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Rural Employment

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many
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jobshave been created in rural areas in each year since 1997, broken down by (a) agricultural and (b) non-agricultural. [8916]

Jim Knight: Statistics on the creation of jobs are not collected by any Government Department in this format.

The Labour Force Survey details the number of individuals in employment and can reliably be examined at local authority district level, though not at any smaller geographical scale. It is not therefore possible to give a definitive breakdown of changes in employment levels between urban and rural areas within local authority districts.

However, using the current Countryside Agency broad classification of rural and urban Districts, and recognising that 'rural districts' contain many urban areas and vice versa, employment levels are as follows (changes in the survey approach do not allow for comparison before 2000–01):
Total in employment
Rural districtsUrban districtsAll districts

Labour Force Survey, ONS

As can be seen over this period, overall employment levels increased by 3 per cent. in rural districts and 2 per cent. in all other districts.

The June Agricultural and Horticultural Survey records the labour force on all farms in England. Data are available since 1997 and the numbers of people employed in agriculture is as follows, again using the current Countryside Agency classification of rural and urban districts:
Rural districtsUrban districtsAll districts

June Agricultural and Horticultural Survey, Defra

These figures show that the labour force on agricultural holdings decreased by 6 per cent. between 1997 and 2004.

Defra will very shortly publish a new urban/rural classification of local authorities districts which will enable a more detailed analysis of rural and urban statistical data. The tables included in this written answer will be recreated using the new classification when this is published and I will write to the hon. Member with this information.
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Seal products

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make it her policy (a) to ban the importation of seal products into the United Kingdom and (b) to press for a similar ban in the EU. [6586]

Jim Knight: Council Directive 83/129/EEC (as amended by Council Directive 89/370/EEC) already imposes an EU-wide ban on the commercial import of certain seal skin products, including raw or tanned furskins, of whitecoat pups of harp seals and blueback pups of hooded seals. This Seals Directive is implemented in the UK by The Import of Seal Skins Regulations 1996.

We have been advised by the Commission that it does not currently see any scientific basis for proposing an extension of the Seals Directive. We agree with the Commission but will reconsider our position if new data show that the levels of take by seal hunting are unsustainable and pose a conservation threat to either harp or hooded seals.


Mr. Cameron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to increase the number of native trees planted by the Forestry Commission; how many trees have been planted by Government agencies over the past 20 years in (a) England and (b) West Oxfordshire; and what targets to encourage the expansion of forests have been set. [11569]

Jim Knight: The Forestry Commission has embarked on a programme to restore 15,000 hectares of ancient semi-natural woodland on the public forest estate by 2020 and this will include planting and regenerating native tree species. In addition most new planting by the Commission, which is in the priority areas for improving the environment of disadvantaged urban communities, will be native broadleaves.

In the recently published Action Plan for our new Statement of Policy for England's Ancient and Native Woodland there is a clear action to promote woodland creation which extends, buffers and links ancient woodland through both the English woodland grant scheme and environmental stewardship grants. In order to respect the biodiversity values of ancient woodland much of this type of woodland creation will involve the use of native species.

Information on the number of trees planted by Government agencies is not recorded centrally. However, most new woodland planting is carried out by private landowners and is grant aided by the Forestry Commission. This has averaged over 4,600 hectares per year for the last 10 years and the majority of this planting has been with broadleaves and most of these have been native species.
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Our policy for the expansion of forests and woodland is set out in the England Forestry. Strategy published in 1998. This seeks a continued steady expansion of our woodland area to provide more benefits for society and our environment. Within this policy we have established some short-term targets, for example the creation of 30,000 hectares of new woodland under the current (2000–06) England Rural Development Programme.

UK-produced Food

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance she has issued on the minimum acceptable proportion of the UK's food needs which should be sourced from home-grown producers. [8913]

Jim Knight: The Government do not have a policy regarding a minimum level of food production, and therefore, have not issued guidance. The Government have a food security policy to ensure consumers have access to a stable and adequate supply of food. The UK has long been a net importer of food and national and international food security is best facilitated through improved trading relationships based on more open international markets and reductions in trade distorting subsidies.



Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list letters received by (a) him and (b) other Ministers in his Department from hon. Members during the period 1 February to 5 May; and how many of these letters were replied to. [6712]

Mr. Touhig: We do not capture this information in the form requested. However, according to our current ministerial correspondence database, of the 1,329 letters received during this period for answer by Ministry of Defence Ministers, my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for Defence has replied substantively to 149, while 1,167 have been responded to by other Ministers. Interim, or holding, replies have been sent to a further 10.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list occasions during the period 1 February to 5 May on which (a) he and (b) other Ministers in his Department stated in written parliamentary answers that they would write to hon. Members in order further to clarify a specific matter; and whether this commitment was not undertaken on any occasion. [6713]

Mr. Touhig: Defence Ministers undertook to write to various right hon. and hon. Members in answer to 32 parliamentary questions between 1 February 2005 and
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5 May 2005. Our records show that this commitment was not followed through on 16 occasions as it was not possible to provide clarification before Prorogation.

Departmental Conferences

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much the Department spent on organising or sponsoring conferences in each of the last five years. [10262]

Mr. Touhig: This information is not held centrally in the form requested and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Conferences and their associated costs are organised in accordance with departmental regulations.

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