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Ancient Forests

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action the Government are taking to protect ancient forests. [56441]

Mr. Morley: A number of measures are in place to protect all forests in the UK, including ancient semi- natural woodlands, where the biodiversity and cultural heritage values are the highest. In particular, the felling of any type of woodland is controlled through felling regulations. Additionally, many woodlands are subject to further controls because they are within designated areas such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest or Special Areas of Conservation.

Animal Welfare

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what priority she accords to high standards of animal welfare in her Department's strategy for the future of farming. [58823]

Mr. Morley: Encouraging high animal welfare standards on farm is already at the heart of Government policy and will certainly play a role in the Department's new strategy for sustainable food and farming.

Beef (Argentina)

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what basis she proposes increasing the importation of beef from Argentina under the European Community's import tariff quota; and what checks are carried out to ensure that the beef is (a) high quality and (b) disease-free. [57516]

Mr. Morley: Argentina may send beef to the Community under a number of concessionary import schemes. A recent Commission proposal will, if agreed, provide Argentina with a further 10,000 tonne quota through the High Quality (commonly known as the 'Hilton') Beef import scheme under which they are currently allocated 28,000 tonnes. This additional 10,000 tonne quota will be for one year only.

The detailed rules for the Hilton import scheme are set out in Commission Regulation 936–97. This regulation sets out the definition of High Quality beef and ensures the arrangements under which conditions are met.

Agrimonetary Compensation

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the next deadline is for applications for agrimonetary compensation; how much she plans to claim; how that will be distributed; and if she will make a statement. [58363]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 23 May 2002]: No further agrimonetary compensation will be available.

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Sustainable Development

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the Commission Communication, "A European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development", with particular reference to (a) social dialogue, (b) priority to market-based approaches to provide price incentives and (c) support for coal-fired power stations. [57894]

Mr. Meacher: The European Commission adopted its Communication, "A Sustainable Europe for a Better World: A European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development", on 15 May 2001. My Department submitted an explanatory memorandum on this document to Parliament on 20 June 2001. The European Council agreed a Strategy for Sustainable Development in Goteborg on 16 June, drawing to a large extent on the material in the Commission's proposal and highlighting the importance both of stakeholder consultation and of getting prices right so that they reflect external costs.

The Commission's Communication included a proposal to phase out subsidies to fossil fuel production and consumption by 2010, but this does not feature in the Goteborg Conclusions. The Government do not give any direct support to coal-fired power stations. However the DTI-supported Cleaner Coal Technology Programme encourages collaboration between UK industry and universities in the development of technology and expertise which delivers environmental benefits, in a manner entirely consistent with the spirit of the Commission's Communication.

Biological Diversity

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how the Government have responded to the recommendation of the Conference of Parties (5) to the convention on biological diversity to investigate the potential risks and impacts of genetic restriction use technologies. [29500]

Mr. Meacher: The Department for International Development has also commissioned a study for the benefit of developing countries on "the costs and benefits to the livelihoods of the rural and urban poor arising from the application of so-called 'terminator genes' and similar technologies in developing countries." The results of this study have been published in two books: Swanson, T(ed), 2002, "Biotechnology, Agriculture and the Developing World: The Distributional Implications of Technological Change", Edward Elgar, Cheltenham and Swanson, T(ed), 2002, "The Economics of Managing Biotechnologies", Kluwer Academic Press, Dordrecht.

Enriched Laying Cages

Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she proposes to allow the use of enriched laying cages beyond 2012. [58145]

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Mr. Morley: Draft Regulations to implement Council Directive 99/74/EC were laid before the House on 1 May 2002 and the use of "enriched" cages is permitted by these Regulations. If any changes to the Regulations are proposed, there will be full public consultation.

Farming Advisory Service

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government are taking to deliver a national, integrated advisory service to provide support and training for farmers. [59703]

Mr. Morley: Advice services are an important element of support to farmers and other land managers. As part of the development of the Government's strategy for sustainable food and farming, we are considering the relevant recommendations of the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food. We published our document "Sustainable Food and Farming: Working Together" on 26 March which invites views on the content of the strategy.

We announced two measures, also on 26 March, that are directly relevant. First, a review of the effectiveness of education and training provision for land managers, about which we will make a detailed announcement as soon as possible. Second, as an important contribution to effective knowledge transfer and dissemination, a pilot demonstration farm scheme to be operational by the end of 2002.

European Union Directives

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the European Union directives and regulations relating to her Department that have been implemented in each of the last four years, specifying (a) the title and purpose of each, (b) the cost to public funds of each and (c) the cost to businesses of each. [39126]

Mr. Morley: In answer to part (a) two tables are available in the Library of the House. The first table shows all directives agreed in the UK in the years 1998–2001, for which DEFRA and its predecessors took the lead, and which have since been implemented. The second table shows council regulations agreed in the years 1998–2001 for which DEFRA and its predecessors took the lead. A number of regulations agreed during this time have since expired—these are not included. The list has been trawled from a variety of sources and it is possible that a small number of regulations may have fallen through the net. Regulations have a direct effect in the laws of member states and do not usually require Governments to take action to implement them. The table does not show commission regulations. Details of all regulations and directives agreed can be found on the Eur-Lex database available on the European Union's website.

The Department does not hold information in the form requested in part (b). This information could be assembled only at disproportionate cost.

For part (c), Departments are required to produce regulatory impact assessments (RIAs) for proposals, including those originating in European legislation, likely

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to impose significant costs on business, charities or voluntary organisations. Copies of these are placed in the Library of the House.

Common Agricultural Policy

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proposals she has put forward to the EU Agricultural Council regarding reform of the CAP. [57820]

Mr. Morley: The latest stage in the ongoing reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) will begin with publication of the European Commission's proposals on the mid-term review of Agenda 2000 this summer.

We are urging the Commission to publish radical proposals based around a shift from production linked support (pillar 1 of the CAP) to support for agri- environment and rural development measures (pillar 2 of the CAP). We will continue to argue this during negotiations which are expected to continue through 2002 with a final agreement in the first half of 2003.

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what reforms have been made to the Common Agricultural Policy since 1997. [57819]

Mr. Morley: Reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) was agreed at the Berlin Council in March 1999. This reform, known as the Agenda 2000 agreement, represented a significant shift from price support to direct payments; reduced the economic distortions of the CAP; helped agriculture meet the challenges of further trade liberalisation; and enabled the formulation of an integrated EU rural development policy, shifting the emphasis from production support to environmental and rural economy measures in the future. It also went some way towards helping our ambitions for EU enlargement and the WTO round.

A further reform of the sheepmeat regime was agreed by the Agriculture Council in December 2001, simplifying the regime and making it more flexible. The ewe premium will in future be paid on a flat rate basis, and the introduction of national envelopes provides a valuable mechanism for targeting extra support for the sheep sector and for encouraging environmentally beneficial farming practices.

At the Berlin Council in 1999, it was agreed that elements of the Agenda 2000 package would be subject to mid-term review. We await the Commission's mid-term review proposals, which are expected this summer. In the mid-term review we will be looking to build on the Agenda 2000 reform, which we do not believe went far enough, and arguing for a further shift away from production linked support (pillar 1 of the CAP) to agri- environment and rural development measures (pillar 2 of the CAP).

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