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Flooding

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will ensure

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that special precautions are taken to protect the people of Canvey Island at the time of the high tide expected in October. [71455]

Mr. Morley: Responsibility for flood forecasting and warning falls to the Environment Agency (EA) who have well-established arrangements with the Meteorological Office for securing accurate and timely weather forecasts. The emergency response to flooding falls primarily to local authorities, working with the emergency services and in close consultation and liaison with the EA.

In recent years flood warning has been improved, emergency plans checked and amended and liaison arrangements between the EA, local authorities and emergency services improved.

Canvey Island is protected by flood defences to a standard which is among the highest in the country. These defences protect against all but the most extreme conditions (those with a probability of occurrence of 0.001 or less in any one year). No special measures are therefore considered to be necessary to provide further protection during October above those already in place.

Mark Tami: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance his Department gives to local authorities regarding the granting of planning permission on (a) flood plains and (b) areas considered at risk from flooding. [70411]

Mr. McNulty: I have been asked to reply.

The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions published planning Policy Guidance Note (PPG) 25 Development and flood risk for Transport Local Government and the Regions in July 2001. PPG 25 advises on the consideration of flooding issues that is needed at all stages of the planning system. In particular, it establishes a risk-based sequential test that gives priority to lower-risk areas and advises that built development on the functional flood plain should be wholly exceptional.

Canoeists

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the new chairs of the regional fisheries, ecology and recreation advisory committees for the (a) Southern, (b) South West, (c) North West and (d) Thames region, on increasing access to water in their region for canoeists. [71586]

Alun Michael: No such discussions have taken place. The new appointees do not take up their posts until 1 October 2002.

French Beef Ban

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has made to (a) the European Commission and (b) her French counterpart on the French ban on the import of UK beef since the expiry of the 15 day period imposed by the European Court for the lifting of the ban. [70673]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 18 July 2002]: The Secretary of State made representations to the French Agriculture Minister on 15 July during the Agriculture

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Council. The European Commission decided on 17 July to refer France to the European Court of Justice for a second time in order to enforce the judgment given by the Court on 13 December 2001 that the ban should be lifted. The Commission also requested the Court to impose a substantial daily fine on France of 158,250 euro per day for failure to comply with the judgment.

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what input the Government have into the process to be followed by the European Court following the refusal of the French Government to lift the ban on the import of UK beef within the 15 day time limit set down by the European Court. [70633]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 18 July 2002]: The European Commission decided on 17 July to refer France to the European Court of Justice for a second time in order to enforce the judgment given by the Court on 13 December 2001 that the ban should be lifted. Member states may apply to the Court to intervene in the case.

Pet Passports

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement about extending the overseas travel arrangements for pets to the USA and Canada; and when she expects to implement the policy. [70798]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 19 July 2002]: I announced on 1 July that the Government intend to extend the Pet Travel Scheme to pets entering the UK from the USA and Canada, subject to satisfactory conclusions from further work to assess the risk of importing rabies. I expect this work to be completed in the autumn.

Agricultural Wages Board

Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consultations her Department has had with the NFU over the 2002 wages award recommended by the Agricultural Wages Board. [71190]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 19 July 2002]: The president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) wrote on 10 July to Lord Whitty, the Under- Secretary, expressing concern about the decisions made by the Agricultural Wages Board at is meeting on 3–4 July.

In subsequent discussions with the president of the NFU, Lord Whitty has made it clear that the Agricultural Wages Board is an independent body and it is not for Ministers to interfere in the processes of the Board.

Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consultations her Department has had with the Agricultural Wages Board about the 2002 wages award. [71188]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 19 July 2002]: The Department has had no consultations with the Agricultural Wages Board about the 2002 wages award. The Agricultural Wages Board is an independent organisation and it would not be appropriate for Ministers to intervene or seek to influence Board decisions.

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Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the cost to the horticultural industry of the 2002 wages award recommended by the Agricultural Wages Board. [71186]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 19 July 2002]: The Department provides statistical information to the Agricultural Wages Board in advance of its negotiations each year. This includes a ready reckoner showing the cost of a 1 per cent. and a £1 per week increase in pay rates for the agricultural industry as a whole.

The proposals made by the Board for 2002 involve a number of changes to the wage structure contained in the Agricultural Wages Order. As a result, the ready reckoner cannot be relied on to provide a reliable estimate of the cost of the proposed 2002 award. However, DEFRA officials are working with the Board to cost its proposals and will share this information with the industry as soon as it is available.

Carbaryl

Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if her Department will reconsider its decision to ban the use of Carbaryl (Thinsec). [71187]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 19 July 2002]: The loss of Carbaryl (Thinsec) stems from a commercial decision by the approval holder not to support the compound in the UK review of anticholinesterase pesticides. I see no reason, in the absence of modern safety data, why any pesticide product containing Carbaryl should be allowed back on to the market.

French Lamb Ban

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) the Scottish NFU and (b) NFU Wales on the potential effects of the ban on the export of lamb as proposed by the French Government. [71676]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 22 July 2002]: The Government are very well aware of concerns about the potentially serious effects of proposed French measures on sheep SRM in relation to the Scottish and Welsh sheep industries. Not least as a result of representations from the NFU, the MLC and from officials in the devolved Administrations who have been assiduous in representing the concerns of their stakeholders.

Both Ministers and officials are continuing to emphasise to the French authorities the very considerable importance of complying with EU rules on sheep SRM. We are also in touch with the European Commission about this issue.

The Government will continue to argue strongly for the cancellation of the French proposals banning spinal cords of animals aged between six and 12 months, which provide no significant consumer protection benefit and are widely regarded as a disproportionate measure. Any further restrictions on sheep SRM must be agreed at Community level, not imposed unilaterally by member states. That is the way to maintain consumer confidence across Europe. It also ensures a level playing field for all member states regarding trade.

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Nonetheless, there is encouragement in France's recent decision to postpone these measures for six months. This shows that our arguments are having an effect.


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