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30 Nov 2005 : Column 508W—continued

Farm Subsidies

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the forecast number of applicants for the 2005 single farm payment in England was; and how many farmers have applied. [29789]

Jim Knight [holding answer 21 November 2005]: A total of 120,367 claim forms have been received under the Single Payment Scheme in England. The overall number is subject to revision as it includes some duplicate claims and claimants. The number of claims received is in line with forecasts, which ranged from 110,000 to 130,000.

Flood Defences

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to increase investment on flood defences in Robertsbridge, East Sussex. [33126]

Mr. Morley: Following the serious flooding in Robertsbridge during autumn 2000, the Environment Agency has invested £4.5 million on a flood alleviation scheme for the town, which was completed in 2004. The Environment Agency undertakes annual routine maintenance of the flood defences in the form of river clearance, embankment mowing and weed screen clearance.

The Environment Agency's Rother and Romney catchment flood management plan is due for completion in 2007 and will identify the long-term policy and investment needs for the catchment, including Robertsbridge.

Global Monitoring for Environment and Security

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she had concerning the global monitoring for environment and security programme since September with (a) the Prime Minister, (b) the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and (c) the European Commission; and if she will make a statement. [32167]

Mr. Morley: I have regular meetings with the Prime Minister and other Cabinet colleagues on a range of issues.

The Government support the concept of GMES and has played an active role in shaping its development as a user-driven initiative.

GMES has the potential to improve the development and implementation of environment policy in the UK, Europe and on a global scale, but there is work to be done to ensure that this potential is realised.

Over the coming months the Government will continue to work with the European Commission to try to ensure that GMES will deliver the information and services we need in the long term.
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Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Mr. Binley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the United Kingdom is on track to meet the Government's target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent. from 1990 levels by 2010. [33177]

Mr. Morley: The Government are aware that more needs to be done to achieve their 2010 goal—latest published projections indicate that emissions of carbon dioxide will be about 13 per cent. below 1990 levels in 2010.

The current review of the UK Climate Change Programme is looking at how existing policies are performing and the range of policies that might be put in place to put the UK back on track towards a 20 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010.

Japanese Knotweed

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance she has issued to local authorities and other relevant bodies on dealing with Japanese knotweed. [32146]

Jim Knight [holding answer 28 November 2005]: Japanese knotweed is a vigorous and invasive non-native plant that appears to have no natural enemies in Britain. It can colonise most habitats, expanding rapidly and excluding other plants. It can also damage property (and therefore needs to be cleared from development sites) and cause problems in terms of flood management. Material containing Japanese knotweed is treated as controlled waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1 990 to help prevent its further spread. The Environment Agency and local authorities have enforcement functions for the 1990 Act.

The Environment Agency and the Centre for Aquatic Plant Management have therefore produced detailed guidance on control of Japanese knotweed, including what methods are appropriate in different circumstances. This is readily available on the web at:

Public Service Agreements

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will introduce more user friendly reporting of progress against 2004 public service agreement target 8; [29951]

(2) What timescales have been set by the Department for achievement of 2004 PSA Target 1; [30055]

(3) What data sources she intends to use to measure progress towards internationally-agreed commitments to tackle climate change, as required for the measurement of 2004 public service agreement target 1; [30056]

(4) How she will define the term rural area as required for the purpose of measuring achievement of the 2004 public service agreement target four. [30057]

Jim Knight: The Department provides regular performance updates against its outstanding public service agreement targets through its annual departmental
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report and its autumn performance report published in spring and autumn respectively which the Department aims to make accessible. The 2005 departmental report (Cm6537), which is the most recently published, is available in the House Libraries and online at:

Defra's 2005 autumn performance report is due for publication in mid-December and this will be the first time the Department has reported against its 2004 spending review targets.

A short summary of progress against our 2004 Spending Review targets can be found in appendix six of the forthcoming autumn performance eport, with more detailed information available in chapter two.

Radioactive Waste Policy Group

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who the members are of the Radioactive Waste Policy Group; on what dates the Group has met in the last 12 months; when the Group plans to meet in the next 12 months; and if she will place in the Library a copy of the minutes of meetings held in the last 12 months. [28503]

Mr. Morley: The Radioactive Waste Policy group (RWPG) is chaired and managed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It is made up of representatives from:

Some of these participate fully while others are corresponding members who attend meetings as the agenda demands.

Meetings have taken place on the following dates over the past 12 months:

There are no confirmed dates for future meetings, although the next is likely to take place in the first half of February 2006.

As an inter-departmental body, the release of the minutes of meetings of RWPG may prejudice the full and frank exchange of views in the development of policy in this area. I will, however, give further consideration to the request and undertake to write to the hon. Member in due course. Meanwhile, the bulk of recent discussion in the Group has been on the subject of the Government's review of low level radioactive waste management policy on which there has been extensive stakeholder consultation. Details of this are given on the website
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Tenant Farmers

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made since 2001 in establishing a retirement scheme for tenant farmers in the livestock sector as stated in the Labour Party's 2001 general election manifesto. [29787]

Jim Knight [holding answer 21 November 2005]: The Government have decided against introducing a retirement scheme for farmers as it would not provide value for money compared with the large costs likely to be involved and would offer little public benefit—a view shared by the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food. In addition, funding a retirement incentive scheme could mean having to close down or shrink other grant schemes, which are providing valuable public benefits such as the agri-environment schemes.

Research commissioned by Defra on entry to and exit from farming in the UK concluded that entry and exit decisions are generally rational and driven by strong market forces and personal motivations. Intervention to affect the rate of entry or exit via financial inducements is likely to be expensive and ineffectual in the longer term. (The research can be found at:

However Defra is supporting an industry-led initiative called fresh start. Fresh start aims to secure a sustainable future for farming in England through encouraging new entrants into farming. A further element of the fresh start initiative is to stimulate existing farmers to think about how they might respond to the changes brought about by CAP reform, whether this means expanding their business, diversifying into other activities or retiring from the industry. Such choices will serve to create opportunities for new entrants wishing to develop their careers in the industry.

As part of fresh start, Defra has produced a detailed information pack designed to support professional agricultural advisers when discussing retirement and other exit options with their farmer clients. The pack provides an overview of all the issues that need to be considered as part of the process of planning for what may be a radical change, whether that be a transition to retirement or a move to another career.

Recently fresh start has established a new relationship with a number of organisations working in the field of farmer retirement, including the Arthur Rank Centre and Farm Crisis Network, to provide support to potential retirees including matching and mentoring services to help retirees link-up with potential new entrants.

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