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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the viability and number of farm business tenancies. [118962]

Alun Michael: The Government believes that the tenanted sector has an important role to play in developing a sustainable and diverse future for the

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farming industry. Many Farm Business Tenancies are too short to provide the security a tenant needs to develop and diversify their businesses. That is why the Government asked the Tenancy Reform Industry Group to put forward proposals for tenancy reform. The Tenancy Reform Industry Group has reached an industry consensus on these issues and its report to Government was published on 3 June. We have welcomed the report and will be considering the Tenancy Reform Industry Group recommendations carefully.

The June Agricultural Census shows that there were just over 12,300 Farm Business Tenancies in England at June 2002. The recently published results of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers' Annual Tenanted Farms Survey for 2002 shows that in England and Wales some 18,200 hectares of previously un-let land have been let on Farm Business Tenancies. After taking account of losses of let land during the survey period there has been a net gain to the tenanted sector of some 10,500 hectares. The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers' survey also shows that the average length of a Farm Business Tenancy is just under 4 years and that some 80 per cent. of lets involve bare land.

Local Food Initiatives

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on help available to those wishing to develop local food chains or food links, with particular reference to Gloucestershire. [118894]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 12 June 2003]: We recognise the benefits that local food can bring and are keen to encourage the development of a sustainable local food sector. Funding under the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) is available to support a range of local food initiatives. For example, we have made money available under the Rural Enterprise Scheme of the ERDP for a three year project to establish a Gloucestershire Farmers' Market Group which will help in the setting up of new markets, create a website and provide a one-stop advice service for local producers in the county. We will continue to deploy our various funding schemes to encourage a flourishing local food sector.

This activity complements measures at a local level carried out by regionally based organisations, such as the work, supported by the Government Office for the South West, to draw up an integrated food policy for Gloucestershire under the Gloucestershire Food Vision initiative.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when foot and mouth disease simulation exercises have taken place in each animal health divisional office area in each of the last five years. [118573]

Mr. Morley: Foot and mouth disease exercises have taken place in Animal Health Division Offices as shown in the table. Exercises focused on other diseases have also taken place over the same period. In addition the readiness of these offices to deal with an outbreak of

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exotic disease was developed and tested during the outbreak of classical swine fever in 2000 and foot and mouth disease in 2001 and in dealing with suspect cases over the whole period.

Bury St. Edmunds111

(1) Newcastle AHDO was not established until August 2002

Illegal Imports

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to her answer of 4 June 2003, ref 116075, what quantities of animal and plant products she estimates have been illegally imported into the UK over the last three years for which figures are available; what products were involved; how many (a) prosecutions were brought and (b) cautions were issued; and what the resulting penalties were. [118580]

Mr. Morley: The Veterinary Laboratories Agency published a risk assessment report on 25 March 2003. This estimated the amount of illegal meat imported annually, on average, to be 7,500 tonnes, with 90 per cent. certainty that the amount of illegal meat imported will range from 2,800 tonnes to 17,500 tonnes per year. Copies of the report have been placed in the House Libraries.

A huge range of products are seized including a wide variety of meats, fish, sausages, honey, plants and seeds. Examples of meat products seized can be found in the risk assessment at appendix 2.

Figures for prosecutions prior to the transfer of all anti-smuggling controls to HM Customs and Excise on 11 April 2003, were not held centrally. We are aware of one successful prosecution brought by Crawley borough council in July 2002, which resulted in a £150 fine and £100 costs. In September 2001, HM Customs and Excise brought a prosecution for the illegal importation of bushmeat derived from endangered species. The offender was found not guilty of these offences, but was however found guilty of an offence under Products of

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Animal Origin (Third Country Imports) (England) Regulations. The Corporation of London Port Health Authority issued six cautions in October 2002.

HM Customs and Excise, who took responsibility for anti smuggling controls on meat from 11 April 2003, will prosecute in the most serious cases.

Live Animal Exports

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to ensure that animals which are unfit for transport are not exported from the UK; and if she will make a statement. [118654]

Mr. Morley: Health and welfare rules for the intra-Community movement of live animals require animals to be fit for the intended journey in accordance with the provisions of directive 91/628/EEC on the protection of animals during transport. An official veterinary surgeon must inspect animals before transport and must certify that they are healthy and fit for the intended journey. In addition, there may be checks by inspectors at the time of loading onto the vehicle or at the port of departure. Information about checks on sheep and pigs exported for fattening or slaughter are available on the Defra website (

Mersey Forest Project

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate she has made of the contribution made by the Mersey Forest Project to (a) attracting new businesses and tourists to the region and (b) encouraging more people to participate in outdoor activities; [118821]

Alun Michael: The Mersey Forest project is one of 12 Community Forests set up under the Countryside Agency's Community Forest Programme. The North West Regional Economic Strategy identifies the Mersey Forest, and other forestry projects in the Region, as factors that are helping to create the right conditions for inward investment, regeneration, tourist development and overall quality of life. In order to evaluate the programme the Agency has commissioned a range of independent research projects. These projects have identified a number of contributions that the Mersey Forest has made, or is making.

The research has shown that the Mersey Forest and the Red Rose Forest (around Manchester) are identified, among other projects, as having a role to play in helping to reposition the region's image for attracting businesses and tourists to the region. The Mersey Forest project has helped develop an integrated approach to the development of rural businesses and the management of the landscape in which they work. In order to encourage more people to participate in outdoor activities, the Mersey Forest has created a network and support structure for the Mersey Forest Friends groups, which are self-managing and are given support to undertake the sustainable management of their local woodlands. In addition, the Mersey Forest's "Schools Ground Development" programme was established to create wooded play areas surrounding

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schools. Events to encourage outdoor activities include nature walks, moonlight walks, forest survival, volunteer days and play schemes. I understand that forest based activities have increased by 600 per cent. in the last 10 years.

The research indicates that the Mersey and Red Rose Forests have been involved in pioneering work on closed landfill sites, establishing new methodologies for assessing sites and determining their suitability for woodland. I understand that 12 per cent. of the derelict land (4,000 hectares) within the Mersey Forest area has been reclaimed, of which some 65 hectares of woodland was planted on damaged or disturbed ground in 2001. The Mersey Forest (in association with the Red Rose Forest, the Forestry Commission, the North West Development Agency and the Environment Agency) is using the Capital Modernisation Fund to deliver community woodland on derelict, under utilised and neglected land.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what arrangements she intends to put in place for the continued funding of the Mersey Forest Project after 2005; and if she will make a statement. [118823]

Alun Michael: The 12 Community Forests (including the Mersey Forest) set up under Community Forests Programme (administered by the Countryside Agency) were envisaged as pilot projects. Through this Programme the Countryside Agency planned to test out the idea that "community forestry" could provide signficant benefits for the local community. Partners in many other areas could apply the lessons learnt and promote community forestry projects without national support, while the continued existence of the twelve pilot forests would stand or fall on the basis of the value placed on them by organisations in their locality and region.

The commitment to support the pilot Community Forest projects was for a period of 10 years from 1995. I am considering the current position in the light of the development of regional agendas and strategies, including Regional Forestry Frameworks that are being brought together by the Forestry Commission. These frameworks will be owned by Government Offices and Regional Development Agencies. It appears likely that the Regional Forestry Frameworks will be the main vehicle for securing regional ownership for a mainstream role for community forestry in Government Office and Regional Development Agency strategies and future business plans.

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