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10 Oct 2005 : Column 136W—continued

Environment Agency

Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many people are employed in the Environment Agency's customer service team; and what the (a) employment and (b) other costs have been to date. [15170]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency's National Customer Contact Centre currently employs 70 people. Staff costs for 2004–05 were £1.04 million, with total operational costs of £1.27 million. This year's total budget is £1.6 million, of which £1.4 million will be spent on staff.

The agency's National Customer Contact Centre was set up in 2002. Information system development costs, including implementation, support and maintenance for 2002–05 were £2.816 million. Wider project costs—including accommodation set up, recruitment and other project costs for 2002–05 were £889,000.

As well as a small customer service team in its Head Office (employing 2.5 full time equivalents), staff in the devolved teams working across England and Wales cover a variety of external engagement tasks, including customer and stakeholder relations. For much of the work of the Environment Agency there is no straightforward divide between customer services and improving the way the agency functions. Beyond this, the Environment Agency has signed up to the Customer Charter and regards all staff as having a customer service role.
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Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the media budget of (a) the Environment Agency and (b) Environment Agency retail is in 2005–06; and if she will make a statement. [15171]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency's 2005–06 budget for media relations activity is £1,470,000. This is comprised almost entirely of staff costs, with a small spend on supporting activities including training, monitoring and evaluation to enhance the effectiveness of its media communication activities for the benefit of the public.

The Environment Agency places significant importance on disseminating information and advice and accounting publicly for its activities to the widest possible audience in a cost-effective way. It therefore employs dedicated press officers in its head office, and in each of its eight regions, to make the public aware of the agency and its responsibilities, to reinforce its regulatory role and generally to ensure strong coverage of environmental issues. It strives to reach national, regional and local audiences by securing editorial coverage in all types of media.

The media is also a vital communication channel during civil emergencies, including flooding and environmental incidents. The Environment Agency's press officers provide a 24 hour service, 365 days of the year, to ensure that important information can always be targeted to appropriate news and other media outlets. In the event of flooding, press officers are in the front line in disseminating warnings, information and advice to the public via the media.

The agency does not hold a budget for retail.
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Equality and Diversity

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Department has spent promoting equality and diversity in each of the last five years for which figures are available. [14666]

Jim Knight: Defra is fully committed to the diversity and equality agenda and has policies 'embedded' throughout its HR policies as well as processes in place to ensure that there is no unfair discrimination on any grounds.

Defra operates in a global market, and the UK is a multi-cultural society. Defra needs representatives from different ethnic backgrounds and different minority groups to compete in business terms. It needs staff who can understand its customers and their cultures, who can communicate with them effectively, reflecting the communities in which Defra works. These include the farming, fishing, food and water industries, together with other industries challenged to meet consumers' requirements, as well as the public itself living within either rural or urban areas.

Defra's diversity and equality policies are promoted through a number of initiatives. These include funding of specific diversity and equality-related training courses; e-learning diversity training packages; in-house staff networks, which provide support for staff in minority groups; and mentoring schemes for minority groups.

The current staffing figure for the Department's Diversity and Equality Unit is standing at 10, of which three are working on a part-time basis as part of Defra's flexible working opportunities.

The latest available figures for the cost of these initiatives since Defra was created are indicated as follows:
2001–02TrainingDiversity and Equality Training (Legislative Compliance and Diversity Management)35,000
Staff networks 4In-house1,300
2002–03TrainingDiversity Toolkit(41)4,784
Diversity and Equality Training (Legislative Compliance and Diversity Management)(42)100,200
(2002 2004)(43)Pathways and Disability7,000
Bursary (mentoring schemes)5,000
Staff networks 4In-house374
Work PlacementsFast Stream-Ethnic Minority Scheme6,360
Disabled Candidate Scheme6,272
2003–04TrainingDiversity and Equality Training (Legislative Compliance and Diversity Management)52,800
PC ROM e-learning multi-media package(44)55,000
Staff networks 5In-house3,669
Work PlacementsFast Stream—Ethnic Minority Scheme6,840
2004–05TrainingDiversity and Equality Training (Legislative Compliance and Diversity Management)42,400
PC ROM(45)44,650
Staff networks 5In-house7,140
2005 to dateTrainingRRA Legislative Compliance9,200
Staff networks 6In-house368
Grand total388,357

(41)Development and production of Interactive computer training package dealing with diversity and equality issues.
(42)The cost of diversity and Equality training here was high, due to the creation of Defra as a new Department.
(43)The cost of these schemes was spread over two years.
(44)This was an e-learning multi-media package, 'Looking Beyond The Difference' designed for use by individuals via Defra's intranet, and for corporate training—produced in conjunction with external consultants. Being in the lead with this package, Defra has demonstrated this to other Government Departments as sharing best practise, and DWP have asked for permission to re-brand.
(45)Looking Beyond The Difference"—further redevelopment of package.

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Flood Defences

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects authorisation to be given for a start to be made on a flood defence scheme for the Cliffe Cell in Lewes. [15695]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency consider that the Cliffe Cell in Lewes is unlikely to qualify for funding for at least the next three years as the assessed priority score for the scheme is below the currently indicated thresholds.


Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many bankruptcies there have been among farmers in England in each of the last 10 years. [16488]

Jim Knight: The data requested on bankruptcies are set out in the table and are available only for England and Wales combined.
Number of bankruptcies in the agricultural and horticultural sectors: England and Wales 1995–2004

Bankruptcies of self-employed individualsCompany insolvencies(46)Total

(46)Including partnerships.
Department of Trade and Industry

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