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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 26 January 2004



Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the total population of badgers in the UK; and in which areas the population is greatest. [148650]

Mr. Bradshaw: English Nature advises that there are likely to be in the region of 300,000 to 400,000 badgers in Great Britain. This figure is derived from a National Badger Survey which took place in the mid-1990s.

The survey also reported that there had been a 77 per cent. increase in badger numbers between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. The increasing number of applications received by Defra for licences under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 (up 50 per cent. since 1999) suggest that this trend is continuing.

Badgers densities are highest in the south-west of England, with high densities present throughout southern counties, the west midlands and Wales.

The Department has been funding the Winter Mammal Monitoring Project which is being carried out by the Mammal Society and the British Trust for Ornithology. This is a pilot study intended to develop a multi-species terrestrial mammal monitoring system. The project is still at the pilot stage—but is intended in the future to provide valuable data on the abundance of mammal species, including badgers. Early findings confirm the pattern of distribution report in the National Badger Survey.

Full details of the badger survey findings are published in: "Changes in the British badger population, 1988 to 1997" by G. Wilson, S. Harris and G. McLaren (1997), published by the People's Trust for Endangered Species (ISBN 1 85580 018 7).

Results from the Winter Mammal Monitoring Project are available online at: http://www.bto.org/survey/special/mammal results.htm

Birds of Prey

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of birds of prey eating and preying on other (a) birds, (b) mammals and (c) the food chain. [149443]

Mr. Bradshaw: A Raptor Working Group was set up in 1995, jointly chaired by the DETR and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, following increasing

concerns from grouse moor owners and racing pigeon fanciers over the impact of rising raptor populations on bird numbers. The recommendations from the Raptor Working Group's final report, published in 2000,

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provides the basis for and inform efforts to find an effective and acceptable solution to the problems caused by birds of prey.

Work is now being taken forward by the country conservation agencies, and other organisations. In addition, English Nature has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Moorland Association on addressing the issue of raptor predation in the uplands.

Implementation of the Working Group's report's recommendations in Scotland and Wales is a matter for the devolved Administrations. A paper on progress in implementing the recommendations of the Raptor Working Group Report was presented to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and noted by them, in September 2003. The paper is now publicly available on their website at: http://www.jncc.gov.uk/management/committee/papers03–09/jncc03N06.pdf

Copies of the Raptor Working Group report are available from the Library of the House.

Birds of prey are usually the top predators in their food chains. As with other predatory species, populations of birds of prey are normally heavily influenced by their prey populations rather than the other way around. The available evidence suggests that recovering populations of birds of prey are not responsible for recent declines in some songbirds and that other factors related to habitat change and the intensification of farming are mainly to blame. Although there is little specific information on the impact of birds of prey on mammal or other prey populations in the UK, the same general principle applies and population declines driven solely by predation are highly unlikely. Healthy bird of prey populations can exist only where their main prey species are sufficiently abundant.

Bovine Tuberculosis

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of whether wild deer are responsible for the spread of TB to cattle. [148655]

Mr. Bradshaw: In Great Britain, there is very limited evidence that deer have been responsible for transmitting tuberculosis to cattle. Wild deer in GB have generally been considered a sentinel or 'spill-over' host of infection in cattle and other wildlife, rather than the cause of it. Whether any wild deer populations (of any species) may constitute a reservoir of TB will depend upon the prevalence of TB, density and ecology of the hosts and the pathology that TB shows in those species.

Defra has funded a survey of wildlife in the Southwest of England by the Central Science Laboratory. The first phase established whether Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis—the causative organism for bovine tuberculosis) was present in a number of wild mammal species, including deer. M. bovis has been confirmed in five of the six established wild and feral species of deer in GB. The second phase of the survey (due to end March 2004) is to estimate prevalence of M. bovis in those species where it is found, by carrying out a more targeted and extensive sampling.

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Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the incidence of TB in cattle by 2008 if current measures are continued and there is no increase in activity by her Department; and what her projections are for costs of compensation for slaughter of cattle reactors in that period. [148657]

Mr. Bradshaw: Our latest assessment shows that bovine TB restrictions affected 5 per cent. of cattle herds (5,181 herds) in Great Britain at some point between January and November 2003. At any one point in time there are about 3 per cent. of herds under restriction.

The average annual increase in the number of animals slaughtered as a result of TB control measures between 1990 and 2001 was 20 per cent. It is too early to say whether this long-term trend has been altered by the interruption of the testing programme due to Foot and Mouth disease in 2001, and the priority testing of high-risk herds once the programme resumed.

In 2002/03 we paid out £31.1 million in TB compensation. With no new changes in policy, or disease dynamics, we could theoretically expect a 20 per cent. year on year increase in the compensation bill.

However, the TB programme will not remain static over the next four years. We recently consulted on proposals to rationalise compensation arrangements for all notifiable diseases including bovine TB and we will shortly be consulting on proposals for a new TB strategy and options for controlling the geographical spread of the disease in the short term. The key challenge for Government and the farming industry will be to work together to reduce the overall economic impact of bovine TB.

Departmental Advertising

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how much her Department spent on advertising in each year since its creation; [144885]

Margaret Beckett: The Department does not maintain separate records of its expenditure on advertising. The expenditure for publicity by Defra's Communications Directorate, includes marketing, advertising, publications, events, shows and direct information literature mailings, and is recorded for the financial years since Defra's creation in June 2001 as follows:

£ million

(1) Estimated.

This includes communication on a very wide range of matters of interest, both necessary and beneficial to the

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public, the wide range of industries in which Defra has an interest, together with local government, voluntary organisations and other bodies.

Large Combustion Plant Directive

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the (a) process and (b) timescale is for reaching a final United Kingdom position on implementation of the Large Combustion Plant Directive. [150231]

Alun Michael: We are continuing to assess the potential economic impact of the introduction of the Directive on the UK coal industry, and on the coal-fired electricity generating industry which is its major market, using both internal analyses and independent research. This will enable us to take a final decision on the right implementation approach for the UK in spring 2004.

Energy Efficiency

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding economic means to promote energy efficiency. [149747]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 22 January 2004]: The Department holds regular discussions with the Treasury at both official and ministerial level regarding fiscal instruments and how they can continue to be developed and employed to improve the energy efficiency of the economy.

The Treasury and Defra published last year a joint consultation "Economic Instruments to improve household energy efficiency: consultation document on specific measures". The consultation closed on 24 October with over 80 responses, which are being actively considered to help inform policy development.

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