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Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many representations from (a) Lancashire and (b) the north-west of England she has received regarding the loss of cattle-passport slips by the Cattle Movement Service. 
Alun Michael: The British Cattle Movement Service has received around 22,000 representations about movement notification failures since May this year from around England, Scotland and Wales. It would be wrong to assume that these involve the loss of cattle movement notification cards by the Department since I am informed that these are recorded on computer on arrival and in many cases where an issue arises a check shows that no notification has been received by the British Cattle Movement Service. It follows that breaking down figures on representations on to a county by county or region by region basis would only be available at disproportionate costs.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what actions she has taken regarding the loss of cattle-passport slips by the Cattle Movement Service; and if she will make a statement on the loss of the slips. 
Alun Michael: The British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) operates to ISO 9001:2000 standards, is registered with the British Standards Institute and its operating practices have received the Kite mark. All documents received by the organisation are scanned and recorded on arrival and great care is taken to avoid any loss.
Some cattle keepers have claimed to have told the BCMS about cattle movements when their computerised records have been cross-checked and deficiencies found as part of the subsidy claims checking process. I understand that the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and the BCMS check these cases very carefully. It is wrong to assume that the BCMS has lost keepers' movement notifications when they have no trace of the document ever arriving at the BCMS site. If keepers
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want to guarantee that their notifications are received by BCMS they can send them by registered post or by e-mail to the BCMS website at www.bcms.gov.uk.
Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of differences between (a) the data held on the British Cattle Movement Service Online Tracing System, (b) the data held by the British Cattle Movement Service and (c) the records of cattle keepers themselves; what plans she has to rectify these differences; and if she will make a statement. 
Alun Michael: I am assured that there is no difference between the information held on the cattle tracing scheme website (CTS Online) and that held on the main database held by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS). The online database is a copy of the main database.
The differences that exist between the Government's central database and on-farm records represent those births, deaths and movements that the keeper has taken steps to record on one but not on the other. Our programme of on-the-spot farm inspections bring these differences to light and we work with keepers to sort their records out. Where serious discrepancies are found, individual animals or, in the worst case, the whole herd of cattle will have a movement restriction placed upon them until the problems are rectified.
Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the relationship between the Rural Payments Agency and the British Cattle Movement Service; what plans she has to help improve this relationship; and if she will make a statement. 
Alun Michael: The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) are both constituent parts of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Both are committed to providing consistently high quality services that are valued by their customers. With the legislative requirement to cross-check common agricultural policy bovine subsidy claims against the cattle tracing system, it is essential that they work together to achieve these objectives.
A formal Service Level Agreement exists between the agency and the service and this is constantly reviewed. I understand that they have had a good working relationship in the past and they have liased extremely closely over recent months to ensure that the queries discovered during the cross-check exercise were resolved without referral to the industry where possible. Rural Payments Agency staff working at, and in conjunction with, the British Cattle Movement Service, examined over 150,000 cross-check queries during recent months.
Mr Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what help will be given to farmers to accommodate to the change over to digital mapping with special reference to the accuracy of mapping. 
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Alun Michael: To help farmers accommodate the change to digital mapping, each is being sent a copy of the relevant maps showing details of the fields after initial digitisation. The field information being noted by RPA's contractors is taken from the Area Aid Application submitted by the farmer concerned and is digitised using the latest digitised maps provided by the Ordnance Survey. To assist this process, RPA has also obtained up-to-date high quality aerial photographs of England.
In addition each farmer is sent an explanatory leaflet describing the process and explaining what is required. The maps and attached field data highlights queries which farmers are asked to help to resolve.
Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Fisheries Council held in Brussels on 27 to 29 November; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett: My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on 27 to 28 November 2002. Ministers responsible for fisheries and farming issues in Scotland and Wales also attended and, together with the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, joined me at a short bilateral meeting with Commissioner Fischler on Friday morning at which we discussed the Mid-Term Review of the CAP.
On fisheries, the main items discussed by the Council were reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and cod and hake recovery. The Presidency noted the positions of the member states on CFP reform and will now reflect on how to promote agreement at the December Council.
On cod and hake recovery, the Commissioner outlined his revised strategy for securing cod recovery in the light of the recent scientific assessments. He envisages an 80 per cent. reduction in fishing effort for whitefish fishing, 40 per cent. for flatfish, 10 per cent. for industrial fishing and 5 per cent. for nephrops. The UK emphasised its commitment to securing stock recovery. On the other hand we emphasised our commitment to finding a package of measures which would enable sustainable fishing activity to continue while still achieving recovery. We stressed in particular the importance of the burdens resulting from recovery action falling equitably on all fleets whose activities impact on cod stocks. There will be further technical discussion at official level before the December Council.
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how to reduce discards of unwanted fish. These will return to the Council for further consideration after study by officials.
The Council reached political agreement, by qualified majority, on rules for the authorisation and labelling of genetically modified (GM) food and feed. This was a difficult discussion. I eventually voted against the final compromise because it contained provisions regarding the adventitious presence and labelling of GM organisms that are neither practicable nor enforceable. I also had concerns about the legal base on which the proposal rested.
There was a brief discussion of the measures forming part of a package addressing hygiene rules and their enforcement in respect of food of animal origin. Further work is planned at official level before the December Council.
The Commission gave its regular report on BSE in the EU and reported contacts with the French Government over its plans in respect of Specified Risk Material (SRM) controls on sheep spinal cord. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary restated our concerns about the proposed French measures and strongly underlined our view that member states should not take unilateral action that goes beyond existing EU legal provisions and scientific advice.
The Council continued its consideration of the Mid-Term Review of the CAP with a discussion concentrating on modulation, decoupling and cross-compliance. I welcomed the broad thrust of the Commission's proposals while noting that the EU needed to start work quickly on the detailed legislative texts which the Commission had promised for January. I recalled our opposition to certain features of the Commission's modulation model, including its unfair redistribution of modulated funds. I gave strong support to the principle of decoupling aid from production which would encourage farmers to focus more on markets and at the same time strengthen the EU's hand in the WTO negotiations.
Under other business, there was discussion of animal welfare in third countries and the situation in Spain following the sinking of the oil tanker 'Prestige'. The Council also approved a state aid to Greek cotton producers.
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