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19 Oct 2005 : Column 993W—continued


Agricultural Land

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of recent trends in the value of agricultural land. [16487]

Jim Knight: The following table shows estimated agricultural land prices in England for the last 10 years. These are derived from data for all sales of agricultural land in England and give an indication of the trend in land values. They exclude land sold for non-agricultural purposes and sales of less than five hectares.
England agricultural land prices

£ per hectare

Animal Husbandry

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of male cattle she estimates were shot within one month of birth in the last period for which figures are available. [17229]

Mr. Bradshaw: No official statistics are available on the number of male animals under one month old disposed of on farm. Based on estimates of numbers of male dairy calves produced in 2004 (roughly 480,000) it is estimated that approximately 80 per cent. were disposed of on farm.

Avian Influenza

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what surveillance and protection measures are in place to deal with a potential outbreak of avian influenza; and if she will make a statement. [18212]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government has significantly enhanced the arrangements for surveillance of wild birds, including the investigation of die-offs and sampling at shoots and wetlands. The arrangements have been agreed as part of co-ordinated efforts across the European Union. The EU has also banned all imports of birds and poultry-related products, except processed feathers, from countries affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza. Her Majesty's Customs and Revenue are enhancing checks of luggage of passengers travelling from Romania and Turkey. The Government
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is well-prepared to manage an outbreak of avian influenza with a published detailed contingency plan in place.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Department has spent on research into avian influenza in each of the last five years. [19141]

Mr. Bradshaw: Over the last five years the Department has doubled the amount invested into research activity on avian influenza, from £226,000 during 2001–02, to £463,000 budgeted during 2005–06.

Financial yearBudget

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the symptoms of avian influenza are; and how they differ in different domestic species. [19143]

Mr. Bradshaw: Avian influenza is a highly contagious disease affecting the respiratory, digestive and/or nervous system of many species of birds. The general symptoms may include loss of appetite, diarrhoea, generalised weakness, swelling of the face and legs, conjunctivitis, nasal discharge, blue discolouration of the skin or membranes, a drop in egg production, sneezing, coughing and laboured respiration. In disease caused by highly virulent types of virus, there may be no warning signs, with birds either being found dead or dying suddenly. The presenting clinical signs in different domestic species are influenced by husbandry conditions (e.g. whether birds are housed or not) and by the presence of intercurrent bacterial or other viral diseases.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of vets who are qualified to identify avian influenza. [19144]

Mr. Bradshaw: All veterinary surgeons should be competent to identify the signs associated with avian influenza and take any samples required for laboratory confirmation of disease. The state veterinary service trains all its veterinary staff in the recognition of clinical signs of exotic diseases, including avian influenza.

The British Veterinary Association has circulated very comprehensive advice to its members to aid identification of suspect cases and this advice incorporates the views of specialist veterinarians working with poultry on a regular basis.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the requirement for protective (a) clothing and (b) equipment for (i) poultry farmers and (ii) other keepers of birds to deal with avian influenza. [19146]

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Mr. Bradshaw: Worker protection and requirements for personal protective equipment are public health matters for the Health and Safety Executive, Department of Health and Health Protection Agency to advise on.

This Department is however fully committed to ensuring that sound practical and risk based guidance is available to the keepers of poultry and other birds. A joint poultry industry and cross departmental working group, chaired by DEFRA, has been established and will publish guidance by the end of October.

Carbon Emissions

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether it remains Government policy that action to tackle climate change post-2012 should include mandatory national targets for reductions in carbon emissions. [17178]

Mr. Morley: The UK Government and the EU remain committed to the framework set out by the Kyoto protocol. It remains crucially important, as the first ever legally binding framework, to set quantified emissions reductions for developed countries. The UK Government and the EU want to build on the Kyoto protocol and its key elements such as targets and timetables, monitoring and reporting, compliance and the flexibility mechanisms for the period after 2012.

In addition, on the basis of the European Commission's communication Winning the battle against global climate change" (February 2005) the European Council of Ministers concluded that the EU's future climate change strategy should:

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she has taken to ensure the accuracy of the inventory of UK carbon emissions; and if she will make a statement on the different methodologies used. [17180]

Mr. Morley: The inventory of UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (including carbon dioxide) is compiled according to the guidance issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Accuracy checks on the UK inventory are conducted as follows:

Inventory data compiled by our contractor are subject to an audited quality control and assurance programme. This ensures that the data sources are reliable and quality checked, that the choice of methodologies is transparent, that data are consistent over time, complete, comparable, and assessed for uncertainties. When required, methodological changes
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are made to take account of new data sources, or new guidance from the IPCC, relevant work by other international organisations, new research, or specific research programmes sponsored by Defra. Such improvements to the methodology are applied retrospectively to ensure a consistent time series of emissions.

Defra periodically tests the accuracy of key source sector estimates in the national inventory by means of independent peer review. Reviews completed to date include carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion and agriculture. Defra also funds independent verification of the reliability of the emissions estimates by combining measurements of the concentrations of selected GHGs at Mace Head in Ireland and a model of atmospheric transport developed by the Met Office.

Each year the GHG inventory is subject to annual reviews by trained expert reviewers working on behalf of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These reviews are a thorough cross-check of the accuracy and reliability of country estimates, and are designed to underpin the integrity of the convention process and the Kyoto protocol.

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