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16 Dec 2002 : Column 592Wcontinued
Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress within the Agricultural Waste Stakeholders Forum. 
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Mr. Meacher: The Agricultural Waste Stakeholders' Forum has met twiceon 24 Septembern and 25 November. We have set up a website on which the agenda for, the minutes of and papers discussed at, these meetings are available. The address is: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/agforum/index.htm
At its meeting on 25 November the Forum agreed to the formation of four sub-groups to address specific issues. These are Research and Development; Information Campaign; Licensing and Exemptions; and Recovery, Re-use and Recycling of Non-natural Farm Waste. The sub-groups will meet before the Forum's next meeting on 30 January 2003 and will report their progress to the Forum.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government's policy is on the arrangements under which a farmer may have cattle aged over 30 months slaughtered for personal consumption. 
Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.
Cattle aged over 30 months may only be slaughtered for human consumption if they come from a low BSE-risk Beef Assurance Scheme herd, for which the age limit is 42 months. All such cattle must be slaughtered in a licensed abattoir, test negatively for BSE, and their meat held under Meat Hygiene Service supervision until the test result is obtained. After receipt of a negative BSE test result, the animal's vertebral column and dorsal root ganglia must be removed from the carcass, under Meat Hygiene Service supervision, at a licensed cutting plant that is separately licensed by the Food Standards Agency for this purpose. Following this, the meat may be supplied to the farmer for personal consumption or for consumption by any other person.
The only exception permitted to this would be if an over 30 month animal was slaughtered personally by its owner for his or her own consumption, with there being no supply of the beef to any other person.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department has taken to encourage corporate environmental reporting. 
Mr. Meacher: We have have produced a series of guidelines to help companies measure and report their environmental performance, including general guidelines published last year and more specific guidance on reporting the key impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water. The general guidelines were endorsed by the CBI and sent to approximately 3,000 of their members, and to all of the leading FTSE 350 listed companies.
We have written this year to companies in the FTSE 350 asking them what they had done to respond to the Prime Minister's challenge to report on their environmental performance. A list of the results was placed in the Library of the House in July.
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We have also been working with the Department for Trade and Industry on plans for some important new reporting provisions, set out in the White Paper on Modernising Company Law published this summer. These would require approximately 1,000 of the most economically significant companies to include information on environmental, social and community issues relevant to the company's business in a new Operating and Financial Review. We have supported the Department of Trade and Industry in establishing an independent group of experts to help develop guidance on how directors should assess whether an item is material to their company and would therefore have to be included in its OFR. The group met for the first time this month and will produce guidance in autumn next year.
Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the European Food Safety Authority regarding harmonisation of approaches to Food Safety. 
Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.
The European Food Safety Authority is in the process of being set up and the future route for input by member states will be through the Authority's advisory forum. This body, which will comprise representatives of Government food agencies, will assist the Authority in its work programme as well as ensuring efficient networking and provide a mechanism for exchanging information on potential risks and for pooling knowledge. It will also encourage broad understanding and acceptance of the scientific advice of the Authority in Europe. The first formal meeting is expected next year.
Negotiations continue on various proposals in the legislative programme, set out in the Commission's January 2000 White Paper on Food Safety, which are intended to update and harmonise European Union food law and safety.
Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the terms of the licence under which foxhunting occurs on Forestry Commission land. 
Alun Michael: The Forestry Commission allows fox hunting only where it has traditionally taken place or where the right to hunt is reserved in the Commission's title.
The Commission has an agreement with the Masters of the Foxhounds Association whereby hunts are licensed individually for access to Commission land. The latest copy of the agreement has been placed in the Library of the House.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects to publish the conclusions of the GM field trials experiment; and if she will make a statement on the
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timetable for decisions regarding future public policy in respect of the commercial cultivation of GM crops and the extent to which field trials will inform such decisions. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 3 December 2000]: The results of the Farm Scale Evaluations for the three spring sown GM crops, fodder maize, beet and spring oil seed rape, are expected to be published in Summer 2003. The results for winter oil seed rape will be published early in 2004. The results will show what effect, if any, there is on the diversity and abundance of farmland wildlife associated with the farmers' management of GM herbicide tolerant crops as compared with equivalent non-GM crops. This will be one factor which will inform decisions that will be taken under Directive 2001/18/EC on the release of these particular GM crops.
In addition there are other regulatory approvals, such as those the commercial cultivation of a GM crop. The nature and timing of any decision taken by the Government will depend on the status of each particular crop within the regulatory system. The Government has a voluntary agreement with the industry that GM crops will not be grown commercially in the UK at least until the Farm Scale Evaluation programme has been completed. No GM crops will be grown commercially in the UK until we are satisfied that they do not cause damage on the environment.
Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the oral statement on 3 December 2002, Official Report, column 755W, of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) on hunting with dogs, what evidence he assessed that led him to conclude that stag hunting should be banned. 
Alun Michael: The Bill that was published last week is intended to enable Parliament to reach a conclusion on the contentious issue of hunting with hounds. It seeks to prevent cruelty while recognising those activities which are necessary to countryside management such as the protection of animals or crops. All activities have to satisfy the two tests of Xutility" and cruelty (least suffering). The evidence on which decisions were taken include the report of the Burns inquiry and evidence provided to that inquiry, public hearings held in Portcullis House in September and submissions from a variety of organisations and individuals.
All the evidence has been published: the Burns report and related documents in 2000; 194 letters from organisations or individual hunts in response to the consultation letter of 31 May 2002; complete verbatim transcripts of hearings on 911 September 2002 in Portcullis House; videotapes of these hearings are also available, and papers of evidence submitted by the witnesses at those hearings. All of these documents are in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research her Department has undertaken on public attitudes
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towards the UK meeting its Kyoto obligations on renewable energy and the potential change in electricity prices to the consumer; and if she will make a statement on how the cost of electricity for consumers will affect the Government's policy of promoting renewable energy sources. 
Mr. Wilson: I have been asked to reply.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today, PQ No. 85437.
Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the second round of consultation on marine environment high risk areas will take place. 
Mr. Jamieson: I have been asked to reply.
I expect that the consultation document will be issued during February 2003.
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