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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 26 May 2004


Agricultural Subsidies

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what help is given to the Exmoor area to secure the highest possible payments in respect of EU funding for farmers. [161881]

Alun Michael: EU co-financed funds are available under the England Rural Development Programme across England, including the Exmoor area. Schemes under this programme help farmers and foresters to become more competitive, diverse, flexible and environmentally responsible as well as providing help to rural communities to adapt and develop. Exmoor is a designated Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) and the Exmoor area was paid a total of £5.4 million under this scheme in 2003, a significant proportion of which was co-financed by the EU.

Anton Dohrn and Rosemary Bank Seamounts

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to protect the Anton Dohrn and Rosemary Bank Seamounts. [166924]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 17 May 2004]: Seamounts are not one of the habitats listed on Annex I to the Habitats Seamounts Directive for which Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) can be designated. However, seamounts can support habitats such as reefs, which are listed on Annex I. At present, there is little biological information about these two areas, and therefore there is insufficient information to be able to assess whether they meet the site selection criteria for SAC.

Seamounts are one of the habitats on the initial list of threatened and/or declining habitats and species agreed by Ministers in June 2003 under OSPAR (The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic) Annex V. Work is progressing during 2004 to identify and agree among contracting parties to OSPAR appropriate management measures (which may include marine protected areas) for a selection of the habitats and species on this list.

Bovine Tuberculosis

Mr. Cameron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Government will set a timetable for coming to a conclusion about the issue of TB in badgers; and if she will make a statement. [174207]

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Mr. Bradshaw: The question of what to do about a wildlife reservoir of bovine tuberculosis is a complex one. The Government are determined to base its future TB policy on sound scientific evidence. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), due to be completed in 2006, should help decide whether culling badgers can form part of a cost-effective, sustainable and practical TB control policy.

On 9 February, Defra launched a consultation on the key principles on which a new long-term strategy for tackling bovine TB will be developed. This consultation asks questions on a wide-range of issues, including how the Government can establish targets, balance costs, benefits and risks, work in partnership with all the key interest groups and how policy can be developed in the light of emerging scientific evidence. That will include evidence from the ongoing RBCT and elsewhere (including the Four Areas badger culling trial in the Republic of Ireland, when published).

On 6 April, Defra announced the publication of a report from an independent scientific panel chaired by Professor Charles Godfray FRS. The report reviewed the progress of the RBCT and associated Defra research, as part of a wider review of Defra's science. The Government are giving careful consideration to the complex recommendations of the report, and the review's conclusions will inform Defra's wider review of TB strategy. Defra has extended the deadline for the public consultation on the TB Strategy review until 4 June, to allow sufficient time for this report to be assimilated and commented on.

Barnet Council

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the decision of Barnet council to terminate its LA21 partnership scheme. [173929]

Mr. Morley: The Government want to see sustainable development become a mainstream issue for local authorities, their partners, and local communities. We believe that the most effective way to achieve this is to build upon the experience of partnership working and community engagement gained through Local Agenda 21 (LA21) and subsume LA21 strategies within statutory community strategies. These are required, by law, to promote sustainable development. Many councils have already done this, and we encourage others to follow suit. It is for authorities to decide whether to have additional plans or a dedicated partnership to support the delivery of sustainable outcomes, but we would expect them to ensure these are in place if LA21 is to end.

Endangered Species

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she plans to bring forward secondary legislation to implement section 307 (Enforcement of Legislation on endangered species) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. [175236]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 24 May 2004]: Securing these Criminal Justice Act provisions was a major step forward. New secondary legislation will give effect to the provisions to strengthen police powers and to provide for tougher penalties.
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Last year's public consultation exercise identified a number of complex issues which we need to resolve within Government but we are aiming to circulate a draft of the legislation for consultation in the autumn.

Fallen Stock

Mr. Cameron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects the Fallen Stock Company to be up and running; and if she will make a statement. [174205]

Mr. Bradshaw: The National Fallen Stock Company has been up and running for some months now. It announced its proposals for a National Fallen Stock Scheme to start autumn this year on 13 May. Further details are available on the Defra website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/by-prods/default.htm

Farm Subsidies

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what EU rules apply to Common Agricultural Policy funds held by member states which choose to (a) place a ceiling on payments to larger farm holdings and (b) taper support payments to farm holdings degressively according to size; and what constraints this places upon the member state in respect of the impact of the redistribution of funds otherwise withheld. [172485]

Alun Michael: There are no such EU rules.

Greenhouse Gas

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she will take to ensure that the EU involves developing countries in future allocations of greenhouse gas emissions on an equitable per capita basis. [174043]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 20 May 2004]: The UK has had initial discussions on future action with a number of developing countries, both at official and ministerial level. For any future climate regime to be effective, it must be as inclusive as possible, and must certainly cover the main developing countries. We are committed to ensuring that developing countries are included in the early stages of the discussions on future action, not only to ensure that the outcome is acceptable to the largest emitting developing countries and we achieve as near universal acceptance as possible, but also to ensure that equity concerns are addressed.

We will continue to engage with developing countries at all levels, both through the formal channels that exist in the UNFCCC and through informal channels. We are currently considering how to build on this dialogue and stimulate further discussion.

Health and Pesticide Exposure

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the report on the Survey of Health and Pesticide Exposure, being carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and funded by her Department, is due to be published. [174664]

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Alun Michael: Last July the Organophosphate Information Network informed Defra of its concerns over the conduct of the clinical phase of the study. The Department took these concerns seriously and decided to commission an independent audit of this phase of the study. On the recommendation of the Association of British Neurologists, Professor Kerry Mills from King's College Hospital London, was asked to carry out the audit. Professor Mills' prior commitments and correspondence between the physicians involved, resulted in the audit being started on 19 April this year. This process may take six months to complete.

During the past few days my Department has asked both the hon. Member for North Cornwall and Mrs. Elizabeth Sigmund, the Chair of the Organophosphate Information Network (OPIN), for their opinions on this matter. Following this consultation, I have decided that an interim report should be published pending the completion of the audit.

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