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14 Jan 2003 : Column 539W—continued


Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the letter from Mr. D Paton of Pinetops Nurseries, Lymington, dated 8 October 2002. [89639]

Alun Michael: I cannot respond properly without knowing the subject of the letter in question.

Information on letters sent direct to the Department from members of the public is not collated centrally. Such letters are referred to the relevant division within the Department on receipt for answer.


Mr. Andrew Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects to respond to the consultation on funding and organisation of flood defences. [89692]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 January 2002]: I am considering the outcome of the flood and coastal defence funding review and will make an announcement on the conclusions as soon as possible.

Import Controls

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the transfer

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to Customs and Excise of responsibility for port checks on the importing of plant and animal products will become effective. [88429]

Margaret Beckett: Responsibility for anti-smuggling controls of plant and animal products will pass to HM Customs and Excise as soon as practicable, which we hope will mean by 1 April 2003. We are, however, currently discussing with Customs and other enforcement agencies the legislative options for achieving this transfer and what, if any, transitional arrangements need to be made, before any firm commitments on a date can be given.

Responsibility for port checks on plant and animal products imported legally will continue to lie respectively with the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate and the official veterinary surgeons appointed by the relevant local or port health authority.

Odour Emissions (Mushroom Substrate)

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what action is being taken to ensure that odour emissions from mushroom substrate manufacturing processes are reduced; [90558]

Alun Michael: Statutory guidance (PG6/30) was issued by the Government on what constitutes Best Available Techniques Not Entailing Excessive Cost for the mushroom substrate sector in February 1992, with a revision in February 1997. A second review of the guidance is currently being undertaken by the Environment Agency's Local Authority Unit. A draft, which can be found of the Agency's website: is currently out for stakeholder comment, with a deadline of 20 January. The guidance will then be forwarded, within approximately two months, to my Department for a final consultation stage, and thereafter published.

Most processes manufacturing mushroom substrate are regulated under Part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. As such they must be authorised by the relevant local authority with the objective of using the Best Available Techniques Not Entailing Excessive Cost to minimise air polluting emissions, including odour.

Ultimately it is for local authorities to determine what constitutes Best Available Techniques Not Entailing Excessive Cost for any particular plant. While they must have regard to the statutory guidance, they are not bound by it, and could (subject to appeal) impose more stringent requirements if they considered it necessary and provided they met the relevant statutory test.

Rural Land Register

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage

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of England's land area has been covered by the Rural Payments Agency through their Rural Land Register project. [90397]

Alun Michael: The Rural Land Register is designed to cover all fields in England which are registered for IACS purposes. Although this does not cover all agricultural land in England, it includes forage land used to support claims for livestock subsidies. I cannot quantify this precisely but coverage is likely to be in the region of 60–90 per cent. of agricultural land.

Shoreline Management

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which operating authorities have not updated their Shoreline Management Plans in line with High Level Target 8. [89750]

Margaret Beckett: The target is for relevant operating authorities to have in place, and provide to DEFRA, a programme for updating Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) in accordance with DEFRA guidance. Further to full consultation, DEFRA has provided revised SMP guidance reflecting the experience gained in producing the original plans. This will be supplemented later this year with more working guidance which is being produced by DEFRA alongside the first three updated SMPs. All the relevant authorities have advised DEFRA of their proposed starting dates for updating SMPs and these are being made available publicly on the DEFRA website.

Water Framework Directive

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact on the competitiveness of British farming and the costs of implementation of the water framework directive. [88436]

Margaret Beckett: We have undertaken a regulatory impact assessment, which was published in March 2001 as part of The First Consultation Paper on the Implementation of the Water Framework Directive (available on the Defra website at http://www. This includes estimates of the costs of complying with the directive and discusses the implications for typical businesses, including farms. Competitiveness is affected by a multitude of factors acting in combination, and it is not possible to identify the effect of this directive in isolation.

We are working with other members of the European Union as part of a common implementation strategy to ensure a consistent approach to implementing the directive across the European Union. Also, we are currently undertaking a review of diffuse pollution by agriculture to identify the most cost-effective mechanisms for reducing such pollution. This review is considering the full range of policy measures that could be applied, including economic instruments and voluntary action, not just regulation.

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Overarching Personnel Strategy

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how widely the Action Plan for the armed forces Overarching Personnel Strategy is distributed within the Armed Forces; how many people are privy to it; what proportion of the armed forces this represents; and if he will make a statement. [88257]

Dr. Moonie: The Armed Forces Overarching Personnel Strategy Action Plan is the mechanism by which we measure and monitor the delivery of policy towards our service personnel. The Action Plan is updated annually. It is given a wide distribution to high-level management both within the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces and also to those staff who have a responsibility for delivering the goals contained within it. We do not, however, keep records of people who see the document through the year.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to review the effectiveness of the Armed Forces Overarching Personnel Strategy. [88284]

Dr. Moonie: The Armed Forces Overarching Personnel Strategy provides a high level framework for the delivery of service personnel policy.

The effectiveness of the strategy is kept under review by means of the annual Action Plan which evaluates and monitors progress made in each area.

Afghanistan Operations

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the use by British operations in Afghanistan of land-based supply routes in operations (a) Fingal, (b) Jacana, (c) Neritas, (d) Ptarmigan, (e) Snipe, (f) Condor and (g) Buzzard. [89278]

Mr. Ingram: There have been two main British operations in Afghanistan: Operation Jacana and Operation Fingal. Operation Fingal began in December 2001 and is the on-going United Kingdom support to the International Stabilisation Assistance Force (ISAF), assisting with the provision of security and stability in Kabul. Operation Jacana, which took place from April 2002 to July 2002, was the deployment of 45 commando and elements of 3 commando brigade in support of UK forces operating in south-eastern Afghanistan to deny and destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist infrastructure. Operation Veritas (rather than Neritas) is the name given to the overarching UK contribution to the US-led campaign against international terrorism, and encompasses Operations Fingal and Jacana. Ptarmigan, Snipe, Condor, and Buzzard were names given to objectives within Operation Jacana.

Common routes have been used for supply to all UK troops in Afghanistan (including during Op Jacana). During the initial period of operations in Afghanistan, all materiel was supplied by air. As the security situation stabilised, it has been possible to develop land supply routes both within Afghanistan and between Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. However, land re-supply has been limited to common

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commodities such as food, fuel, bottled water, and building materials. Military equipment continues to be flown into Afghanistan from the UK.

There is one land supply route between Pakistan and Afghanistan (Kabul). It has been used to supply the majority of fuel to UK armed forces in Kabul and Bagram. This route is utilised and maintained solely by contractors, who are primarily based in Pakistan. There is a further permanent land supply route within Afghanistan (between Kabul and Bagram), and this is secured and maintained by coalition (including UK) military personnel and civilian contractors.

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