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Jim Knight: There are no red squirrel populations in Northamptonshire. This native species is in serious decline as a result of habitat fragmentation and the spread of the grey squirrel. Conservation effort is focused on protecting large areas of coniferous woodland (mainly in northern England) that have no grey squirrels and can be defended against their incursion.
Red squirrels are known to have survived in some parts of Staffordshire until the 1980s and the last population recorded was in the Forestry Commission's Cannock Forest. The last red squirrel sighting in Staffordshire was a road casualty in Cannock Forest in 1990. A study in the early 1990s, which concluded in 1996, failed to record any red squirrels.
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Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will publish all the guidance and instruction given to Rural Payments Agency inspectors for the enforcement of the rules on cross-compliance; 
Jim Knight [holding answer 29 November 2005]: The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has a legislative requirement to carry out checks on at least one percent of all farmers submitting aid applications under support schemes as established in Titles III and IV of Regulation (EC) 1782/2003.
There is no target set for inspectors finding problems on cross compliance inspections. They carry out inspections and are asked to report what they observe in accordance with the Guidance for Cross Compliance Inspectors and Penalty Reduction Matrices.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State forEnvironment, Food and Rural Affairs what the target date is for the commencement of the single farmpayment; and if she will consider paying interest on late payments where the delay is caused by her Department. 
Jim Knight [holding answer 22 November 2005]: The Rural Payments Agency is still working towards a target date of starting payments in February. The regulatory payment deadline is 30 June and consideration would not be given to paying interest before that time.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will take steps to ensure that the contract to survey the use of snares will be subject to an open tender process. 
Jim Knight: Defra published a Snares Action Plan on 19 October 2005 in response to the report by the Independent Snares Working Group. The action plan sets out the next steps during the next three years, which includes a review of the priorities for wildlife management research. Further information may be found on www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-countryside/vertebrates/snares/index.htm.
A review of the whole of Defra's wildlife management research programme will be undertaken in February 2006. It will consider all future research priorities across the programme, including a survey of the use of snares and whether it will be subject to an open tender process.
Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made of (a) the future of suckler cow production in upland farms and (b) consequential environmental change as a result of the impact of the Single Farm Payment on this sector. 
Jim Knight: Prior to the implementation of the latest round of CAP reform and the introduction of the Single Payment Scheme, my Department commissioned assessments on possible impacts of decoupling on a range of sectors, including suckler cows in the uplands. These suggest that suckler cow production is expected to decrease as a result of CAP reform.
Assessments have also been made on possible environmental impacts which reveal that grazing by cattle plays an important role in the maintenance of heather moor land, an important habitat for biodiversity. It is for this reason my officials have submitted to the European Commission for approval, the inclusion of payments within the Environmental Stewardship schemes to provide incentives for appropriate cattle grazing in the uplands.
All of these assessments are, understandably, speculative and the agricultural and environmental impacts of the Single Payment Scheme will depend on a range of factorsnot least the response of suckler beef farmers in their individual businesses. It is therefore too soon to predict categorically what the impacts will be.
Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the problems caused by urban gulls; and if she will commission research into the breeding patterns of such gulls. 
DEFRA recognises the problems which can be caused by an increasing urban gull population. It is for this reason that my Department issues a general licence under section 16 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to allow the control of certain species of gulls by local authorities and other authorised persons where they are a threat to public health and safety. These birds include the following species of gullslesser black-backed gull, greater black-backed gull and the herring gull. However, licences cannot be issued to control gulls where they are merely causing a nuisance and to do so would be in breach of the EU Birds Directive.
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DEFRA is in regular contact with the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) and has recently been provided with a preliminary evaluation of the issues involved and current state of knowledge on the problems caused by gulls. The CSL are also conducting research, although not commissioned by DEFRA, into the impact of waste management facilities as a food source for gull populations and also the problem of bird-strikes on aircraft.
Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many households in the Nottinghamshire constituency have received assistance under the Warm Front Scheme in each year since its introduction. 
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Mr. Morley: The promotion of greater water efficiency particularly in households is a key priority for Defra. In order to give this work appropriate priority I have established a Water Saving Group (WSG) to identify practical ways in which Defra can work with ODPM, OfWat, the Environment Agency, water companies and other bodies in order to encourage the efficient use of water in households.
The Government also supports a number of programmes to further sustainable water use within the business sector, such as Envirowise and the Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme for designated water efficient technologies.
Regulations set standards for the amount of water use in certain water fittings and Defra is currently exploring the feasibility of introducing a voluntary labelling scheme for water efficient products.
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Water companies carry out a range of activities under their statutory duty to promote the efficient use of water by their customers. They also recognise the need to give greater priority to this work area and have established waterwise as an independent organisation to enhance water efficiency activities.
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