Previous Section Index Home Page

Uncultivated Land

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many responses she has had to the consultation on the proposed

18 Dec 2001 : Column: 279W

regulations concerning environmental impact assessments on uncultivated land; what research she has commissioned on how other EU member states implement these regulations; and if she will make a statement. [22460]

Alun Michael: The Government gave a commitment in the Rural White Paper in November 2000 to consult on the implementation of the uncultivated land provisions of the EIA Directive. Two public consultation exercises have been carried out this year; the first in May on the options for implementation elicited 42 responses; the second in September, with detailed proposals, received 32 responses.

It has not been necessary to formally commission a report on how other EU member states have implemented the regulations, as the Commission has shown a willingness to take any member state to the European Court of Justice should they fail to implement the Directive properly or correctly. Information is also available through agricultural attachés.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (Uncultivated Land and Semi-natural Areas) (England) Regulations 2001 (S.I. No. 3966), come into force on 1 February 2002. They will require any project to bring uncultivated land and semi-natural areas into intensive agricultural use to be assessed for the likelihood of significant environmental effects. Only where there is a likelihood of significant effects will an environmental statement be required. In case where a project raises environmental concerns, officials will be as helpful as possible to farmers and will seek to agree a way forward which takes account of business needs as well as environmental factors.

Guidelines are to be introduced which explain further the types of land that can be regarded as uncultivated, and an indicative list of the types of projects on that land which will be subject to the regulations. These guidelines will also explain how the scheme is to be administered. The Government are looking for a collaborative approach with farmers, land owners and environmentalists so that the regime can protect the most environmentally significant land without bearing disproportionately heavily on the farming industry.

Organic Farming

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what financial support there is for farmers who grow organic crops; and if she will make a statement on organic farming. [22864]

Mr. Morley: Support for organic farmers in England is provided in the main through the Organic Farming Scheme, which offers payments to farmer over a period of five years totalling from £50 to £450 per hectare according to land type. Supplementary payments totalling £600 per beneficiary are made towards the cost of training. The budget for this year's payments is £18 million, rising to £20 million in the next financial year.

Direct payments to organic farmers in other regions of the UK are a matter for the devolved Administrations. Organic farmers are also entitled to other payments under the common agricultural policy in the same way as their conventional counterparts.

18 Dec 2001 : Column: 280W

In addition, the Department's Research and Development programme includes a large component dealing with research on organic farming. And there is a programme of free, on-farm advice to prospective organic farmers.

We wish organic farming to succeed and to this end have already committed £140 million under the England Rural Development Programme which should triple the organic farming area by 2006. To build on this, we intend to product a strategy for the future direction of organic farming when we have the report of the Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, taking account of any recommendations made by the Commission for this sector. The strategy will assess potential growth both for UK production and for the organic market, and will need to take account of the large variation between different products.

Council Borrowing

Mr. Mike O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what is the total borrowing figure for Solihull district council. [23803]

Dr. Whitehead: I have been asked to reply.

The total debt (long and short-term) for Solihull, as at March 2001, was about £85 million.

Mr. Mike O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what is the average annual contribution to council tax per council tax payer in England and Wales that is attributable to repayments and interest on borrowing. [23805]

Dr. Whitehead: I have been asked to reply.

It is not possible to quantify separately the amounts attributable to English local authority debt repayments and interest on borrowing that are financed by council taxes.

Welsh figures are a matter for the National Assembly for Wales.

Mr. Mike O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average total borrowing is for (a) all and (b) district councils in England and Wales. [23804]

Dr. Whitehead: I have been asked to reply.

The average total debt (long and short-term) for English local authorities, as at March 2001, was about £132 million. This figure covers London boroughs, Metropolitan districts, Unitary authorities, Shire counties and Shire districts.

The average total debt for Metropolitan districts is about £368 million and for Shire districts is about £14 million.

It should be noted that authorities with high levels of debt are generally those which have undertaken capital investment and that long-term borrowing to finance capital expenditure is regulated by Government through the issue of credit approvals.

Water Recreation

Mr. Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she intends to publish the findings of the research contract about access to water for sport and recreation. [24403]

18 Dec 2001 : Column: 281W

Alun Michael: We will be publishing the research report on Friday 21 December. The research provides information about availability of water space, the effectiveness of current arrangements in meeting the demand for different types of water-based sport and recreation and the scale and nature of potential demand. We shall be looking carefully at the findings to decide what action may be needed. A copy of the report will be placed in the House Libraries.

Rural White Paper

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), 27 November 2001, Official Report, columns 859–60W, on the Rural White Paper, what examples of good practice in rural policing the Government recommend should be followed. [20035]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 3 December 2001]: I have been asked to reply.

The operational deployment of officers is a matter for individual chief officers of police, but we do know that police forces are tackling rural crime in innovative ways. The additional £30 million per year for rural police forces is to assist them in this, to enable them to increase both the visibility of the police in rural communities and the public's access to them.

In addition, we set out our proposals for increasing the police presence in the community, including through development of the extended police in the White Paper "Policing a new century", published on 5 December. We believe these proposals will be of particular importance to rural communities.

Examples of existing good practice include: mobile police stations, established within specific communities, such as a local village, shopping centre or housing estate; establishment of a permanent local 'blue light' police presence—whether by reopening small police stations on a part-time basis, or by sharing accommodation with other emergency services, or community centres, libraries, village halls or schools; the use of rural community beat officers to patrol clusters of villages or neighbourhoods to build strong relationships with the local community; dedicated parish or neighbourhood special constables; and intelligence-led patrols; focusing on local crime hot-spots, to provide a visible presence to deter criminals and troublemakers.


Specialist Schools

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list specialist schools by constituency and specialism at the most recent date. [23103]

18 Dec 2001 : Column: 282W

Mr. Timms [holding answer 17 December 2001]: Details of the 685 specialist schools operational as of September 2001 is listed by parliamentary constituency and by specialism and is contained in tables, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries.

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many schools applied for specialist school status in (a) 1999, (b) 2000 and (c) 2001. [23242]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 17 December 2001]: The number of schools that applied for specialist school status in the previous three years is as follows.

Next Section Index Home Page