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Agricultural Competition

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she will (a) grant and (b) seek aid under article 4 of the EEC Council Regulation No. 26 of 1962 on rules of competition in agricultural products in respect of potatoes. [48069]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 10 April 2002]: No. The UK potato industry has not sought assistance under this Regulation and we have no plans to offer financial aid to an industry which has traditionally been self-sufficient.

Land Management

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what education and information on land management is given to farmers participating in (a) the Farm Biodiversity Action Plan programme and (b) the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. [48543]

Mr. Morley: Farm Biodiversity Action Plans are provided commercially by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and are not implemented by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Education and information about the land management required under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme is provided to farmers through the comprehensive Scheme Handbook and through advice and visits by technical staff from DEFRA's Rural Development Service. Similar advice and guidance is also available from FWAG and other partner organisations.

To ensure farmers achieve the environmental objectives of the Scheme, very detailed specifications for the different types of land management required are set out in Stewardship agreements.

General Agreement on Trade in Services

Mr. Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent contributions her Department has made to negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services. [47969]

Mr. Morley: Negotiations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The Department has not played a part in those negotiations, although we have contributed to the UK Government's general position and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Environment, was present during WTO trade negotiations in Doha last November.

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Underspend

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the (a) capital and (b) revenue underspend in her Department is expected to be in the financial year 2001–02. [47809]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 10 April 2002]: Estimated outturn figures for 2001–02 will be published in the Budget Report on 17 April.

User Consultation

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what new steps her Department took in 2001–02 to consult the users of its services about their wishes and expectations; and if she will publish the findings. [47309]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 10 April 2002]: In 2001–02 DEFRA consulted widely on the development of its new aim and objectives. The Department also consulted on a range of issues related to policy development.

The responses to all these consultations have been published on the DEFRA website at: www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/default.asp.

Service Reviews

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment she has made of whether the target to review 60 per cent. of departmental services by March 2003 will be met. [47909]

Mr. Morley: The Department has reviewed around £200 million of departmental services to date but has reported some slippage, due to the impact of Foot and Mouth Disease and the creation of a new Department. The target will be reviewed as part of the 2002 Spending Review process.

Poultry Welfare

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of changes in the mortality rates which would be achieved by a move from conventional to enriched cages. [48078]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 10 April 2002]: We have commissioned research to improve our scientific and practical knowledge of "enriched" cages; mortality rate is being evaluated as part of this research project.

Property Protection

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what new measures her Department took in 2001–02 to protect its property from theft or damage. [47325]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 10 April 2002]: Further to the reply I gave the hon. Member on 5 February 2002, I can confirm that during 2001–02 the Department continued to ensure that adequate security measures were in place at all its sites. Every effort is made to introduce measures which are proportionate to the degree of risk and the value of assets (ie staff, equipment,

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information and property) on site. Site security is checked by means of a programme of audits and in the event of an incident, measures would be reviewed and updated as necessary.

Ethnic Minorities

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many people from ethnic minorities are employed in (a) her Department, (b) the Countryside Agency and (c) the Environment Agency. [48204]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 10 April 2002]: In common with all other Government Departments, DEFRA is currently conducting a re-survey of all staff. As at 15 March 4,889 (70 per cent.) of the core Department's workforce had declared their ethnic origin. Of these 384 are from ethnic minorities. This is equivalent to 7.9 per cent. of those who have declared their ethnic origin, or 5 per cent. of all staff in the Department.

The Countryside Agency do not at present compile this information, although they are planning to introduce a personnel database in the near future that will hold such information.

As at 28 March 2002, all bar 109 of the Environment Agency's 10,824 employees had declared their ethnic origin. Of these, 178 (1.64 per cent.) are from ethnic minorities. The Agency has in place a Diversity policy, with action plans being developed to improve the attractiveness of the Agency to members of the ethnic minority communities.

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Rural Payments Agency

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to change the levels of pay within the Rural Payments Agency. [48198]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 10 April 2002]: Pay increases to staff within the Rural Payments Agency are subject to an annual yearly review and negotiations with the representing Trade Union body.

For the forthcoming pay settlements in 2002 and 2003 the Rural Payments Agency will adopt the pay settlements agreed by its parent department, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Project Sponsorship

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which of her Department's projects have received sponsorship since 1997, including (a) details of the sponsor, (b) the nature of the project, (c) the date of the project, (d) the total cost of the project and (e) the amount of money involved in the sponsorship deal. [48402]

Mr. Morley: In line with the Government's commitment in its response to the Sixth Report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, details of individual amounts of sponsorship valued at more than 5,000 will be disclosed in departmental Annual Reports.

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Foot and Mouth

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what lessons have been learnt and incorporated into her Department's standard operating procedures based upon the outbreak of foot and mouth. [46750]

Mr. Morley: The independent inquiries put in place by the Government will make recommendations on lessons learned for the future. However, the Department has already taken on board some lessons learned in order to be better prepared should there be any recurrence of FMD before the outcome of the inquiry process. Details are set out in the FMD interim Contingency Plan published on 12 March and in part 3 of the Government Memorandum to the Lessons Learned Inquiry.

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost is of the claims, broken down by company, which remain to be paid by her Department arising from work in connection with foot and mouth. [44295]

Mr. Morley: The information cannot be provided at this time for reasons of legal and commercial confidentiality.

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent talks she has had with (a) farmers and (b) the insurance industry about farmers obtaining insurance against future outbreak of foot and mouth disease. [46785]

Mr. Morley: My officials lead the animal disease insurance working group which includes representatives from both the insurance and farming industries. The group has met on 6 March and is meeting again on 9 April and 8 May.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to review the application of the 20 day standstill period introduced following the foot and mouth disease outbreak; and if she will make a statement. [48077]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 10 April 2002]: The interim rules for livestock movements, which we announced on 5 February, allow greater flexibility for farmers to move their animals. The 20 day standstill rule has been waived for some types of movement, subject to conditions and we will continue to keep these arrangements under review. However, veterinary advice is that the 20 day standstill needs to remain in place for the time being as a disease control measure. A copy of a document explaining the Veterinary basis for the Interim movement rules has been placed in the Library of the House and is available on the DEFRA website.


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