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1 Feb 2005 : Column 768W—continued


Atlantic Biogeographical Region

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the Atlantic Biogeographical Region; what factors determine inclusion in the list set out in 2004/813/EC, L 387 volume 47 of 29 December 2004; what the purpose is of the list; what obligations are placed on the Government relating to the list; what impact it will have on sites of special scientific interest; what impact it will have on the operations of HM armed forces in the Salisbury area; what additional obligations arise for the management of named sites; what additional powers listing confers for the preservation of named marine habitats; and if she will make a statement on the application of listing of marine habitats to the Common Fisheries Policy. [211431]

Mr. Bradshaw: The UK welcomes the European Commission's (EC) decision of 8 December 2004 to adopt the Atlantic Biogeograpical Region List of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) in accordance with article 4 of council directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (EC Habitats Directive). Sites are included on the basis that they meet the EC habitat directive's selection criteria (annex III of the directive) and are thus considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level. The list is required to enable member states to progress with the designation of these sites as special areas of conservation (SACs) and obliges them to implement appropriate conservation measures to manage and protect these areas if they have not already done so.
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The adoption of SCIs and anticipated designation of SACs in England does not impose any additional obligations on the Government, competent authorities, landowners, fishery interests, HM armed forces or other stakeholders because the sites have, following amendments in February 2000, been subject to full legal protection under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994.

Canada (BSE)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the Canadian Government on the recent BSE case discovered there. [211726]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 31 January 2005]: The Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) has had a number of technical discussions with the Canadian authorities but not specifically relating to the recent BSE case.

Commission Veterinary Experts

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the application in the UK of Commission Decision 2005/13/EC, OJ L6 volume 48 of 8 January, with particular reference to (a) the UK border, (b) the status of Commission veterinary experts, (c) the cost of each expert and (d) the number of experts. [211426]

Mr. Bradshaw: European Community import rules require all products of animal origin imported from third countries to enter the Community via specified border inspection posts (BIPs) where they are subject to veterinary examination to ensure the import conditions are being observed. The system of veterinary examination is operated in the UK by local authorities and is monitored by Defra and the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) to ensure effective controls are in place. There are currently 29 BIPs approved to inspect animal products in the UK.

Commission Decision 2001/881 required that each BIP listed be subject to a yearly inspection by the FVO veterinary experts, unless reduced inspections to certain BIPs had been agreed by the Standing Veterinary Committee (now the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health).

Commission Decision 2005/13 amended Commission Decision 2001/881 and specifies that the frequency and scope of missions by the FVO to border inspection posts should be decided on the basis of risks to the animal and public health in the Community. Factors to be taken into account include patterns of trade in the Community, statistical data available under veterinary legislation, the results of previous missions by the Office, and any identified problem areas. The UK supports this approach.

Veterinary experts of the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) work to assure effective control systems and to evaluate compliance with European Union (EU) standards. The FVO does this mainly by carrying out inspections in member states. The veterinary inspectors employed by the FVO must have a degree or equivalent diploma and have a minimum of three years relevant experience.
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We have no information on the cost of these experts as the costs of the inspection missions are met from EU central funds.

The number of staff working in the FVO has increased from 74 in 1997 to its present complement of 163. Of these, 81 are plant health and veterinary inspectors, who participate regularly in on-the-spot inspection missions.

Departmental Entertainment Costs

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been spent on entertainment by her Department in each year since 1997, broken down by (a) food, (b) alcohol, (c) staff and (d) accommodation. [204343]

Alun Michael: On each occasion Defra officials are required to consider carefully what form and extent of hospitality should be offered and if it can be justified. This is considered both by the host and the authorising officer, who have to bear in mind the need for economy and the limited funds available.

This will take into account the extent to which participation by representatives from a variety of organisations including business, voluntary organisations and local government assists the Department in forming and testing out policy as well as distances involved and inconvenience to most taking part.

The figures detailed in the following table includes a variety of forms of hospitality including events such as lunch provided for participants at Defra consultative events on farming issues, environmental issues and others of the many issues dealt with by the Department.

Examples include the event at which the Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy was launched and a new delivery team headed by Sir Don Curry was set up.

The figure for 2001–02 provided is for a full year and includes three months of DETR expenditure from 1 April to 8 June when Defra was created. MAFF and DETR did not use the same chart of accounts to record expenditure. It was, therefore, necessary to carry out a mapping exercise to match up expenditure under the Defra structure.

Hospitality was not separately identified in the expenditure transfer from DETR and may have been absorbed in incidental codes. For the remainder of that year only £1,953 was recorded against Environment. This would suggest that there may have been some misunderstanding on coding within the ex-DETR directorates during the transition and initial months of Defra's existence.

The other factor that may have had an impact on the figures for 2001–02 was the foot and mouth crisis. The Department was very focused on dealing with this crisis and this would have reduced the number of events held where hospitality expenditure would have been incurred.
Hospitality costs 2001–04 (£)


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Departmental Expenditure

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Department spent on lawyers in each year since 1997; how many (a) actions, (b) settlements and (c) court cases there were in each year; and what the costs were of each settlement. [206462]

Alun Michael: The following reply is based on the assumption that this question is seeking information about amounts spent in relation to civil litigation.

Defra conducts the majority of its litigation in house with other cases being dealt with on its behalf by the Treasury Solicitor's Department and by external solicitors. Defra came into existence in June 2001 and therefore has no records prior to that date. Defra's centralised records since that date relating to the information requested show only the number of new files it has handled in each year. The information indicates the number of new files opened in each year is as follows:

This will usually correspond to the number of new actions/cases but not necessarily so. The number will include arbitrations and other ADR resolution and also claims which were resolved prior to the issue of proceedings and did not in the event proceed to court. Information about the number of actions is therefore approximate. Defra does not hold information in a centralised readily accessible format as to the number of settlements, number of court cases and the costs of each settlement, because collectively such information would involve disproportionate effort and it is not clear that it would help performance.

Treasury Solicitors have records for the number of files for matters concerning Defra on which they have worked in any one year and the total sums billed to Defra including disbursements. The figures for the number of matters do not represent new cases or even new files because it is only matters on which work has been done and so some new cases will be worked on in the following (and possibly subsequent) years. The figures are as follows:

Treasury Solicitors do not hold in centralised and readily accessible form information about the number of court cases and the costs of each settlement. To obtain this information would involve disproportionate effort.

Defra retains external solicitors to provide some litigation services. The same caveats as above apply in relation to the number of matters they have acted upon.
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Firm 1:

The total number of matters they have acted upon for Defra for each year is:
Number of matters

The total legal fees paid to them for the period from 2002 to end September 2004 is: fees £4,252,987.50, disbursements £558,981.54, and VAT of £837,543.42 totalling £5,649,512.46.

Firm 2:

This firm has handled 23 matters for the Department since 2001. Its total fees as at December 2004 including disbursements and VAT amount to £2,043,309.

Firm 3:

This firm has handled seven matters for the Department since 2001. Its total fees to date amount to £1,029,341 plus disbursements of £48,752.67 and VAT of £188,491.36.

We do not hold centralised and readily accessible information about the number of court cases and the costs of each settlement in relation to the matters handled by the external solicitors. To obtain this information would involve disproportionate effort.

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