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Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how she intends to implement the proposals to protect England's ancient woodland as set out in (a) the Forest Partnership for action and (b) Working with the Grain of Nature; a biodiversity strategy for England. 
Mr. Morley: At the World Summit on Sustainable-Development in Johannesburg we launched the UK Forest Partnership for Action bringing together government, forest industry and environmental groups with a commitment to working together to promote sustainable development in the forest sector. Each partner will make their own contribution to the four priority areas, one of which is forest restoration and protection, through a range of actions.
As set out in the biodiversity strategy for England we will be refining our approach to the conservation and restoration of ancient woodland, including research to increase our knowledge of the condition of woodland and practical action on the Forestry Commission's own estate to enhance biodiversity. We will also be revising our package of incentives to ensure they help protect and enhance ancient woodland, developing ways of providing more direct advice to owners, and ways of promoting the high value of ancient woodlands.
One of the main threats to ancient woodland is the impact of adjacent agricultural activity and that is why the new entry-level agri-environment scheme pilots include woodlands. The scheme provides support for the maintenance of woodland fencing and the creation of buffer strips adjacent to woodlands. Both these measures will reduce or avoid any adverse impacts on woodland from adjacent agricultural activities.
Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions her Department has had with the Government Departments responsible for provision of emergency telecommunication services about minimising the (a) numbers and (b) environmental impact of transmitters located in (i) AONBs and (ii) national parks. 
Alun Michael: Defra officials met officials from the Home Office and Department for Trade and Industry in February 2002, and met officials from the Planning Division of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in December 2002. The meetings addressed the level of coverage required by the emergency services against the need to contain the number of telecommunication masts in AONBs and national parks, and to minimise the impact of the installation of essential masts.
Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much was paid to the Countryside Agency for AONBs in 200203, for core costs and projected expenditure, broken down by AONB. 
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Alun Michael: For 200203, Defra has provided the Countryside Agency with an extra #2.5 million to increase core funding for AONBs and cover the necessary costs incurred by local authorities in preparing and publishing statutory AONB management plans. This has raised the AONB programme budget to #6.2 million. It is for the Agency to allocate monies to individual AONBs. I am advised by the Agency that currently the national figure is only broken down to a regional level. The Agency is moving to resource accounting this year, so that accurate figures by AONB will be available shortly.
Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the timetable is for the creation of the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Conservation Boards under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000; 
Alun Michael: Subject to successful completion of the current preparations, we plan to consult on draft statutory instruments establishing Conservation Boards for the Chilterns and the Cotswolds from March to June this year. I would then expect the orders to be laid (in draft form) before both Houses after Parliament returns from the summer recess. The orders would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.
Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to encourage AONBs to become recognised as biosphere reserves by UNESCO; and what support her Department will provide to successful applicants. 
Mr. Morley: Any area considered for nomination as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve will need to fulfil the specific criteria for that designation. AONBs can be a useful supporting mechanism for a Biosphere Reserve as is the case with the recently extended Biosphere Reserve at Braunton Burrows in Devon. An area designated as AONB will not automatically meet the criteria for Biosphere Reserves. It is for the UK Man and Biosphere (UK MAB) Committee to consider applications for Biosphere Reserve status. The Committee will shortly be considering the next steps following the review of UK Biosphere Reserves. The Government will consider any proposal put forward by the UK MAB Committee on its individual merits for submission to UNESCO.
There is no funding programme specifically for Biosphere Reserves, but Biosphere Reserve status has the potential to provide an area with a framework for attracting relevant funding streams such as LEADER+ and stimulating investment. The Government support AONBs generally in England through the AONB programme, which in 200304, will receive grants worth more than #6 million. The Countryside Agency, who administers this funding on behalf of Government, pays up to 75 per cent. of an AONBs core costs and 50 per cent. of its project costs.
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Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many inquiries regarding lost documentation at the British Cattle Movement Service are under investigation. 
Alun Michael: The British Cattle Movement Service 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 electronically and recorded on arrival, and great care is taken to avoid any loss.
It is likely that this question refers specifically to movement notifications made by cattle keepers to the British Cattle Movement Service. BCMS has received around 22,000 representations about movement notification failures since May this year from around England, Scotland and Wales. 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. The Rural Payments Agency and the BCMS check these cases very carefully, and it is not right to assume that the BCMS has lost keepers' movement notification when there is no evidence of the document ever arriving at the BCMS site.
If keepers want to guarantee that their notifications are received by BCMS, they can send them electronically to BCMS using the online system at: www.bcms.gov.uk The BCMS are encouraging all cattle keepers to register their records via the cattle tracing system online.
Mr. Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps are being taken to improve administrative (a) accuracy and (b) efficiency at the British Cattle Movement Service. 
Alun Michael: The cattle passport scheme has been in operation for over six years now and the national cattle database contains the details of the 9.4 million animals that make up the national herd. We are currently investing a further #12 million to upgrade the system and improve its performance.
The British Cattle Movement Service operates to ISO 9001:2000 standards, is registered with the British Standards Institute and its operating practices have received the Kite mark. In addition to paper reporting systems, we have provided online facilities via a website for cattle keepers to register their animals. CTS Online was runner-up in the Government Computer Innovation Award in June 2002. The BCMS is constantly striving to improve their service and efficiency.
Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made of the trials into the use of exclusion devices developed by the Sea Mammal Research Unit to reduce the bycatch of cetaceans in pelagic trawl fisheries. 
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Mr. Morley: During March and April last year the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St. Andrews University made encouraging progress in developing and testing separator grids during their monitoring work on the seasonal bass fishery off South West England. Some further work was carried out in December 2002 to refine the gear but planned trials at sea could not take place because of an accident involving one of the vessels chartered for the trial. The trial will now be resumed in spring once the commercial fishery restarts in order to further refine the system and assess its suitability for protecting dolphins in the fishery.
Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the deaths of dolphins in Devon and Cornwall in December 2002; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: I have written to Commissioner Fischler and to the French Minister pressing the need for action in this area and will continue to press the issue with EU Ministers. The Commission produced a draft discussion paper on these issues last year as part of its commitment under the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy to introduce measures to reduce cetacean bycatch. It is now for the Commission to bring forward concrete proposals, and when these come to the Council of Ministers for discussion I shall press for effective measures to be introduced.
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