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Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the annual budget for communications activities, including press, public relations, marketing and internal communications, was for her Department for each financial year from 199798 to 200102. 
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Mr. Morley: As DEFRA was created on the 8 June 2001 retrospective annual budget information is not available for the new Department. The budget for the Communications Directorate for DEFRA for 200102 was £10,264,900.
Non-departmental public bodies, agencies and DEFRA directorates, where the expenditure has not been centralised have not been included, as recovering this information would be at a disproportionate cost.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cases (a) her Department and (b) its agencies have defended in (i) industrial tribunals and (ii) the courts in each year since 1997; how many were concluded in their favour; and what the total cost to his Department of litigation was in each year. 
Mr. Morley: The information requested is not available.
Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what tests have been commissioned by the Government to examine the effects of excess fluoride. 
Mr. Meacher: So far as the effects on the aquatic environment are concerned, a review of the effect of fluoride on a range of aquatic life was carried out for the Environment Agency as part of the work in drawing up the Proposed Environmental Quality Standard for Fluoride in Water which was published in 2000. The review draws on research carried out by a range of recognized scientific laboratories. A copy has been deposited in the Library of the House.
As for tests to examine the effects on human health, this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.
Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of how much financial support (a) Merseyside and (b) other metropolitan waste disposal authorities will receive from central Government over the next financial year. 
Mr. Meacher: Joint Waste Disposal Authorities (JWDAs) are funded by their constituent Waste Collection Authorities, not central Government.
However, the Government recently announced plans for the distribution of the £140 million fund for local authority waste minimisation and recycling schemes. Greater Manchester and Merseyside Metropolitan JWDAs may apply for a grant from this fund but the Government have made no estimate of how much either authority might receive, should they choose to apply.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps have been taken to assess the (a) environmental, (b) economic
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and (c) economic impacts of exploiting natural resources in environmentally fragile ecosystems; and what account these have taken of research on the circumstances of those areas assessed. 
Mr. Meacher: In the appraisal of policies it is standard practice within DEFRA to consider the economic, social and environmental impacts of policy options, taking into account all relevant information. This will include the results of research relating to the area being assessed.
The environmental effects of development proposals are assessed in accordance with the EU Environmental Impacts Assessment Directive, and the Wild Birds and Habitats Directives. Consenting regimes take account of factors shown by environmental assessment by setting conditions to monitor and mitigate possible impacts on these fragile ecosystems. Additionally, in the marine zone we are working through the OSPAR Convention to develop and pilot ecological quality objectives for threatened and fragile ecosystems.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) since the launch of the farm biodiversity action plan, how many plans have been implemented and how much money has been spent on all plans; 
(3) of the farm biodiversity action plans implemented, what percentage have fully achieved all objectives within the individual plans. 
Mr. Meacher: Farm biodiversity action plans are provided commercially by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), and are not implemented or monitored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. DEFRA provides financial and other support to FWAG, but not specifically for farm biodiversity action plans.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what evidence she has received that male fish in inland waterways are changing gender; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 10 April 2002]: Results of a five-year research programme, funded by NERC, DEFRA, the water industry and the Environment Agency, were published by the agency on 26 March. This followed on from an earlier programme of research, which demonstrated the presence of feminised roach in a number of UK rivers, an apparent relationship between severity of feminisation and proportion of treated sewage effluent in rivers, and implicated natural and synthetic steroids in effluent as the causal agents.
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The results of the second phase of research can be summarised as follows:
In laboratory studies, severely feminised male roach produced fewer and less viable sperm than control fish. Consequently their fertility was reduced.
The oestrogenic (feminising) components in treated effluents include natural and synthetic steroids and alkylphenol ethoxylates and their degradation products, which may act in combination.
Natural steroids degrade rapidly in rivers, but synthetic steroids are more persistent. Some may adsorb on to suspended or bed sediments, although levels were below the limit of detection in field studies in two rivers.
There does not appear to be a problem with feminised male fish in every UK catchment and it does not seem to be an issue in Scotland.
DEFRA, together with other Government Departments and agencies and the European chemical industry has also funded a programme of research to investigate whether endocrine disruption is occurring in marine life, including in estuaries, around the UK. This programme will conclude this spring.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to reintroduce measures contained in the Animal Health Bill; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 10 April 2002]:The recent motion passed in another place has had the effect of suspending further consideration of the Animal Health Bill.
However, the Government continues to believe that the measures contained in the Bill are necessary and are a proportionate response to the very real threat of a future outbreak of serious animal disease in this country. Were there to be another outbreak of serious animal disease in the near future we would hope to see co-operation from Opposition parties in introducing any necessary emergency powers.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects to decide grants for the year 200203 under the Processing and Marketing Scheme. 
Mr. Morley: Decisions on awards under the Processing and Marketing Grant are generally made quarterly. In 200203, this will be in May, August, November and February. Regional Managers of DEFRA's Rural Development Service, who chair the Regional Appraisal Panels at which grant awards are made, may however hold such Panels more frequently if the number of applications to be considered are sufficient to ensure an appropriate level of competition.
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Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what EU criteria there are regarding maximum and minimum grants for individual applications under the Processing and Marketing Scheme. 
Mr. Morley: Maximum and minimum grants under the Processing and Marketing Grant were approved by the European Commission as part of national rural development programmes.
The England Rural Development Programme states that:
The maximum rate of grant will be 30 per cent. of the total eligible cost; There is a minimum total project cost threshold of £70,000. Projects may be of any size above this figure but there is a ceiling on the maximum grant payable of £1.2 million per project.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) maximum and (b) minimum amounts are payable to individual applicants under the Processing and Marketing Scheme in (i) cash terms and (ii) percentage terms. 
Mr. Morley: The maximum cash amount payable to individual applicants under the Processing and Marketing Grant is £1.2 million on a single project.
The rate of grant under the Processing and Marketing Grant is 30 per cent. of total eligible costs.
There is a requirement for a minimum total project cost of £70,000. The minimum cash amount payable is dependent on the eligible costs of the project.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the total budget was for the Processing and Marketing Scheme for (a) 199798, (b) 199899, (c) 19992000, (d) 200001, (e) 200102 and (f) 200203; and what the largest individual grant was in each year in (i) cash terms and (ii) as a percentage of the total sum of all grants. 
Mr. Morley: The Processing and Marketing Grant was re-introduced as part of the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) in 2000. The previous scheme was closed in England in 1996.
A budget for the ERDP Processing and Marketing Grant was first held in 200102; this was £4 million. The budget for 200203 is £8 million.
The largest individual grant awarded in 2001 was £314,949.21 which represents 17.12 per cent. of the total sum of all grants approved in 2001.
The largest individual grant awarded in 2002 (to date) was £596,043 which represents 18.11 per cent. of the total sum of all grants awarded in 2002 (to date).
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