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10 Oct 2005 : Column 128W—continued


Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which have been withheld relating to the BSE outbreak; and what obligations arise from UK participation in the Aarhus Convention in this respect. [16059]

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Mr. Bradshaw: Under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, information is requested as opposed to documents. Defra does not therefore hold a list of withheld documents. The Department has received several requests for information about BSE issues and has responded in accordance with the terms of the FOI Act or the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs) as appropriate. The EIRs implement the UK's obligations under the Aarhus Convention.

Both the FOIA and the EIRs contain exemptions from the duty to disclose. In some cases, information was withheld because it fell within one of these exemptions. If individuals are unhappy with the way their requests have been dealt with under the FOIA or EIRs, they may ask the Department to conduct an internal review. If they remain dissatisfied, they may complain to the Information Commissioner. We are not aware that the Information Commissioner has received any complaints about these cases.

Carbon Emissions

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government has taken in response to suggested scenarios for reducing carbon emissions set out in the 22nd Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution; and what outcomes have been achieved. [15544]

Mr. Morley: The Government accepted the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's recommendation that the UK should put itself on a path towards a reduction in carbon dioxide (C0 2 ) emissions of some 60 per cent. from current levels by about 2050. The Energy White Paper (CM 5761), published by the DTI in February 2003, outlined a number of ways in which the 60 per cent. goal could be achieved. The EWP is being taken forward by the inter-departmental Sustainable Energy Policy Network (SEPN).

The current review of the UK Climate Change Programme (2000) is looking at how existing measures are performing and the range of measures that might be put in place in the future to help us achieve our goal of a 20 per cent. reduction in CO 2 emissions by 2010 and to put us on a path to make

Chewing Gum

Mr. Pelling: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department is taking to help reduce clear up costs for local authorities by encouraging manufacturers, importers and retailers to market less adhesive chewing gum. [16408]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government are working closely with the chewing gum industry to reduce the amount of chewing gum that is irresponsibly littered on our streets. The industry form part of the Chewing Gum Action Group that brings together Government, the Local Government Association, Chartered Institute of Waste Management and others to explore and implement ways of reducing the amount of chewing gum dropped on our streets.
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The industry is committed to developing a biodegradable gum and continue to update Government on their progress. While this work continues, the action group is pursuing a number of initiatives, including a recently piloted awareness campaign in Preston, Manchester and Maidstone, the results of which will help inform the development of a wider campaign and enable other local authorities to run similar campaigns in their own area. The gum industry are also looking at incorporating the campaign advertising into their point of sale material.

Climate Change

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the G8 plan of action on climate change contains legally binding provisions on participating Governments. [15083]

Mr. Morley: The G8 Plan of Action on Climate Change, as with all G8 agreements ever made, is not legally binding.

Common Agricultural Policy

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress in the enforcement of cross-compliance standards under the Common Agricultural Policy (a) in the UK and (b) across the EU. [15477]

Jim Knight: The information requested is as follows:

(a) Considerable progress has been made on the enforcement of cross-compliance standards in England since their introduction on 1 January 2005. Checks against pre-existing individual standards have taken place throughout the year where there are existing inspection regimes operating, and the results will be taken into account for cross-compliance purposes. Detailed guidance for inspectors has been produced in liaison with the specialist enforcement agencies and devolved Administrations, as well as a comprehensive Payments Reduction Matrix which the Rural Payments Agency will use when considering payment reductions.

In other parts of the UK, the implementation of cross-compliance is a matter for the devolved Administrations. However, the UK has worked to achieve consistency in approach where possible, especially in regards to cross-boundary holdings.

(b) Cross-compliance is one of the key elements of CAP reform. Across the European Union all member states are required to implement and enforce cross-compliance in accordance with the Commission regulations.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress in the modulation of funds from the first to the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy in (a) the UK and (b) the EU. [15482]

Jim Knight: From 2005, modulation will be applied on a compulsory basis to all EU direct payments made in the EU 15. A 3 per cent. rate of compulsory EU modulation will transfer funding from CAP Pillar One subsidies to rural development Pillar Two payments in 2005. The rate will rise to 4 per cent. in 2006, and 5 per
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cent. from 2007 onwards. The regime will apply in the 10 new member states by 2013 at the latest when their direct payments are due to reach EU 15 levels.

In addition, the UK has secured agreement for an additional rate of national modulation to be levied over and above the EU rate. The additional national modulation rate in England is necessary in order to finance an expansion of our agri-environment schemes, and in particular to implement entry level stewardship. The Secretary of State announced last year that this national rate of modulation will be 2 per cent. in 2005 and 6 per cent. in 2006, bringing the overall rate in England to 5 per cent. and 10 per cent. in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Modulation will be 100 per cent. match funded by the Exchequer until at least 2006, which doubles the amount of money available for agri-environment measures.

We have been pressing the Commission for a modulation mechanism that will allow us to levy additional national modulation in the next rural development programming period to enable us to properly fund agri-environment agreements from 2007. A declaration was given at the Agriculture Council of 20 June 2005 that discussions on voluntary modulation will continue as part of the financial perspective negotiations.
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Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress in the reduction of intervention rates under the Common Agricultural Policy. [15483]

Jim Knight: Intervention prices have been reduced in CAP reform agreements over the last decade or so. Intervention prices for most commodities have been substantially reduced.

The cereals intervention price was reduced by around 35 per cent. over the period 1993–94 to 1995–96 and by a further 15 per cent. in the period 2000–01 to 2001–02. It now stands at €101.31. From the start of the 2004–05 marketing year, rye was excluded from the list of eligible crops for cereals intervention, reducing the potential volume of stocks and therefore expenditure.

The rice intervention price was reduced by 15 per cent. over the period 1997–98 and 1999–2000. Under the 2003 reforms it was further reduced by almost 50 per cent. from the start of the 2004–05 marketing year. It now stands at €150/t and intervention purchasing is limited to 75,000 tonnes of rice per annum.

The beef intervention price was reduced by 20per cent. in 1999. It now stands at €1,560/t.

The 2003 CAP reform agreement included phased reductions in intervention prices in the milk sector over a four year period as set out in the table:
1 July 2000 to 30 June 20041 July 2004 to 30 June 20051 July 2005 to 30 June 20061 July 2006 to 30 June 2007From 1 July 2007
Price €/100 kg
Percentage cut7774
Skimmed milk powder
Price €/100 kg
Percentage cut555

The sugar intervention price has been at €631.90/t for white sugar and €523.70/t for raw sugar since the 1993–94 marketing year. As part of the current negotiations to reform the sugar regime, the European Commission have proposed the abolition of the intervention mechanism and price for sugar.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress in the decoupling of subsidy and production under the Common Agricultural Policy; if she will list the sectors to which decoupling will apply; and if she will list those EU member states who have opted out of decoupling. [15484]

Jim Knight: Under the CAP reform agreement reached in June 2003, the main direct payments in the arable, beef and sheep sectors are replaced by the new decoupled Single Payment Scheme (SPS). Ten member states introduced the SPS at the earliest possible date, 2005, and five in 2006. (Separate arrangements apply to the 10 new member states.) Additionally, the direct payment in the dairy sector is being integrated into the SPS between 2005 and 2007. Member states also have the option to re-couple a limited percentage of certain payments when introducing the SPS. For those member states introducing the reforms in 2005, all bar Ireland and Luxembourg have made some use of these options, including the UK in respect of a national envelope for the beef sector in Scotland.

In the second wave of reform agreed in May 2004, a significant part of the production linked payments in the tobacco, hops, olive oil and cotton sectors are also to be decoupled from 2006. In addition, the Commission has recently proposed reform of the sugar sector which would see compensation for changes to the market regime being integrated into the SPS.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment her Department has undertaken of different policy options for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. [15494]

Jim Knight: We have secured notable successes in reforming the CAP in recent years, which our assessments show will make it less trade-distorting, and environmentally damaging and help boost the competitiveness of farming.

We want to build on that model, including through the reform of the sugar regime, for which my Department has published a detailed assessment of the European Commission's proposals. We will also assess the implications of reform of the fruit and vegetable, flax and hemp and wine regimes when proposals for
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those sectors come forward next year, and we will pursue the policy options mandated by the World Trade Organisation as part of the Doha Development Agenda.

In the context of the EU's Future Financing negotiations, we have suggested a review of the whole EU budget—including, but not limited to, agriculture—midway through the next EU financial perspective (2007–13). We are currently consulting other member states on their views and will use the findings to inform our thinking on options for any subsequent changes to the CAP budget.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her policy is on the establishment of a cap on the level of support given to any single recipient of subsidy under the Common Agricultural Policy. [15495]

Jim Knight: The Government have had concerns about setting a ceiling on individual farm subsidy payments because it would add further distortions to the system.

Payment limits would have a disproportionate impact on many of the larger, more efficient farms which are better able to compete in an increasingly globalised and liberalised market, and thus may perpetuate the industry's dependence on subsidy and discriminate against those countries with the best farm structure to compete globally.

A ceiling could also discourage the industry from restructuring and divert farmers into adopting a business structure which maximised subsidy by avoiding the impacts of the ceiling, rather than adopting the most efficient, market-based business model to provide long-term economic viability.

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