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Endangered Species

Mark Tami: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department is taking to reverse declines in the numbers of each most endangered species in England. [9210]

Jim Knight: The Department is taking action in many ways. The three key measures are:

EU Tobacco Subsidies

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much EU financial support is available for growing low grade tobacco in 2005–06; what quantities of such tobacco are exported; to which countries; what discussions are taking place on reform of such practices; and if she will make a statement. [9027]

Jim Knight: The EU budget provision for tobacco premiums in 2005 is €916 million. Higher grade tobacco attracts a higher premium than tobacco which is of lower quality. The main destinations for export of EU grown tobacco in its raw state are Russia, the United States, the Ukraine, and Egypt. The quantities exported to these and other destinations in 2004 are set out in the following table.

The practice of supporting raw tobacco production is one the UK has consistently opposed and I am pleased to say that from 2006 it is to be phased out. Under the agreement reached by the Council of Ministers in Luxembourg in April 2004, direct support for tobacco will be brought to an end by 2010. Between 2006 and
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2010 producer member states will have the option of retaining up to 60 per cent. of the tobacco premium as a coupled payment. From 2010, support will be completely decoupled from production, with 50 per cent. being transferred to the single payment and the remaining 50 per cent. to be used for restructuring programmes under the rural development programme.
EU 15/25(13) exports of raw tobacco in 2004

Metric tonnes
South Korea4,748
South Africa4,586
Other destinations22,274

(13)EU 15 before 1 May 2004 and EU 25 after 1 May 2004.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will expedite the flood alleviation scheme for (a) Thirsk and (b) other suggested flood defence projects in the area; and if she will relax the point scoring system on the project. [9471]

Mr. Morley: Defra has overall policy responsibility for flood and coastal erosion risk in England. We fund most of the Environment Agency's activities in this area and provide grant aid on a project-by-project basis to the other flood and coastal defence operating authorities (local authorities and internal drainage boards) to support their investment in improvement works. Improvement projects funded by Defra, including those of the Environment Agency, must meet specified economic, technical and environmental criteria and achieve an appropriate priority score" to be eligible for funding. Defra does not build defences, nor direct the authorities on what specific projects to undertake. The works programme to manage risk is driven by the operating authorities.

Defra operates a priority scoring system to ensure that taxpayers' money is spent to best effect and to maximise the benefits achieved from a finite budget available for flood and coastal erosion risk management. The system is designed to be as logical, transparent and equitable as possible, with criteria published on our website. Prioritisation has to be based on risk and while I understand the desire for defences when areas flood, it is not, however, a defensible reason for allowing them to jump the queue ahead of areas where risks of future floods might be greater. Making an
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exception for Thirsk would clearly depart from the principles of objectivity, fairness and a risk based approach.

A feasibility study has been carried out by Hambleton district council to examine the possibility of a flood alleviation scheme for Thirsk. The best way to take this forward will be explored jointly by Hambleton DC and the Environment Agency, with Defra advice as required.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the reasons were for the delays in flood warning to be made public in connection with the recent floods in North Yorkshire. [9472]

Mr. Morley: Responsibility for flood warning arrangements rests with the Environment Agency.

I understand that on Friday 17 June 2005, Met Office forecasts to the Environment Agency indicated the likelihood of thunderstorms across North East Region over the weekend. However, due to the nature of the weather system, the Met Office were unable, even by Sunday lunchtime, to be more specific than to warn that most of the region was at continued risk of thunderstorms from the afternoon into the evening, and they had particular concern about the Pennines.

Three Flash Warnings of heavy rain were issued to the Environment Agency on Sunday 19 June at 13:57, 18:22 and 20:41 BST, but all the information related to scattered heavy thunderstorms", localised torrential downpours" and localised flooding" with no direct time or location given to them.

The Environment Agency was alerted to the onset of property flooding at Thirsk and surrounding areas between 17:30 and 18:00 on 19 June;. While I understand that flooding at this stage was confined to surface water runoff, the Environment Agency nevertheless deployed operational staff to the area to report back on the situation.
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At 20:00 on 19 June, alarm levels were received from the Environment Agency's instrumentation on Cod Beck upstream of Thirsk and consequently the Flood Watch for the area was issued at 20:10.

By 21:30, Environment Agency patrol staff on site reported a rapid rise of water levels in Cod Beck and the decision was therefore taken to issue the Flood Warning for Thirsk. The warning for flooding from Cod Beck itself was issued at 21:38 to 184 recipients. By this time there had been some flooding to property as a result of surface water and drainage problems but not from Cod Beck.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make provision for the collection of animal carcasses to be free of cost to farmers following the flooding in North Yorkshire. [9474]

Mr. Morley: The Department does not have any provision for the free collection of animals lost in the recent flooding. However, although not compulsory, I understand that many farmers already insure their livestock against such eventualities and it is likely that the cost of collection and disposal of dead stock will be met by the insurance companies concerned.

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