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26 Jan 2004 : Column 4Wcontinued
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress towards the setting up of the National Fallen Stock Scheme, with particular reference to the financial structure of the company concerned. 
Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 22 January 2004]: Good progress is being made in setting up the Scheme. The Company which will run the Scheme will be limited by guarantee and operate on a not for profit basis. Initially, it will be wholly government owned and obtain funding to carry out its functions from government aid and farmer subscriptions.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much her Department has spent on research into the development of selective fishing techniques in each of the last five financial years. 
26 Jan 2004 : Column 5W
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the role of the Environment Agency in the planning process with regard to the building of houses on flood plains. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 22 January 2004]: The Environment Agency has the lead role in providing advice on flood issues both at a strategic level and in relation to planning applications as stated in Planning Policy Guidance on "Development and Flood Risk" (PPG25). The Agency works with local planning authorities to help ensure inappropriate development does not take place in the flood plain.
Margaret Beckett: No such 'standard' has been issued by the Government. In project appraisal guidance the Department sets out a range of indicative standards depending on land use. For intensively developed urban areas, the indicative target range is from 1 in 50 to 1 in 200 for river floodplains and 1 in 100 to 1 in 300 for areas at risk of coastal flooding. It should be emphasised that many houses situated behind defences with a nominal standard of, say, 1 in 50, will individually have a risk of flooding that is significantly less than this.
Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the recent research by Dr. Charles M. Benbrook on the impact of GM crops on pesticide use in the United States. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 22 January 2004]: The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) considered the report by Dr. Benbrook as part of its deliberations on the results of the Farm Scale Evaluation (FSE) trials. ACRE'S advice on the FSE results was published on 13 January and we are now considering this.
26 Jan 2004 : Column 6W
(3) what obligation the United Kingdom has under the Berne Convention on conservation of European wildlife and their habitats with respect to snaring; 
(4) when she expects to publish the results of the review of the law relating to the use of snares; 
(5) what representations she has received about the illegal use of snares; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects all wild birds and certain animals from killing and taking. Under Section 11 of the 1981 Act free running snares are permissible provided that the snare is not placed in such a way to allow injury to any animal listed on Schedule 6 of the 1981 Act, which includes badgers. Section 11(3) makes it an offence to set in position, or knowingly cause or permit to set in position, any snare which is of such a nature and so placed as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild animal. The snare must also be inspected at least once every 24 hours, so as to avoid any animal held in the snare suffering unnecessarily through starvation or dehydration. All non-target species must be released from the snare.
Free-running snares are not considered an indiscriminate means of either capture or killing provided they are set correctly and are checked every 24 hours. They are designed to be a restraining device that is intended to slacken, not continually tighten, thus not causing bodily injury.
The purpose of Section 11 is to expressly prohibit the use of indiscriminate means of capture and killing, in accordance with our international obligations, under the Bern Convention. Penalties for offences under Section 11, including not checking snares and not releasing non target species, include fines of up to £5000 and/or a custodial sentence of up to six months for each offence. The Police are the main authority for enforcing this area of legislation.
The Department does not issue advice to gamekeepers on how snares should be set. However, the British Association of Shooting and Conservation has published a Code of Good Practice and the Game Conservancy Trust includes detailed guidance on best practice with all snares that they sell.
It is considered that a complete ban on the use of snares might encourage the use of more dangerous, indiscriminate and illegal alternatives, such as poisons. We have no current plans to alter the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with regard to snares. It is important that until viable alternatives are available to land managers the humane use of traps and snares is improved. Officials have undertaken a stakeholder consultation to assess current practice; identify best
26 Jan 2004 : Column 7W
practice and methods that cause concern; as well as request suggestions for the improvements of snare operation and any potential alternative methods. The consultation period ended on the 13 November. Officials will be collating the comments over the next few months. A copy of the pre-consultation paper can be found on the Defra website at http://defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/snares/letter.htm
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she has taken to ensure that gardeners are aware of the (a) symptoms and (b) procedures for reporting cases of sudden oak death. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Government believe that the public should have as much information as possible about Phytophthora ramorum, the disease known as sudden oak death in the USA. Information about the disease and how to report it is available on the Defra website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/planth/oak.htm. An explanatory leaflet and poster are also available and copies will be placed in the Library of the House. Officials are in regular contact with interested organisations, for example the Royal Horticultural Society and the Horticultural Trades Association, so that information about the disease, its symptoms and guidance on reporting any suspected cases of infection can be disseminated to their members. This information has also appeared in a number of recent press and magazine articles.
Because the symptoms are difficult to distinguish from those caused by other pathogens, we are not relying on public awareness but are carrying out our own surveys of garden centres and nurseries in order to detect infected plants. Buyers of host species have been advised to check plants before purchase for symptoms of the disease and to contact their supplier if they subsequently develop.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many checks were carried out at ports of entry in order to prevent the import of plants infected with sudden oak death in (a) 2001, (b) 2002 and (c) 2003. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Defra's plant quarantine surveillance programme is focused at nurseries, garden centres and other places where plants are received, rather than at ports of entry. Until May 2002 host plants of "P. ramorum" in intra-community trade were not subject to any specific plant health controls. The following numbers of inspections were carried out in the last three years on rhododendrons and viburnums, the two plant genera which have most often been found to be infected in Europe:
|Nurseries, garden centres etc.||At ports|
26 Jan 2004 : Column 8W
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what instructions she gave to port authorities to prevent the import of plants infected with sudden oak death in (a) 2001, (b) 2002 and (c) 2003. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Inspectors from the Department's Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) have authority to detain, inspect and sample plants at ports to ensure that they meet import requirements and are not carrying disease. These inspections relate to a wide range of plant pests and pathogens, not just "Phytophthora ramorum" Any consignment found to be infected or not to have the correct documentation is destroyed. In carrying out these duties, the Inspectorate may call on help from Customs, port health authorities and port operators.
Disease management measures are currently focused on nursery and garden centres to ensure that gardeners and other customers can be confident that they are purchasing disease-free plants. There is, as yet, no evidence that the disease is present on any trees in forests but a survey of 1000 woodland sites is currently underway and we hope, by April, to have a better understanding of the status of the disease in the wider environment. This work will enable us to ensure that appropriate advice is made available to foresters. In addition, the Forestry Commission is advising those engaged in routine forestry operations to take basic hygiene precautions to minimise the possibility of accidentally spreading diseases such as "P. ramorum".
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of (a) trees and (b) plants recover from infection with sudden oak death; and which species are most likely to recover. 
Mr. Bradshaw: There is at present no evidence, from the UK or anywhere else, to indicate that any plants or trees infected by Phytophthora ramorum might recover. It is for this reason that the current measures require all infected material to be destroyed, either by burning or deep burial. Symptoms of "Phytophthora ramorum" can affect both leaves and stems. In some plants only leaves are affected and in these cases it is possible that plants could recover following the removal of affected leaves. Methods of eradicating infection from specimen plants and of protecting new growth from reinfection are being investigated as part of Defra and the Forestry Commission's programme of research into this disease.
Sporulation of the fungus on certain shrubs which are themselves relatively unaffected, showing only minor symptoms, is believed to have played a key role in the epidemiology of the disease in California.
26 Jan 2004 : Column 9W
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether she has consulted the national authorities of other countries on the treatment of sudden oak death; and if she will make a statement; 
Mr. Bradshaw: There is regular dialogue between plant health authorities in the UK and those in other countries affected by or at risk from "Phytophthora ramorum". It was as a result of this collaboration that the link was first made, even before the pathogen was identified, between the death of trees in California and symptoms seen on rhododendrons on the continent.
Exchange of information on Phytophthora ramorum takes place between officials and scientists in EU Member States on a regular basis, particularly within the framework of the Standing Committee on Plant Health. It was as a result of discussion in this forum that EU-wide emergency measures against the introduction and spread of "Phytophthora ramorum" were introduced in November 2002. They were reviewed by the Standing Committee on 11 December last year and it was agreed that they should continue. An EU funded research project on Phytophthora ramorum started this month and a second project is due to start in April. Both are being co-ordinated by UK scientists and involve consortia with members from 6 to 21 countries.
We have also had regular discussions with officials and scientists in the United States. A US delegation visited in November 2003 and a conference is being organised in the USA in March at which scientists and regulators from a number of countries, including the UK, will discuss developments in research and management of the disease.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the results of research that her Department has commissioned into sudden oak death; what other research into sudden oak death her Department has assessed; and what research projects commissioned by her Department are on-going. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The results of research conducted on this disease will be published over time. However some preliminary results are already available on the Defra website http://www.defra.gov.uk/planth/phnews/csl.htm. The Forestry Commission are conducting complementary research as part of the same overall programme.
As this is a relatively new disease the research commissioned in the UK following its discovery in October 2001 is still on-going. Within Europe, the majority of research is UK based. Germany and the Netherlands are also investigating aspects of the disease. Defra and Forestry Commission have good links with scientists in these countries and also with scientists in the USA facilitating a regular exchange of scientific information. As the pathotypes of the disease, the host plant species and the environmental conditions differ between the UK and the USA results may not be directly applicable and therefore must be considered carefully.
26 Jan 2004 : Column 10W
Mr. Bradshaw: The only known method of eliminating "Phytophthora ramorum" is the removal and destruction of infected plant material. Currently approved fungicides have a suppressive effect, which masks symptoms rather than eradicating the pathogen from infected plants. However, research at Defra's Central Science Laboratory, funded by the Horticulture Development Council, is looking at a range of substances to evaluate their effectiveness in eradicating infection and preventing reoccurrence.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what organisations in the UK she has consulted on the treatment of sudden oak death; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Department is in regular contact with the Royal Horticultural Society, the Horticultural Trades Association and the National Farmers Union about developments in the treatment of "Phytophthora ramorum".
Moreover, on 13 October, the Department hosted a meeting on "Phytophthora ramorum" at the Central Science Laboratory in York which was attended by over 65 people representing a range of interested organisations.
|Arbutus unedo||Strawberry tree||Ericaceae|
|Hamamelis virginiana||Virginian witch hazel||Hamamelidaceae|
|Kalmia latifolia.||Mountain laurel||Ericaceae|
|Lonicera hispidula||California honeysuckle||Caprifoliaceae|
|Pittosporum undulatum(2)||Victorian box||Pittosporaceae|
|Rhamnus californicus||Californian coffeeberry||Rhamnaceae|
|Toxicodendron diversilobum(2)||Poison oak||Anacardiaceae|
|Trientalis latifolia||Western star flower||Primulaceae|
|Umbellularia californica||Californian bay laurel||Lauraceae|
|Vaccinium ovatum||Californian huckleberry||Ericaceae|
|Abies grandis(2)||Grand fir||Pinaceae|
|Acer macrophyllum||Big leaf maple||Aceraceae|
|Aesculus californica||Californian buckeye||Hippocastanaceae|
|Aesculus hippocastanum||Horse chestnut||Hippocastanaceae|
|Castanea sativa||Sweet chestnut||Fagaceae|
|Corylus cornuta(2)||Californian hazelnut||Betulaceae|
|Lithocarpus densiflorus||Tan Oak||Fagaceae|
|Pseudotsuga menziesii||Douglas fir||Pinaceae|
|Quercus agrifolia||Coast live oak||Fagaceae|
|Quercus cerris||Turkey oak||Fagaceae|
|Quercus chrysolepsis||Canyon live oak||Fagaceae|
|Quercus falcata||Southern red oak||Fagaceae|
|Quercus ilex||Holm oak||Fagaceae|
|Quercus kellogii||Californian black oak||Fagaceae|
|Quercus parvula var shrevei||Shreve's oak||Fagaceae|
|Quercus rubra||Red oak||Fagaceae|
|Sequoia sempervirens||Coast redwood||Taxodiaceae|
(2) Hosts from which the pathogen has been cultured and/or detected by DNA tests, but pathogenicity not confirmed by laboratory.
26 Jan 2004 : Column 11W
|Plant species||Common name||Family|
|Ornamentals or wild shrubs|
|Arctostaphylos uva- ursi||Bearberry||Ericaceae|
|Prunus spp.||Nectarine; cherry; Portuguese and cherry laurel||Rosaceae|
|Rosa canina||Dog rose||Rosaceae|
|Sambucus spp.||e.g. elder||Caprifoliaceae|
|Vaccinium x intermedium||Bilberry-cowberry hybrid||Ericaceae|
|Abies procera||Noble fir||Pinaceae|
|Chamaecyparis lawsoniana||Lawson's cypress||Cupressaceae|
|Malus sylvestris||Crab apple||Rosaceae|
|Picea sitchensis||Sitka spruce||Pinaceae|
|Picea abies||Norway spruce||Pinaceae|
|Tilia cordata||Small-leaved lime||Tiliaceae|
|Tsuga heterophylla||Western hemlock||Pinaceae|
|Ulmus glabra||Wych elm||Ulmaceae|
(3) Based on either sapling or mature log tests, and/or leaf tests. Tests may have been done using wound inoculation and may not predict natural susceptibility of unwounded tissue. Sapling susceptibility does not necessarily predict mature tree susceptibility. (NB. The table is not completely comprehensive, but includes only those considered to have most potential for natural susceptibility)
26 Jan 2004 : Column 12W
Mr. Bradshaw: Defra's 75 Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors are already employed for around 20 per cent. of their time on inspection and surveillance duties related to Phytophthora ramorum, known in the USA as sudden oak death. Therefore, although there is no specific budget allocation, this amounts to an expenditure of approximately £1.8 million in 20032004.
In response to the growing number of findings of this pathogen in England and Wales, Defra is redeploying around 20 additional staff to assist the Inspectorate in undertaking extra inspections at production nurseries, wild planting areas and ports of entry. They will be supplemented by the recruitment of six additional full time Inspectors for 200405. This is part of a package of measures announced on 4 December.
Mr. Bradshaw: Although P. ramorum is a 'notifiable disease', it is difficult to identify visually, and symptoms are similar to those caused by other organisms. We do not rely on reports in order to locate outbreaks. Defra's Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors are carrying out inspections of all known nurseries and garden centres which trade in susceptible plants. They are also surveying other areas where susceptible plants are established (e.g. rhododendrons in historic gardens), and co-ordinating with the Forestry Commission inspectors who are surveying woodlands. Since the first finding was confirmed in April 2002, outbreaks at individual sites in England and Wales have now reached 302.
26 Jan 2004 : Column 13W
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she intends to increase the amount of money spent by her Department on research into sudden oak death. 
Mr. Bradshaw: During this financial year additional money was allocated to the budget responsible for funding research on Phytophthora ramorum. The budget for the coming year has also been increased. The need for research on different plant health risks is regularly reviewed and any issues of redeployment of effort or funding addressed as necessary.
Mr. Bradshaw: From limited findings on plants growing in soil in the UK (as opposed to container grown nursery stock), it is hard to draw any firm conclusions. Many of the most susceptible host plants of Phytophthora ramorum are members of the Ericaceae family which are known to prefer acid soil.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the risk to (a) nurseries, (b) gardens and (c) the countryside from sudden oak death. 
In November 2001 the causal organism was described as a new species, Phytophthora ramorum. Since that time research has been commissioned both in the UK and in the USA, the results of which are being used to develop the PRA, along with field observations from the UK, Europe and the USA.
The assessment is updated as scientific knowledge about this disease increases. Copies of the risk assessment were placed in the Library of the House on 13 February 2003 and updates have since been placed on the Defra website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/planth/pra.htm.
26 Jan 2004 : Column 14W
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) of her Department's staff and (b) sub-contractors employed by her Department are researching sudden oak death. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Department has commissioned several research projects into the disease at the Central Science Laboratory (an executive agency of Defra), Forest Research (an agency of the Forestry Commission) and ADAS Consulting. In total there are approximately 22 staff working on these research projects. Around 20 per cent. of the work of the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate is currently spent on surveys aiming to determine the distribution of the pathogen and take action against it. This represents the equivalent of approximately 20 staff. A further twelve staff have been transferred from elsewhere in the Department to assist with the surveys.
Mr. Bradshaw: Since June 2002 the Department has commissioned research to the value of about £391k to investigate aspects of the biology of the disease including its effect and means of transmission between plants. The research programme is co-ordinated with, other research funded by the Forestry Commission and the Horticultural Development Council in order to maximise the scientific information obtained about this disease. Approximately 20 per cent. of the work of Defra's Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate over the last year has been directed at surveillance for this pathogen.
Mr. Bradshaw: Plant disease campaigns over many years have not incorporated compensation for the destruction of affected plants. The one exception was the campaign against beet rhizomania disease from 1987 to 2001 when compensation was paid from an industry funded scheme. Our judgment is that the limited resources of the plant health service are better deployed in detecting and identifying outbreaks, and in carrying out research on risks and risk management measures. We have recently received an approach from industry organisations wishing to discuss possible risk-sharing mechanisms to avoid disproportionate losses to individual enterprises when action has to be taken against plant pests or diseases. We welcome this opportunity to explore the available options.
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