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15 Jan 2003 : Column 610Wcontinued
Mr. Morley: Between January and December 2002 the Farm Business Advice Service for farmers in England has received 3,011 requests. A total of 2,895 first visits have taken place and 2,739 action/whole farm recovery plans have been completed.
Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what effect the operations of the Environment Agency have had on the levels of flooding in the Medmenham area and Marlow. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 January 2003]: Rainfall over the final days of December and the beginning of January was close to the average for the whole month of December. This fell on a saturated catchment in which rivers were already running bankfull. Under these circumstances, there is little that can be done by the Agency to alleviate flooding if defences are not already in place. Early indications are that this was the third most severe floods in this area since records began in 1882, being exceeded only by the floods of 1894 and 1947. In recent years, the Agency has conducted public awareness campaigns to make those at risk aware of that risk and to provide information and advice on how people can help themselves. In this instance, the Agency takes the view that their operations will have had no adverse effects on river levels either in Medmenham or Marlow.
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Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 January 2003]: The Jubilee River provides flood relief for Maidenhead, Windsor and Eton and several smaller villages nearby. Extra flood defences in the form of flood banks were constructed in Cookham to reduce the risk to this village. Marlow is 5 km upstream of Cookham and Medmenham further upstream and, as such, the Environment Agency takes the view that the Jubilee River has no impact, adverse or otherwise, on either community.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list sites in Essex where there is storage of (a) materials that could be contaminated by foot and mouth and (b) the products of the cattle slaughtering exercise undertaken as part of the foot and mouth control strategies. 
(a) The Department is unaware of any sites in Essex where materials are stored that could be contaminated with the foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus. The last case of FMD in Essex was 20 months ago, in April 2001. The FMD virus survival period in environmental samples is believed to fall below infective levels well within this period and therefore the risk of FMD contamination in materials is negligible.
(b) The only residues from cattle slaughtered during the FMD outbreak remaining on sites in Essex is pyre ash. This has been buried in accordance with DEFRA/Environment Agency guidance at four locations in Essex. These are sites on land at:
(2) Warley Street, Brentwood
(3) North Fambridge, Chelmsford
(4) Wethersfield, Braintree
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many public meetings her officials have spoken at on the subject of genetically modified food and crops in each year since 1999; how many reports of such meetings have been written up by her officials; and if she will place copies of them in the Library. 
Mr. Meacher: On the specific issue of the Farm Scale Evaluation GM Crop trials, officials have spoken at public meetings organised either by the Department, or by parish councils in parishes where the trials were to take place. There were 14 such meetings in 2000, 15 in 2001 and five in 2002; none were held in 1999. Notes were produced by officials for 11 of these meetings. Copies will be placed in the Library. Officials have also
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Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action she will take to assist the UK hen processing industry in response to the Nigerian Government's ban on the import of frozen poultry meat; and what efforts are being made to ensure the speedy resumption of UK poultry meat exports to Nigeria. 
Mr. Morley: Officials have pursued through the British High Commission the prospects of reopening the Nigerian market and an EU delegation has recently met Nigerian authorities. Our information is that there may be some scope for recommencing exports although officials here have asked the industry to check this through their trade contacts in Nigeria. Depending on the outcome of those inquiries, Defra officials are ready to make further inquiries through the British High Commission in Nigeria.
Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the proposed horse passports scheme will allow the horse owner to opt not to sell the carcase for human consumption; whether such a declaration would last for the life of the horse; what restrictions are planned with regard to such animals being slaughtered in a normal abattoir; and if she will make a statement about horse passports. 
If the owner declares that the horse is not intended for human consumption then the carcase cannot go for human consumption. Such a declaration, once made, cannot be changed during the lifetime of a horse. It is possible to change a declaration that a horse is intended for human consumption to say that the horse is not now intended for human consumption. Such a horse could not then be slaughtered for the human food chain.
Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much illegal meat imports in weight were seized by customs officials at United Kingdom ports of entry in each year from 1995 to 2001. 
Currently, the lead responsibility for detecting illegal imports of meat lies with Local and Port Health Authorities and Defra. Customs support and co-operate with these lead agencies both in joint exercises and by
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seizing illegal meat when discovered in Customs checks. The Government has announced that all activity against smuggling of meat, animal products fish and plant matter will be brought together in Customs. Work on arrangements to effect this transfer has begun.
Mr Morley : We have an ongoing campaign to highlight to travellers the risks posed by illegal imports. This has already used a variety of methods, including posters, leaflets, information videos, and interviews. Future publicity highlights include having a DEFRA presence at XDestinations 2003" and XThe Holiday Show 2003". Our publicity campaign remains under constant review.
Specifically to highlight the new rules, the poster detailing the personal allowances for personal imports of plant and animal products is being updated to reflect the new stricter EU rules on personal imports. It will be displayed at ports of entry into the UK and aimed at travellers arriving from outside the EU.
Alun Michael: There are currently 83 people employed in Defra on a job share contract. Although vacant positions are not generally advertised on such a specific basis, applications are always welcomed from those wishing to work on a part-time or job share basis. It is departmental policy, as an equal opportunity employer, to meet requests for all types of flexible working, including part-time working and job sharing, wherever the nature of the work allows.
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