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23 Nov 2005 : Column 2031W—continued



Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the 10 largest amounts of damages paid out by her Department in the last year for which figures are available, indicating in each case the nature of the claim. [27732]

Jim Knight: The 10 largest amounts of damages paid out in the last year are as follows:

Date-based Export Scheme

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions her Department has had with the European Commission regarding the lifting of the date-based export scheme; and when the scheme will be lifted. [31082]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 22 November 2005]: Defra officials and Ministers have maintained regular contacts with the European Commission to seek the end of the beef .export ban at the earliest possible time.
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EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) inspectors visited the UK in June 2005 to assess the state of our BSE controls. Their report was published on 28 September 2005 and was discussed at a meeting of the Commission's TSE Working Group on the same day. The Commission issued a press release stating that the pre-conditions for discussions to begin with member states on lifting the embargo have been met.

The next step is for the Commission to submit to member states a proposal to lift the ban on the export from the UK of cattle, beef and other bovine products and we expect discussions with member states to commence this month. Due to the need to observe EU legal procedures and to gain member states' agreement, it is unlikely that legislation to lift the ban will come into force until early 2006. The Government are continuing to work in Brussels to ensure that the export ban is lifted as soon as possible.

If EU legislation to lift the export ban is adopted, we will need to amend our existing domestic legislation, the Bovines and Bovine Products (Trade) Regulations 1999, to bring UK law into line with EU law. We have already launched a public consultation on the lifting of the ban and related issues, with the aim of ensuring that changes to EU and UK law can, as far as possible, enter into force at the same time so as to enable exports to resume at the earliest possible opportunity.

When the export ban is lifted, the date-based export scheme will no longer be required and will automatically be discontinued.

Departmental Assets

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the 10 most valuable (a) movable and (b) immovable assets owned by her Department. [27377]

Jim Knight: The 10 most valuable moveable and immovable assets owned by the Department, including its sponsored bodies, are shown in the tables. In the main, the monetary values reflect the value of the assets as at the end of the 2004/05 financial year. The lists do not include IT systems still in the process of development.

The Forestry Commission and British Waterways are both part of the Defra group, and each has considerable property holdings. For clarity, and to avoid these property holdings masking other major assets held by the rest of the Department, the 10 most valuable immoveable assets for the Forestry Commission and British Waterways are shown separately.

Moveable assets:

ItemOwned by:Value
Research vessel (Endeavour)Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)25,963,000
IT Software—RPA Change ProgrammeRural Payments Agency10,093,135
RIMNET IT softwareCore Defra7,733,333
Animal Movement Licensing Scheme (AMLS) Database IT softwareCore Defra5,179,815
AATSR Environmental SatelliteCore Defra5,143,399
National Scrapie Plan IT softwareCore Defra5,132,416
Emissions Trading Register IT softwareCore Defra2,243,856
CTS Platform IT softwareCore Defra1,770,128
LVI E-Business IT softwareCore Defra1,704,565
Plant and Equipment (Pumps etc)—SCADA Phase 3British Waterways1,482,966

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Immoveable assets:
(i) Core Defra and sponsored bodies (excluding the Forestry Commission and British Waterways)

ItemOwned byValue
Thames BarrierEnvironment Agency1,120,905,685
Land, buildings and laboratories at Woodham lane, WeybridgeVeterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA)157,900,000
Land, buildings and laboratories at Sand Mutton, YorkCentral Science Laboratory (CSL)134,721,000
Land and buildings at Kew(31)Royal Botanic Gardens54,000,000
Land and buildings at Wakehurst(31)Royal Botanic Gardens27,000,000
Drayton Experimental Husbandry Farm, StratfordCore Defra24,945,000
Barking BarrierEnvironment Agency16,625,154
Land and buildings at Epsom Road, GuildfordCore Defra15,000,000
Holehaven Barrier and PlantEnvironment Agency14,417,169
Weymouth LaboratoryCEFAS13,771,000

(31) As allowed by the Charities Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP), the Royal Botanic Gardens only value land and buildings on the balance sheet that are used for fundraising or administration purposes or which have been built/restored since the SORP was revised in 2000.

(ii) The Forestry Commission woodlands

Kielder Forest79,570,923
New Forest East13,469,775
Forest of Dean13,027,350
New Forest North12,030,747
New Forest West10,389,039
Wykeham Dalby10,183,872
Thetford South9,478,840
Thetford North9,366,320
New Forest South7,075,221

(iii) British Waterways property

North Wharf Road, Paddington Basin, London [offices, residential]40,700,000
Wood Wharf Business Park, London Docklands38,200,000
The Interchange, Camden Town, London [warehouse]21,500,000
Commerce Road, Brentford [warehouses and offices]12,000,000
Cavendish House, Stockton-on-Tees10,900,000
West Ferry Printers Site, London Docklands9,900,000
Industrial premises at Rotton Park Street, Birmingham9,500,000
Willow Grange, Watford [office building]8,200,000
Gloucester Quays Re-Development site, Gloucester7,200,000
Castle Wharf, Nottingham [city centre waterside property]7,000,000

Farm Subsidies

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farmers have applied for entry to the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme. [29876]

Jim Knight: [holding answer 21 November 2005]: As at 14 November, the Rural Development Service had received 423 applications for Higher Level Stewardship agreements.


Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will discuss with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry referring the difference between the retail and farm-gate price of milk to the Office of Fair Trading; and if she will make a statement. [29010]

Jim Knight: As I noted in my oral answer to the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Cox) on 20 October 2005, Official Report, column 977, I have
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been discussing issues relating to competition in the dairy sector and the concerns of dairy farmers with the Department of Trade and Industry. My noble Friend Lord Bach, the Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food, and I will be continuing those discussions when we meet with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs later in the year. However, except in limited exceptional circumstances, responsibility for deciding whether to carry out market studies or investigations, or to investigate alleged breaches of competition law, rests with the Office of Fair Trading, which is an independent statutory body.

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