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21 Nov 2002 : Column 288W—continued

Vehicle Registration and Licensing Procedures

35. Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on what steps have been taken and are planned to tackle the problem of abandoned cars. [81241]

Mr. Meacher: In October 2001 we published a consultation document on measures to remove abandoned and untaxed vehicles from the streets more quickly and, for the longer term, bring forward changes to vehicle registration and licensing procedures to ensure greater accuracy of DVLA's vehicle record.

Regulations reducing the statutory notice periods after which local authorities can remove abandoned vehicles from the highway and the storage periods for unlicensed vehicles came into force on 9 April. Local authorities can now remove those vehicles that they consider merit destruction from the highway after the expiry of a 24 hour notice placed on them.

We have supported pilot schemes in the London boroughs of Newham and Lewisham in which the local authority was given DVLA's powers to wheelclamp and remove unlicensed vehicles after 24 hours. Following the success of the Newham pilot on 19 April, we announced that all councils who wished could operate in the same way.

In addition, councils have targeted over 6,000 abandoned unlicensed vehicles in multi-Agency XOperation Cubits" with over 4,000 vehicles crushed and more operations are planned. To date we estimate that the operations have induced more than 15,000 motorists to relicense voluntarily bringing in over #2.3 million in additional revenue.

The Government are currently developing proposals for the reform and modernisation of vehicle registration and licensing, to reduce evasion and to bear down on vehicle crime. In response to the recommendations of a report commissioned by the Department for Transport from the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science DfT have established a Modernising Vehicle Registration Implementation Board (MVRIB). This includes representatives of motorists' organisations, the motor trade, the police and the insurance industry to advise on and develop those proposals.

The 2002 Finance Act contained provisions under which the responsibility for licensing and taxing vehicles will be placed on the registered keeper, who will remain liable for doing so until such time that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has properly been notified of a change of keeper. These proposals will also mean that it is not necessary for a vehicle to be detected on the road for effective enforcement action to take place. The implementation of these new powers is at the heart of MVRIB's agenda.

Collection of Flood Event Data

36. Dr. John Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps her Department is taking to improve the collation of flood return statistics. [81242]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency has established and implemented systems and procedures in all of its regions and areas covering England and Wales

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for the collection of flood event data during and after flooding. Flood and hydrometric data is collected from instrumentation (rain gauges, river level and flow recorders, tide gauges, wave buoys) and by using techniques such as aerial/remote sensing, land survey, on-site monitoring and post-event questionnaires.

A project led by the Environment Agency (funded by DEFRA) in collaboration with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Rivers Agency of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland, is being carried out to improve the capture and archiving of flood flows at river gauging stations in the UK. Known as XHIFLOWS-UK", the main aim of the project is to extend and improve the data available for flood estimation primarily using Flood Estimation Handbook methods, and to develop a single authoritative UK dataset. The project also aims to make the data widely available and easily accessible via the Internet, and to establish structures and procedures for future updating and dissemination. The project is due to complete in March 2004.

Work started in 2002 to improve accessibility to sea level data. Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL) who manage the UK Tide Gauge Network for DEFRA and the Scottish Executive are being given extra funding from DEFRA to collate a new data base of tide data over the last 30 years and make it available on CD. In addition recent historic data from the network is now freely available from the POL web site. In September 2002 DEFRA installed the first of two of a network of six near-shore wave recording gauges which, together with data from existing offshore wave gauges run by the Met Office, will be collated to form the first long term archive of wave data for England and Wales. Data from the archive will be freely available on the CEFAS web sitewho are managing the network for DEFRA.

In the South-East of England a new #8.2 million pilot project has been established by the Agency in partnership with all the maritime authorities (via the coastal groups) for the strategic regional coastal monitoring of the shoreline form and coastal processes (including wind, waves and tides). This project has been supported and grant-aided by DEFRA, and similar projects are likely to be established in other regions of England and Wales.

In all cases, collating date and making it freely available facilitates the user community who undertake statistical analysis including flood frequency analysis for many purposes.


Mr. Desmond Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action she is taking to prevent trade in ivory products; and if she will make a statement. [80885]

Mr. Morley: Under EU CITES Regulations, commercial trade in ivory products, including internal sales is prohibited. The only exception relates to worked items acquired before 1 June 1947. The recent CITES

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decision to allow a one-off sale of limited ivory stocks after May 2004, subject to strict conditions, will not affect the EU's current position on trade in ivory.

Arable Farmers

Mr. Alan Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proposals she has to ensure fair competition for British arable farmers in the international grain trade. [80481]

Mr. Morley: The terms of competition for UK farmers in the international grain trade are governed by the relevant provisions of the EU's common market organisation for cereals and the wider WTO framework. The Government's objective is to ensure that these are as fair and open as possible.


Mr. Desmond Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the losses incurred by farmers as a consequence of the disappearance of cattle passport tear-off slips; and if she will make a statement. [80823]

Alun Michael: The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is currently reviewing the results of cross checks which it has carried out between the bovine subsidy claims made by farmers and the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) maintained by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS). No reliable estimate can be made of the sums which may be withheld or applied by way of penalties until the review is complete Penalties will apply only where the RPA is satisfied that the claimants have failed to meet their obligation to ensure that details of their animals are properly registered on the CTS.

Fallen Livestock

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment she has made of the collection of fallen livestock for disposal and its relationship with existing livestock movement regulations; and if she will make a statement. [81160]

Mr. Morley: [holding answers 20 November 2002]: Since April 2002, the Government has been holding discussions with livestock and disposal industry stakeholders with the aim of developing a national fallen stock disposal scheme. At a stakeholder meeting on the 18 September the collection and disposal industries submitted a joint proposal for a National Fallen Stock collection and disposal scheme. I intend to meet the

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industries to discuss their proposal. However, it is for the livestock industry, like other industries, to pay for the disposal of its waste.

No specific assessment has been made of the collection of fallen stock and its relationship with existing livestock movement regulations. However, there was agreement at the stakeholder meeting that additional guidance on detailed bio- security would need to be produced if plans for the scheme were to be taken forward.

Information regarding the number of fallen stock for each of the last 10 years is not available. However, it is estimated that something in the order of, at least, 200,000 tonnes of fallen stock will need to be collected annually. In arriving at this figure, assumptions have been made about mortality rates for adult and immature animals and their average weight.

Hunts and incinerators are permitted disposal routes for fallen stock, and are used by many farmers. We estimate there to be around 2500 on-farm incinerators, mostly on pig and poultry farms.

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