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7 Nov 2005 : Column 12W—continued

Biomass Industry

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of UK-produced biomass energy for (a) electricity and (b) heat has been generated from crops grown in the UK in each of the last three years. [22083]

Malcolm Wicks: I have been asked to reply.

Estimates used to compile the tables shown in the Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics 2005, show that in 2002, 2003 and 2004 all biomass used for the generation of heat in the UK was home produced. For biomass used in co-firing with fossil fuels to generate electricity, 56 per cent. was imported in 2003 and 63 per cent. in 2004. Information to enable the corresponding proportion for 2002 to be calculated is not available. It is further estimated that there is no importation of other bio-fuels such as straw, or short rotation coppice for electricity generation.

The tables from the Digest of UK Energy Statistics used for this reply are 7.1, 7.2, 7.3 and 7.7. The Digest is available in the Libraries of the House.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the latest information provided by her Department to farmers on biosecurity measures to deal with avian influenza and West Nile fever. [20763]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Department has distributed guidance materials on avian influenza to our partners in the industry—including the British Poultry Council, the British Egg Industry Council and the National Farmers Union—who are helping to distribute this material to their members, who cover the majority of birds. A simple one-page leaflet on biosecurity and surveillance for smaller concerns and back yard keepers has also been produced and is being distributed widely including to all veterinary practices and placed in trade and specialist press targeting the same audience. All this information is available on my Department's website and I am placing copies in the Library of the House.

Advice regarding West Nile Virus is contained in the draft contingency plan for Specified Type Equine Exotic Diseases which is currently out for public consultation.

The draft plan can be found at: The closing date for responses is 21 November 2005.

Information concerning West Nile Virus can also be found on the West Nile Virus Q&A at: http://defraweb/animalh/diseases/notifiable/disease/westnilevirus.htm
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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the level of preparedness for the vaccination of animals against (a) avian influenza and (b) West Nile fever. [20765]

Mr. Bradshaw: There are no vaccines against avian influenza which have a marketing authorisation for use in the UK. Work is in hand to consider whether vaccination of birds in zoos or other centres on the one hand, or of commercial poultry on the other, should form part of the control strategy in the UK. There are no vaccines against West Nile fever with a marketing authorisation for use in the UK. A draft contingency plan for dealing with outbreaks of specified type equine exotic diseases (which includes West Nile virus) was issued for consultation in July 2005.


Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information she has received on the number of wild birds traded into the European Union (a) in 2004 and (b) to date in 2005; and what checks have been made for avian influenza among these birds. [23813]

Mr. Bradshaw: Figures from the EU-wide computer system used to record imports of animals and their products, known as TRACES, show that in 2004 67,480 captive birds were imported into the European Union. Of these 66,586 were imported into the UK.

In 2005 120,639 captive birds were imported into the EU to date. Of these 119,856 were imported into the UK.

These figures are for captive birds, as no distinction can be made between captive bred birds and wild caught birds. The figures do not include poultry. However there are discrepancies between these figures and the figures reported by CITES. We are concerned about these discrepancies between these figures and are urgently investigating them to resolve the problem.

All imported captive birds must be held in quarantine for 30 days during which time a test must be carried out for the avian influenza virus.

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what procedures are followed for the quarantine of birds from different countries in separate facilities; and when this system was put in place. [23704]

Mr. Bradshaw: EU law includes no requirement for quarantined birds from different countries to be kept separate in a quarantine facility.

Call Centres

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many call centres were run by her Department and its agencies in (a) 2003–04, (b) 2004–05 and (c) 2005–06 to date; and how many and what proportion of calls (i) were handled by an adviser, (ii) were received but abandoned and (iii) received an engaged tone in each year. [23305]

Jim Knight: The Regional Payments Agency (RPA) manages the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS)
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call centre and Customer Service Centre. The DEFRA and Pets Travel Scheme helplines are both situated in BCMS/RPA call centre.

The Environment Agency manages a National Customer Contact Centre and Floodline.

The following tables show figures for each contact centre and helpline.
BCMS/ English and Welsh lines

(a) YearTotal calls receivedTotal calls answered by an agentTotal calls abandonedPercentage calls answered

During busy periods callers receive a message that advises them that demands are high and to call back later. We do not have figures for how many callers receive this message or an engaged tone.
Defra helpline

(a) YearTotal calls receivedTotal calls answered by an agentTotal calls abandonedPercentage calls answered
2005–06 (to date)

The DEFRA helpline began operating from BCMS on 1 April 2003.

Detailed information on figures for years 2003–04 is disproportionate to costs and therefore not available.
Pets travel scheme helpline

(a) YearTotal calls receivedTotal calls answered by an agentTotal calls AbandonedPercentage calls answered
2005–06 (to date)

The Pet Travel Scheme helpline began operating from BCMS on 1 April 2004.

The BCMS call centre is able to manage call flow to both the DEFRA and Pets helplines so that callers do not receive an engaged tone through the provision of a front ended Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. It has the capacity to point calls to a live agent ensuring that no caller receives an engaged tone. It is essential that all callers have access to advisers for the Pet Travel Scheme.

RPA Customer Service Centre

(a) The Rural Payments Agency Customer Service Centre was not active in 2003–04.

We utilized the services of two BT contact centres, Shoreditch and Derby, to help handle the volume of calls at the busiest period. The maximum number of agents (advisers) supplied by BT was 186, in mid May 2005, steadily reducing to 15 by the end of August. These were in addition to the RPA CSC normal complement of 68 agents.
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Total calls receivedTotal calls answeredHandled by an adviser (percentage)Total calls abandonedPercentageTotal calls engaged/
(b) 12 July 2004 to 31 March 2005201,109106,3795311,1955.583,53541.5
(c) 1 April 2005 to 28 October 2005408,352294,093728,1852106,07426

Environment Agency

National Customer Contact Centre

Period covered: 1 September 2004 to 30 September 2005 (the date the service went fully live).
Total calls receivedTotal calls answered by adviserTotal calls abandonedPercentage calls answered

It is extremely rare for any caller to get an engaged tone; this would only happen if we were exceptionally busy. We have no statistics available for the number of callers getting such a tone since these callers do not make it through to our system.


The Environment Agency's FLOODLINE service has one Call Centre supplier who provides both an Interactive Voice Recording service (RMS) and a Live
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Agent call operator service for all the calls received on the 0845 988 1188 number.


RMS provides an automated flood warning service to the public, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which is accessible via the 0845 988 1188 number. Flood warnings are issued and managed by the Environment Agency and SEPA, who have the ability to record and delete warnings for particular areas of the country as required. Public callers can hear flood warnings either by

Live Agent

The 0845 9881188 number also provides the public the option of speaking to a Live Agent Operator to advise on any matter associated with flooding or related issues.
Call statistics of Floodline call centre—0845 9881188

DateTotal calls receivedTotal calls handled by
Total calls
offered to
Total handled
by an adviser (percentage)
Received but abandoned (percentage)
January 2003 to January 2004154,746112,93441,81294.95.1
January 2004 to January 2005142,407104,06338,34495.54.5
January 2005 to October 2005 (part year)

(iii) We are unable to advise on the number of callers that received an engaged tone. This would be unlikely to happen on the RMS service as we have a concurrent capacity of 720 lines.

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