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Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate his Department has made of the cost of providing work-focused interviews for incapacity benefit recipients who do not receive them at the moment. 
[holding answer 23 January 2006]: Almost all incapacity benefit recipients already receive a work-focused interview at some time during their claim if they remain on the benefit for a significant period. All new claimants are interviewed and existing claimants are interviewed at least once every three years.
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However, in the newly published Green Paper A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work, we have said that, as resources allow, we will consider increasing the frequency of work-focused interviews for existing claimants. If every current incapacity benefit recipient were to be interviewed at least once a year, we estimate the cost would be of the order of £80 million annually. The actual costs would be dependent on the numbers joining and leaving the benefit during any one year.
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the transportation of live animals intended for use in food products; and what changes have been made to the regulations relating to the transport of horses since 2004. 
New welfare in transport rules take effect in January 2007 under EC Regulation 1/2005. The UK supported the new Regulation as it does much to help improve animal welfare in transport, such as better enforcement of the rules, and new training and authorisation procedures. We regret that it did not lower the maximum journey times to slaughter. But there will be an opportunity for a review of journey times in 2011.
The new rules also contain welfare measures designed to further protect horse welfare. Unbroken horses (not trained to halter) may only be transported up to eight hours and in groups of no more than four. Horses travelling more than eight hours must be in single stalls, as must horses travelling by sea. The hon. Member may also wish to note that there is no evidence of a slaughter trade from this country or any demand for one.
The Commission's proposals for the next five years are set out in the EU Animal Welfare Action Plan, published on 23 January. We look forward to continued engagement with the Commission and fellow member states on this.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 5 December 2005, Official Report, column 922W, on avian influenza, what documentary evidence her Department holds to support the statement
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that the silver eared mesias suspected of dying from avian influenza in quarantine in Essex were bred in captivity in Taiwan. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The export health certificates issued by the Taiwanese authorities, which accompanied the birds, identify the holding of origin in Taiwan. Representatives of the Taiwanese authorities advised us in a meeting that mesias are bred in captivity on the holding in question.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects the European Council of Ministers to consider the proposal to lift the EU export ban on British beef. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The proposal is currently being considered by the Commission's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH). If there is no significant opposition, the Commission have stated that they will put the proposal to a vote at SCoFCAH on 8 March. The proposal would be referred to the Council only if it is not adopted by SCoFCAH. However, the earliest the lifting of the ban could take effect is mid-April.
Mr. Bradshaw: The UK Government believe that the lifting of the ban is already overdue and have been working work the Commission to ensure that it is lifted as soon as possible. The Secretary of State has had a number of discussions with Commissioner Kyprianou and has written to member states. The Chief Veterinary Officer has also written to all member states outlining the technical arguments supporting a lifting of the ban. Officials in Defra and in British embassies are in contact with member states and, where necessary, have visited key Government Departments to provide more detailed technical information.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will estimate what percentage of skin-tested reacting cattle were subsequently found to have bovine TB when slaughtered. 
Mr. Bradshaw: When used as a routine screening test, the single intradermal comparative cervical test (SICCT) is designed to maximise specificity (identification of uninfected animals), while retaining good sensitivity (identification of infected animals). The sensitivity of the SICCT is between 77 per cent. and 95 per cent. Its specificity is above 99 per cent. It is designed to detect an immune response at a relatively early stage in the infection process. Therefore, in most cases, cattle that react to the skin test are considered to have bovine TB.
Failure to confirm bovine tuberculosis by post-mortem examination at the slaughterhouse, or by culturing Mycobacterium bovis in the laboratory, does not mean that the disease was not present in the animal.
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In the early stages of the disease, it is not always possible to see lesions with the naked eye, and, due to the fastidious nature of the organism, it is not possible to culture from samples in every case.
From 1 February 2006, compensation for farmers whose cattle are affected by bovine TB, brucellosis and Enzootic Bovine Leukosis will be determined through a new table valuation system. Each month an average sales price (based on one month's data for non-pedigree cattle and six months' data for pedigree animals) will be calculated for the 47 specified cattle categoriesand these averages will constitute the compensation payment for animals in the same category.
The effect of the new compensation system on businesses has been considered in the context of a regulatory impact assessment (RIA), available in the House Library. The RIA shows that the new system will reduce the risk of over compensation for bovine TB, and a reduction in total compensation expenditure.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will introduce an appeals system as part of the move to using table valuations for awarding cattle compensation. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Under the new table valuation based compensation system, cattle owners will receive compensation equivalent to the average price achieved, in reported sales across Great Britain, for animals in the same category. As the criteria for determining an animal's category will be clear and objective, we do not believe that an appeals system is necessary.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to increase the level of compensation for reacting cattle; and what assessment she has made of the effect of the existing level of compensation on owners of high value pedigree cattle. 
On 1 February 2006, we introduced a new table valuation based compensation system for farmers whose cattle are affected by bovine TB, brucellosis or Enzootic Bovine Leukosis. The same system will be introduced for cattle affected by BSE, on 1 March 2006. 47 pre-determined cattle categories are being used; these are based on the animal's age, gender, and type (ie pedigree or non-pedigree).
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