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Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the European Commission on the application of state aid rules in relation to the expenditure of the Agricultural Levy Boards. 
Mr. Bradshaw: As part of ensuring that all UK's levy board activities comply fully with EU state aid rules, officials have had regular contacts with the European Commission. Except in those specific cases covered by special arrangements agreed as part of the UK's accession to the European Community, our levy bodies' activities are covered by European Commission state aid approvals.
Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to ensure that strains of avian influenza do not enter the UK chicken population. 
All imports of poultry and poultry products from EU countries must be accompanied by a health certificate as specified in Community Law, stating that they show no signs of disease. Poultry must originate from approved establishments and come from flocks which have been held in Community establishments for 21 days prior to export. Poultry must have undergone a health examination by an official or authorised veterinarian prior to despatch.
All imports of poultry and poultry products into the EU from third countries must enter at designated border inspection posts where they are subject to documentary and identity checks. A physical check must be carried out to observe the state of health and behaviour of either the whole group or a representative sample of the animals. For poultry products, a proportion of consignments undergo physical checks. These checks ensure that the animals or products meet Community import requirements. Captive birds (e.g. canaries, budgies, parrots and birds of prey) must undergo a period of quarantine.
The situation in affected countries is kept under review and controls on imports are modified in line with Community decisions. Safeguard measures are currently in place to ban or restrict imports of animals, meat and other products of susceptible species in respect of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, the People's Republic of China, including the
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territory of Hong Kong, North Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Russia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Croatia, and Turkey.
However careful we are, disease may get into European countries carried by migrating wild birds. Whatever the source of an outbreak, European legislation lays down the action member states have to take to eradicate it.
If there is an outbreak of disease in an exporting country likely to present a risk to human or animal health, Community legislation allows us to take appropriate safeguard action, pending action at Community level. This may include a ban on imports of animals and meat from all, or parts, of the affected country.
Farmers also need to ensure that they are vigilant looking for signs of disease and ensure that they report any suspicions to their local Animal Health Divisional Office. All keepers of birds should ensure they maintain high standards of biosecurity. The Government has published guidance to poultry keepers stressing the importance of good biosecurity.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the genomic characteristics which determine the virulence of the avian influenza virus H5N1. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The virus contains multiple basic amino acids at the cleavage site (PRQRRRKRGLF) of the haemagglutinin gene and therefore contains a sequence consistent with highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Mr. Bradshaw: The H5N1 virus from Norfolk in 1992 belonged to a clade of contemporary European viruses (distinct from the three clades of 'Asian' viruses), descendants of which are still present in wild birds and poultry in Europe.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her policy is on the EU-wide ban on the trade of wild caught birds as a response to the threat of avian influenza. 
Mr. Bradshaw: On 25 October the Commission proposed a temporary ban on the importation of live captive (wild) birds, following calls for action by UK Ministers. The ban, due to last until 30 November 2005, was agreed by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH), On 16 November SCoFCAH agreed a Commission proposal to extend the ban until 31 January 2006. This was supported by the UK.
Defra continues to keep the global disease situation under review. When we are officially notified of a new disease incident in an EU member state, a country on the border of the EU or one of the UK's third country trading
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partners, we carry out a qualitative risk analysis. These are published on our website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/monitorinq/riskassess.htm
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on how many occasions in each of the last five years officers from her Department have inspected the quarantine facility in Essex from which isolates of H5N1 avian influenza virus have been isolated. 
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether highly pathogenic avian influenza virus is transmissible from bird to bird via (a) fomites and (b) other contamination passed by humans who have been in contact with those birds. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses can be transmitted in excretions of infected birds, particularly faeces. It is possible for viruses to be spread on contaminated objects such as utensils, shoes and clothes.
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 7 November 2005, Official Report, column 6W to the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr.Williams), on avian influenza, where the suitably engineered commercial licensed landfills will be located; and what research has been evaluated on the safety of deep burial of avian-influenza-infected carcasses. 
In consultation with the Environment Agency, officials are currently reviewing the suitability for poultry carcase disposal of all commercial licensed landfills where Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permits have been applied for. Once this review is complete a list of potentially suitable sites will be made public. A landfill protocol designed to mitigate any public health, animal health and environmental risks is being drawn up by representatives from Government, the environmental agencies and the landfill industry. This protocol draws on the experiences obtained from the deep burial of large number of animal carcases during the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth diseaseit also draws on published data on virus survival and Environment Agency research.
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Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 15 November 2005, Official Report, column 1048W, on avian influenza, what discussions she has had with (a) the National Farmers Union, (b) local authorities and (c) the Local Government Association on (i) the work that will be undertaken and (ii) funding for the work; what the timetable is for reaching decisions; and what estimate has been made of the likely costs to local authorities. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Officials in the Department have had discussions with the National Farmers Union and other bodies representing poultry keepers about the responsibilities of keepers of poultry and the Government's disease control arrangements in the event of an outbreak of avian influenza.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether, for the purpose of determining the presence of H5N1 avian influenza in birds, Veterinary Laboratories Agency standard operating procedures (a) permit and (b) consider it good practice to pool samples for laboratory analysis from different (i) batches, (ii) species and (iii) origins of birds. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) standard operating procedures prescribe that for laboratory analyses, where possible samples from the same unit in the quarantine centre should be batched into five birds per batch according to species. However, provision is made that when the total consignment from a single unit consists of mixed species and comprises five birds or fewer, these may be conveniently grouped into a single batch.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the availability of capacity within the rendering sector to cope with a potential outbreak of avian influenza; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Department is in close contact with the United Kingdom Renderers Association (UKRA) and has assessed the current available capacity and maximum likely capacity. The available capacity at any time will depend on the time of year, breakdowns and other demands. Some 2,500 tonnes per week (equivalent to 1.25 million chickens) would be available very quickly and a further 1015,000 tonnes could be brought on stream within about two weeks.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the conditions under which the Mesias, in whose samples the avian influenza virus was isolated at the quarantine facility in Essex were imported into this country, with particular reference to (a) the form of transport and (b) other birds which were imported in the same cargo space. 
The bird shipment from Taiwan, which included the Mesias, was transported in cages that complied with IATA (International Air Transport
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Association) live animal regulations. They were flown as manifest freight (cargo) in one of the cargo holds of the aircraft.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department has taken to minimise the chances of the H5N1 virus entering the UK through the import of live birds; and what changes have been made to (a) the rules for the transport of live birds and (b) the procedures relating to the quarantine of birds. 
Mr. Bradshaw: On 25 October the commission proposed a temporary ban on the importation of live captive (wild) birds, following calls for action by UK Ministers after the incident of avian influenza found in a quarantine premises. The ban, due to last until 30 November 2005, was agreed by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH). On 16 November SCoFCAH agreed a commission proposal to extend the ban until 31 January 2006.
DEFRA continues to keep the global disease situation under review. When we are officially notified of a new disease incident in an EU member state, a country on the border of the EU or one of the UK's third country trading partners, we carry out a qualitative risk analysts. These are published on our website.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in relation to the pooled sample of 30 Mesias in which the presence of avian influenza virus H5N1 has been detected, how the exact date of death was determined; and how was the (a) time and (b) source of infection determined. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Six pooled samples from the 30 Mesias were examined virologically. As indicated in the published epidemiology report the exact dates of death of these birds is unknown, but they are believed by the keeper to be before 7 October. Neither the time nor the source of infection have been determined.
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