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Egg Imports

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what vaccines have been developed to inoculate against salmonella from imported eggs; and if she will make a statement. [13123]

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Mr. Bradshaw: Products to vaccinate hens against salmonella infection have been developed by the pharmaceutical industry, There are seven veterinary medicinal products authorised in the UK for use in poultry (laying birds) to protect against infections with either Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Typhimurium or Salmonella Gallinarum.

These vaccines are used in conjunction with a number of other measures relating to hygiene, biosecurity and management to help protect the hens against certain strains of salmonella of public health significance, In Great Britain a large proportion of the flocks producing eggs for human consumption are vaccinated against salmonella. Vaccination against salmonella of flocks producing eggs for human consumption is one of the requirements of the British Egg Industry Council operated Lion Code. The members operating to the Lion Code produce around 80 per cent. of the eggs in Great Britain. A number of producers who are not members also vaccinate their flocks against salmonella.

There is no statutory requirement to vaccinate flocks producing eggs against salmonella. The producer will decide on vaccination of the flock depending on individual circumstances and veterinary advice.

In other countries flocks producing eggs for human consumption may or may not be vaccinated against salmonella. Some countries have a statutory requirement to vaccinate flocks against salmonella, and in others the vaccination of flocks producing eggs for human consumption is not permitted. In some countries the situation is similar to Great Britain, where vaccination may be carried out on a voluntary basis. Imported eggs may therefore come from flocks which have been vaccinated against salmonella in some cases and not vaccinated against salmonella in others.

It is, of course, important that caterers and consumers follow the advice of the Food Standards Agency on the handling, cooking, and storage of eggs.

Endangered Species

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publicise the penalties for offences relating to the illegal trade in endangered species. [14044]

Jim Knight: On 27 June, I announced that the maximum prison sentence for certain offences relating to the illegal trade in endangered species is being increased from two to five years, with effect from 21 July 2005. This increase will bring with it enhanced powers of arrest for police officers.

Information is available on the Defra website ( Full details have also been sent to all organisations that are members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW), this includes the statutory enforcement agencies, the main conservation organisations, and the main traders and other users of wildlife with an interest in this area.

Energy Crops

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what
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incentives are offered to UK farmers to develop energy crops for use in (a) bio-mass and (b) dual bio-mass and coal fired power stations; [12261]

(2) what the Government's policy is on the (a) growing, (b) promotion and (c) use of energy crops in the UK. [12299]

Mr. Morley: As part of our overall strategy for improving sustainability and reducing the impact of climate change, the Government supports the use of energy crops for the generation of electricity and heat. Grants are available to farmers in England to plant energy crops. The single payment and €45/ha energy aid payment are also available in certain circumstances. Funding has been provided to develop supply chains throughout the UK to supply energy crops to all types of energy end-users. A UK-wide grant scheme is developing dedicated biomass heat, combined heat and power, and electricity generation projects, particularly those fuelled by energy crops. Recent changes to the rules on co-firing of biomass with fossil fuel in conventional power stations give longer timescales for the use of biomass. This makes co-firing with energy crops a more attractive option for both farmers and power generators. The Biomass Study Task Force, led by Sir Ben Gill, which is to report later this year, is working with stakeholders to identify the barriers to developing biomass energy and will recommend ways to overcome the problems.


Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which country (a) she and (b) each minister in her Department (i) has visited and (ii) plans to visit in 2005. [9033]

Margaret Beckett: So far this year, Defra Ministers have undertaken official visits to various EU member states as well as to the USA, Kenya, India, New Zealand and South Korea.

England Rural Development Programme

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received concerning the allocation of England Rural Development Programme Vocational Training Scheme funds between regional and national schemes. [9169]

Margaret Beckett: I have received one representation concerning the allocation of funds between regional and national projects under the Vocational Training Scheme (VTS).

The VTS is administered by the Rural Development Service and applications for funding may be made to address particular needs for training farmers and foresters. The scheme is selective and projects are assessed on a wide range of criteria including fit with national and regional priorities, and value for money. The VTS has an total annual budget of £4 million under the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP). The majority of this budget is allocated for regional projects, but a reserve of £300,000 has been set aside in 2005–06 to fund projects that have national coverage, or which would operate in four or more regions. If regional
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funds are under-subscribed, it is possible for additional moneys to be made available to high priority national projects.

European Landscape Convention

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the UK will sign and ratify the European Landscape Convention. [13748]

Jim Knight: Signature and ratification of the European Landscape Convention remains under consideration. It is likely that my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, will be in a position to make a recommendation to colleagues shortly.

Fallen Stock

Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she had with her counterpart in the National Assembly for Wales Government about the fallen stock scheme prior to its implementation. [12373]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 18 July 2005]: None directly, however the Scheme was fully supported by this Department and Devolved Administrations, which have jointly agreed to provide funding to the tune of £20 million over three years.

Farm Subsidies

Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Department spent on computer systems to support the single payment system. [11402]

Jim Knight: The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is currently budgeting to directly spend £70.9 million to develop new computer software to support the single payment scheme (SPS). In addition to the software development costs, the RPA is also budgeted to spend £20.2 million on hardware and infrastructure improvements to host the software. There are further indirect costs for project management, business process redesign, assurance and the implementation of SPS.

The development of a new computer system to deliver SPS is an integral part of a broader Change Programme. This Programme is targeted to make greater use of technology and innovation to deliver all RPA services more efficiently and effectively. As well as implementing the Single Payment Scheme (SPS), this Programme will bring about a significant reduction of the size of the organisation by reducing the number of operational sites from 12 to six (four have already closed) and a reduction in staffing of approximately 1,650 (from a baseline of 3,299) as part of the Gershon efficiencies.

Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the (a) minimum, (b) maximum, (c) average and (d) median time taken for farmers to obtain field numbers for non-arable land was in the last period for which figures are available. [11403]

Jim Knight: The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is responsible for the allocation of field numbers on land used for the purposes of claiming CAP subsidy. Since
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September 2004 RPA has maintained a digitised record of all land on which subsidy is claimed. Following the introduction of the single payment and environmental stewardship schemes requests to register new land and modify existing registrations have increased by around 1,000 per cent. over previous levels. This has resulted in significant backlog of requests.

RPA has not historically maintained statistics on the response times for processing requests. Following the deployment of additional resources to this task RPA is processing more than 1,000 requests per week and is prioritising cases to support claims to the single payment and environmental stewardship schemes. Moreover, RPA is seeking to further increase processing capacity to expedite the clearance of outstanding requests.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farmers did not receive their entry level scheme packs on time; and if she will make a statement. [13185]

Jim Knight: Environmental Stewardship was launched on 3 March and farmers and landowners can apply to join Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) at any time. The immediate focus for many has however been to secure an ELS agreement with the earliest start date available, of 1 August.

In the light of current difficulties with the printing of some ELS application packs, and delays in land registration for some customers, the contingency arrangements we have put in place—an extension of the closing date for applications and prioritisation of registration requests submitted to the Rural Payments Agency—should help ensure that as many applicants as possible can benefit from the 1 August start date. In addition, moving to monthly agreement start dates after 1 August means that the impact on customers of any further delays are minimised. These difficulties should however not mask the progress already made. By 8 July, over 28,000 ELS application packs had been issued and of these, more than 5,000 applications had been completed and returned to the Rural Development Service.

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