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Mr. Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 17 to 18 December; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett: My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and I represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on 17 December. The Scottish and Northern Irish Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Fisheries were also present.
The Council agreed by qualified majority a Regulation providing for the total allowable catches for fish stocks for 2004. Important increases in quota for haddock and nephrops were agreed subject to special licensing and control conditions (those for nephrops to be developed by the end of next February). Annex V of the Regulation provides for limits on fishing time in 2004 for vessels which can catch cod, which operate in the North Sea and west of Scotland waters (as for 2003) and for the first time for vessels in the Irish Sea and the eastern English Channel. Annex VI introduces an effort management scheme for the North Sea sandeel fishery, for which the Regulation also sets significantly reduced quotas.
The Council also agreed by qualified majority a long term recovery plan for cod stocks, setting a mechanism for deciding on multiannual catch limits, and providing for annual limits on fishing effort as in Annex V to the TAG Regulation. It explicitly enables the Council to adjust the mechanism for fishing effort during 2004 should it so wish. Finally the Council agreed the guide prices for fish species for 2004.
The Council adopted by qualified majority the Presidency's compromise text for a regulation reinforcing the current requirements regarding identification of sheep and goats. I welcomed this proposal which met the main concerns we had registered during negotiation. The arrangements take account of the unique structure of our sheep sector; and, subject to approval by the Commission, our current national sheep and goat identification system of movement tags, backed up by the animal movement licensing system, will remain until 2008; followed thereafter by the introduction of electronic ID, which we support.
The Council noted progress made in discussion of the proposal to update rules governing the welfare of animals during transport. The proposal was remitted for further official discussion, in particular as regards the establishment of maximum journey times.
The Council took note without discussion of progress on a draft regulation harmonising official controls on food and feed. A number of issues, notably the scope of regulation and the charges to be made in connection with its enforcement, remain to be settled.
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There was no discussion. The Council discussed the package of proposals to reform the CAP regimes for tobacco, olive oil, cotton and hops. We reiterated our support for the Commission in extending the principles of CAP reform to these sectors but argued for greater decoupling of subsidies to the olive oil andparticularlycotton sectors. We expressed support for full decoupling in the tobacco sector, as the Commission has proposed, and called for the shortest possible transition period. Detailed negotiation of these proposals will resume under the Irish presidency.
Under Other Business, the Italian Presidency tabled a written report outlining progress on specific hygiene rules in the animal feed sector. The Presidency also reported on progress in negotiation of a veterinary equivalence agreement with Russia. Austria pressed for early action to deal with low prices in the pigmeat sector; we and several other Member States cautioned against reliance on export refunds in this sector. We raised the problems caused for Pakistan by recent changes in the concessionary import terms applicable to Basmati rice. The Commission took note and reported that it was consulting with Pakistan and India over the latest information available on prices and varieties.
Mr. Peter Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) British Waterways, (b) the British Disabled Angling Association and (c) the National Angling Association about the provision of greater access for disabled anglers under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 by 1 October. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Government recognise the social and recreational importance of angling and are committed to improving access for the disabled. In response to the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review Group report, the Government committed the Environment Agency to promoting angling.
The Environment Agency works with a number of national and local bodies to provide angling opportunities for all. The Agency is working closely with the British Disabled Angling Association (BDAA) to integrate disability access into its work programme.
The Agency has also encouraged the Joint Angling Governing Bodies (those organisations of the National Angling Association responsible for angling development and coaching) to work closely with the BDAA. To facilitate this co-operative work a Disability Working Group has been set up and is attended by all the main bodies involved in disabled angling and angling governance.
The Agency also works with British Waterways on a number local initiatives. British Waterways aim to incorporate facilities for disabled anglers on its existing network and is committed to ensuring that all of its new angling facilities at reservoirs and other sources of closed waters are accessible for people with disabilities.
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We are still considering our response to the recommendations in the Farm Animal Welfare Council's report on the welfare of red meat animals at slaughter, including the recommendation that slaughter without prior stunning should be banned in this country. We expect to issue our draft response document for public consultation within the next few weeks, but I am unable to provide an exact date at this stage. The public consultation exercise will be widely publicised. We anticipate issuing the Government's final response to the recommendations towards the middle of the year.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether there are humane methods licensed for the stunning and slaughter of animals and poultry which rely on gases to render animals unconscious prior to their slaughter. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 (as amended) lay down the permitted stunning and killing methods for both red meat animals and poultry. The permitted methods have been assessed for humaneness. The use of gas mixtures is a permitted method for rendering pigs, domestic fowls and turkeys unconscious. The use of gas mixtures is actually a stun-kill method, in that the animal or bird has to remain in the gas until it is dead.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who owns the traps and other equipment used for badger trapping exercises carried out on behalf of the Department. 
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the administrative boundaries of the Krebs proactive areas necessarily coincide with the areas inhabited by badgers. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The boundaries of treatment areas in which badger culling would take place were only prescribed once putative badger social group territories had been delineated. Any sett outside a trial area boundary which was associated with a social group of badgers whose territory fell within the trial area would be subject to the same treatment as the sett within the trial area (proactive or reactive culling) once allocated.
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whether healthy badgers have acquired or are likely to acquire infection after colonising setts left vacant as a result of clearance of TB infected badgers. 
Mr. Bradshaw: It is likely that the lack of light and relatively constant temperature and humidity inside a badger sett would favour the survival of Mycobacterium bovis (the causative organism of bovine tuberculosis). However, as there is currently no effective live test for TB in badgers, it would not be possible to tell if an incoming badger was healthy when colonising a vacant sett.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what controls are imposed on the relocation of badgers which are treated by animal hospitals and sanctuaries; 
Mr. Bradshaw: Badgers are a protected species and it is an offence to take (or attempt to take) a badger from the wild, including for the purpose of relocation elsewhere (Protection of Badgers Act 1992, s.1(1)). A person guilty of this offence is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for up to six months and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
There are certain exceptions to this offence, two of which are specifically relevant to the issue of relocating badgers. These are the treatment of injured or sick badgers, and relocations carried out under the authority of a licence.
A voluntary code of practice (prepared by the RSPCA, National Federation of Badgers Groups and Secret World Wildlife Rescue) provides comprehensive guidance on rehabilitating and releasing badgers. This adopts a precautionary approach aimed at protecting the welfare of badgers and critically, minimising the risk of transmitting bovine tuberculosis (TB). The code is publicly available via the internet at: http://www. badger.org.uk/action/badger-rehabilitation-protocol- contents.html
Under the code of practice, an adult badger is to be released at the exact location from which it was recovered. If this is not possible the code advises that the animal is euthanased. Badger cubs may be released at a different location. Animals to be relocated are tested for TB three times. Only badgers testing negative to all three tests are released and any animal testing positive is
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euthanased. The code also requires that released badgers are permanently marked (by a tattoo or microchip) and registered.
Under section 10 of the Act, licences may be issued to permit badgers to be taken from the wild (and relocated if necessary) for a limited range of specified purposes. These include scientific investigation, preventing the spread of disease, and preventing serious damage to property. Depending on the purpose of the operation, licences are issued by either the appropriate statutory conservation agency or agricultural department (English Nature and Defra, respectively, in England).
Before any badgers are released at a new location all animals must be tested three times for TB. All badgers testing positive to any of the three tests, or in contact with a badger testing positive, are euthanased.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which persons and organisations are permitted to slaughter badgers; what conditions are imposed on them; and under what circumstances badgers are allowed to be slaughtered. 
Badgers are a protected species and it is an offence to kill (or attempt to kill) a badger (Protection of Badgers Act 1992 s.1(1)). A person guilty of this offence is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for up to six months and/or a fine of up to £5,000 (this applies to each badger killed).
where a badger is unavoidably killed or injured as an incidental result of a lawful action; and
doing anything which is authorised under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 eg experimental procedures approved under licence to advance biological or behavioural knowledge etc.
This defence cannot be relied upon if it was apparent before that time that action would prove necessary and a licence had not been applied for as soon as reasonably practicable, or where an application for such a licence had been determined.
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preventing the spread of disease;
preventing serious damage to land, crops, poultry or any other form of property.
The exceptions, and any conditions that apply, are stated in full in the Act, which is available from Her Majesty's Stationary Office or online at: www. legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1992/Ukpga 19920051 en l.htm.
Mr. Bradshaw: Badgers are a protected species and it is an offence to remove (or attempt to remove) a badger from its sett, either forcibly (including the use of dogs) or by installing exclusion measures (such as one-way gates), or by obstructing access of a badger to its sett (Protection of Badgers Act 1992). A person guilty of any of these offences is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for up to six months and/or a fine of up to £5000.
The legislation includes provisions for the granting of licences, which, where justified, could be used to permit the removal (by exclusion) of badgers from a sett. The purposes for which licences may be issued are summarised as follows:
Ringing or marking
Archaeological preservation or investigation
Preventing the spread of disease
Preventing serious damage to land, crops, poultry or any other form of property
Agricultural or forestry operations
Drainage or sea defence
Controls relating to the removal of badgers from setts where the intention is to relocate the animals elsewhererather than simply denying access to a particular settare described in the joint response to parliamentary questions 0673 200304 and 0675 200304.
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