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6 Jan 2004 : Column 269Wcontinued
Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the (a) primary and (b) secondary legislation which would have to be amended fully to implement the proposals contained in Lord Haskin's report on the Delivery of Rural Services. 
Alun Michael: The Secretary of State set out the Government's initial response to Lord Haskins' Review of Rural Delivery in November 2003. She said that she hoped to publish a detailed implementation plan for the proposals in the spring. The work being undertaken to develop that plan includes consideration of the detailed legal implications of the proposals, and changes to legislation will need to be addressed as part of the implementation plan.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the Government are on target to ensure that 95 per cent. of all sites of special scientific interest are in a favourable condition by 2010. 
Mr. Bradshaw: English Nature completed the first six year cycle of condition assessments for every SSSI in England in 2003, launching its report on this work on 15 December. This contains a wealth of information on the factors affecting SSSI condition. This information base is essential in setting a course for future progress towards the target. We aim to do this by the spring of next year, and to assess future progress against that course thereafter.
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Mr. Bradshaw: The notification of sites of special scientific interest is entirely a matter for English Nature in the exercise of its statutory functions. Significant improvements to the legislative framework brought about by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 now enable English Nature to also extend sites and to de-notify sites where they are no longer of special interest.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what funding was available for the (a) protection and (b) promotion of sites of special scientific interest in each of the past three years; and how much will be available for (i) 200304 and (ii) 200405. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Conservation of sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) depends on raising awareness of issues and fostering partnerships with 32,000 owner/occupiers. A wide range of programmes contribute to the protection of SSSIs, including agri-environment schemes, water company investment, Government Departments' estate management and grant funding of National Park Authorities. It is not practicable to provide a breakdown of spending on SSSIs as specifically requested.
However, English Nature's direct expenditure on management agreements and maintenance of SSSIs is reported in its annual reports. The figures, including for those that are also National Nature Reserves, are £11.8 million in 200001, £13.5 million in 200102 and £14 million in 200203. Its forecast spend in 200304 is £15.9 million. Plans for 200405 have not been settled.
|SSSI Name||SSSI Area in Vale of York (ha)||Total SSSI Area (ha)|
|Bishop Monkton Ings||10.32||38.13|
|Dalby Bush Fen||1.61||7.50|
|Hack Fall Wood||0.13||42.98|
|Newsome Bridge Quarry||1.57||1.57|
|North York Moors||73.65||44,082.40|
|River Ure Bank, Ripon Parks||0.05||1.74|
|Shaws Gate Quarry||0.83||1.45|
|Snape Hill Quarry||0.58||0.58|
|Upper Dunsforth Carrs||10.09||10.09|
6 Jan 2004 : Column 271W
Mr. Bradshaw: The protection of over one million hectares of England's finest wildlife and geological heritage in over 4,000 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) is an essential component of the Government's approach to conserving biodiversity, as set out in "Working with the Grain of Nature"the England biodiversity strategy.
The wide range of factors affecting the SSSIs mean that their condition is a clear indicator of success in achieving sustainable development. That is why their condition is also an indicator of progress in the UK Sustainable Development Strategy "A Better Quality of Life", Defra's own sustainable development strategy "Foundations for our Future", and the Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food. The Government has a target to bring 95 per cent. of SSSIs into favourable condition by 2010, and is working with English Nature and others to bring this about.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what substances are prohibited from qualifying as substitute fuels under the Environment Agency's Substitute Fuels Protocol; what changes are planned to the list of qualifying substances; and if she will make a statement 
Mr. Morley: An operator of an industrial installation or plant wishing to burn a fuel of a type not within the terms of the current operating permit or authorisation has to apply to the Environment Agency for a variation to allow trials to be conducted. Each variation application is determined by the Environment Agency on a case-by-case basis, and the Substitute Fuels Protocol provides guidance to its staff and operators on the application process.
(b) an explosive including: propellants, cartridges, or bombs, or explosive material extracted from them or explosive-contaminated material from their manufacture or decommissioning.
6 Jan 2004 : Column 272W
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has made to her counterparts in EU member states about the recent UK outbreak of sudden oak death. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Dialogue on "Phytophthora ramorum" takes place between officials on a regular basis and particularly during discussion in the European Community's Standing Committee on Plant Health. It was as the result of collaboration between UK, Dutch and German plant health services that the risks were identified and emergency measures against the introduction and spread of "Phytophthora ramorum" introduced throughout the EU in November 2002. These measures were reviewed by the Standing Committee on 11 December. Following the findings of the disease in tree species the UK made very clear its concerns about the spread of this disease and agreement was reached for the control measures to continue. Commission officials are now working on a draft proposal to strengthen the current Decision.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the Plant Health Laboratory concerning the recent UK outbreak of sudden oak death. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The plant health group at Defra's Central Science Laboratory is an important part of the UK's plant health service. The Laboratory confirmed the first finding of "Phytophthora ramorum" in the UK in April 2002. Their scientific assessment of risk and input into discussions on exclusion, eradication and containment is a continuous process and has proved invaluable in formulating our views on this particular disease since the risk was first identified in 2001. They are also involved in or leading many of the research projects which will help the development of plant health policy, risk management, and decisions on action taken. In many aspects of this work they collaborate closely with the Forest Research Agency.
Mr. Bradshaw: Phytophthora ramorum was first described as a new species in October 2001 and first found in the UK in April 2002. Surveys are being conducted to establish how widespread the disease is and this may give an indication of how many years it may have been present. There have been over 300 outbreaks of Phytophthora ramorum found in England and Wales, mostly on rhododendrons and viburnums. In 70 per cent. of these cases the plants were of UK origin. In most of the other cases plants had been imported from other EC member states. In each of the cases on trees, there had already been findings of the disease nearby on plants of the rhododendron family.
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Investigations of past imports are continuing but it is unlikely that the original source, or the time and place of introduction, will be identified with certainty.
Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures are being taken to prevent the destruction of Britain's oak trees from indigenous fungal diseases. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Fortunately, there are only a few indigenous tree diseases which can affect oak trees to any significant extent. The main one is known as oak dieback, a complex disease in which a number of damaging agents interact to bring about a deterioration in tree condition. The Forestry Commission's Forest Research Agency is participating in a wide ranging European research programme which aims to gain new insights into the disease. The principal effort is being directed towards understanding the importance of the killing of fine roots by fungi in the genus Phytophthora. Further details are given in the commission's information note 'Dieback of Pendunculate Oak' which can be seen on the commission's website, www.forestry.gov.uk.
Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what mechanisms regulate garden centres and horticultural activities in respect of the control of the phytophthora ramorum fungus and the protection of keystone tree species; and what emergency measures are being taken to prevent the import of diseases affecting trees. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Plant Health Order (Phytophthora ramorum) (England) (No. 2) Order 2002, implementing EC emergency measures, came into force on 1 November 2002. Plants of susceptible species moving within the EC must meet plant passporting requirements and member states have been required to carry out surveys to help detect the spread of the disease.
Defra's Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors are undertaking checks at nurseries and garden centres known to trade in susceptible species. If infected plants are found in nurseries or garden centres during these inspections or surveys the legislation allows Inspectors to serve notice requiring the material to be destroyed along with any plants of susceptible species within 2 metres. Susceptible plants within 10 metres are placed on hold for a period to ascertain whether the disease is present before they can be moved.
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