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Rural Affairs

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what was spent on (a) the England rural development programme, (b) the farm business advisory service and (c) other services for farmers in 2001–02. [18836]

Alun Michael: (a) Expenditure on the England rural development programme from 16 October 2000 to 15 October 2001 (the European agricultural guidance and guarantee fund financial year) amounted to £125,931,200.00 The figure excludes state aid and modulation.

(b) DEFRA is invoiced quarterly in arrears by the small business service for delivery of the farm business advice service. The amount invoiced at the end of September for work carried out in this financial year was £1.3 million. This figure was lower than anticipated due to the temporary suspension of the service and restricted access to farms as a result of the foot and mouth disease outbreak. Current forecast expenditure for the whole of 2001–02, based on business link service delivery predictions, is £11.55 million.

(c) Figures on expenditure on other services to farmers in 2001–02 are not held centrally due to the number and variety of sources of assistance available.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farm businesses received regional development agency support in 2001–02, stating in each case the level of funding made available. [18681]

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Alun Michael: This information is not available in the form requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) people have been helped by the England rural development programme by category and (b) farmers have received free consultancy advice from the farm business advisory service. [18785]

Alun Michael: (a) 3,924 new land based agreements were signed under the England rural development programme (ERDP) for the scheme year 2000–01. Of these, 2,572 were agri-environment scheme agreements, and 1,352 related to afforestation and other forestry measures. Around 10,500 claims for support were paid in 2001 to upland farmers under the hill farm allowance, which is also part of the ERDP.

Three new rural economy schemes were introduced in October 2000 under the ERDP: the rural enterprise scheme (RES), the processing and marketing grant (PMG) and the vocational training scheme (VTS). These schemes operate on a competitive basis and are designed to support rural enterprises and rural services. Up to the end of October 2001, 136 RES projects had been approved at a total grant value of some £8 million. Over the same period, 20 PMG projects and 72 VTS projects were approved, representing a further £5 million and £2 million respectively of grant expenditure.

Foot and mouth disease had a marked effect on delivery of the ERDP, but a number of initiatives intended to minimise the impact have been or are being pursued, including extended application windows for the land based schemes.

(b) Over the year since the farm business advice service was launched in October 2000 until the end of September 2001, 7,613 farms requested the service, 4,637 farms received an initial diagnostic visit and 2,851 farms received the full three-day service resulting in an action plan.

Farmers throughout England directly affected by the foot and mouth outbreak were invited to apply for the enhanced five-day service at the end of August 2001. By the end of September, 1,146 farmers had registered for the enhanced service and 319 had received an initial visit.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the extent to which delivery has been achieved on (a) provision of new service standards, (b) additional sure start schemes and (c) increasing police visibility and accessibility in rural areas. [18787]

Alun Michael: (a) The rural services standard set out in the rural White Paper brings together standards and targets from a range of rural services. It is our intention to review and update this standard annually starting in 2002.

(b) Sure start aims to support young children and their families living in disadvantaged areas so that they have improved life chances. To date the Government have announced 437 out of the 500 sure start programmes planned to be operational by April 2004. In addition to the 500 full-scale sure start programmes, £22 million has been allocated to establish 50 small sure start programmes to reach pockets of deprivation, particularly those in rural areas. The third round of pilot projects began in seven

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rural districts at the end of July, and it is expected that the fourth round of pilots, which will involve a further six rural districts, will commence at the end of November.

(c) Police authorities were required to report in annual policing performance plans how they spent the extra £15 million (2000–01) and how they intended to spend the additional £30 million (2001–02) on improving policing services in rural areas. In addition chief constables are required to outline in their annual report what measures have been taken to improve visibility and accessibility in each ward and parish in their force area. These publications can be found on individual police force websites.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the (a) funds available in the Countryside Agency grant scheme for village services launched in April and (b) proportion spent through the scheme in 2000–01. [18790]

Alun Michael: The funds allocated to each of the schemes in the Countryside Agency's vital village programme are:

£ million
Parish Plans(6)5
Community Service Grant(6)15
Parish Transport Grant(6)15

(6) Over three years

The vital villages programme only started in 2001–02 so expenditure was zero in 2000–01.

Fisheries Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Fisheries Council held in Brussels on 27 November; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [19644]

Mr. Morley: I represented the UK at the Fisheries Council on 27 November.

The Council discussed the Commission's proposal to extend the multi-annual guidance programme (MAGP IV) for one year until the end of 2002, and will return to the subject at its next meeting.

The Council reached political agreement on rules for the restructuring of the Spanish and Portuguese fleets which used to fish in Moroccan waters. Many of the vessels in these fleets have been tied up in port since December 1999, when the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement expired. The rules govern the use of the 197 million euros which have been allocated to fund, during 2002 and 2003, the destruction of vessels, conversion to non-fishing uses, export of vessels to third countries and conversion of vessels to other fishing methods. The UK and a number of other member states made it clear that they expect Spain and Portugal to ensure that vessels modernised with EU money under the measure will not fish in EU waters.

There was a qualified majority in the Council in favour of a decision applying provisionally the renewed EU-Mauritania fisheries agreement, whose predecessor expired on 31 July 2001. The agreement provides for

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fishing opportunities in Mauritanian waters over five years at a cost of 86 million euros per year. Along with a number of other member states the UK, in supporting the proposal, made clear that we consider there is substantial room for improvement in the way that such agreements are negotiated and monitored: I stressed in particular the need to make sure that they provide value for money, promote environmentally sustainable fishing and are coherent with Community development policy. I made it clear that we are looking for a thorough debate, within the framework of the forthcoming review of the common fisheries policy, on the handling of such agreements.

The Council noted the Commission's report on the monitoring of implementation of the CFP and the Commission's communication on serious infringements of the CFP rules during 2000. The Commission urged greater consistency among member states on matters such as the size of penalties.

The Council also noted the difficulties being experienced by the Commission in reaching agreement in the Community's negotiations with Norway, Iceland, the Faroes, Greenland and Russia about fixing and allocating the total allowable catch for blue whiting in 2002. There was agreement that the Community should continue to argue for a responsible approach to exploiting this pressurised stock.

The Council was given an indication by the Commissioner of how he intends to launch his proposals for reforming the common fisheries policy. He intends to bring this forward in the form of a number of separate legislative proposals in the course of 2002. He intends to start by launching a "road map" of the Commission's plans in the new year, once the European Parliament has delivered its opinion on the Commission's Green Paper on the CFP review. The Commission then envisages that there might be an orientation debate at the Council in April, with subsequent Councils considering different elements of the legislative proposals.

The Commission and the Presidency both urged member states which had not yet completed their national procedures for ratifying the UN Straddling Stocks agreement to do so as soon as possible. This is required so that the EU can ratify the agreement which will now be entering into force in December.

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