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International Trade (Agricultural Products)

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the reform of international trade in agricultural products. [20753]

Mr. Morley: I am delighted that the WTO Ministerial meeting in Doha last month agreed to pursue a further programme of agricultural trade reform. The agreement commits members to:


Sellafield

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the representations (a) made to and (b) received from the European Commission in respect of the Sellafield MOX Plant since 1 January. [19408]

Margaret Beckett: We received two responses to our July 2001 consultation paper, "Assessment of BNFL's Business Case for the Sellafield MOX Plant", from Mr. D. Taylor and Mr. M. M. Deffrennes at the European Commission. Copies of all responses to our consultation papers can be read at the DEFRA Library in Ashdown House, 123 Victoria street, London SW1.

A copy of the responses from Messrs. Taylor and Deffrennes has been made available in the Library of the House today.

Combined Heat and Power

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she last met the Chancellor of the Exchequer to discuss combined heat and power and the climate change levy. [10425]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 29 October 2001]: I am in regular contact with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a wide range of matters that affect the business of my Department. We are both members of the cabinet committee that meets to discuss environmental matters.

In addition, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment meets regularly with Treasury Ministers to discuss a whole range of matters related to energy and environmental policy. CHP and the climate change levy have featured in these discussions.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she has taken to address the change in export of power from combined heat and power since the introduction of the new electricity trading arrangements (NETA). [16774]

Mr. Wilson: I have been asked to reply.

The Government recognise the economic difficulties faced by CHP.

Ofgem's Report to DTI on the Review of the Initial Impact of NETA on Smaller Generators issued on 31 August 2001, indicated that the export of power from

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CHP has reduced by around 60 per cent. since the introduction of NETA. Ofgem suggested the lower export prices for electricity were one factor, but that higher costs (especially gas prices) may also have contributed.

On 1 November 2001, I issued a consultation document in response to Ofgem's reports "The New Electricity Trading Arrangements—Review of the First Three Months" and "Report to the DTI on the Review of the Initial Impact of NETA on Smaller Generators" of 31 August 2001. This consultation closed on 1 December 2001.

The Government's key proposals are, broadly, to ensure imbalance prices are genuinely cost reflective; and to ensure that effective consolidation services emerge. I have proposed setting up a working group to look at obstacles to consolidation, and to report back to me by 31 January 2002.

The Government also invited views on other proposals put forward by industry. The Government are considering responses to this consultation carefully.

Of course the Government welcome reductions in electricity prices but have been concerned by the effect the increase in gas prices has had on the competitiveness of industrial gas consumers, including CHP operators.

I am actively pursuing a three-part strategy intended to address higher gas prices, including continuing to push for liberalisation across Europe, improving market functioning and tackling any anti-competitive behaviour. As part of taking forward this strategy, on 2 November 2001 I published a consultation document on gas issues entitled "A consultation into Concerns About Gas Prices and Possible Improvements to Market Efficiency". This is available on the DTI website at www.dti.gov.uk/energy/ gasconsult/gascondoc.pdf.

In addition, DEFRA is developing, in close collaboration with other Departments, a draft CHP Strategy, which will set out the measures needed to achieve the Government's target of at least 10,000 MW of installed CHP electrical capacity by 2010. This is expected to be published in the coming months.

Rural Payments Agency

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact on (a) farm cash flow and (b) farmers' livelihoods of delays in the (i) despatch and (ii) processing of (A) livestock and (B) ESA scheme claim forms and payments from the Rural Payments Agency in Worcester; and if she will make a statement. [20022]

Mr. Morley: The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) office at Worcester closed as a processing centre at the end of October but remains open as a drop-in centre for the receipt of forms. RPA work previously undertaken at Worcester is now undertaken by other RPA offices. Agri-environment schemes are dealt with by the Rural Development Service.

Payments of livestock claims by RPA are expected to be made within the stipulated time frames. However the impact of FMD, the need to develop computer software upgrades incorporating changes to the payment arrangements and the need to conduct FMD cross checks

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to establish entitlement to payment mean that rather more claims than normal will be paid towards the end of the period.

For some ESA cases there has been a delay in despatching claim forms because of queries that need resolution. However the majority of claim forms were sent out in September. This is about one month later than normal and was due to the restructuring of ex MAFF regions. Payments are however expected to be made within the two month Citizen Charter target. Farmers' cash flows and livelihoods should not therefore be significantly affected.

Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) the Fresh Produce Consortium, (b) the Horticultural Development Council and (c) Government Departments on proposals to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables by the population; and if she will make a statement. [20138]

Mr. Morley: The Government aim to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, including improving access and awareness, through the five-a-day programme as part of the NHS plan. This Department liaises closely with the Department of Health on many aspects of this, most notably the National School Fruit Scheme; as well as with the Fresh Produce Consortium, the Horticultural Development Council and other stakeholders. The contribution of fruit and vegetables towards a healthy diet is well recognised and setting a trend for increasing consumption will also provide welcome opportunities for growers.

Potatoes

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of this autumn's weather conditions on the storage of this year's national potato crop; and what advice her Department has issued to growers and producers on the correct conditions for the mass storage of potatoes. [20136]

Mr. Morley: The assessment of the impact of this autumn's weather conditions, and advice to growers on potato storage, have been undertaken by the British Potato Council (BPC). This non-departmental public body was established in 1997 as a statutory levy funded development council. The BPC has kept growers informed of conditions throughout harvesting and warned of the necessity for careful store management and monitoring to overcome the effects of poor field conditions. The Council has also set up a telephone helpline to provide storage advice, published storage advice sheets and regularly updates storage advice on its website.

Hunting

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the results of her consultation on the permit conditions to allow resumption of hunting with hounds. [22052]

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Alun Michael: The period in which interested parties were invited to make comments on the permit conditions ran until 7 December. Ministers are considering the comments which have been made. The final details of the permit scheme will be published and placed in the Library of the House by the time the temporary permit system opens on 17 December.

Horticulture Research International

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to conduct a quinquennial review of Horticulture Research International. [22256]

Margaret Beckett: I am today announcing a quinquennial review of Horticulture Research International. The terms of reference are as follows:


The review will be conducted by a Review Team attached to DEFRA's Science Directorate working in consultation with the Cabinet Office, Treasury and the Office of Science and Technology.

Interested parties are invited to submit their views to the Review Team by 22 March 2002. Details of how to contact them are contained in DEFRA's news release issued today.


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