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27 Jan 2004 : Column 247W—continued

Bumble Bees

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment

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has been made of the relationship between the size of the bumble bee population and the size of the badger population in England. [150942]

Mr. Bradshaw: Badgers are known to excavate and eat the nests of bumble bees and have the potential to exert an influence on the abundance of the bees locally.

The Department has not commissioned any studies to assess the relationship between the abundance of badgers and bumble bees, nor are we aware of any research specifically examining this topic.

Commission on Food and Farming

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how her Department's budget for the implementation of the Commission on Food and Farming's recommendations is to be spent in each year of its duration. [148441]

Alun Michael: The Government announced a sum of £500 million to implement the Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food as part of the 2002 Spending Review, in addition to existing spending by Defra and other Government Departments which is already being used to deliver aspects of the strategy.

This sum covers a number of major aspects of the strategy. These include the new Environmental Stewardship Scheme (Entry Level and Higher Level) and the IT system to underpin all the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) schemes; improvements in livestock traceability and other major animal health and welfare measures; and new food chain initiatives such as the Food Chain Centre and English Farming and Food Partnerships.

The cost breakdown is shown in the table.

£ million

2003–042004–052005–06Total
Additional money to be made available via grant schemes9111131
Investment into research and new technology1.81.81.85.4
Development and implementation of new agri-environment and rural development schemes, including IT development costs2754151232
Development and implementation of new Whole Farm Approach to reduce bureaucracy and burden on farmers2.77817.7
IT systems to support livestock identification and tracing204868136
Investment to reduce the likelihood and impact of an animal disease outbreak254545115
Total537.1

Dairy Farming

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the future economic viability of the dairy industry in the United Kingdom; and if she will make a statement. [148697]

Alun Michael: Low farmgate prices for milk have caused considerable problems over the last few years and the dairy sector faces considerable problems in adjusting to the new conditions that will be created by a reformed common agricultural policy. The Government recognise these difficulties, but believe that the UK dairy sector has a sustainable future and will work alongside the industry to facilitate and support its development in line with its "Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food". The UK has a comparative advantage in terms of climate, farm efficiency and size over many of its competitors. If the dairy supply chain can work together to maximise this potential and address some of the difficulties it faces, then there is no reason why it should not succeed.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of staff employed within her Department are over 55 years of age; and what (a) number and (b) percentage of staff recruited over the last 12 months are over 55 years of age. [145933]

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Alun Michael: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Alexander) on 20 January 2004, Official Report, column 1130W.

EU Regulations (Fruit)

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the impact on imports of bananas from Commonwealth nations in islands around Jamaica arising from the decision of the Law Lords on the EU regulations relating to the shape of bananas. [147013]

Alun Michael: The House of Lords judgment in the Asda case has no bearing on imports of bananas. It confirms the validity of UK enforcement powers and has no effect on the EU Marketing Standards, whether for bananas or other fruits and vegetables, which are directly applicable under EU law.

Fisheries

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what difference there is in mortality rates in round fish escaping through diamond mesh compared with square mesh. [149131]

Mr. Bradshaw: Experiments to compare the mortality among fish escaping from diamond mesh codends, square mesh codends and diamond mesh codends fitted with square mesh panels have been inconclusive. This is because the techniques used were at an early stage in development. No significant difference in mortality for cod or any other gadoid was evident between the different gears.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the estimated mortality is in immature cod entrained by commercial trawl nets which escape through the mesh. [149129]

Mr. Bradshaw: Experiments conducted by the FRS Marine Laboratory at Aberdeen and other European institutes indicate that the survival of immature cod 25m or more in length escaping from trawl cod-ends is likely to be high (>90 per cent.).

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the primary foods consumed by (a) haddock and (b) cod in the North Sea are; and what food they consume if their primary foods are not available or in short supply. [149132]

Mr. Bradshaw: Cod feed opportunistically on many species of invertebrates (e.g. worms, molluscs, brittle stars, crabs, shrimps and prawns) and fish (e.g. whiting, cod, haddock, Norway pout, plaice, dab, sprat, herring, and sandeel). Haddock feed similarly on a wide range of invertebrates and a rather narrower range of fish. In young gadoids, invertebrates predominate, but as fish become older the amount of fish in their diet increases. Diets vary very considerably in detail from one place, season or year to another. Cod and haddock may concentrate on one or two individual prey species when these are very abundant, but when such prey become scarce, cod in particular can move and switch from one species to another.

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Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the estimated cod by-catch from the industrial fishing fleet in the North sea was in each of the last five years, broken down by (a) percentage and (b) tonnage. [149138]

Mr. Bradshaw: The by-catch of cod in industrial fisheries in the North sea comprises a part that is sent for reduction to fishmeal and oil, and a part that is sorted and landed for human consumption. As reported to ICES, these represent less than 1 per cent. of the total quantity of North sea cod landed.

North sea cod: industrial by-catch, in weight and as a percentage of the total international cod landings (ICES, 2003)

Reduction Human consumption
TonnesPercentageTonnesPercentage
19984000.275300.36
19991000.102300.24
2000600.082000.29
20011000.201250.25
2002300.061000.19

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the scientific expectancy is of fish stock improvement in the North sea following the 10 per cent. cut in the sandeel quota. [146681]

Mr. Bradshaw: The provisions on North sea sandeels agreed at the December Council of Ministers include not only the reduced quota for 2004 but also new effort regulations to improve management of the stock. Sandeels are short-lived, and the state of the sandeel stock itself is very dependent upon this year's "recruitment" of young. Consequently we welcome both the quota and effort restrictions. We attach importance to the effective management of this fishery, and will continue to seek further improvements.

However, the sandeel fishery does affect other fisheries. It does this through the by-catch of other commercial fish (such as haddock and whiting), and through the removal of fish which are prey to other larger fish. Some by-catch is allowed for in the agreed quotas, and ICES reports that the remaining by-catch is small. A reduction in the sandeel fishery was also found to have little effect on the availability of prey to other fish. To sum up, the evidence does not suggest that the sandeel restrictions will have a significant effect on our roundfish stocks, but what effect there is should be to their benefit. However, we do not think that this is the last word on the subject and are continuing to undertake research on the effect of sandeel fisheries.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment her Department's scientists have made of the effect on cod fisheries in the North sea of heavy exploitation of sandeels. [149136]

Mr. Bradshaw: Exploiting sandeels could potentially affect cod through the food chain, or through the by-catch of cod in the sandeel fishery. Work is still in progress on these questions. On the food chain issue,

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large scale stomach sampling by ICES shows that cod feed on a wide range of prey species, and that for the North sea as a whole sandeels account for 5–15 per cent. of the diet of cod aged two years and older. At the North sea level, sandeel shortages tend to be short lived, and have not yet been shown to be critical for cod, but the question of more local effects needs further study. On the by-catch issue, small-meshed sandeel fishing occurs in some areas where early stages of cod may settle onto the sea bed, but sampling results officially reported to ICES indicate that the cod by-catch in sandeel landings is very low.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what types of fishing gear are used by the Scottish white fish fleet. [149116]

Mr. Bradshaw: The main types of demersal fishing gear used by the Scottish whitefish fleet are single boat trawl, pair trawl, pair seine, twin trawl. There are few Scottish vessels operating Scottish seines, gillnets or lines.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how the fishing capacity of a vessel is measured in relation to the effect of different engine power between vessels of similar tonnage. [150900]

Mr. Bradshaw: The capacity of fishing vessels is measured both in terms of their tonnage and in terms of their engine power. Engine power is recorded as kilowatts. The ceilings on the overall size of the fleets of each EU member state are defined as separate limits on tonnage and engine power.

For the purpose of licence transfers in the UK the Vessel Capacity Unit is currently used. This is a measure of vessel capacity which is solely related to the physical dimensions of a vessel and its engine power:


It is thus possible that two vessels of the same tonnage could have different capacities when calculated under this method if there are differences in length, breadth or engine power. The Fisheries Departments in the UK are reviewing the present capacity penalty arrangements with the intention of moving to a system based on tonnage and engine power rather than VCUs.


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