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Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many EU (a) regulations and (b) directives covering matters within the responsibility of her Department have been repealed since 1 April 2004. 
The European Commission publishes information on the repeal of EU regulations and directives in its simplification progress reports. Its last report was published in June 2004 and is available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/governance/docs/comm_ doc_trav_en.pdf. The next report will cover the period since 1 April 2004.
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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what farm plastic collections are made in (a) Stroud and (b) Gloucestershire; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will take steps to merge agencies and non-departmental public bodies for which her Department is responsible in order to reduce the administrative burden for farmers who have to supply the same information to different bodies. 
1. We are already implementing the commitments in the Rural Strategy 2004 to modernise the delivery of rural services. Subject to parliamentary approval, we will bring together three existing bodies, English Nature, parts of the Countryside Agency and Defra's Rural Development Service, into a single body, Natural England, to be responsible for conserving, managing and enhancing the natural environment.
2. Our IT Strategy, and its constituent customer information programme, is developing a single data repository for farmers, in partnership with the Rural Payments Agency. Phase One of this work is currently
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underway, and will be completed in July 2005, when we will have a better idea of the costs and timescales for full delivery.
The programme is being developed with a range of partners including the Environment Agency, Food Standards Agency, Health and Safety Executive and National Farmers Union. They are all playing a vital role in the development of the Approach, and together we aim to create a single set of essential core data on farms and farming activity, and by sharing that data significantly reduce the burdens of regulation and enforcement activities.
Alun Michael: Assurance schemes are private initiatives and membership is voluntary. Decisions on assurance standards and inspection regimes are a matter for scheme owners. However, the Department has facilitated discussions between key stakeholders with a view to the rationalisation of assurance schemes in line with the recommendations of the Policy Commission on the future of farming and food. As a result of those discussions the six main sectoral assurance schemes in England have either merged or entered into binding agreements with Assured Food Standards, the private organisation that was set up to administer the Red Tractor logo. This has provided scope for further rationalisation of assurance standards and inspections.
The Department is also committed to further improving farm regulation and in November 2005 we will publish a Strategy for the Regulation of Agriculture. In order to develop this Strategy, we are gathering evidence directly from farmers and their regulators on the impact and performance of farm regulation. This evidence will inform us about how to improve the performance of existing and planned regulation and achieve more effective controls that are delivered more efficiently and with less bureaucracy.
The average number of visits to farms in relation to the single payment scheme will depend on the total number of applications made. Visits will be undertaken to at least 5 per cent. of the applicants each year. If there are for example 125,000 applicants in 2005, this would produce 6,250 visits.
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Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what arrangements will be put in place for interim payments to be made where there is a delay in the payment of the single farm payment. 
Alun Michael: The Rural Payments Agency has announced that it expects to begin payments under the single payment scheme in February 2006, well before the deadline of 30 June 2006 set in EU legislation. The Government are considering what action can be taken to improve on this position or to help in other ways.
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