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15 Oct 2002 : Column 578W—continued

Organic Action Plan

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how she will measure the success of the Organic Action Plan; and what funding is being made available for the introduction of the Organic Action Plan. [73355]

Mr. Meacher: The Group that drew up the Action Plan and, from April 2003, the Advisory Committee on Organic Food and Farming will draw up and publish detailed criteria for measuring the success of the strategy for developing a sustainable organic food and farming sector in England. Funding for the changes to the Organic farming Scheme to provide for payments for five year agreements and other measures such as marketing, processing and training will come from the

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England Rural Development Programme. In addition #5m has been set aside over the five years beginning in 2003/2004 for the purpose of providing a grant to the organic industry to support its research priorities through the LINK programme.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much was spent by the Government on foot and mouth preparations and exercises in (a) 1998, (b) 1999 and (c) 2000. [73803]

Mr. Morley: Information on the costs of foot and mouth preparations and exercises is not available. The contingency plan for foot and mouth disease approved by the EC includes a requirement that each Animal Health Divisional Office has a local contingency plan. At February 2001, 19 of the 23 divisional plans had been updated in the previous year. In addition, these offices are required to hold at least one simulation exercise and to review staff training on dealing with disease outbreaks each year.

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps have been taken to vaccinate against a future foot and mouth outbreak. [73887]

Mr. Morley: Routine vaccination to protect against future outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease is currently prohibited in the EU and neither the Royal Society nor the Lessons to be Learned Inquiries recommended it. This was also the view reached by the International Conference on Prevention and Control of FMD, held last December.

The Government is currently considering the recommendations of the Royal Society and Lessons to be Learned Inquiry Reports into the 2001 outbreak. We will take these recommendations into account when deciding what role vaccination may play in future outbreaks and what future research and development requirements are. These Reports will inform our preparation for discussions in the EU on a new FMD Directive later this year.

Emergency vaccination during a future outbreak is not ruled out, and it remains an option as part of the disease control strategy. Future scientific advances may allow vaccination a larger role and we are committed to funding research into the use of conventional vaccines to control FMD. We are currently developing more comprehensive contingency plans and field instructions for emergency vaccination and will engage stakeholders in future vaccination discussions.

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations her Department made to the Commonwealth for assistance from veterinary experts during the foot and mouth epidemic. [73862]

Mr. Morley: Under the current International Veterinary Reserve Agreement (IVR), participating countries have agreed to provide veterinary assistance in the event of serious notifiable disease. The agreement was initiated in the very early stages of the foot and mouth outbreak. All countries covered by the

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agreement, some of which are members of the Commonwealth, participated in the eradication of foot and mouth.

Discussions were also held with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Subsequently, Embassies assisted with the identification of suitable veterinary candidates.

The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) also wrote to all EU Member States seeking assistance from suitable veterinary staff.

Cameraria Ohridella

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the spread of Cameraria Ohridella; and what action her Department is taking. [74199]

Mr. Morley: I indicated in the answer I gave the hon. Member on 26 February 2002, Official Report, column 1198W, that it was considered highly likely that the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner (cameraria ohridella) would spread to Britain. In July it was confirmed that the moth is now present in parts of Wimbledon. We have conducted a joint survey of the area and surrounding local Boroughs, and the Forestry Commission has placed baited pheromone traps at selected ports and towns in the south of England. So far the moth appears to be confined to the Wimbledon area but further spread is considered inevitable.

The Commission has alerted Tree Officers in the London Boroughs and it has distributed its ''Exotic Pest Alert'' publication describing the moth and showing the symptoms to look for. Trees will look unsightly following defoliation by the moth, but they will recover.

An EU research programme is underway which includes work to try to develop practical control methods. Forestry Commission scientists are in regular contact with the scientists in this programme and are also carrying out their own studies.

Agricultural Workers

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment her Department have made of the effect of the Communities Vibrations Directive on working times for the agricultural workforce; if such an analysis was made at the time of initial discussions in the Working Group; what cost-analysis took place prior to final agreement; and if she will make a statement. [73824]

Mr. Morley: The Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive is a health and safety measure which is designed to protect workers from diseases such as vibration white finger and back pain. The Directive was adopted by the Council of Ministers on 21 May 2002. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) took the lead on behalf of the UK Government in negotiating the terms of the Directive.

The HSE carried out a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) (including a cost/benefit anaysis) as soon as the German Presidency presented the proposal for this Directive in January 1999. The RIA considers the impact of the Directive on UK industry as a whole.

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This was updated in January 2001 after political agreement was reached in Council. Copies of the RIAs are available in the House of Commons Library.

The UK has played a leading role in maintaining the Common Position on the terms of the Directive in the face of more restrictive amendments proposed by the European Parliament. As a result the terms of the Directive should allow farm workers to use their tractors for at least 7 to 8 hours each day. Furthermore the provision allowing exposure to Whole Body Vibration (WBV) to be averaged over a 5 day period should allow one or two long days to be offset by low exposure on rest days. In addition the WBV exposure limit value for farmers will not come into effect until 2014—12 years time. The long transitional period should allow equipment design to be improved and old equipment to be replaced.

Plastic Bags

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answers to the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) of 30 April 2002, Official Report, column 665W, what conclusions she has reached on the assessment of the effect of a plastic shopping bag levy on litter and waste reduction and on consumer behaviour. [73975]

Mr. Meacher: Work on the plastic bags issue continues within the Department and we are not yet in a position to reach conclusions. Also, the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) has decided to include the plastic bag tax and related issues in its wider review of waste strategy. It will therefore feature in the PIU, report, due out later in the year and the work carried out in the Department will help inform the report.

Organic Produce

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many litres of organic milk were produced in the UK last year. [73315]

Mr. Meacher: It is estimated that around 200 million litres of organic milk were produced in the UK during the year to end March 2002.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many organic producers there were in the UK in (a) 2000–01 and (b) 2001–02. [73316]

Mr. Meacher: As at 31 December 2000 there were 3,563 organic producers in the UK. As at 31 December 2001 there were 3,981.

Sheep Exports

Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what report was made by her official who travelled on board the ship with the sheep which were sent from Dover to the Continent on 15 July; and whether the Dutch authorities have confirmed that the sheep were transported in accordance with the route plan submitted to her Department. [73696]

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Mr. Morley: The report records that the overall journey was satisfactory and there were no adverse comments in respect of animal welfare. We have taken account of the practical experience gained from this first consignment when considering futher Route Plans.

The Dutch authorities have reported that the animals were either transported directly for slaughter in France or rested in the Netherlands before transport to slaughter in Italy.

Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in respect of the health certification carried out on the three consignments of live sheep exported from Dover to continental Europe on 21 July, how many of the sheep were rejected as unfit for the intended journey; where those sheep were taken; what problems were found in respect of the animals; what action was taken in respect of these problems; and what final destination address was given on the route plan for each of the consignments. [73695]

Mr. Morley: In respect of the three consignments of sheep exported on 21 July, no animals were rejected on inspection as unfit for their intended journey. The sheep were transported from approved assembly centres in North Wales and Kent via Dover and Holland to three EU approved slaughterhouses in France.

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