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6 Nov 2002 : Column 362W—continued

European Agriculture

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what meetings she had with her French and German counterparts to discuss European agriculture in the run-up to the EU meeting in Brussels from 24 to 25 October; and what was discussed. [78409]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 31 October 2002]: I have regular contact with my French and German counterparts, through monthly Agriculture Councils and other meetings. These meetings address the issues facing European agriculture of most interest to the UK, France and Germany, current at the time of the meeting. I last met Frau Kuenast, the German Agriculture Minister on 24 October and subsequently spoke to her on 31 October. I hope to meet my French colleague in the near future.

Bovine TB

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what timetable her Department has set for the future publication of (a) DEFRA and (b) DEFRA-commissioned research into the epidemiology of bovine TB. [77395]

Mr. Morley: Final reports of Defra-commissioned research into the epidemiology of bovine TB are published on the Defra website once individual projects are complete. Some of the current projects are not scheduled to end until 2005.

In addition the results of the badger culling trial, overseen by the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, are expected to be available in 2005.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she has taken to ensure that (a) NGOs and (b) the public may have access to all up to date bovine TB research funded and programmed by her Department. [77389]

Mr. Morley: Defra's annual Research Requirements Document includes a complete list of all Defra's current research projects, including those on bovine TB. It is available to all on the Defra website. Annual reports of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB also include summary updates of Defra-funded TB research. These are available on the Defra website at

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are represented on the TB Forum and are made aware of the content of the TB research programme on a regular basis.

A review of the research on bovine TB over the last 5 years will take place in early November. Following the review an output document will be made available to members of the TB Forum and will be available to members of the public via the Defra website.

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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with her Irish counterpart about measures to control bovine tuberculosis. [74862]

Margaret Beckett: In 2001, Defra officials, Defra's independent animal vaccine programme adviser and members of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) visited the Irish Government's veterinary department and met with researchers to discuss TB control and progress on the Four Area Badger Study. Since the meeting a collaborative research project on badger vaccination has been set up by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the University of Dublin.

Dairy Farming

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on dairy farming in Lancashire. [77602]

Mr. Morley: In Lancashire, in common with the rest of the country, the sustainability of many dairy farming enterprises has been adversely affected by low farmgate milk prices. The reasons for these low prices are complex, but include high levels of production earlier in the year combined with the effects of low world prices for dairy commodities. The average farmgate price of milk has recovered from its seasonal low in May, but it is still too low for many dairy farmers to be able to maintain the level of investment required to sustain their businesses.

The prices negotiated between farmers and purchasers, or indeed processors and retailers, are private commercial matters in which the Government cannot get involved. Nevertheless, I do welcome the recent price rises announced by major retailers and dairy processors and hope that these will help alleviate some of the difficulties faced by dairy farmers. The Government can influence the environment in which price negotiations take place through the mechanisms of the dairy CAP and, during the period of lowest prices, we actively supported measures taken in Brussels to support Community markets and encourage exports.

Water Framework Directive

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the basis is of her policy on not participating in river basin pilot studies proposed under the implementation strategy of the Water Framework Directive. [77827]

Mr. Morley: [holding answer 29 October 2002]: The Department, the devolved administrations and the UK Environment Agencies have been, and continue to participate very actively in the development of the Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) of the Water Framework Directive.

This involvement has included leading or co-leading on development of guidance on estuarial and coastal waters, heavily modified water bodies and impact of human activity on surface and groundwater. In addition the UK has participated in all the working groups of the CIS, including the working group on integrated testing in pilot river basins. The UK is also actively involved

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with current discussions at Community level on the future development of the CIS and aims to play a full part in future work.

Defra and the Environment Agency have not so far proposed any pilot river basin projects for England as part of the CIS. The Environment Agency intends to focus it's efforts on the actual implementation of the Water Framework Directive to ensure initial legal obligations are complied with relating to all river basins. Pilot studies are being undertaken or planned, including in England, to answer specific issues. The experience gained will be fed back to the integrated testing project.


Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what strategies her Department has to ensure that there is no ageism in recruitment and retention processes. [79297]

Alun Michael: The Department has integrated age into its equal opportunities policies.

In addition, from 1 January 2003 subject to continued organisational need and their continued efficiency staff in Defra will have the opportunity to stay in service beyond age 60 and up to age 65. We are looking to mirror that change in our recruitment procedures.

Municipal Waste

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the percentage of municipal waste that will be recovered in (a) 2005, (b) 2010 and (c) 2015. [77322]

Margaret Beckett: Waste Strategy 2000 sets targets for the recovery of municipal waste of at least 40 per cent. by 2005, 45 per cent. by 2010 and 67 per cent. by 2015. The last Municipal Waste Management Survey shows that in the year 2000–2001, 21 per cent. of municipal waste in England had value recovered from it. Of this, 12 per cent. is recycling and composting, and 9 per cent. energy recovery through incineration.

Local authorities in England already have best value targets for recovery, and statutory targets for recycling and composting; as well as additional funding under the Environmental, Protective and Cultural Services block, which includes waste management. Defra's #140 million waste minimisation, recycling and composting fund will also boost local authority performance.

As part of their review of the waste strategy, the Strategy Unit have been considering what additional measures may be needed to achieve these targets. They are expected to publish their report in November.

Mobile Plant Licences

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many mobile plant licences have been issued by the Environment Agency; and how many applications for such licenses are pending; [77325]

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Mr. Meacher: As at September 2002, the Environment Agency had issued 85 mobile plant licences. There are 11 applications pending.

The costs of obtaining a mobile plant licence vary depending on the type of mobile plant licence and the information required. The costs of obtaining the licence can be in the region of #15,000 per licence. These costs include the costs of obtaining the required certificate of technical competence, the administrative costs involved in putting together the required information for the application, and a charge of #1,775 made by the Environment Agency as an application charge for an intermediate capacity mobile plant licence.

Maintenance of the licence can cost in the region of #13,000 per annum. These costs include the Environment Agency's annual subsistence charge of #3,200, and the preparation of risk assessments and working plans for the sites where the mobile plant operates.

The average time taken to process mobile plant applications is 7 months.

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