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The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister carried out the review to assess how we could more closely involve the property sector in developing and taking forward our sustainable communities agenda. We also wanted to see how the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister could more effectively fulfil its role in liaising with the property and development industries, taking account of recent consultation about how best to consult across Government on property issues.
Among the major considerations in our review was the need to listen to the concerns of the property sector, to ensure that policy development takes account of market realities and to engage more fully with those able to deliver on our policy agenda. We decided that we need to overhaul our present machinery for consultation with the commercial property sector and to bring in those responsible for funding and building new housing development, to ensure that we can address all aspects of our major plans for physical regeneration.
This led us to the conclusion that we should replace our two existing bodies for consulting the commercial property sector, the Property Advisory Group and the Property Industry Forum, with a single new group, the Property Consultative Group. The Property Consultative Group will consist of representatives of the existing bodies on the Property Industry Forum, together with those from several other bodies, including house builders and funders. The Group will meet regularly, with a Minister in the chair.
The Property Consultative Group will be supplemented by working groups, which we will set up ad hoc to address particular issues in greater depth. The working groups will include other experts where this would be helpful as well as some of the members of the main Group. They will give us continued access to high quality independent expert external advice, of the type that the Property Advisory Group has provided over a number of years. The scope to set up ad hoc working groups with a limited life span, and a membership specifically selected to address the remit of the group concerned, will give us more flexibility in obtaining advice on particular issues, especially those to do with the building of sustainable communities. Initially, we will be setting up working groups on funding and delivery mechanisms and on commercial property markets and leases.
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I would like to pay tribute to members of the Property Advisory Group for their considerable help to the Office. In particular, I would like to thank Robin Broadhurst for chairing the Group over the last five years. His second period of appointment is now ending, and we considered this would be an appropriate time to make these changes. The Property Advisory Group has played an important part in telling us about developments in the property market and in helping to ensure that new policy takes account of market practice. I am very grateful to members for all their hard work and commitment. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will want to include some individual members of the Group on the new ad hoc groups we are establishing, and I look forward to working with them. The Group's final meeting will take place on 8 July and we will shortly publish its final Annual Report.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): As required under (Section 10A of the 1981 Animal Health Act) the Government will publish today a review of controls on the import of animal products for the financial year 200203.
Government action during the period led to a threefold increase in the number of seizures of illegal imports of meat and animal products. This improvement was delivered by following three key principles: evidence-based policy; investment in enforcement; and securing better public engagement and awareness.
The publication of the results of an assessment of the risks of foot and mouth disease entering the country through illegally imported meat has provided a basis to inform policy and help target enforcement.
Additional resources were provided to existing enforcement agencies pending a review of enforcement structures that resulted in the transfer to HM Customs and Excise of responsibility for prevention of smuggling of these goods. A publicity campaign was run using a variety of methods to capture public attention.
Looking to the future, the review describes the development of a new enforcement strategy at borders designed to respond better to changing risks and intelligence. Awareness and partnership building will continue both in the UK and in the international arena. Progress on all activities will be closely monitored.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The Government made a statement on 23 January 2003, Official Report, columns 2123WS, on the risk assessment work carried out following the two independent inquiries into the FMD outbreak, setting out the future work on biosecurity and other issues they proposed and announcing their conclusions on the livestock movement regime to be put in place for the spring.
On the condition that the farming industry worked towards improved disease protection and control, the Government announced a move to a six-day standstill for cattle, sheep and goats from March. However, key elements of the regime lapse on 1 August. The future standing arrangements therefore need to be determined now, in the light of the work done since that earlier decision, and other factors.
The Government now have two epidemiological reports based on different modelling techniques, an analysis of the costs of an outbreak and an integration report bringing these elements together in a formal cost-benefit analysis. These are all independent reports which have been peer reviewed.
a 20-day standstill regime does not appear justified on cost-benefit grounds unless more than one large outbreak every five years can be expected;
a six-day standstill cannot be justified on cost-benefit grounds alone unless outbreaks are expected more frequently than around one in 12 years (and on some assumptions they would need to be even more frequent);
however, even if outbreaks occurred only once in 20 years, the six-day standstill is not greatly more expensive than a zero standstill policy; and
standstill regimes do effectively reduce the size (and therefore the cost) of outbreaks, especially the more extreme outbreaks such as that in 2001.
The Government do not believe that they can determine future arrangements solely on the basis of this cost-benefit analysis. There is a strong case for a standstill as part of the livestock movements regime on precautionary grounds.
The Government's veterinary advisers are clear that a longer standstill is more effective in capping disease outbreaks but a six-day standstill is better than zero days because it reduces the spread of disease and increases the chances of early detection. Any standstill
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regime would also help protect against the spread of other diseases and foster improved animal welfare more generally.
The Government therefore support a standstill period as a valuable long-term element in the movement regime. However, the cost-benefit analysis clearly shows that a return to the 20-day standstill for cattle, sheep and goats could only be justified under very unlikely scenarios. The Government have therefore decided that the standing regime from 1 August should be based on a six-day standstill.
The existing arrangements for pigs will continue, except that the arrival of a pig on a mixed holding will impose a 20-day standstill on any other pig on the holding, but only a six-day standstill on any cattle, sheep or goats there.
The Government have listened carefully to arguments for specific exceptions to the general arrangements and have made some provisions where necessary. For this reason, an exemption was introduced on 30 May for show animals.
The Government now propose to introduce a further specific modification to the regime to facilitate the autumn sale and trading of male breeding livestock. In future, male breeding rams and bulls may move on to a farm during the period August to November without triggering a general six-day standstill for the farm, so long as it goes into a DEFRA-approved isolation facility, provided that a six day standstill applies to all livestock in that facility. Similarly they will be allowed to move from a farm under standstill to a market if placed in a DEFRA-approved isolation facility for six days beforehand. Similar arrangements will be put in place for goats. The Government believe that this new arrangement strikes the right balance between ensuring that farmers can trade successfully and ensuring that autumn breeder markets do not become a centre of disease spread.
The Government have made it clear that progress needs to be made to improve detection and biosecurity. They consulted recently on how to achieve this. As a result, from 1 August, there will be a limit of 48 hours for animals staying on market premises. There will also be some minor changes to the legislation on empty vehicles leaving markets without first cleansing and disinfecting.
Work on veterinary farm inspections, the presence of vets at markets, cleaning and disinfection at markets, the role of dealers and distance limits will continue over the coming months in the context of the Government's animal health and welfare strategy. In particular, we will investigate the proposals for a veterinary presence at markets and the possibility of annual veterinary visits to farms, as part of our draft action plan to take forward animal disease prevention and control in partnership with industry and other key stakeholders. We hope to consult on a draft plan in July 2003.
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