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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 25 January 2005


Agriculture and Fisheries Council

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government's priorities for the Agriculture and Fisheries Council will be during the United Kingdom's Presidency of the European Union; and if she will make a statement. [209551]

Mr. Bradshaw: The overall Council Agenda for 2004–06 is set out in the Multi-Annual Strategic Programme and the UK-Luxembourg Annual Operating Programme (AOP) for 2005, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House. The agenda for the UK Presidency will be determined, to a large extent, by the agenda we inherit from the Luxembourg Presidency and their progress on the dossiers identified in the Multi-Annual Strategic Programme and the Annual Operating Programme.

Consistent with the Government's priorities of promoting better regulation, sustainable development and economic reform in the EU, the key priorities in the agriculture sector in 2005 will be: to contribute to progress of the WTO development round, particularly through reform of the sugar sector; and make progress on the Rural Development regulation and the regulation on CAP financing, if these have not been concluded beforehand.

The Council is also likely to be dealing with dossiers on organic farming, fruit and vegetables, flax and hemp, wine, avian influenza, aquaculture health, welfare of broiler hens, BSE, animal by-products, forest law enforcement, fisheries conservation, third country fisheries agreements, simplification of fisheries legislation, improvements to fisheries control and inspection, the European Fisheries Fund and the setting of total allowable catches and quotas for the fishing industry in 2006.

Animal Rights Activists

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the safety from animal rights activists of agricultural landowners who have their details published on the Department's website when applying for a temporary closure of right to roam land during the shooting season. [210254]

Alun Michael: Personal details of applicants are not published on the Countryside Agency's website.

Shooting often proceeds without difficulty on access land without any formal restriction being put in place. Where an application is made for this or any other reason and a restriction is granted, the location and nature of the restriction and the reason for it appears on
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the Countryside Agency's www.openaccess.gov.uk website, so that members of the public wishing to check in advance about the possible existence of restrictions over an area of access land are able to do so.

The land manager has the further option to post local notices drawing attention to the restriction. A model site notice is issued with the direction imposing the restriction—but the decision as to whether to post the notice lies with the land manager.

If animal rights activists or others set out to disrupt lawful activities on access land or to intimidate those taking parts in shoots, Part V of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 provides clear scope for immediate action by the police.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the reasons are for her assessment that the UK would not be able to achieve the Government's original target of a 20 per cent. carbon dioxide reduction by 2010; and if she will make a statement. [211026]

Mr. Morley: While the projections published by DTI in November 2004 confirmed that, on the basis of existing policy measures, we were on track to go well beyond our Kyoto Protocol commitment, they also showed that we were only likely to achieve a 14 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010.

The shortfall is because projected emissions were higher than previous estimates due mainly to lower nuclear generation, higher electricity demand and higher coal generation and because the measures to reduce emissions were in aggregate expected to deliver less than originally anticipated. The current review of the UK's Climate Change Programme will consider what additional measures are needed to close the gap.

A copy of the DTI exercise to update energy and emissions projections is at http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy/sepn/projections.pdf

A copy of the addendum to the November report is at http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy/sepn/uep_addendum.pdf

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the reasoning and methodology the Government employed in determining that a UK target for carbon dioxide reduction of 20 per cent. was achievable. [211027]

Mr. Morley: The UK's 3rd National Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sets out the reasoning and methodology employed by the Government in determining that a UK target for carbon dioxide reduction of 20 per cent. was achievable.

A copy is available on the Defra website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/3nc/default.htm

Chicken Welfare

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent
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research she has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on (i) the effects on the welfare of hens of enriched battery cages and (ii) the economic effects of switchingto alternative systems; and if she will make a statement. [210201]

Mr. Bradshaw: Defra research into the welfare aspects of enriched cages is on-going. Details of current and past projects and reports can be found on the Defra website.

A Regulatory Impact Assessment was prepared during implementation of Council Directive 99/74/EC concerning the welfare of laying hens. To help formulate our thinking for the next review of the Directive, we will be taking into account the latest scientific and veterinary information on the different systems of laying hens production as well as environmental, political, social and economic factors.

Coral Reefs

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the state of the UK's coral reefs; and what future changes she expects to see due to climate change. [209279]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 20 January 2005]: The UK has a small number of known cold-water coral reefs. The best studied of these is the Darwin Mounds some 150 km off the north-west coast of Scotland. When last surveyed in 2000, there was evidence of damage from bottom trawling. The UK sought, and was granted in 2003, emergency European Commission measures to restrict this type of fishing and so avoid further damage to the reef. The emergency measures were made permanent in 2004. It is hoped that surveys in 2005 will enable the condition of other possible reefs to be checked.

It is not certain what the full effects of global warming will be on the seas of the UK although it seems unlikely that warming of the seas will be great enough to affect cold-water corals in the short to medium future. Deep-water reefs are less likely to be affected.

The rise in CO 2 in the atmosphere is likely to cause a rise in acidity of surface waters, and affect the amount of calcium carbonate used by coral reefs for growth in shallow waters. How these predicted effects in shallower waters will affect deeper waters is not known, but any decreases in amounts of available calcium carbonate will not be beneficial to coral reefs.


Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to what level the (a) UK and (b) English population of the cormorant would need to fall (i) in the breeding season and (ii) in winter for the Government to decide that it was no longer meeting its obligations for this species under the EU Birds Directive. [209811]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government's obligation under the Birds Directive is to ensure that measures taken under the directive do not worsen the initial status of the species protected. The directive was made in 1979 and although no accurate figures for wintering or breeding cormorant numbers are available for this date, it is
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generally accepted from monitoring of trends that wintering numbers in Britain have increased around four-fold since that date. These are our legal obligations. However, we have no intention of allowing the cormorant population to be reduced to anything approaching this level and the current policy, which aims to resolve cormorant/fishery conflicts at problem sites, will balance the interests of fisheries with the sustainable conservation status of the cormorant.

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