Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many people are employed by the Rural Payments Agency; what the running cost of the Agency was in the last year for which figures are available; and if she will make a statement on the future of the Agency. 
The RPA is a major, customer-facing delivery arm of Defra providing a range of services in support of the Department's objectives. It is the 'Paying Agency' for pillars 1 and 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) within England, has a UK remit for trader schemes, and responsibility for the traceability of cattle in Great Britain. As such, it will deliver CAP Reform in England and administer the single payment scheme to farmers from 2005. There are currently no plans to alter these functions.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with EU Fisheries Ministers on introducing a ban across the EU on bass trawler fishing. 
In the light of the European Commission rejection of the UK case for an emergency closure of the pelagic pair trawl fishery for bass in the Western Channel, which was copied to Fisheries Directors of all member states, I announced that the UK would introduce a prohibition on the UK fishery within 12 miles of the south west coast of England. I intend to put a request to the European Commission to have the 12 mile prohibition applied to vessels from other member states operating in this area. In practice, other than UK vessels, the ban would only impact on a small number of French vessels who pair trawl for bass in the 12 mile area. I have passed in person a letter to the French Minister setting out the UK case and seeking his support for the prohibition. Officials have also discussed the measures with their French colleagues at a recent Commission meeting on this issue.
16 Dec 2004 : Column 1216W
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what timetable she has set for the lifting of (a) the over-30-month scheme and (b) the export ban on British beef; 
Any changes in the domestic over-30-month (OTM) rule and the over-30-month scheme (OTMS) are unlikely to come into effect until the latter half of 2005. Changes in export restrictions are not expected to come into effect until late 2005.
Mr. Bradshaw: The review of the Cattle Identification Regulations 1998 (as amended) is currently at the planning stage. We are expecting to work with stakeholders on the extent and scope of the review early next year. Depending on the outcome of these discussions, it is expected that the required public consultation will take place in the first half of 2005.
Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she has taken to protect buyers of calves that have been sold without a British Cattle Movement Service passport. 
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the application of the precautionary principle in the Common Fisheries Policy. 
We take very seriously the need to conserve fish stocks, and thus provide a good basis for a viable fishing industry. We continue to believe that managing fish stocks on the basis of precautionary reference points designed to keep biomass and fishing mortality well away from levels at which stocks risk collapse is the best way to proceed. The precautionary principle is an integral part of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) but the commitment of the member states and the Commission is required to make sure it is applied. It also underpins the advice produced by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea in which the UK participates.
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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her estimate is of the (a) annual cost and (b) total value of the empty properties owned by (i) her Department, (ii) agencies and (iii) other public bodies for which she has had responsibility in each of the last two years. 
Alun Michael: The information requested in respect of the Department and its agencies is set out as follows. The Department does not hold centrally information about properties occupied by other public bodies.
|Estimated annual cost1 of empty core Defra properties|
|Estimated annual cost1 of empty Defra agency properties|
|Estimated total value2 of empty core Defra properties|
|Estimated total value2 of empty Defra agency properties|
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many departmental mobile telephones were used by Ministers, special advisers and officials in her Department and its predecessors in each year since 1997; at what cost; how many such telephones were lost or stolen in each year since 1997; and what the replacement costs were in each case. 
Alun Michael: The number of mobile phones held by the Department as at 14 December 2004 is 3,473, of which 46 are the responsibility of the Department's Secretariat. No information is held centrally on the number of phones which have been lost or stolen.
The total payment made to Defra's primary mobile phone contractors for the 12 months to December 2004 is £529,125.23. This includes rental, call charges, mobile phones and accessories. All contracts in place comply with the OGC negotiated contract.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will release the post-mortem findings for the dolphins that have been washed up on shores in the South Hams since August. 
|Species||Age/sex||Date found||Location||Cause of death|
|Harbour porpoise||Juvenile male||14 September 2004||Soar Mill Cove||Physical trauma (bottlenose dolphin attack)|
|Common dolphin||Adult female||17 November 2004||Thurlstone||Live stranding (pending histopathology)|
|Harbour porpoise||Juvenile male||25 November 2004||East Prawle||Enteritis/peritonitis|
|Common dolphin||Juvenile male||28 November 2004||Thurlstone||Physical trauma (bycatch)|
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