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29 Nov 2005 : Column 309W—continued

Departmental Staff

Mr. Michael Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many of her Department's staff have moved to Worcester from London since 1997. [30609]

Jim Knight: Defra was created in June 2001 and since that date 10 members of staff have transferred from London to Worcester with funding assistance from the Department.

Departmental Transport

Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations her Department, and its local departmental offices, have received on parking on local roads by her Department's staff and IBM contractors at her Department's offices in Epsom Road, Merrow, Guildford. [30369]

Jim Knight: Defra has received representations from local residents residing in Down Road, Daryngton Drive, Carroll Avenue, Gateways, Broadwater Rise, Pitt Farm Road.

Representations have also been received from the local constabulary, and from the local authority community safety officer.

Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps officials located in departmental offices in Epsom Road, Merrow, Guildford are taking to minimise the environmental and adverse impact of car parking by staff and contractors in Down Road and other nearby roads. [30370]

Jim Knight: The Department is giving priority to developing a joint travel plan that will apply to staff and external contractors.

Endangered Flora and Fauna

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her most recent assessment is of the most endangered species of (a) flora and (b) fauna in Staffordshire; and what steps are being taken to reverse their decline. [32034]

Jim Knight: The Staffordshire Biodiversity Action Plan provides an assessment of the flora and fauna of high nature conservation value in Staffordshire and is subject to regular review. In addition the Staffordshire Ecological Record Centre is able to provide the latest information on many species of conservation concern.

Over the latter half of the last century, there has been a general decline in the area and quality of wildlife habitats in Staffordshire and their associated species of flora and fauna. A number of measures are in place to address these issues. The Staffordshire Biodiversity Action Plan contains plans for 15 habitats, 23 species of fauna and six species of flora. It has identified priority actions and targets, such as restoring 800 ha of heathland by 2010. Staffordshire also contains 64 statutorily protected sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), covering 9,228 hectares, which have been notified by English Nature to protect the best of Staffordshire's wildlife resource.
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At the national level, action is being taken to protect and enhance our biodiversity such as the roll-out of the new higher level and entry level agri-environment schemes; the recent publication of Planning Policy Statement 9 on Biodiversity and Geological Conservation and the proposed biodiversity duty within the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill which places a duty on all public bodies to have regard to the purpose of conserving biodiversity.

English Wine

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what support she provides for English wine producers. [30954]

Jim Knight: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 11 July 2005, Official Report, column 646W. Since that reply the UK has been serving British food and drink, including English wines at the regular Council meetings during the UK Presidency of the EU. We will continue to do so for the remaining period of our Presidency.

Environment Agency (Fuel Switching Coordinator)

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the position of fuel switching coordinator was created at the Environment Agency; and what actions her Department took to inform energy intensive users of this appointment. [32318]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 28 November 2005]: The Environment Agency tasked a member of staff with this role on 12 October 2005. His appointment, name and contact details were communicated by ofgem to their Demand Side Management Group (DMSMG) at a meeting on 13 October 2005. The DSMG includes British Energy, MEUC, Shell, British Gas Business, Centrica Energy, Total, National Grid, APX, Chemicals Industries Association and GdF.

The Environment Agency subsequently contacted electricity producers and briefed Trade Associations at routine bilateral meetings.

EU Emissions Trading Scheme

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proposals her Department has considered for derogation from emissions limits under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme for energy intensive users in the event of (a) gas shortages and (b) sustained high gas prices this winter. [32319]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 28 November 2005]: The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is a cost-effective and efficient way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, which allows industry to achieve emissions reduction targets at the point of least cost. In the event of temporary tightness in the gas supply market there is no limit on fuel switching and the carbon market provides industry with the flexibility to source further allowances if energy intensive users exceed their emissions cap.
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Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what tests have been applied to applications for the 2005 single farm payment scheme in England to ensure that the applicants are in legal occupation of the holdings used for their claim. [29788]

Jim Knight [holding answer 29 November 2005]: There is no requirement in the European Regulations governing the Single Payment Scheme that the farmer claiming aid has to be in legal occupation of the land supporting the claim. However, to receive payment the farmer must carry out an agricultural activity or maintain the land in good agricultural or environmental condition and the land has to be at the farmer's disposal for 10 months of the year between prescribed dates. Compliance monitoring inspections, including checks on the 10 month provision, are undertaken on a proportion of claims. Where two or more claims are made on the same land parcel claims will be investigated and resolved.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in what circumstances action taken by a farmer prior to the Mid-Term Review is deemed to be a breach of cross-compliance. [32877]

Jim Knight: Cross compliance came into force on 1 January 2005 following an extensive period of discussion and consultation with stakeholders. The requirements are based on existing law and good farming practices. Farmers choosing to claim the single payment confirm that they are aware of, and are meeting the standards as part of their application. A breach of the relevant requirements on or after that date will be regarded as a non-compliance and will be assessed for a penalty as required by the EC Regulations. Breaches which commenced prior to the introduction of cross compliance and are continuing, through an act or omission of the farmer, into 2005, will also be assessed for a penalty. If farmers have concerns about penalties for breaches committed prior to cross compliance coming into force, we would urge them to contact the Rural Payments Agency.

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on proposals to increase the budget of the Hill Farming Allowance Scheme to preserve the public benefit from upland farming. [29731]

Jim Knight: The current Hill Farm Allowance is part of the England Rural Development Programme for 2000–06, which implements the rural development elements of the common agricultural policy, using a combination of EU and national funding. The EU budget for rural development for the next programming period (2007–13), and the EU funds available in England, will depend on the outcome of the current EU future financing negotiations.

Decisions on whether to implement the specific EU measure which applies to the less favoured areas, and if so how much of the available funding will be allocated specifically to hill farming, and in what form, will be taken as part of the preparation of the next rural
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development programme for England, and in the light of responses to a forthcoming consultation. The usual discussions between Departments with an interest will take place as part of that process. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear in her announcement on the Single Payment Scheme on 22 April that we would consider how the next round of rural development programming can better reflect the needs of upland communities, and the public interest in good management of some of our best-loved landscapes.

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