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Veterinary Service

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will extend the role of the temporary veterinary inspector towards a territorial army of vets. [37477]

Mr. Morley: The Department is currently evaluating future arrangements for the engagement of temporary veterinary resources. This will, among other issues, encompass an examination of the current terms and conditions for the engagement of temporary veterinary inspectors (TVIs).

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what Government- funded training is available for private veterinary surgeons to ensure that they have access to knowledge about animal disease. [37478]

Mr. Morley: Private veterinarians are appointed as local veterinary inspectors (LVIs) by the Department in order to carry out specific functions.

Part of the appointment process involves departmental training in those areas to which the appointment relates. The objectives of such training are to improve the ability and performance of the LVI in carrying out work for the Department and to provide motivation to achieve and maintain satisfactory standards.

Following a successful assessment of the trainee's suitability a temporary appointment of six months will be established. During this period an assessment of the officer's competence will be made. Satisfactory assessment leads to a full appointment.

It is the responsibility of the Department to maintain a level of training suitable for the LVI to perform his or her functions. Training is complemented with written instructions, newsletters and practice liaison meetings during which new issues and instructions are discussed. The Departments official journal of the SVS—State Veterinary Journal—is published and distributed to LVI practices bi-annually. These publications have included a series of articles on notifiable diseases. All LVIs have access to a departmental veterinary officer 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

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Woodland

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment is being made of the value of woodland in urban areas. [37145]

Mr. Morley: The Forestry Commission has a programme of social research to assess the value of woodland in urban areas. A number of projects are being conducted under this programme including investigating how woodlands enhance communities, and the value of woodlands in relation to recreation, social inclusion, land regeneration and economic development. The links between access to the natural environment and improved physical and mental health will also be investigated.

The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions also plans to commission research into the feasibility of developing a tool for putting an economic value on the benefits derived from the provision and maintenance of street trees. This is likely to build on the study currently being carried out by the National Urban Forestry Unit into the impact of street trees on residential property values.

In addition, the urban green spaces taskforce, chaired by the Minister responsible for regeneration, the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble), is developing proposals for improving the quality of green spaces, through better design, planning and management. As part of this work, the taskforce has been reviewing current evidence on the state of parks and green spaces, including any wider benefits to people's quality of life in the urban environment. Their thinking has been informed by research carried out by the University of Sheffield, the results of which we expect to publish alongside the taskforce's final report in April.

Private Sewers

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research has been undertaken by her Department in respect of private sewers; and if she will make a statement. [37875]

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Mr. Meacher: We have appointed outside consultants to undertake research into existing private sewers, the main objective of which is to establish their extent, identify and examine the problems associated with them and to produce workable solutions. The research began in December and is due to last 18 months. Further details will be provided in an announcement that I will be making at the end of this month.

Food Supplements

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the impact of European directives on the supply of health supplements. [35661]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

A common position on a draft European Union Directive on Food Supplements was agreed by the Council of Ministers on 3 December and is currently at second reading stage in the European Parliament. The proposed directive would establish a framework for harmonised controls on vitamin and mineral content of food supplements and introduce a number of useful labelling measures.

The impact of this directive on consumer choice and the specialist food supplement sector will depend on future developments on maximum limits and lists of permitted nutrients. We are firmly committed to the view that, in the interests of consumer choice, the law should allow food supplements which are safe and properly labelled to be freely marketed.

Shellfish Poisoning

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the incidents of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning in the UK the past five years, and their impact on the shellfish industry. [34537]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

The last year for which figures on the number of incidents of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning are readily available is 2000. In this year there were approximately 60 closures of shellfish beds due to the presence of this poison, lasting from a few weeks to several months. Closures are put in place in order to protect public health, the beds reopening when further testing indicates that the poison is absent. This Department has no information on the impact of such closures on the shellfish industry.

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research her Department has commissioned into the causes of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning. [34536]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

The Food Standards Agency has an extensive on-going programme of research on shellfish poisoning. This contains a specific project that seeks to understand more about the relationship between the source of the toxins,

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microscopic algae in the water that shellfish feed on, and the presence of toxin in the shellfish. Diarrhetic shellfish poisoning is included in this work.

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether diarrhetic shellfish poisoning is classified as being caused by a pest. [34534]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning occurs when shellfish ingest toxins present in certain types of the microscopic algae on which they feed. These algae occur naturally in the waters in which shellfish are grown and are not classified as being a pest in the context of the Food Safety (Fishery Products and Live Shellfish) (Hygiene) Regulations 1998.

Urban Green Spaces

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects to receive the final report of the Urban Green Spaces Task Force. [37146]

Ms Keeble: I have been asked to reply.

The final report of the Urban Green Spaces Taskforce will be published in April.

Rural Postal Services

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans she has to carry out a rural-proofing analysis of Postcomm's proposals to reform the postal industry; and if she will make a statement; [34854]

Mr. Alexander: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today to PQ No. 31275 from my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, East, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Stewart), at column 1126W.

Postcomm's document "Proposals for effective competition in UK postal services", published on Thursday 31 January, is a public consultation. I understand that the Countryside Agency, the Government's statutory adviser on rural issues, intends to respond to Postcomm on the proposals put forward in that document and will include in that response an analysis of the impact of the proposals on rural areas which it will also make public.

TREASURY

Entrust

Pete Wishart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what Entrust's expenditure was in (a) 1998–99, (b) 1999–2000 and (c) 2000–01 for (i) the UK and (ii) Scotland. [36450]

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Mr. Boateng: Expenditure by environmental bodies under the environment bodies landfill tax credit scheme is:

£
(i) for the UK
1998–9946,835,182
1999–200082,040,006
2001–01117,659,08
(ii) for Scotland
1998–995,475,538
1999–20009,904,464
2000–012,670,705


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