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23 Feb 2004 : Column 122Wcontinued
Lynne Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what money was paid to private contractors in (a) 200203 and (b) so far in 200304; and what the expected total payment is in 200304 for the delivery of the tax credit programme. 
Dawn Primarolo: The number of families in each constituency and local authority receiving tax credits are shown in "Child and Working Tax Credit Statistics. Geographical Analyses. January 2004." This is available on the Inland Revenue website at: www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/stats/personal-tax-credits/menu.htm
Mr. Swire: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been received from East Devon in respect of (a) inheritance tax, (b) capital gains tax and (c) stamp duty in each of the past seven years. 
Dawn Primarolo: The Government welcomes the progress made so far by the Overseas Territories in adopting international standards on financial regulation and transparency in tax matters, and is committed to encouraging them to meet international standards.
John Healey: The review of the reduced rate provisions in Annex H of the Sixth VAT Directive will not be concluded until European Commission proposals are either accepted by all Member States, or withdrawn. We have made clear that the current proposal, which challenges a number of the UK's VAT zero rates, is unacceptable.
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Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Committee report on co-existence and liability; and if she will make a statement. 
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with her counterparts in (a) Thailand and (b) other countries in South East Asia about the recent outbreak of avian influenza in the region. 
Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 30 January 2004]: The Secretary of State has not had any discussions with her counterparts in Thailand or other countries in South East Asia. Defra, the Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health have been closely monitoring the development of avian influenza in Thailand and other countries in South East Asia. The European Commission have been in constant contact with the Thai authorities and are reporting their findings to all member states.
Mr. Bradshaw: Outbreaks of avian influenza have been reported in Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Pakistan, the People's Republic of China, including the Territory of Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Under EU rules none of these countries is allowed to export live poultry or hatching eggs to the EU. Imports of poultry meat are permitted from Thailand only.
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The risk of the avian influenza virus spreading through meat is low. However, the European Commission took action on 23 January to ban imports from Thailand of fresh/frozen poultry meat and cooked poultry meat that has not been heat treated to at least 70°C, unless it is accompanied by additional certification confirming that it was from birds slaughtered before 1 January 2004. Poultry meat products which have been cooked to 70°C or more are not considered to be a risk and may still be exported to the EU. The UK took immediate action to implement these measures in domestic law.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent research has been carried out (a) by and (b) for her Department on the levels of persistent and bio-accumulative chemicals in the food chain and environment in the Thames Estuary. 
Mr. Morley: The Department has not recently undertaken research specifically on the levels of persistent and bio-accumulative chemical in the food chain and environment in the Thames Estuary. However, the Environment Agency has an on-going monitoring programme in the Thames Estuary which includes the following persistent and bio-accumulative substances:
In addition, the Food Standards Agency has a statutory monitoring programme to detect marine biotoxins in shellfish sampled from shellfish harvesting waters. The Agencies also keep abreast of research relating to Thames Estuary, including a recent study on tributyl tin levels.
Mr. Morley: Government are not taking steps to promote the use of biodegradable plastic bags. The use of degradable plastics that are made from fossil fuel, and specifically designed for disposal with no beneficial recovery potential, runs counter to the Government's aim to increase recycling. In addition, if disposed of in landfill rather than, for example, being composted, biodegradable waste breaks down to release methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.
The Government do support the development of biodegradable plastics from non-fossil sources. The Government-Industry Forum on Non-Food Uses of Crops has concluded that there is an opportunity to produce compostable packaging materials in the UK.
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Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the spread of bovine TB in (a) the North West and (b) each county in the North West. 
In Cumbria, there were 3,969 registered herds in 2003, with 1,949 TB herd tests carried out. Provisional data show there were 70 new herd TB incidents in 2003, of which 15 were confirmed (three remain unclassified). In 2002. there were 4,041 registered herds, and 1,504 herd tests carried out. There were 33 new herd incidents, of which 10 were confirmed.
The increase in incidence in Cumbria is giving some concern. TB testing is now being carried out on all farms in an area of South West Cumbria known as the Furness Peninsula, concurrent with a survey of badgers (killed in Road Traffic Accidents) and deer (culled, or found dead, with suspicious lesions) in the same geographical area. It is hoped the data collected will help inform decisions about TB controls in the area.
In the area covered by Preston AHDO, there were 3,160 registered herds in 2003, with 918 herd tests carried out. Provisional data show five TB herd incidents, with one confirmed. In 2002, there were 3,303 registered herds, and 1,126 herd tests. These resulted in nine TB incidents, with none confirmed.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the preferred foods of adult badgers are; and on what foods they rely when their preferred foods are in short supply. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Badgers eat both animal and plant material and are considered to be largely opportunistic in their choice of food. Although they feed on a wide range of foodstuffs, earthworms are the most important single item in the diet of British badgers. Because these and other food types are taken according to their availability, the diet of badgers varies both geographically and seasonally 1 .
Mr. Bradshaw: Rabies and distemper have been found in badgers in other European countries but these diseases have not been detected in UK populations. Badgers are also susceptible to bacterial infections, including leptospirosis and salmonellosis.
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Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the total paid in compensation to farmers for bovine tuberculosis was in each of the last five years; and what percentage of the total was paid in excess of the market value of the animals destroyed. 
There is evidence from a National Audit Office study carried out in Wales in 2002 and from other sources that, overall, average compensation payments are significantly higher than average market prices. However, it is difficult to quantify the extent of this disparity.
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