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Flooding (Insurance)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress she is making in securing an extension to the agreement in place between the Government and the Association of British Insurers to provide cover in flood affected areas, with particular reference to Lewes. [63547]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 24 June 2002]: The Government are working hard with the Association of British Insurers to try to ensure the continued, widespread availability of affordable flood cover beyond the end of 2002. There have been regular meetings with the insurance industry, at both ministerial and official level, to consider their calls for increased investment in flood and coastal defence, controls on development in areas at risk of flooding, simplified arrangement for implementing flood defences and better information on real flood risk. I expect to meet again with the industry later in the summer.

Illegal Meat Imports

Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her reply of 10 June 2002, ref. 53704, on illegal meat imports,

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how many (a) operational enforcement officers were employed in (i) 1997, (ii) 1998, (iii) 1999, (iv) 2000, (v) 2001 and (vi) 2002 to date and (b) seizures of illegal meat imports there were in each of those years. [62612]

Mr. Morley: There are enforcement officers employed by local and port health authorities, HM Customs and Excise, Meat Hygiene Service and DEFRA who contribute directly or indirectly to policing laws on meat imports. Total numbers are not held centrally.

A central database of information on seizures was created in April 2001. The details of seizures made during 2001 and the beginning of 2002 are still being received. Our database currently shows 1,224 seizures of consignments containing meat made in 2001 and 274 seizures in 2002.

Peat Alternatives

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department is taking to promote the use of peat alternatives in horticulture; and if she will make a statement. [62268]

Mr. Morley: Peat is a major constituent of growing media used in gardening and commercial horticulture. It is well suited to a wide range of uses and comes from a variety of sources in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Baltic states.

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan commits the Government to undertake and promote research and development into sustainable alternatives to peat and provide advice on the development and marketing of peat alternatives. The aim of the plan is for 40 per cent. of the total market requirements to be peat free by 2005 and 90 per cent. by 2010.

There has already been some substitution of peat by other materials, such as coir and bark, with some degrees of success. We have been funding seminars for the ornamentals sector for some time to increase awareness of and to examine the potential for using reduced-peat and peat free alternatives and to encourage commercial growers and others to take them up where they are already available.

However, it is recognised that substantial peat replacement will take some time to achieve and there are still considerable difficulties to be overcome in producing alternative growing media of sufficiently reliable and consistent quality to replace peat in the full range of its present uses.

We will be working actively with interested parties to build on progress made so far in this area. As part of this, we have decided to build on the work of the Peat Working Group by establishing a new group, under the chairmanship of DEFRA, which will bring together all this Department's policies that affect the production and use of peat and peat alternatives, and provide a forum for consideration of the various factors in working towards the targets for peat substitution.

Holsworthy Biogas Project

Mr. Burnett: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will discuss with the managers of the Holsworthy Biogas project the

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recently published Composting Risk Assessment; and if she will instruct the Environment Agency to discuss with the managers of the project the Provisional Pollution Prevention and Control Permit BK 5088 issued in relation to this project; and if she will make a statement. [61771]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 17 June 2002]: The risk assessment commissioned by DEFRA on the treatment of catering waste through biogas plants was presented at a conference on 7 June. We are reviewing the Animal By-Products Order 1999 in the light of the assessment. Representatives from Holsworthy Biogas are included on the expert panel which is assisting with the review.

We regard to the Pollution, Prevention and Control permit, officials from the Environmental Agency are in discussion with Holsworthy Biogas.

Ministerial Visits (Wales)

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the (a) date, (b) location and (c) purpose was of visits by Ministers in her Department to Wales since 1997; and when she next intends to visit Wales. [62073]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 17 June 2002]: All travel is undertaken fully in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.

Since the creation of DEFRA on 7 June 2001 the Department's Ministers have been on the following visits to Wales:

Alun Michael
25 July 2001National Park Authority AGMCardiff
1 February 2002Rural Affairs Q & A sessionCardiff
25 April 2002Question TimeCaernarvon
11 June 2002Queen's Jubilee Thanksgiving ServiceBangor
20 June 2002(2)National Park Authority AGMCardiff
Lord Whitty
1 February 2002Bilateral with Carwyn JonesBridgend
Elliot Morley
11 October 2002(2)IWS 2002 Annual ConventionCardiff

(2) Planned

Farm Animal Welfare

Mrs. Helen Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to integrate good standards of farm animal welfare into her strategy for the future of farming; and if she will make a statement. [63046]

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


Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures her Department has put in place to ensure the authenticity of certificates identifying the origin of tropical hardwood imports. [63062]

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Mr. Morley: Central Government Departments and their agencies are required as a matter of policy to actively seek to buy their timber and timber products from sustainable and legal sources, for example, those identified under independent certification schemes such as that operated by the Forest Stewardship Council.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment, (Mr. Meacher) has written to Green Ministers to explain that his Department has commissioned consultants to suggest guidance that will assist Government buyers to implement this policy. The consultants' report will address the issue of verifying claims made by contractors for the origin of timber supplied, including claims supported by certificates. The report is expected to be completed in the summer of 2002. In the meantime Departments have been given a model contract specification clause that requires suppliers to: (a) establish a chain of custody from the source of timber through to delivery of the final product, and (b) to provide documentary evidence and independent verification of the claims being made. The Forest Stewardship Council's certification scheme is identified as one way in which these requirements would be satisfied but the clause makes clear that suppliers may offer alternatives evidence of compliance.

To complement the Government's timber procurement policy we are pursuing a strategy of seeking to reach bi-lateral agreements with producing countries that would see the development of independently verified documentation to prove the legality of timber shipments to the UK. Once such memorandum of understanding has been entered into with the Government of Indonesia. The forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development may crystallise the interest of other countries around this issue.

The Government are considering whether there is scope for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to play a bigger part in helping to control the export and import of illegally logged timber and proposes to explore options with EU member states and the CITES range states.

To help tropical countries meet the Government's requirement for legally logged and sustainably managed timber, UK Government officials have participated in an expert advisory group tasked with developing guidance for tropical countries on establishing verification mechanisms and in international meetings convened to explore co-operation between the various certification initiatives.

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