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26 Feb 2004 : Column 525W—continued

Avian Influenza

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to her answer of 5 February 2004, Official Report, column 1012W, on avian influenza, what varieties of poultry have been imported from (a) Thailand, (b) Pakistan, (c) Indonesia, (d) Vietnam and (e) other countries in South East Asia in each of the last 24 months for which records are available. [155974]

Mr. Bradshaw: Information on imports of poultry meat by species is not available.

Common Agricultural Policy

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if she will make a statement on Common Agricultural Policy reform. [155186]

Alun Michael: The EU agreed on 26 June 2003 to a radical shift in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In future, the bulk of subsidies will no longer be linked to production, freeing farmers to produce the safe, high quality food which people want and bringing environmental improvements.

On 12 February my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, announced how she proposed to implement key features of that groundbreaking reform in England. We will decouple fully in 2005 and move over an eight year transition period towards a flat rate Single Farm Payment to farmers. England will be split into two regions—land in the severely disadvantaged areas (SDAs) of the less favoured areas (LFAs) and all other eligible land. Different rates will apply in these regions. This represents a decisive irreversible and forward-looking shift consistent with the direction that we have already set in the Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy (SFFS) and in the June 2003 CAP reform negotiations.

Departmental Reports

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the reports her Department has published in each of the last five years; and what the cost has been to public funds of producing each one. [155406]

Alun Michael: A list of publications produced by Defra is on the departmental website Defra, UK—Publications home page, and this includes many of the

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reports that Defra produces. To collate the information requested and to establish the individual production costs would be disproportionate.

Kew Gardens

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much Government funding has been provided for the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in each year since 1996 at current prices. [153871]

Mr. Bradshaw: Government grant in aid (including capital) to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for each of the years since 1996 was:



Albert Owen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of the increase in price noted in her Department's milk price survey raw milk producers will receive; and what steps she has taken to ensure that raw milk producers receive a fair share of this increase. [154890]

Alun Michael: The milk price survey run by the Department records the price paid by the purchasers of raw milk to raw milk producers. Therefore, by definition, all of the increase in price recorded by this survey is received by raw milk producers.

The Office for National Statistics also produce data on the retail price of milk. Transmission of changes between retail and farmgate prices is more complex. This issue was looked at in depth by London Economics for KPMG its report on "Prices and Profitability in the GB Dairy Chain", which was commissioned by the Milk Development Council. London Economics examined the UK milk market for the period from January 1995 to December 2001. On the basis of a rigorous statistical analysis, it concluded that adjustments to retail prices for liquid milk were fully passed back to the farmgate price, although there was a lag of five months before the retail price change was fully reflected in the farmgate price. There were no differences in the impact of retail price increases and decreases on farmgate prices, both were fully transmitted. In contrast a 1 pence increase in the farmgate price resulted in only a 0.6 pence increase in the retail price of liquid milk whereas a 1 pence decrease in farmgate price reduced the retail price by 0.7 pence.

London Economic also looked at the market in cheddar cheese. They found some evidence of a widening gap over the seven year period to 2002 between the retail price and farm gate price on a milk equivalent basis.

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Net Mesh Sizes

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research she has conducted on the relationship between net mesh sizes required in commercial trawls and minimum landing sizes. [150939]

Mr. Bradshaw: For the main commercial species research has established the general relationship between cod-end mesh size and the average size of fish that can escape through those meshes, on which the minimum landings size is based.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many days on average her Department took in session 2002–03 to give a substantive answer to a parliamentary question for ordinary written answer; and what the greatest number of days taken to answer such a question was. [155923]

Alun Michael: Records for session 2002–03 were not maintained in such a way to enable the Department to extract the information requested without incurring disproportionate costs but this sort of information will be available in the future following the creation of a new database.

Defra endeavours to reply to all parliamentary questions within parliamentary deadlines wherever possible. None of the 5,444 questions tabled to the Department during the 2002–03 session were left unanswered at Prorogation.

Turf Farming

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the Government's policy towards (a) turf farming and (b) the restoration of land used when turf farming has ceased in a particular area. [154815]

Alun Michael: The Government encourage diversification of agricultural businesses but recognises that this must be done in a sustainable manner. Turf farming involves the cutting and inevitable removal of some topsoil. The use of modern machinery, which removes only a very thin layer of root matter and soil, is encouraged.

There is no specific policy directly addressing this issue but the guidance provided in the Codes of Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Soil should be adhered to. The formation of fertile, rich topsoil with high organic matter content is a very slow natural process. Removal of topsoil reduces the productivity of the land by reducing the water and nutrients available to plants and making soil more likely to suffer structural damage. Shallow compact soils are also less able to absorb rainfall and the risk of water erosion and associated diffuse pollution may be increased. Therefore the loss of topsoil should be kept to a minimum in any turf farming operation.

Due consideration needs to be given on the likely risk of compacting the soil and leaving it in a bare condition that could encourage erosion and runoff of water and associated soil materials to water courses, roads etc. To

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minimise this risk, land formally subject to turf farming should be re-vegetated as soon as practicable. The soil should not be mined of available water and nutrients such that it cannot support the previous agricultural land use once restoration activities are complete.

It should be noted that removing large amounts of surface soil could be regarded as a development as defined by section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act (1990). As such the business will need planning permission. If businesses do not receive planning permission it is an offence under the Agriculture Land (Removal of Surface Soil) Act 1953 to remove for sale, more than five cubic yards of surface soil from agricultural land in any three-month period unless the removal is reasonably necessary for cutting turf or peat. Advice is available from the local planning authority (usually district council or unitary authority) about commercial turf cutting from agricultural land when planning permission is required. The Local Planning Authorities are required to consult with Defra before granting permission for a planning application which is not in accordance with the development plan and would involve (1) the loss of 20 ha or more of grades 1, 2 or 3a agricultural land or (2) a loss which is less than 20 ha but is likely to lead to further losses amounting cumulatively to 20 ha or more.

Victorian Theme Park (Isle of Wight)

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on her reasons for grant aiding the proposed development of a Victorian Theme Park at Holliers Farm, Branstone, Newchurch, Isle of Wight; and what account she took of the proximity of the Isle of Wight Observatory. [155666]

Alun Michael: If the question refers to the Rural Enterprise Scheme 16/020/8002, submitted by Mr. Paul Smith of Jayland Ltd. on 23 December 2002, for the development of Jubilee Park, I can confirm that the application was formally withdrawn on 4 July due to the absence of planning consent. The application was never formally presented to the Defra Regional Appraisal Panel to consider approval for grant aid.

Impacts on the Isle of Wight Observatory would be a matter for consideration by the Local Planning Authority, I understand the authority has received correspondence from the Observatory in respect of potential light pollution.

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