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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the Countryside Agency on the subject of village halls. 
Alun Michael: I believe strongly that community buildings and village halls have an important role to play in village life. They can make an enormous difference to the well-being of communities by providing sustainable, multi-functional and flexible resources. They can provide a focus for a range of activities including child care, employment training and advice, sports, leisure and participative activities involving all members of the rural community.
Recent evidence from the Countryside Agency's "Rural Services Survey" suggests that the substantial amounts of funding from various sources over recent yearsthe 21st Century Halls for England Fund, the Community Fund, Awards for All funding and local authoritieshas been very successful in increasing provision of village halls. We are in regular contact with the Countryside Agency on these issues and my officials will be meeting Action for Communities in Rural England shortly to discuss how best to support local communities so as to complement the investment that has gone into village halls.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to review the importation of cattle feed into the UK; and if she will make a statement. 
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Mr. Morley [holding answer 28 February 2002]: New EU-wide measures (implemented domestically under the Processed Animal Protein Regulations from 1 August 2001) already control intra-Community trade and imports from third countries of a wide range of processed animal proteins effectively preventing their inclusion in feed for farmed animals in order to stop the propagation of BSE.
In Great Britain, a national feed sampling programme has been in place since 1996 to monitor compliance with BSE-related feed controls. This programme, operated by the State Veterinary Service, typically takes around 20,000 samples per year from feed mills, on-farm mixers and other premises handling livestock feed. The results of the programme are very encouraging and indicate wide compliance with the feed controls, confirming that prohibited ingredients (from domestic or imported sources) are being effectively removed from the market, distribution channels and farms.
One theoretical issue is that recent cases of BSE in younger animals may have been exposed to infection as a result of cross-contamination (during transhipment) of imported vegetable protein used in the production of animal feedingstuffs with meat and bone meal. We are continuing carefully to investigate such cases, but there is currently no clear evidence that individual animals have been infected by this route.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will define suitably qualified persons who may sell animal medicines for food-producing animals under EU directive 2001/ 82/EC. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 1 March 2002]: Directive 2001/82/EC restricts the retail sale of veterinary medicinal products to persons permitted to carry out such operations by the legislation of the member state concerned. There are no proposals to change this provision. Under UK legislation veterinary medicines for food-producing animals may be sold by veterinary surgeons, registered pharmacists, registered agricultural merchants and saddlers or, in some cases, by any retail outlet, depending upon the conditions of use and consequent distribution category under which a particular product is classified.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if the Government define veterinary surgeons as the only suitably qualified professionals to sell animal medicines, under the terms of EU Directive/2001/82/EC. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 1 March 2002]: No. Directive 2001/82/EC restricts the retail sale of veterinary medicinal products to persons permitted to carry out such operations by the legislation of the member state concerned. UK legislation does not restrict the sale of veterinary medicines to veterinary surgeons. Veterinary medicines may be sold by veterinary surgeons, registered pharmacists, registered agricultural merchants and saddlers or by any retail outlet, depending upon the conditions of use and consequent distribution category under which a particular product is classified.
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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations she has received on the future of auction marts. 
Mr. Morley: I have received a number of representations from auctioneers and the livestock industry. From 11 February it has been possible, under the Interim Animal Movements Regime, for some livestock markets to re-open, subject to biosecurity conditions. I am keeping the position of livestock markets under review.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the Government's approach to the review of farm business tenancies. 
Mr. Morley: Farm business tenancies can be established under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995. This Act is currently the subject of a policy evaluation review which is being carried out by the University of Plymouth. This work is nearing completion, and the final report is expected shortly.
The recommendations made by the research team will be considered in detail over the coming months, in parallel with the tenancy related recommendations of the Policy Commission on Food and Farming.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many checks on meat and plant imports were carried out in each of the last five years; and how many imports were found to be illegal. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 1 March 2002]: We do not hold figures for the last five years.
Between November 2000 and October 2001, 19,140 checks were made at Border Inspection Posts and 458 of these were rejected.
In terms of personal baggage, since April 2001, 1,142 seizures of illegally imported animal and plant products have been made.
Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if a decision has been taken on proposals to amend the EC Marketing Standard for Apples and Pears. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 March 2002]: No decision has yet been taken on the EU Commission's proposals to amend the EU Marketing Standard for Apples and Pears. As I indicated in my written reply of 15 January, we will ensure that the views expressed by all stakeholders are taken into consideration in any future discussions.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason a devolved administration minister did not attend the
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2410 European Union Council of Ministers meeting (Agriculture) on 18 February; which particular matters of concern from the Scottish Executive were raised in their absence by the UK Government delegation; and what evidence is being provided by her Department to guarantee effective post-council scrutiny by the European Committee of the Scottish Parliament. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 March 2002]: Scottish Executive Ministers did not attend the February Agriculture Council as there was nothing on the agenda of specific interest to Scotland and the UK Government are well briefed on the Scottish Executive interests in more general matters. There was no need for the UK Government to raise any issues of particular concern to the Scottish Executive. On the third point, it is the responsibility of the European Committee of the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise the Scottish Executive's involvement in preparations for EU Council meetings. These arrangements are a matter for the Committee and the Scottish Executive. My Department provides information to Scottish Executive officials as part of that process.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of the climate change levy upon the (a) profitability and (b) competitiveness of British horticulture. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 March 2002]: It is not possible to comment precisely on the effect of the climate change levy on the competitive position of our horticulture industry. This depends, among other things, on the extent to which individual sectors and firms within the industry are exposed to international competition; its future energy use; and the extent to which it takes up the incentives which the Government have introduced to help it improve its environmental performance and to protect its competitiveness. These incentives include:
exemptions from the levy for most renewable sources of energy and for fuel used by good quality combined heat and power systems;
enhanced capital allowances for investments in energy efficiency technologies including thermal screens, boilers, combined heat and power systems and lighting; and
a temporary 50 per cent. discount on the levy to the horticulture sector for a period of up to five years while the energy efficiency measures targeted at the sector take effect.
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