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27 Feb 2004 : Column 581W—continued

Endangered Species

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action she is taking in conjunction with other governments to aid the protection of endangered species. [155255]

Mr. Morley: We are taking action in many ways, particularly through our active participation in the multilateral environmental agreements which help safeguard endangered species, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Migratory Species, the Convention on Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. We are also joining with other Governments to fund numerous conservation projects. Good examples include the Global Tiger Forum, the Great Ape Survival Project and a wide range of Darwin Initiative projects which are helping to protect endangered species.

GM Crops

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what evidence she has from peer-reviewed research of increased yields of GM crops over non-GM crops grown in developing countries; [156127]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 26 February 2004]: It is for developing countries to make their own assessment of the potential benefits of GM crops. The Government want to help ensure that if developing countries do use GM products they do so safely, appropriately and effectively to bring real benefits to their people. To assist developing countries make their own informed decisions on the possible use of GM technology the UK supports and has ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a multilateral agreement which provides a common global basis for risk assessment, decision-making and information exchange on GM crops and other products. Of course, GM technology is only one possible tool, not a panacea.

A recently published report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics contains a number of case studies detailing the actual and potential benefits of GM crops for developing countries. These are not necessarily related to yield increases but may, for example, involve reduced farmer inputs.

Wild Ponies

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many wild ponies there were on moors in each year since 2000. [156564]

Alun Michael: This information is not collected centrally.

Integrated Administration and Control System

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the

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(a) total budget and (b) budget for administration were for the Integrated Administration and Control System panel for financial year 2002–03. [156508]

Alun Michael: The Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) Appeal Procedure in England is demand led and throughput determines the level of expenditure. The costs of administering the IACS Appeal Procedure are met from the overall administration costs of the Rural Payments Agency.

The IACS Panel convenes to consider cases that have progressed to the second stage of the Appeal Procedure. Each Panel is made up of three independent members who are drawn from a pool of 16. Members are paid a day and half's fee for each Panel Hearing that they attend together with their travelling expenses.

In 2002–03 three IACS Panel Hearings were held to consider five appeals. The daily fee at that time was £149.

Market Towns Initiative

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment her Department has made of the impact of the Market Towns Initiative. [155949]

Alun Michael: An initial assessment of the Market Towns Initiative was undertaken at the end of the first year, in the summer of 2002 and is available at http://www. tcm2–13687.asp

Defra and the Countryside Agency are now in the process of carrying out a full assessment which will identify the achievements of the 227 towns taking part in the initiative and any difficulties that have been experienced. A final report will be available in June this year.

An evaluation of the Market Towns Initiative will also be carried out as part of the Rural Policy Evaluation Framework which will cover a range of key policy and programme based areas. The process and timetable for the framework evaluation will be finalised shortly.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to her news release of 16 July 2003, on radioactive waste management, if she will make a statement on (a) the progress in making NIREX an independent body and (b) the work undertaken so far by Katharine Bryan. [152700]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 3 February 2004]: The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has been set up to recommend the best option, or combination of options, for the long-term management of the UK's higher activity radioactive wastes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced on 16 July 2003 that Katharine Bryan had been appointed as Chair of CoRWM. Katharine subsequently left the Committee on 11 December 2003 to take up a post as Chief Executive of the Water Service, Department for Regional Development (Northern Ireland). She

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was succeeded as Chair of CoRWM by Gordon MacKerron, an existing member of the Committee. CoRWM continues to work with the aim of delivering its recommendations by around the end of 2005, building on the foundations laid by Katharine Bryan. The 16 July 2003 announcement also said that Government would be looking at the best way of making Nirex independent of industry and under greater Government control. Despite initial hope that we could resolve this matter during the course of 2003, our considerations are still ongoing and we shall make a statement as soon as we are able.

Recruitment Advertising

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her Department's expenditure on recruitment advertising was in each of the last three years, broken down by publication; and what proportion of such expenditure was (a) to advertise vacant posts and (b) in the form of other general recruitment advertising. [155529]

Alun Michael: As Defra was created in June 2001 information prior to this date is unavailable.

Given the current structure of the HR function within the Department the information requested is available only at disproportionate cost.

Single Payments

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will introduce historic payments under the Common Agricultural Policy in place of single farm payments. [156505]

Alun Michael: No. As my right hon. Friend told the House on 12 February, in England we will introduce the new decoupled single payment from next year on a flat rate basis within a transition period lasting until 2012.


Civil Service

Mr. Laws: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what plans he has to raise the Civil Service normal retirement age to 65; and if he will make a statement. [156577]

Mr. Alexander: In line with all employers in the public and private sector, the Government believe that the Civil Service should be allowed to determine retirement age policy with regard to its business needs while giving staff as much choice as possible about when they retire. Departments and agencies are free to set the normal retirement age for their own staff subject only to the requirement that the minimum age at which civil servants can retire with full superannuation benefits is 60.

The normal retirement age for the Senior Civil Service is 60. However, Heads of Departments and Agency Chief Executives have the flexibility to retain members of the Senior Civil Service beyond 60 if they judge it to be in the public interest and are satisfied about the fitness and efficiency of the individual to carry out his or her duties.

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Against this background, 80 per cent. of the Civil Service now has the option to remain in work until 65, and a further 11 per cent. has the option to remain in work on short service concessions. Those Departments and agencies which have decided that there is a strong case for retaining a retirement age of 60 in the current circumstances, will be expected to continue to re-examine the issue and look positively at offering more flexibilities to older staff.

Government Car Service

Mr. Chope: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office pursuant to the letter from the Chief Executive of the Government Car and Despatch Agency referred to in his answer of 12 February 2004, Official Report, column 1569W, on Government cars, for which Departments the Government Car Service drivers were working at the time of each of the speeding offences identified; and whether any of the offences took place while Ministers were passengers. [157186]

Mr. Alexander: The responsibility for the provision of ministerial cars and drivers has been delegated under the terms of the Framework Document to the Government Car and Despatch Agency. I have asked its Chief Executive, Mr. Nick Matheson, to write to the hon. Member. Copies of his letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

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