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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 15 December 2003


Disadvantaged Young People

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) if she will contribute to the partnership of the Prince's Trust Football Initiative, FA Premier League, Football Foundation and Professional Footballers Association in helping disadvantaged young people; and if she will make a statement; [143447]

Mr. Caborn: The Government fully support the aims of the Prince's Trust Football Scheme, which uses sport to offer personal development programmes to young people aged 16–25, the majority of whom are unemployed, have recently left social service care, or are ex-offenders. It is noteworthy that of 4,000 participants between 1997 and 2002, some 73 per cent. went on to find employment, or to further education or training.

The Scheme receives £250,000 a year from the Football Foundation's Community and Education Fund, which is part-funded by Sport England and the New Opportunities Fund.


Devon (Ward Boundaries)

Nick Harvey: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what progress the Electoral Commission is making towards making orders giving effect to the Boundary Committee's recommendations for Devon county council's ward boundaries; and if he will make a statement. [143736]

Mr. Viggers: I understand that it is the intention of the Electoral Commission to make the order implementing new ward boundaries by summer 2004 so that they will be in effect for the county elections due in 2005.


Big Conversation

Norman Baker: To ask the Leader of the House pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) of 9 December 2003, Official Report, column 355W, what estimate he has made of the amount of time spent by (a) Ministers and (b) special advisers on the Big Conversation; and what costs are associated with that time. [144118]

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Mr. Hain: The involvement of Ministers and special advisers in this exercise is undertaken in accordance with the requirements of the Ministerial Code and the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers. It is not possible to provide an estimate of their time spent on the exercise but the cost will be minimal.


Animal Health

Mr. Cawsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made in implementing the Animal Health (Amendment) Act 1998. [142777]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Animal Health (Amendment) Act 1998 extended the scope of the Order-making powers relating to importation in the Animal Health Act 1981 to cover the welfare of animals in quarantine. Between December 2000 and March 2001, MAFF undertook a consultation exercise on proposals for legislation to update the law on quarantine by reforming the quarantine rules to bring quarantine kennels up to the best modern practice and by introducing statutory welfare provisions.

Owing to the impact on resources of the foot and mouth disease outbreak during 2001, follow-up to that consultation was deferred. Since then, we have reached agreement on the EU Regulation on the movement of pet animals which will require some changes to the quarantine legislation. We are also preparing for consultation on an Animal Welfare Bill. We shall therefore need to review the proposed changes to the quarantine legislation to take account of these and other developments. I expect to complete the review in the first part of 2004.

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on how she intends to implement the recommendations of the Farm Animal Welfare Council's Report on the Welfare of Farmed Animals at Slaughter or Killing. [143558]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 11 December 2003]: I refer my hon. Friend to my earlier answer given on 8 December 2003, Official Report, column 209W. Decisions on how to implement the recommendations will be taken once the public consultation exercise on the draft response has been completed.

Arable Crops

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what sanctions apply to (a) farmers and (b) her Department in circumstances where an incorrect assessment has been made of areas planted for (i) wheat and (ii) other arable crops in the annual (A) June return and (B) IACS system. [143666]

Alun Michael: The June census is a UK survey designed to provide information for statistical purposes and to support policy decisions. In England it is carried out under the Agricultural Statistics Act 1979 which requires farmers to provide the information requested.

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Any mistakes are normally simply corrected and we are not aware of any sanctions ever being applied in such issues. Defra seeks to produce the best estimates it can at particular points in the year. By the nature of the information, some figures will be provisional and subject to revision. The Department will republish if a mistake that significantly affects the results is found.

The IACS rules are part of the EU legislation governing the operation of the Common Agricultural Policy. In respect of arable area payments, they treat wheat and other arable crops in the same way. Where farmers claim arable area payments for less than their planted area there is no sanction. Where they overclaim by a small margin the claim is merely corrected. For larger overclaims the IACS system prescribes a scale of sanctions, which at the extreme can lead to the loss of all payment for the current year and to an equivalent sum being recovered from the claims made over the following three years. No automatic sanctions apply to Defra in such cases, but the European Commission has power to apply ad hoc financial penalties to member states who are found not to have sufficiently robust systems for inspecting claims and applying the prescribed sanctions.


Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government are taking to speed up approvals for biopesticides. [143918]

Alun Michael: The Government are trying to find ways of speeding up the approval process for biopesticides. The Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) is carrying out a pilot exercise exploring ways of reducing data requirements and thus the costs and time taken to secure approval.

PSD has also appointed an "in-house" Small Business Champion to assist companies generally and specifically in making applications for approval of biological control agents.

However, PSD must ensure that approved pesticides cause no unacceptable risks to people or the environment. There are, therefore, certain essential data requirements that must be met, regardless of whether an application for a pesticide is for a conventional or an alternative product, such as a biopesticide.

Bovine TB

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether farmers are able to obtain insurance cover for TB infection in dairy cattle after a TB breakdown and subsequent claim. [141083]

Mr. Bradshaw: It is Government policy to pay compensation at 100 per cent. of the market value, with no upper limit, for cattle that are compulsorily slaughtered under TB control measures. Farmers therefore do not need to take out insurance for their animals. Theoretically, insurance can be bought to cover other consequential losses for which compensation is not

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paid, but this is a commercial matter between the farmers and their insurers. Section 34 (5) of the Animal Health Act 1981 explicitly allows insurers to deduct the amount of Government compensation from the value of any payout that they make.

Insurance companies will make their own decisions on whether to insure, and about the size of premiums, based on their assessment of the risk. Recent contact with insurance industry early in 2003 indicated that, although companies are honouring existing policies, they are not offering new policies to cover TB in cattle herds, particularly in areas where TB is increasingly prevalent. This is because farmers do not wish to take the cover in areas where the risk is low (such as Yorkshire), but do wish to purchase cover in areas of high incidence (such as the South West). However, the insurance companies consider that the financial risks in offering insurance policies in areas of high incidence are too high at present.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the total cost was of compensation paid to farmers in respect of compulsory purchase of bovine animals slaughtered as a result of TB infection (a) between 1994 and 1998 and (b) since 1998. [142457]

Mr. Bradshaw: The data requested are provided in the tables.

Cost of compensation paid in Great Britain as a result of TB infection between 1994 and 1998

Cost (£)(1)


(1) The Report of the Chief Veterinary Officer—Animal Health 1998.

Cost of compensation paid in Great Britain as a result of TB infection between 1999 and 2002

Cost (£)(2)
2002(3)23, 138,512


(2) The Report of the Chief Veterinary Officer—Animal Health 2002.

(3) In 2001, the TB testing and control programme was largely suspended due to the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak. Since testing resumed in 2002, resources have been concentrated on herds with overdue TB tests that would have had a longer period in which to contract the disease. Also, the proportion of high risk herds being tested post-FMD is greater than that prior to the outbreak. As a result, the number of TB reactors identified and slaughtered (and hence compensated for) in 2002 is not comparable to those identified and slaughtered in previous years.

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Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the effect of shortages of large animal vets for successful control of TB in cattle. [141975]

Mr. Bradshaw: There are no plans to carry out such an assessment. However, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee issued a report on Vets and Veterinary Services on 23 October 2003 (HC 703), which considers wider concerns about the numbers of large animal practices and the contribution of the veterinary profession to the wider animal health and welfare strategy.

The report contains a number of recommendations and conclusions, and we will be seeking the views of the veterinary profession and other interested parties on the issues raised.

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