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Illegal Wildlife Trade

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what action the Government are taking to tackle global illegal trade in wildlife; [51270]

Mr. Meacher: The UK was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The convention is implemented throughout the European Community through EU regulations by means of a system of licensing, to ensure that any trade is carried out at levels which species populations can sustain. Populations of endangered species and levels of trade are under continuous review, and the degree of protection afforded to particular species (which can include a complete ban on all trade) can be changed as a result.

Specimens of some endangered species command high prices on the illegal market. There is a huge incentive to evade trade controls and examples of illegal imports which have been intercepted by HM Customs and Excise are well-documented. It is difficult to assess the full scale of the illegal wildlife trade and thus the impact on species conservation, but reports published by the CITES Secretariat, Interpol, and by respected scientists and other conservation experts show that these are matters which we must continue to take very seriously indeed.

The UK has a good record of CITES enforcement. HM Customs and Excise Wildlife and Endangered Species Officers (including the internationally respected CITES Enforcement Team at Heathrow airport) and Police Wildlife Liaison Officers are at the sharp end of wildlife law enforcement and work with great commitment and determination. This has led to a number of successful prosecutions, including one resulting in a custodial sentence of six and a half years for the illegal import of certain birds. The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime—a multi agency organisation comprising the main Government Departments, statutory enforcement agencies and voluntary organisations with an interest in wildlife law enforcement issues—works hard to support the networks of police and customs officers at the strategic level. In addition, our major information campaign "Souvenir Alert" increases awareness of CITES controls among the general public. The campaign is aimed at tourists who may unwittingly bring back from their travels souvenirs made from endangered species. Over the past six months we have distributed a quarter of a million leaflets publicising the campaign, which has attracted considerable media and public interest.

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Our work to combat the illegal wildlife trade took a significant step forward on 22 April, when I announced the establishment of the National Wildlife Criminal Intelligence Unit. The unit, which will be part of the National Criminal Intelligence Service, is well placed to make a real difference in countering organised wildlife crime at a national and international level.

Wildlife criminals are finding ever more sophisticated ways of avoiding detection. The unit will be using equally sophisticated techniques to track down, prosecute and punish these criminals.

Agriculture (Herefordshire)

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what changes the Budget of 17 April will make to agriculture in Herefordshire. [51652]

Mr. Morley: Agriculture in Herefordshire, as elsewhere, is made up of a large number of different types of businesses, many of them small businesses. Depending on their individual circumstances, many may benefit from the budget measures offering help to small firms. The freeze in fuel duty and vehicle excise duty levels will also benefit agricultural businesses, as may the reduction in duty on cider. Many agricultural workers and farming families will benefit from the working tax credit and the child tax credit.

Agriculture Council

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason no devolved Adminstration Minister attended the 2419 European Union Council of Ministers (Agriculture) meeting on 18 March; which suggestions and matters of concern from the Scottish Executive were raised in their absence by the UK Government delegation; and what information and evidence was provided by her Department to enable effective post-council scrutiny by the European Committee of the Scottish Parliament. [51728]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 22 April 2002]: No Ministers from the devolved Administrations attended the March Agriculture Council as there was nothing on the agenda of specific interest to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the UK Government are well briefed on their 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. The Department provides information to Scottish Executive officials as part of that process.

International Environmental Conventions

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which international conventions on the environment (a) her Department and (b) the Government have signed since 1997; what the timetable for implementation is in each case; and what steps her Department is taking to monitor implementation. [51924]

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Mr. Meacher [holding answer 23 April 2002]: Since 1997 the United Kingdom has signed the following international conventions on the environment:

With respect to the timetable for implementation of these conventions, the United Kingdom must have all measures in force to give effect to a convention before ratification. The timetable for ratification will take into account the need for action by the European Union. Where conventions include specific timetables for action the United Kingdom will comply with those provisions. Reporting requirements on implementation are determined by each instrument on a case by case basis.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made since 1997 in cutting UK emissions of carbon dioxide. [51610]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 24 April 2002]: The UK Climate Change Programme and Third National Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change were published in November 2000 and October 2001 respectively. These set out the policies by which the UK will meet its Kyoto commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent. relative 1990 levels over the period 2008–2012, and move towards our domestic goal of a 20 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide relative to 1990 by 2010.

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Actual emissions in 1997 were estimated to be 152.5 million tonnes of carbon (MtC), or about 7 per cent. below the level in 1990. In 2000 (the most recent year for which final data are available) carbon dioxide had fallen by a further 0.4 MtC, but provisional 2001 data show an increase of 1.9 MtC. This increase reflects higher power station emissions (plus 4.1 MtC relative to 1997), colder outside temperatures (plus 2.1 MtC) and trends elsewhere in the economy (minus 4.2 MtC). The increase in power station emissions is due to gas price fluctuations, and colder outside temperatures increased demand on space heating requirements. We do not expect longer term trends to be affected, particularly since trends elsewhere in the economy are tending to reduce emissions. Our estimated reductions set out in the UK Climate Change Programme and the Third National Communication are therefore unchanged.

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