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Sand Eels

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact on sand eel stocks of the 2002 total allowable catch for sand eel stock. [46395]

Mr. Morley: No assessment has yet been made. The fishery operates during the second and third quarters of the year, approximately from May to August.

Horticulture

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much financial support has been granted by HM Government to horticultural research and development projects in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. [46399]

Mr. Morley: A summary of the total spend by DEFRA (and prior to 2001–02 MAFF) for horticultural research and development projects, including potatoes, is given in the table. Annual spends are given in £ millions.

£ million

Annual spends
1992–933.7
1993–944.2
1994–9513.4
1995–9613.3
1996–9713.4
1997–9812.3
1998–9912.1
1999–200011.7
2000–0111.5
2001–02(70)11.4

(70) provisional


Details of current projects can be found on the DEFRA website at www.defra.gov.uk/research.

In addition, the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland support research

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projects on horticulture. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council provides funding for underpinning research relevant to horticulture.

Bovine TB

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress in her Department's bovine TB cattle testing programme; when she expects the TB testing programme to be brought up to date; and how many of (a) her Department's staff and (b) the State Veterinary Service are employed directly in the testing programme. [46390]

Mr. Morley: The vast majority of TB testing is carried out on behalf of the State Veterinary Service (SVS) by private vets from local large animal practices, who work for the SVS as local veterinary inspectors (LVIs). Nearly 4,000 are approved to carry out this testing. For February 2002 nearly 3,000 hours of veterinary and technical time was spent on TB testing within the SVS and just over 11,500 hours of administrative time.

We cannot yet say when the backlog of overdue TB tests will be cleared.

Egg Production

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she next intends to meet representatives of the British Egg Industry Council to discuss the future viability of the UK egg production industry. [46393]

Mr. Morley: I will next be meeting representatives of the British Egg Industry Council on 15 April 2002

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of total domestic egg sales is achieved through (a) retail, (b) catering and (c) processing/manufacturing; what percentage of total egg sales volume was organic; and what percentage of total UK egg production by volume was (i) cage, (ii) barn and (iii) free range in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [46391]

Mr. Morley: Official figures are not available at the level of detail requested.

The provisional figure for UK production of eggs for human consumption in 2001 was 803 million dozen; of which 17 per cent. were bought by UK egg processors for breaking; around 50 per cent. were sold through retailers (based on National Food survey estimates for 2000); with the remainder to other processing, i.e. hard boiling, manufacturing, catering and other.

Official figures are not available on the percentage of total organic egg sales by volume. However, using the farmgate value of organic eggs in 1999–2000 from the Soil Association Organic Food and Farming Report, the percentage of egg sales by value is estimated to be about 5 per cent.

In 2001 UK egg production by volume was split as follows:


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The methodology used to calculate this split by production system is being updated with a view to publishing revised figures in the Summer.

Poultry

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she next intends to meet representatives of the British Poultry Council to discuss levels of imports of turkey meat from competitor nations; what assessment she has made of domestic market conditions for domestic turkey producers; and if she will make a statement on the health and hygiene standards of turkey meat imported into the United Kingdom. [46400]

Mr. Morley: There are currently no plans to meet the British Poultry Council to discuss this specific issue, although there has been frequent contact with officials on this and other issues.

The EU turkey market has been oversupplied for a number of years and the UK industry is to be congratulated on its past voluntary efforts to improve the market situation by reducing production. It is also pleasing to see that the traditional farm fresh turkey market enjoyed a prosperous 2001, with most birds selling out by Christmas. A surge in production in a number of member states has recently depressed prices throughout the EU, but Italian and French producers have voluntarily destroyed large numbers of hatching eggs in order to help bring the market back into better balance.

All consignments of fresh poultrymeat imported into the UK from other EU member states must have been produced in accordance with the harmonised Community rules laid down in Council Directive 71/118/EEC (as amended). Imports from third countries must have been produced to standards at least equivalent to those in the Directive. Among other things, this Directive sets out the licensing, structural and veterinary supervision requirements to be applied in abattoirs, cutting plants and cold stores.

Ensuring that all member states comply with their Community obligations in properly implementing and applying the Directive is the responsibility of the European Commission, whose Food and Veterinary Office carries out regular programmes of inspection visits to all member states. The Food and Veterinary Office are also responsible for carrying out inspections in the third countries from which fresh meat is imported into the Community.

All consignments of fresh poultrymeat imported from third countries are subject to veterinary inspection on entering the EU to ensure that conditions of import have been complied with and to ensure that they have remained in a satisfactory condition during transport. In line with Community rules, random spot checks at destination may be carried out on consignments of fresh meat imported into the UK from other EU member states.

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the (a) economic and (b) welfare consequences of the use of levels of carbon dioxide exceeding 30 per cent. concentration of the gas mixture for poultry gassing. [46378]

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Mr. Morley: The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 (WASK) limit the concentration of carbon dioxide in gas mixtures to a maximum of 30 per cent. The limit was based on behavioural research studies in which the aversiveness to poultry of various concentrations of carbon dioxide was investigated. The research indicated that the 30 per cent. limit provided the best balance between reduced aversiveness to birds while guaranteeing a rapid loss of brain function. Given that, on welfare grounds, the concentration of carbon dioxide was limited to 30 per cent. no economic assessment of higher concentrations has been made.

However, recent developments in the industry have shown that gas mixtures comprising nitrogen and reduced levels of carbon dioxide produce economic benefits both in terms of reduced operating costs and reduced maturation times. In addition these mixtures are less aversive to birds.

Detailed neurophysiological work is currently under way to assess the effects on poultry of a variety of gas mixtures (including carbon dioxide) at varying concentrations.

North Eastern Fisheries Committee

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria her Department uses in making appointments to the North Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee; if she will list (a) the membership of the North Eastern Fisheries Committee and (b) the nature of the members' fishing activities; what assessment she has made of the composition of committee membership; and if she will make a statement on the role of the North Eastern Fisheries Committee chairman in making appointments to the committee. [46398]

Mr. Morley: The Sea Fisheries Regulation Act 1966 requires members appointed by the Secretary of State to local government Sea Fisheries Committees to be acquainted with the needs and opinions of local fishing interests, or have knowledge of or expertise in, marine environmental matters. These members are expected to represent in a balanced way all the local fishing and marine environmental interests in the waters of the committee districts.

Half the members on each Sea Fisheries Committee are appointed by its constituent local councils; the remainder are appointed by this Department or by the National Assembly for Wales. One member is appointed to each committee by the Environment Agency.

For the North Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee, the 17 members appointed by the Secretary of State for a four year term commencing June 2001 are: Dr. C. Frid, Mr. D. Heselton, Mr. D. Johnson, Mr. T. Smith, Mr. G. Traves, Mr. M. Emmerson, Mr. G. Collins, Mr. D. Horsley, Mr. F. Nesbitt, Mr. I. Rowe, Mr. J. Wilkinson, Mr. A. Pockley, Mr. C. Easton, Mr. J. Johnson, Mr. J. Linstead, Mr. J. Whitton and Mr. N. Proctor. Between them, these members have many years experience of trawling, gill netting, longlining, salmon netting, shellfish fishing, sea angling, boat chartering and marine ecology and biology. The chairman of the committee has no active involvement in making the Secretary of State's appointments to the committee.

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