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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 6 December 2005

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Avian Influenza

Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to assist poultry farmers to combat any suspected outbreak of avian influenza; and if she will make a statement. [35218]

Mr. Bradshaw: Anyone who keeps poultry has an obligation to report signs of illness in their birds, and must know what to do about an avian influenza notifiable disease: this includes operating adequate biosecurity, and consulting their vet.

My department has distributed guidance material to our partners in the industry who are helping to distribute this material to their members, who cover the great majority of birds. We have also produced a simple one-page leaflet on biosecurity and surveillance for smaller concerns and back-yard keepers. This was posted on our website and sent out to organisations representing the industry to send on to their members.

In addition we have placed adverts in trade and specialist press targeting the same audience to get biosecurity and surveillance messages across. All these pieces of guidance are available on the Defra website.

Bees

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding has been allocated to the bee health programme in each of the last 10 years. [34608]

Jim Knight: The Department's expenditure with the National Bee Unit in each of the last 10 years is set out in the following table:
£

Defra expenditure with the National Bee Unit
1996–971 ,300,000
1997–981,300,000
1998–991,300,000
1999–20001,300,000
2000–011,300,000
2001–021,300,000
2002–031,300,000
2003–041,235,000
2004–051,235,000
2005–061,235,000

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will set out the criteria by which funding decisions for the bee health programme are made. [34609]


 
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Jim Knight: The bee health programme is funded from the Departmental vote. Funding is allocated in order to achieve the best available value for money in achieving the Department's objectives.

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department (a) has taken and (b) is planning to take to safeguard bee health against the threat of the varroa mite. [34610]

Jim Knight: DEFRA (and MAFF before it) has been helping the beekeeping sector to better equip itself to manage varroa infestations ever since the pest was first discovered in England in 1992. The Department has funded a range of measures delivered by the National Bee Unit, including the provision of a free diagnostic and inspection service to beekeepers and a comprehensive training and advisory programme, as well as R&D.

Although varroa continues to pose challenges to contemporary beekeeping particularly with the development of mite resistance to chemical treatments, it is now endemic in the UK and has been for several years. The Department has issued a consultation document on plans to remove the mite from the list of notifiable diseases in March 2006. However, the National Bee Unit will continue to offer advice to beekeepers about its management and control, as it does now for other serious but non-statutory diseases.

Biofuels

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of arisings from forestry waste were used as biomass fuel in 2004–05. [27310]

Margaret Beckett: Information on the removal of tree tops and branch wood for use as fuel following conventional timber harvesting operations is not routinely collected. However, the Forestry Commission estimates that less than 2,000 tonnes of this material, from a possible 500,000 tonnes, was removed from woodland and used as fuel in England last year.

Damages

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 23 November 2005, Official Report, column 2032W, on damages, what the basis was of the (a) personal injury claims and (b) unfair dismissal claim; and if she will make a statement. [34394]

Jim Knight: The information is as follows:

(a) The personal injury claim was brought in relation to a work related upper limb disorder.

(b) The unfair dismissal and discrimination claim concerned an employee who had failed their probation and lodged a case with the employment tribunal for
 
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unfair dismissal and race discrimination. The case was settled via ACAS outside of the employment tribunal without any admission of liability.

Departmental Research

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research projects commissioned by her Department are being undertaken; and what the publication arrangements are in each case. [32996]

Jim Knight: The Department spends around £160 million each year on research projects covering a wide range of science in support of policy formulation and development. At any one time we have around 1,500 'live' research projects. We publish a large amount of information on completed and ongoing research projects on the department's internet site at:

http://www2.defra.gov.uk/research/project_data/Default.asp.

This information is available free to all. Our searchable system provides a range of information on projects, including title, cost, contractor, duration, description and, once completed, the final report.
 
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EU Decision 2005/745/EC

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with her counterparts in the European Union on the duration of decision 2005/745/EC. [24940]

Mr. Bradshaw: No proposals have yet been made by the European Commission to extend or limit the duration of decision 2005/745/EC.

Flood Defences

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what improvements have been made to flood defences in each borough along the River Thames in each of the last five years; and if she will make a statement. [32628]

Mr. Morley: I understand from the Environment Agency that they have undertaken the improvements detailed in the following table. Expenditure on the River Thames is expected to increase significantly during the next five years as many tidal walls and embankments reach the end of their design life and the recommendations from improvement strategies are implemented.
£000

London boroughLocation2000–012001–022002–032003–042004–05
GreenwichThames Barrier and Associated Gates(1)5,0005,0005,0005,0005,000
VariousTidal Side Channels and Tributaries(2)02,58801,621309
BexleyThamesmead(3)16
HammersmithHammersmith(4)109
Tower HamletsTower of London(5)671
Tower HamletsIsle of Dogs: Blackwall Stairs(5)125
Tower HamletsIsle of Dogs: Lockes Wharf(5)160
NewhamRoyal Docks: Orchard Wharf(5)325
ChiswickStrand on The Green Frontage(5)700
5,9407,7295,3256,6216,009


(1) Annual £5 million for renewals and maintenance. Although the Thames barrier and associated gates are located in the London borough of Greenwich, the benefits accrue across all of the boroughs along the tidal Thames.
(2) Renewals and maintenance. The breakdown includes all improvements on the River Thames and excludes works on side channels and tributaries.
(3) New tidal flap gate.
(4) Moveable tidal defences installation.
(5) Tidal wall-embankment repairs.



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