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17 Oct 2005 : Column 672W—continued

Bovine TB

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 21 July 2005, Official Report, column 949W, on bovine TB, for what reasons her Department does not estimate the number of badgers who die due to infection with bovine TB as part of its bovine TB strategy. [17513]

Mr. Bradshaw: Mortality rates of mammals can only be determined from long term, intensive studies. This would be a very resource intensive exercise, not practical or cost effective to undertake outside of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial areas.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects to make a statement on the Government's plans to deal with the incidence of bovine TB. [18216]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government strategic framework for the sustainable control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in Great Britain" was published on 1 March 2005. This sets out the Government's high level plans for working in partnership with stakeholders to reduce bovine TB over the next 10 years. I expect to make an announcement on more detailed plans for dealing with bovine TB later this autumn.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the Food Standards Agency on the reliability of a test for BSE in cattle that are over 30 months. [18451]

Mr. Bradshaw: Government Ministers have accepted the advice from the Food Standards Agency, that Defra's proposed robust BSE testing system for older cattle should replace the Over Thirty Months (OTM) rule. The system is based on the use of tests which have been evaluated by the EC Commission and approved only if they perform satisfactorily in trials.
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Departmental Estate

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she has taken to provide a description of the Department's estate, including (a) executive agencies, (b) staff numbers, (c) buildings and (d) any land managed. [15673]

Jim Knight: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, has not been asked to provide a description of the Department's estate but if she were, she would describe the estate as currently comprising just under 230 properties throughout England and Wales. These are a mixture of freehold and leasehold properties, ranging in size from substantial laboratories and large office buildings to small offices with only a few rooms. They are occupied by just under 16,000 staff from the core-Department, its Executive agencies and consultants. The properties include eight farms which are owned by the Department and sub-let.

The estate is actively managed by the Department to ensure it is used efficiently. DEFRA is developing a comprehensive asset management strategy covering both the core Department and its associated public bodies (i.e. its Executive agencies, NDPBs and public corporations). A key aim of the strategy will be to rationalise and improve the use of assets and to dispose of those assets which are under-utilised or under-performing in the best interests of the Exchequer.

Endangered Species

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the factors which underlie the change in the number of gross imports of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species-listed wild-caught birds in (a) 2002 and (b) 2003. [17135]

Jim Knight: We have not carried out a specific assessment of these figures. Wildlife trade is dynamic and trends over time may reflect such diverse factors as policy decisions in exporting countries (e.g. changes to export quotas), traders gaining access to new sources of supply, market forces (supply and demand) and the actions of CITES (through the significant trade process or EC stricter measures).

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will set up a hotline to facilitate reporting of alleged offences under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species. [17263]

Jim Knight: The Secretary of State has no immediate plans to establish a dedicated hotline to facilitate the reporting of alleged offences under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. However, any person who suspects such an offence can report it to the police through Crimestoppers which is a 24-hour free anonymous telephone number. Many UK police forces have a dedicated Police Wildlife Crime Officer who will be able to instigate the appropriate action if required.

International Whaling Commission

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will encourage further countries to join the International Whaling Commission. [17090]

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Mr. Bradshaw: I plan to meet Ministers from a number of other anti-whaling countries early in November to discuss coordination of our efforts to recruit more of the same to the International Whaling Commission (IWC). We all recognise the need to counter Japanese efforts to recruit more allies and have had some success in this regard in recent years—the Czek Republic, Belgium, Hungary, Luxembourg and Slovakia all being relatively new recruits to the anti-whaling colours. We have also had more limited success recently in dissuading some of Japan's former allies from slavishly taking the Japanese line. We will continue our efforts on both fronts in preparation for the next meeting of the IWC in June 2006.

Live Animal Exports

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will impose eight hours as the maximum journey time in relation to the export of live animals. [17450]

Mr. Bradshaw: The UK has repeatedly pressed for shorter journey times for the transport of animals for slaughter. But when the new EU rules on the protection of animals during transport were negotiated last year, EU Ministers could not reach agreement on changes to journey times. The EU Commission will be reviewing the new rules, including journey times, by 2011.

Marsh Report

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to implement the recommendations of the Marsh Report; and if she will make a statement. [17474]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 13 October 2005]: The Government have carefully considered the 14 recommendations made by the report of the Independent Review of Dispensing by Veterinary Surgeons of Prescription Only Veterinary Medicines (the Marsh Report). Of the recommendations made, the Government initially accepted eight, one was rejected and the remaining five were considered by the Government as part of a review of existing European legislation and also in response to a Competition Commission report investigating the cost of veterinary POMs.

To avoid frequent changes of UK legislation the Government decided to implement the Marsh recommendations at the same time as it implemented the results of the European review of medicines legislation. This has been done in the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2005, which were subject to extensive public consultation. The regulations were laid in Parliament on 7 October and are due to come into force on 30 October 2005.

The Marsh Report recommendation for a review of distribution categories of veterinary medicinal products is currently being implemented by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). The VMD has written to interested organisations and stakeholders, requesting that they identify a product, or group of products that they feel should be re-categorised and to explain why.
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This consultation ends on 19 October 2005 and further information can be obtained from the VMD website ( under Consultations, Current".

Native Amphibians

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list native amphibians classified as (a) critically endangered, (b) endangered and (c) vulnerable; and what percentage of native amphibians this represents. [17270]

Jim Knight: No native amphibians are listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable under the IUCN Red List categories and criteria.

The Natterjack toad, Great crested newt and Pool frog are listed as Species of Principal Importance under section 74 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Species Action Plans under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) are in place for each of these species.

The Pool frog used to occur in East Anglia but the last known native population declined to extinction in the 1990s. As part of the Pool frog action plan the status of the native species was clarified and subsequently the reintroduction potential was investigated. Following extensive research, the first release in the Pool frog reintroduction programme was undertaken in August 2005 at a site in Norfolk, using animals from Sweden. Further releases to the site will take place in future years,and monitoring will assess how the population establishes.

A review of Priority Species and Habitats under the UKBAP is currently under way and is due to report in 2006.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the risk posed to native amphibians by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis; and if she will make a statement. [17271]

Jim Knight: The disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the chytrid fungus B. dendrobatidis, has been discovered in an introduced amphibian species, the North American bullfrog, at a site in Kent.

During 2005 English Nature has funded the Institute of Zoology to undertake screening of the native amphibians present at the Kent bullfrog site. This work is still in progress, and results are expected soon. Retrospective sampling of native amphibians collected from various locations in southern England in the 1990s detected no B. dendrobatidis infection.

Until the results of the screening of native amphibians at the Kent site are available, it is difficult to give an accurate assessment of the risk posed by the finding of B. dendrobatidis in the UK. This is because research in other countries has demonstrated a range of responses by amphibian populations. In some cases the amphibians are infected by B.dendrobatidis but appear to show no ill effects, some amphibian populations appear to carry the infection with low levels of health effects and mortality, whilst some populations suffer massive mortality and eventual local extinction.
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It is encouraging that during routine inspections at the Kent site there have been no obvious signs of disease or higher than normal mortality among native amphibians. Moreover, to our knowledge there is no reported pattern of symptoms or mortality from other amphibian sites that would be consistent with chytridiomycosis.

The funding of further chytrid screening work in other parts of the UK in 2006 by the Institute of Zoology is currently being discussed.

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