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13 Mar 2003 : Column 367W—continued

Bathing Waters

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list those bathing waters where bathing water meets the EU mandatory standards, but do not meet the advisory guidelines. [99253]

Mr. Morley: The bathing water compliance results in England for the 2002 bathing season were published on 11 November 2002. The News Release can be found on the Defra website at This release provides a link to a list of all the bathing waters in England that met the EU mandatory standards last year and those that also passed the more stringent guideline standards.

Bird Registration Scheme

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the progress being made on the Bird Registration scheme. [102435]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 12 March 2003]: Our consultation on the future of the Bird Registration scheme in autumn 2002 attracted over 400 responses from individuals; from groups and organisations known to have an interest in the scheme from central and local government organisations; and from police forces and other enforcement agencies.

These responses have been carefully analysed and I intend to make an announcement shortly.

Bovine Tuberculosis

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) research she has collated and (b) guidance she has given on the susceptibility of red deer to bovine tuberculosis; and what assessment she has made of the likely impact of bovine tuberculosis on the red deer herd on Exmoor. [102147]

Mr. Morley: The information is as follows.

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(a) Defra is funding the Central Science Laboratory to carry out research into the risk to cattle from wildlife species other than badgers in areas of high herd breakdown. The research project is proceeding according to plan and the findings will be published in due course.

(b) Mycobacterium bovis is isolated almost every year from wild red deer specimens submitted to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency as part of the statutory requirement to notify suspect lesions in deer carcases. In 2002 there was one positive isolate from a red deer from Exmoor. There has been no formal assessment of the effect of bovine tuberculosis on wild deer populations.

Statutory controls are in place to deal with bovine tuberculosis in farmed deer.


Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of bushmeat seizures at UK ports over the past 12 months have resulted in a prosecution. [101351]

Mr. Morley: We are not aware of any prosecutions resulting from seizures of bushmeat at UK ports over the past 12 months.

Prosecutions for offences relating to bushmeat can be brought under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species by HM Customs, and under the Products of Animal Origin (Third Country Imports) (England) regulations by local authorities.

Bushmeat forms only a very small proportion of reported seizures of products of animal origin—less than 2.5 per cent. Seizures are confiscated and destroyed.

Domestic Abuse

Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to ensure the provision of facilities and services for victims of domestic abuse in remote rural areas. [97754]

Alun Michael: Policy responsibility for domestic violence, including provision of services for victims, lies outside my Department. However, the Government are committed to "rural-proofing" all their policies. The Department and the Countryside Agency work with other Government Departments to ensure that rural aspects of policies are addressed and to improve service delivery in rural areas.

The Countryside Agency is working on two pilot initiatives. One is with Crime Concern and their local partners to quantify the nature and extent of domestic violence in rural Wiltshire and to implement innovative methods of early intervention, and the other with Save the Children UK to examine the impact of domestic violence on rural children in the West Midlands region.

Rural Development

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many grants

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have been approved under the land-based schemes of the England Rural Development Programme since its inception; and what proportion of the total available budget this represented in each year. [102404]

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Alun Michael: The following table shows the number of ERDP agreements approved under the land based schemes since the Programme began in 2000, and the total programme budget for each scheme.

SchemeTotal number of agreementsNumber of agreements approved between 2000–02(3),(4)Scheme budget 2000–06(£ million)
Countryside Stewardship Scheme13,8586,290481
Environmentally Sensitive Areas12,3001,677330
Organic Farming Schemen/a1,085141
Woodland Grant Scheme32,7487,058139
Farm Woodland Premium Scheme/Farm Woodland Scheme10,0592,38977
Energy Crops Schemen/a3132
Hill Farm Allowance(4)n/a9,953254

(3) Figures for number of approved agreements are provisional as some agreements for 2002 remain to be processed. Agreements entered into before 2000 are excluded.

(4) For Hill Farm Allowance, figure relates to number of payments made on claims received in 2002 rather than agreements approved over the years 2000 to 2002.

It is not possible to compare the value of approved agreements in a given year directly with the budget for that year, because (a) the majority of agreements under the land based schemes are for commitments lasting 10 years or more and with payments made annually; (b) first payments under individual agreements may not always be made in the same year as the agreement is approved; and (c) much of the current budget for land based schemes is expended on commitments entered into before the ERDP began in 2000.

In financial year 2000–01, 83 per cent. of the total budget available for the ERDP land-based schemes was spent, and in financial year 2001–02, 89 per cent. of the total budget available for the ERDP land-based schemes was spent.

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to (a) encourage the take-up and (b) speed up the processing of grants for land-based schemes of the England Rural Development Programme. [102405]

Alun Michael: All ERDP schemes are being promoted both at national and regional level through joint working with partner organisations, at events such as agricultural shows and other public events, news releases and local publicity, and workshops for potential applicants.

In addition, a number of initiatives are in place to encourage uptake of particular ERDP land-based schemes. For example, the opening of the 2003 Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) application window was announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment on 7 November 2002 and applications have been encouraged through advertisements in the national farming press. In order to increase the number of farmers converting to organic production methods, the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) will be relaunched from May 2003 with a new option that allows payments to be made (over a five year agreement) for the management of organically farmed land in an environmentally beneficial way. In addition, steps are under way to improve the take up of the Energy Crops Scheme (ECS), which supports the establishment of short rotation coppice and miscanthus as renewable energy sources. The Government have allocated £66 million to the development of end markets for such crops, and £3.5 million for improvements to the fuels supply infrastructure. We will also be reviewing the rules in respect of the co-firing of energy crops with coal.

The payment of some claims has recently been delayed due to the need under EU regulations to cross-check land-based scheme agreements against the IACS database. Steps have now been taken to speed up the processing of applications and payments through the streamlining of administrative procedures. In addition, a simplified claim form for CSS payments was introduced last year, to significantly ease the burden on beneficiaries. Also, to allow more time for the preparation of CSS applications, the application window has been opened two months earlier than in previous years. Over the longer term, major reviews of both the agri-environment and forestry schemes are considering ways of rationalising and simplifying existing arrangements. To this end a pilot of the Entry Level Scheme, which is designed to encourage a large number of farmers across a wide area of farmland to deliver simple yet effective environmental management on their farms, was launched on 27 February. Together with the introduction of new IT systems in Defra, the Rural Payments Agency and the Forestry Commission, these developments should lead to significant improvements in the speed and efficiency of land-based scheme administration.

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