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21 Jul 2005 : Column 1970W—continued

Sea Fish

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the sea fish commonly found in UK waters whose numbers have declined since 1995; and if she will make a statement. [13061]

Mr. Bradshaw: Fishery scientists from the UK and the other exploiting nations compile fisheries data, biological data and survey data in order to assess the status of fish stocks. The Advisory Committee on Fishery Management (ACFM) of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), an independent scientific body, uses these data sources to provide information on the annual status of fish stocks.

The state of the stocks is described in terms of the spawning stock biomass (SSB, the weight of mature fish), the fishing rate (F), and the number of juvenile fish (R, recruits in each year-class). One way in which the decline in fish numbers may be assessed is on the basis of changes in SSB from the level estimated for 1995 relative to the current estimate for 2004.

Based on advice from the ACFM meeting of October 2004, which evaluated stock assessments using fisheries data for years up to and including 2003, and survey data up to and including 2004 the following stocks have shown a decline in SSB compared with 1995:
UK watersSea fish
(i)North seaCod, Norway pout, sandeel and sole
(ii)Irish seaSole
(iii)Eastern channelPlaice
(iv)Western channelSole
(v)Celtic seaCod, whiting and plaice

For a number of stocks it has not been possible to make a comparison because the level of SSB was uncertain in 2004. This includes some stocks which have shown a long term decline such as cod in the Irish sea and west of Scotland.
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Sickness Absence

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many days the Department has lost due to sickness in the past five years for which figures are available. [11467]

Jim Knight: Figures are available in the annual report Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service" published by the Cabinet Office, the most recent of which (for calendar year 2003) was announced by ministerial statement on 1 November 2004 and copies placed in the Libraries of the House.

Reports are also available via the Cabinet Office website at:

As Defra was formed in 2001, figures are only available for 2002 and 2003, and are summarised in the following table.
Column A: Average days absent
per staff year
Column B: Total
staff years
Total days absence. (column A X column B)

Defra is committed to the effective management of sickness absence and introduced a new policy for sickness absence management in December 2004, which introduced many of the recommendations of the recently published report Managing Sickness Absence in the Public Sector".

Special Advisers

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list (a) the special advisers in her Department, (b) their specific areas of expertise and (c) the total cost of employing them in the latest year for which figures are available. [8823]

Margaret Beckett: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Prime Minister on 4 July 2005, Official Report, column 36W.

State Veterinary Service

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many veterinary surgeons are employed in each office of the State Veterinary Service, broken down by (a) gender and (b) full or part-time employment. [13614]

Mr. Bradshaw: The number of veterinarians employed by the State Veterinary Service will vary from time to time, The State Veterinary Service also engages local veterinary inspectors and temporary veterinary inspectors to act on its behalf as required.


Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to strengthen the supermarkets' code of practice; and if she will make a statement. [13124]

21 Jul 2005 : Column 1972W

Jim Knight: Responsibility for the supermarket Code of Practice rests with the Office of Fair Trading. In March it invited comments from supermarkets, suppliers and stakeholders on issues to do with the code and wider competition concerns about the grocery market. It is currently considering the responses received.

Veterinary Surgeons Act

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects to publish conclusions on amending the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966; and what assessment she has made of the recent proposals of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. [12457]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 19 July 2005]: The Government remain committed to modernising the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 as soon as parliamentary time allows. An analysis of the results of our public consultation on the future regulation of the veterinary profession has been published on the Department's website.

I welcome the proposals from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Council which are currently being considered by veterinarians and other interested parties. It would be premature for me to make any comment at this stage on the specific proposals. However, a new Bill must provide a proportionate level of regulation to protect the public interest. This will involve striking the right balance between public concerns about self regulation, the standards expected of veterinarians by their clients, the protection of animal welfare and the costs to both veterinary practices and individual vets. We should also take proper account of developments in the regulation of other professions.

My officials will seek a general discussion with the RCVS once the results of the consultation are available. We will also consult other interested parties before deciding how to move these issues forward.

Waste and Emissions Trading Act

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under what circumstances her Department may decide not to fine a local authority which failed to meet its landfill allowance requirements under the Waste and Emissions Trading Act 2003. [14221]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Secretary of State has the power under section 26(1)(c) of the Waste and Emissions Trading Act 2003 (the WET Act") to waive financial penalties for an authority that exceeds its landfill allowances. The Secretary of State's policy in relation to the exercise of these powers is set out in a guidance document available on the Defra website

In summary, the Secretary of State's policy is to be very selective about the exercise of her powers under section 26(1)(c) (ii). In general, she will only waive a financial penalty in circumstances where it can be demonstrated that an authority's failure to meet its duty under section 9(1) of the WET Act was primarily due to circumstances beyond the authority's control.
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Waste Disposal

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much of the (a) paper, (b) plastic, (c) glass, (d) aluminium and (e) steel waste collected in London in 2004 was (i)reprocessed within London, (ii) reprocessed in the UK but outside London and (iii) exported for reprocessing; and to which countries such material was exported. [10788]

Mr. Bradshaw: Defra does not collect information on the amount of paper, plastic, glass, aluminium and steel collected in London which is then reprocessed within London or reprocessed in the UK but outside London. In general, these wastes would be classified as non-hazardous and their notification of export for reprocessing is not required unless specific countries of destination have made a request to the European Commission for additional controls. In these cases notification to the Environment Agency would be required. No such notifications were made to the Environment Agency during 2004.

Through their contractors, local authorities will know to which destinations these materials are sent and the quantities involved so that they can ensure that they are complying with the requirements of the duty of care i.e. that the material is being transported by properly licensed waste carriers, delivered to an authorised person and that the relevant documents, such as a waste transfer note, are retained by them for the prescribed period.

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