|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress on the Organic Action Plan; what organisations she has met to discuss the Organic Action Plan; and if she will outline the (a) aims, (b) objectives and (c) targets set by the Government to meet the Organic Action Plan. 
Mr. Morley: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced the Government's intention to set up an Action Plan for Organic Farming in her speech to the Green Alliance on 24 October 2001. On 26 November I was joined by the Environment Minister, the Rural Affairs Minister, and the Food and Farming Minister, Lord Whitty, for exploratory talks with representatives of the organic food and farming sector with a view to launching the Organic Action Plan next year.
Organisations involved in the discussions included the National Farmers Union, the Soil Association, Country Land and Business Association, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Environment Agency, English Nature, Sustain, Food and Drink Federation, British Retail Consortium, the Institute of Grocery Distribution and representatives from organic certification and research bodies. The industry's response to the Government's initiative was very positive, which I welcome.
The plan will look at how the organic sector will consolidate gains already made and will set out a strategy for its future direction. Work will begin once the independent Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food has reported. This will allow the Policy Commission's recommendations to be taken into consideration in drawing up the Action Plan's detailed aims and objectives.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps her Department is taking to encourage UK supermarket companies to increase the level of purchasing of domestically produced organic food and produce; 
Mr. Morley: On 24 October, in a speech to the Green Alliance, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced our intention to establish an action plan to set out the future direction of the organic food and farming sector. Work on the plan will begin when the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food has reported so that any recommendations the Commission might have can be taken on board. An important issue for the action plan will be how to maximise our farmers' and growers' share of the expanding market for organic
30 Nov 2001 : Column: 1175W
produce. We hope that all sectors involved, including the major retailers, will work together in taking this initiative forward.
In addition the high-level Sustainable Procurement Group, also announced on 24 October, will investigate and make recommendations on how procurement officials on the Government estate can more fully support the Government's sustainable development objectives, including those on food.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will calculate (a) the area of fully organic UK farmland and (b) the number of companies licensed to produce organic foodstuffs. 
Mr. Morley: As at June 2001, the area of fully organic land in the UK was 351,000 hectares. A further 271,000 hectares was in conversion. 3,876 farmers and 2,063 processors (including importers) were registered with the organic inspection bodies.
Mr. Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the profitability of organic enterprises. 
Mr. Morley: Indicative net margin figures for typical enterprises can be found in the booklet on conversion available from the Organic Conversion Information Service, which we fund. I will arrange for a copy to be sent to the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many applications she has received for interest for late payment of foot and mouth compensation. 
Mr. Morley: The Department's foot and mouth disease claims unit has received 307 claims for interest on delayed compensation payments.
Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made about when Devon will be given disease free status from foot and mouth. 
Mr. Morley: Devon attained FMD free status on 27 November once all outstanding serological testing had been completed.
Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will pay interest for the late payment of foot and mouth compensation to Mr. Whittal Williams, a constituent. 
Mr. Morley: There is no obligation on the Department to pay statutory compensation within a specific time limit or to pay interest on delayed compensation payments. At the outset of the disease we had an aim in mind for the time it would take us to make payments, but the enormous scale of the outbreaks and the pressing need to deal with them as quickly as possible so as to eradicate the disease meant that our priority was to focus available resources on achieving that objective. We were therefore unfortunately not always successful in meeting our goal for making payments.
30 Nov 2001 : Column: 1176W
The Department apologises for the inconvenience caused by any delay on its part but interest will not be paid on compensation payments.
Mr. Whittal Williams' claim for interest was referred to the Department by his National Farmers Union representative and an official reply was sent on 3 October.
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the methods used to control the foot and mouth epidemic in Mongolia and of the lessons for the United Kingdom; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: FMD is endemic in parts of Asia, Africa, the middle east and south America. The Department has not made any specific assessment of the outbreak in Mongolia.
Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what further measures the Government plan to ensure a rapid ban on livestock movement should another outbreak of foot and mouth take place. 
Mr. Morley: In the event of a new outbreak of foot and mouth disease, local movement restrictions would be imposed as soon as disease is suspected. The introduction of national movement restrictions would be based on veterinary advice as to risks posed to the wider livestock industry.
Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the applicability of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 to her Department. 
Mr. Morley: The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 has applied to the public sector (and therefore DEFRA) since 1 November 1998.
The legislation provides a statutory right for certain businesses to claim interest on late payment of commercial debts. It applies to any UK commercial contract to which DEFRA is a party.
With regard to foot and mouth matters, DEFRA takes the view that compensation and cleansing and disinfection costs payable to farmers under the Animal Health Act 1981 and Foot and Mouth Disease Order 1983 (as amended) are not commercial contracts within the scope of the Act.
Mr. Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to encourage the development of farmers' markets. 
Mr. Morley: The reply given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) on 20 November 2001, Official Report, column 198W, gave details of the measures that we have been taking to encourage the development of farmers' markets. Among other things it referred to the possible availability of grant under the Rural Enterprise Scheme and to the support being provided by the Countryside
30 Nov 2001 : Column: 1177W
Agency, whom we grant aid. This support complements that being provided at a local and national level by a variety of governmental and non-governmental bodies.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the ban on the export of sheep from the United Kingdom will be lifted. 
Mr. Morley: The European Union's Standing Veterinary Committee agreed to allow limited exports of sheep meat from specified countries of GB from 12 November 2001. The current ban on the export of livestock from GB has been extended to 31 January 2002. It is not possible at this stage to predict how long the ban will remain in place. Export restrictions on livestock from Northern Ireland were lifted on 7 June 2001.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|