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15 Dec 2004 : Column 1097W—continued

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Agency Staff

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many people are employed by (a) Forest Enterprise, (b) the Meat Hygiene Service, (c) the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and (d) the Sustainable Development Commission; what the running cost of each body was in the last year for which figures are available; and if she will make a statement on the future of each body. [203744]

Alun Michael: The Forest Enterprise is an Executive agency of the Forestry Commission which has supplied the following information. The Forestry Enterprise employs 750 full time equivalents in England and its net operating costs were £22.7 million.

The Meat Hygiene Service is an Executive agency of the Food Standards Agency and ministerial responsibility lies with the Department for Health.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Sustainable Development Commission are advisory NDPBs and the running costs for each are included with Defra's accounts but are not separately identifiable. The total sponsorship and/or funding cost to the Department (which would include remuneration and expenses of members, administrative costs, research/programme funding and any other cost to the department directly related to the sponsorship of the body) for the last financial year is given as follows. The figures do not include funding given for specific additional projects that have been undertaken during the period.
BodyStaff employedExpenditure/funding by Defra (£)
Sustainable Development Commission0679,000
Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution12956,000

We keep these bodies under review, in accordance with Government guidelines, to ensure that its functions are still required and that the they still provide the most effective means of carrying out those functions.

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the membership is of the British Waterways Board; what the (a) cost of salaries and expenses to members and (b) running costs was of the board in the last year for which figures are available; and how many staff are employed to service the board. [203759]


 
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Alun Michael: Membership of the British Waterways Board is set out in its annual report and accounts which are laid before Parliament each year. In 2003–04, the board consisted of a chairman, vice-chairman and nine members. The cost of salaries and expenses was £208,000 and running costs £22,000. The board has no dedicated staff.

Cockling

Mr. Collins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (1) if she will make a statement on plans to introduce a licensing system for cockling (a) in Morecambe Bay and (b) elsewhere; [203797]

(2) what assistance her Department is offering to Cumbria police in their efforts to regulate the cockling in Morecambe Bay; [203799]

(3) what estimate she has made of the tonnage of immature cockles removed from Morecambe Bay in the past 12 months; and what assessment she has made of (a) the ecological and economic consequences of overfishing of cockles in Morecambe Bay and (b) trends in the (i) number and (ii) point of origin of cocklers operating in Morecambe Bay. [203800]

Mr. Bradshaw: Management of local inshore fisheries is the responsibility of Sea Fisheries Committees.

North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee (NWNWSFC) is responsible for managing the cockle fishery in Morecambe Bay, and runs a permit scheme for one of the cockle beds within Morecambe Bay. NWNWSFC are currently considering extending this scheme to cover the whole of their district, and the Government are currently considering how we can best support this proposal.

NWNWSFC are responsible for enforcing their own byelaws. There have been a number of joint enforcement exercises planned and executed with, among others, the local police, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Inland Revenue, and Immigration Service.

Fishing is inherently dangerous. On Morecambe Bay the problem is mainly one of ensuring people in control of commercial cockling have proper regard for their own health and safety and that of their workers, taking account of the Bay's tidal conditions and characteristics. The HSE has drawn up and issued safety guidelines to those involved in the fishery. These provide the basis for inspections on the Bay, and at other tidal areas and estuaries around the British coastline. Since the unfortunate tragedy in February the most relevant local organisations have come together in the "Morecambe Bay Intertidal Shellfisheries Joint Liaison Group" to improve the management of cockling activity on the Bay through exchange of intelligence, and co-ordinated enforcement activity.

NWNWSFC monitor cockle stocks in Morecambe Bay and have powers to introduce appropriate management measures should they consider the pattern of exploitation warrants it.

The Morecambe Bay Intertidal Shellfisheries Joint Liaison Group regularly reviews the activities of cocklers in Morecambe Bay and is aware of the numbers involved and, in many cases, their national origin.
 
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Commercial Whaling

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will outline the Government's policy towards commercial whaling; and if she will make a statement. [204679]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 14 December 2004]: The Government are opposed to all forms of whaling other than limited whaling by indigenous people to meet objectively defined subsistence needs. We strongly support the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling and believe that properly regulated whale-watching is the only truly sustainable use of whale resources.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representation was made by the Government to the International Whaling Commission meeting in Borgholm, Sweden, in November this year; what discussions took place; what conclusions were reached by the delegates of the meeting; and if she will make a statement. [204680]

Mr. Bradshaw: [holding answer 14 December 2004]: The UK delegation at the Revised Management Scheme (RMS) Working Group meeting was led by Richard Cowan CBE, the UK Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The meeting discussed the possible content of an RMS, the corpus of regulatory measures required to control commercial whaling should such whaling ever be resumed. The aim of the Working Group was to draw up instructions for a Small Drafting Group (SDG) on which the UK was also represented, to draw up draft RMS text for possible adoption into the Schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling at the next annual meeting of the IWC in Ulsan, South Korea, in June 2005.

The UK is seeking a comprehensive RMS, which would ensure that any future approved commercial whaling could not pose a threat to whale conservation and that catch limits and other rules would be strictly observed and seen to be so. No definitive conclusions were reached on any of the key elements of the RMS. Such text as the SDG was able to prepare therefore contains variants in square brackets reflecting the differing points of view of participants.

Some issues of a largely technical nature were referred to specialist groups, which will conduct business by correspondence and report back to the next Working Group meeting in Copenhagen in March 2005.

Departmental Expenditure

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her estimate is of the cost of (a) ministerial cars and drivers and (b) taxis for her Department in each of the last two years. [202351]

Alun Michael: The estimate of the cost to the Department of ministerial cars and drivers in each of the last two years is £399,684.01 in the financial year to April 2004 and £369,855.17 in the financial year to April 2003. We do not hold information on travel by taxi centrally and this could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
 
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Departmental Telephones

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her policy is on the use of telephones in her Department by members of staff for their personal use relating to (a) domestic calls and (b) international calls; and if she will make a statement. [204105]

Alun Michael: The Department does not object to the reasonable use of telephones for personal use as part of its objective to achieve a fair work/life balance for its staff. Line managers have a responsibility to monitor usage. Domestic calls are permitted but the majority of international calls are barred on all but those extensions needing access for official purposes. Call logging is used if abuse is suspected.

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures she has taken to ensure the telephones in her Department are not used by staff for making unauthorised personal calls to international numbers. [204106]

Alun Michael: Extensions have international call barring. The only exceptions are where there are essential operational needs for such access. Call logging is used if abuse is suspected.

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what the estimated cost to her Department of unauthorised personal calls made by members of staff to (a) domestic numbers and (b) international numbers was in the last year for which figures are available. [204107]

Alun Michael: The Department permits reasonable telephone access for staff to make personal calls to domestic numbers. Where there is a managed telecommunications service, call charges are for the most part absorbed into a fixed extension cost. In cases where telecommunications services are owned by the Department, call charges are incurred for domestic calls, although without intensive call logging it is impossible to differentiate between personal and business calls. The majority of extensions have international call barring unless such access is an operational necessity.


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