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15 Mar 2005 : Column 166W—continued

Plug-in Air Fresheners

Mr. Randall: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what research his Department has undertaken in relation to the fire safety risks of plug-in air fresheners. [221969]

Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has undertaken no research in relation to the fire safety risks of air fresheners.

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 28 February; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [219501]

Margaret Beckett: I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on 28 February 2005.

The Council reached political agreement to send decommissioned EU fishing vessels to areas affected by the tsunami. Once possible vessels had been identified, an assessment of their suitability for the relevant communities would be made. Exports would only take place in accordance with requests from the third countries concerned.

The Council adopted by qualified majority a proposal concerning wood used in packaging material entering the Union. I supported this proposal, which will delay until March 2006 a requirement under new EU plant health rules that such wood should have been de-barked, while the scientific evidence for this requirement is reviewed in consultation with third countries.
 
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The Council discussed the Rural Development proposal, focusing on its contribution to Lisbon agenda goals for growth and development, the scope of the competitiveness objective, possible simplification and support for Natura 2000 sites. I stressed that rural development measures should deliver public benefits. On competitiveness, I argued that support should be targeted on those businesses that found it difficult to raise capital through the normal channels. On simplification, I suggested that it would be appropriate to reduce the number of measures and adopt a more flexible approach to cross cutting projects. And I supported the Commission's work on biodiversity and Natura 2000 while suggesting that there could be a focus on water and climate change issues. No specific conclusions were drawn but the presidency indicated that it would be producing a revised draft of the proposal in the course of the week.

The Council discussed the CAP financing proposal. We stressed the importance of securing equitable treatment of those member states outside the euro zone, supported the case for effective application of the budgetary discipline provisions and reiterated the need for further modulation, whether voluntary or compulsory, to meet land management commitments.

A number of points were raised under any other business. The Commission reported on: the case of a French goat in which BSE had been diagnosed; and on continuing contacts with the Russian authorities over their veterinary and plant health import requirements. The presidency accepted a Dutch request to discuss at a future Council the threat posed by Avian Influenza. Germany urged the Council to seek involvement in action on food and health, sought an update on the WTO Dispute Panel considering the EU approval system for GM crops and products, and suggested a greater use of country of origin requirements in food labelling. The Commission rejected a Spanish proposal that the sugar trade concession offered to certain developing countries under the Everything But Arms commitment should be amended. The Commission also undertook to examine a Spanish request as to whether a regionalised approach to decoupling of tobacco aid could be permitted under the CAP reforms agreed last April. Olive oil producing countries pressed for the EU to resume its contributions to international promotional campaigns. Italy requested a change in the method for calculating part of the aid granted to nut producers. Several landlocked countries pressed for action to help dispose of the exceptionally heavy cereals harvest of 2004.

Animal Welfare

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many meetings (a) she, (b) her Ministers and (c) her officials have had in the past 12 months with representatives of (i) the International Fund for Animal Welfare, (i) the League Against Cruel Sports and (iii) the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. [201352]

Margaret Beckett: Ministers and officials meet representatives of these bodies from time to time in the normal course of business.
 
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Ministerial Engagements

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the ministerial engagements (a) out of London and (b) in London that she has cancelled since 1 January 2004. [209220]

Margaret Beckett: None.

Ministerial Stationery

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been spent on official ministerial (a) business cards, (b) headed paper and (c) compliment slips in each year since 1997. [214942]

Margaret Beckett: Defra was established in 2001, and a breakdown of expenditure on ministerial business cards, headed paper and compliment slips for each financial year since then is as follows:
£ (plus VAT)

Ministerial letterheadsMinisterial compliment slipsMinisterial business cards
2001–025,09000
2002–037,800.7000
2003–040100135
2004–to date000

School Meals

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will meet the Secretary of State for Education and Skills to discuss ways of using more locally grown produce for school meals. [221691]

Alun Michael: The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is already involved with Defra in implementing the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI) that includes, as a key objective, a requirement to increase the opportunities for small local farmers and growers to compete to supply public bodies with food.

A representative from DfES sits on the cross-public sector Food Procurement Implementation Group tasked with promoting the PSFPI within schools and other public bodies. DfES' Director of School Resources was also a panel member in a plenary discussion at the National Food Suppliers Conference on 7 March 2005, which attracted some 200 farmers, growers and suppliers from across England to learn about the PSFPI and the opportunities for supplying the public sector.

More information about the conference and the PSFPI is given on Defra's website: http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/sustain/procurement/awareness.htm.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether departmental special advisers have attended meetings
 
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with external (a) bodies and (b) individuals, in their official capacity and without Ministers, since May 1997. [203444]

Margaret Beckett: Special advisers hold meetings with a wide range of external representatives in their official capacity. All such meetings are conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers.

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what role is fulfilled by the third special adviser in her Department. [210487]

Margaret Beckett: Special advisers in this department are appointed under the terms and conditions set out in Code of Conduct for Special Advisers.

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the occasions between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004 when special advisers attended meetings with external representatives at which Ministers were not present. [210535]

Margaret Beckett: Special advisers hold meetings with a wide range of external representatives in their official capacity. All such meetings are conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers.

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the speeches her special advisers made in an official capacity between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004, broken down by date. [210556]

Margaret Beckett: All speeches given by special advisers are conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers.


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