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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will propose to ministerial colleagues that poultry auctioneers who are closed down as a result of Government measures to
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prevent an outbreak of avian influenza be exempt from council tax and rates on their auction sites for the period of their closure. 
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the Government plans to introduce a standstill policy for poultry movements in the event of an avian influenza outbreak. 
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what advice she has given to the poultry production and retail sectors on the possible effect of avian influenza on their business; and if she will make a statement; 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Department is actively engaging with key stakeholders, including representatives of the production and retail sectors, in order to provide advice and discuss their concerns regarding both the possible effect of avian influenza on their industries and Government policies and plans. This is to keep the industry aware of the risks and potential actions required by a potential outbreak of avian influenza.
Mr. Bradshaw: The primary mechanisms for the spread of avian influenza are by movement of infected birds or by contact with their excreta either directly or through objects, clothes or vehicles contaminated with excreta.
Mr. Bradshaw: The survival of avian influenza viruses in the environment will be influenced by the strain of the virus, whether they are held in water or faeces, the host from which the faeces came, the physical properties of the faeces and the ambient temperature. The scientific literature gives a range, with different strains of virus from 12 to 36 hours at 37o C for chicken faeces artificially infected with Low Pathogenic H7N2 to at least 105 days in wet faeces under field conditions with High Pathogenic H5N2.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research the Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on (i) whether mechanically extracted exhaust air from
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intensive poultry sheds can carry viable H5N1 virus and (ii) over what distance viable virus transmission may occur. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Department have not commissioned any research on this topic as the evidence is that this potential means of transmission can only occur over short distances and is unlikely to be significant in transmission between flocks under conditions prevailing in Great Britain.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the risks that random mutation of an existing H5N1 strain may give rise to a new pandemic virus. 
Mr. Bradshaw: To date the H5N1 avian influenza assessment made by the World Health Organisation has assisted policy formation. A cross-departmental group will be commissioned to assess this risk as part of its remit.
Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what courses have received Government funding to train engineers and builders in understanding, selling and installing combined heat and power boilers in each of the last three years. 
Margaret Beckett: We have provided training on community heating with CHP, delivering four workshops in 200203 and two in 200304. These covered skill shortages and CHP installation. Over the past three years we also provided general training to bidders to our Community Energy programme.
We are additionally funding training for heating installers to help them sell and install high efficiency condensing boilers. During the financial year 200405 22,000 installers were trained. So far this financial year a further 9,000 have been trained.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many smuggled birds were seized by HM Customs and Excise entering the UK (a) in 2004 and (b) to date in 2005; and what checks were made for avian influenza among these birds; 
(2) what information she has received on the number of smuggled birds seized entering the European Union (a) in 2004 and (b) to date in 2005; and whether checks were made for avian influenza among these birds. 
Mr. Bradshaw: There is little hard evidence on the volume of illegal trade as by its nature only an uncertain proportion is detected. We do not have EU figures for seizures of illegally imported birds.
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) seize imported live birds where import is in contravention of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). In 2004 HMRC seized 2,922 live birds. The provisional figure so far for
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2005 is 313 birds. These figures include birds that are seized as a result of regulatory breaches as well as those which are smuggled.
Any other live birds found would be detained by HMRC and handed over to the relevant competent authorities (the state veterinary service/local authority) at points of entry. They too would be quarantined and tested.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many chickens have been imported from Thailand in each of the last three years; and if she will make a statement. 
The importation of fresh poultry meat produced on or after 1 January 2004 and cooked poultry meat which has not been heat treated to at least 70 0 C was banned in January 2004. Poultry meat products which have been cooked to 70 0 C or more are not considered to be a risk. Chicken meat imported from Thailand in the last three years is shown in the following table.
|Description||t'000||£ million||t'000||£ million||t'000||£ million|
|Chicken, prepared or preserved||26.23||59.88||33.79||68.72||41.76||76.67|
|Chicken, fresh, chilled or frozen||7.12||11.14||11.29||15.59||2.56||3.35|
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made in having Protected Geographical Indication status granted to the Colchester Oyster. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The completed application to register Colchester Oysters as a Protected Geographical Indication was finalised earlier this year and sent to interested parties within the UK to allow them to comment or object. This is a necessary stage of the application process to ensure that all views are considered before a decision is taken by Defra on whether the application is justified and meets the requirements of the relevant regulation. Objections were received and sent to the applicant group in July for it to consider. Their reply was received in October and is being considered by officials.
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