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21 Feb 2005 : Column 51W—continued


Alan Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who the ministerial design champion for her Department is. [215647]

Alun Michael: The ministerial design champion for Defra is Alun Michael, Minister of State (Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality).


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her policy is on the deletion of e-mails by her Department; when this policy last changed; and how. [208681]

Alun Michael: Guidance issued from the Head of the Home Civil Service to all departments in July 2004 provided a clear cross-departmental approach to the handling of e-mail correspondence, and a copy is available in the Library of the House.

Equine Breeding

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the European Union institutions (a) have made and (b) are considering legislation requiring coloured ponies born to any sire or dam that are registered with any of the equine breed societies to be eligible to be included in the breed standard register, if the owner so desires; and if she will make a statement. [216077]

Alun Michael: The rules relating to the eligibility for entry into recognised equine studbooks are essentially a matter for the individual equine studbook Societies to decide. However, their requirements must not be contrary to the rules contained in Commission Decision 96/78/EC—laying down the criteria for entry and registration of equidae" in stud-books for breeding purposes. We are not aware of any intention on the part of the European Commission to amend this legislation.

EU Committees

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many times during the (a) Italian, (b) Irish and (c) Dutch presidency of the EU the Committee on Implementation of the Directive establishing a Community policy regarding water met; when and where these meetings took place; what UK Government expert was present; and if she will make a statement. [216257]

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Mr. Morley: The EU Committee on the implementation of the Directive establishing a Community policy regarding water met at the European Commission buildings in Brussels twice during the Irish presidency on 15 March 2004 and 28 May 2004; and once during the Dutch presidency on 28 October 2004. No meetings took place under the Italian presidency.

The UK Government were represented on the above occasions by water quality officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Scottish Executive.

Exercise Triton

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the results of Exercise Triton will be published. [216007]

Mr. Morley: As advised in my answer to you recently in relation to your question about contingency planning, The Environment Agency, with other responders, carries out a regular programme of exercises to test its capability at all levels. Last year's Exercise Triton, was conducted to test the preparedness of organisations at all levels, local, regional and national to a simulated national scale event involving flooding of the east coast from Lincolnshire to Hampshire, with offsets in Gwent and North Wales. A lessons identified report will be published in the spring.

Farm Support

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what initiatives her Department has introduced since 1997 to support farming. [213154]

Alun Michael: The information is as follows:

Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food

The Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food was launched in December 2002. It builds on the work of the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food and is a comprehensive and long-term plan for the future development of the industry. It identifies how the Government will work with the whole of the food chain to secure a Sustainable future for English farming andfood industries, as viable industries contributing to a better environment and healthy and prosperous communities.

In practical terms the Strategy means:

Much progress has already been made in implementing the Strategy, most notably through:

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Animal Health

OTMS—on 1 December 2004 the start of a managed transition towards the lifting of the OTM rule and its replacement with a system of robust testing of cattle for BSE was announced. An essential first step will be the establishment of a robust and independently audited testing regime. Only cattle for which there is a negative test result will be sold for human consumption.

Foot and Mouth Disease—Defra has conducted a major national exercise to test contingency plans in case of a future outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

National Fallen Stock scheme—a guaranteed, biosecure, low-cost means of animal carcass disposal—came into effect on 22 November 2004. The Government are providing £10 million in the first year
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to allow the National Fallen Stock Company to pay 30 per cent. of the costs of collection and disposal of fallen farmed stock.

TB—Announced new measures on 1 November 2004 to tighten surveillance and reduce the risk of bovine TB spreading to new areas. These include changes to testing frequency and the imposition of movement restrictions immediately a test becomes overdue.


The England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) is principally aimed at the farming industry and provides a framework for the operation of 10 separate but integrated schemes which provide new opportunities to protect and improve the countryside, to develop sustainable enterprises and to help rural communities to thrive.

The ERDP implements the European Rural Development Regulation—also known as the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy. A total of £1.6 billion of EU and Government money is being made available under these schemes in England during the seven years (2000–06) of the Programme.

The ERDP aims to:

The Objective 1 Programme

Complementing the ERDP is the Objective 1 programme, part of the European Structural Funds. The Objective 1 programme runs from 1 January 2000 until 31 December 2006 and covers the areas of the EU, which have incomes below 75 per cent. of the EU15 average.

In England, three areas have been designated to receive funding under Objective 1: Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Merseyside and South Yorkshire.

There are a number of European funds that can be drawn upon by those in Objective 1 areas and Defra, in collaboration with Government Offices is responsible for delivering the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund. This fund has the following objectives:

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Across the 3 Objective 1 areas, approximately £133 million is available over the period 2000–06 for supporting projects which have similar aims to the three ERDP project-based schemes mentioned.

Farm Business Advice Service

The Farm Business Advice Service (FBAS) was launched in October 2000 aimed at improving farm business profitability and sustainability. The service has provided farmers in England with up to three days of free one-to-one on-farm advice. Since its launch, the Government have invested around £28 million in FBAS helping over 18,000 farmers.

An enhanced 5-day form of the service was introduced between 2001 and 2003 as part of the recovery package announced for farmers who have had stock compulsorily slaughtered due to foot and mouth disease control measures.

The service was initially launched as a four year service but it was extended for a further year through to March 2005 to help farmers consider the business implications of the impending changes introduced under CAP reform.

New arrangements for the provision of specialist advice to assist farm businesses explore the implications of the introduction of the single payment will be made available in 2005–06 and we will be making an announcement on the detail as soon as possible.

RDS Farm Advice Unit

This new Unit has been set up to oversee delivery of technical and environmental advice to farmers, for example on minimising pollution or conservation to meet the requirements of cross-compliance. There is a Farm Advice Co-ordinator based in each region.

The Planning Consultancy Advice Scheme

The Planning Consultancy Advice Scheme offered to cover the cost of one day's professional planning guidance for farmers considering diversifying their farm business and was implemented in September 2001.

Fresh Start Initiative

An industry-led initiative to encourage new entrants into the farming industry was launched at the Smithfield Show on 2 December 2004, with strong Government support.

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