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15 Feb 2006 : Column 2045W—continued

Pedigree Cattle

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimates she has made of the value of pedigree (a) Hereford, (b) Charolais and (c) Dexter cattle aged (i) under six months, (ii) over three years, (iii) over five years, (iv) over 10 years and (v) over 12 years. [49095]

Mr. Bradshaw: No such estimates have been made. However, to inform the development of the cattle compensation arrangements introduced on 1 February the Department has, for 14 months, been receiving cattle sales data from a wide range of sources across GB.

Compensation for pedigree cattle, which is calculated on a monthly basis, is the average price obtained (for same category animals) at reported sales over the preceding 6 months. To inform this process data received through 2005 has been analysed to identify the degree of variability within each of the 47 cattle categories now used to help determine compensation. This review, which will be repeated on annual basis, provides the Department with intelligence on the amount of supporting data needed (in each category) to support table valuations.

Sea Bass

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when she will publish (a) the outcome of the consultation on measures to increase the number and size of bass available to commercial and recreational fishermen and (b) the Government's response to the consultation; and if she will make a statement; [51445]

(2) what assessment she has made of the likely impact of the requirement to increase the minimum size of bass landed off England and Wales. [51444]

Mr. Bradshaw: Defra's Consultation on measures to increase the number and size of bass available to commercial and recreational fishermen closed on 8 February 2006. The partial Regulatory Impact Assessment issued as part of the Consultation set out our understanding of the costs and benefits of the proposed measures.

There have been a large number of responses from stakeholders to the consultation and there will now need to be a careful analysis of the responses and the information contained in them. Once this has been completed I will make an announcement on next steps.

The Welsh Assembly Government is conducting a consultation on similar measures for Welsh Territorial waters, which closes on 14 February 2006.

Sewage Treatment Plants

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what powers local authorities have to act in respect of nuisance smells from sewage treatment plants. [51455]

Mr. Bradshaw: Odour from the great majority of sewage treatment works can be dealt with under the statutory nuisance provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
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Local authorities have a statutory duty to check their areas periodically for existing and potential statutory nuisances, and to take reasonably practicable steps to investigate complaints made within their areas.

It is for the appropriate local authority to determine whether a smell amounts to a statutory nuisance. Factors to be taken into account include the character of the locality, the duration of the smell and the frequency of its occurrence.

Once satisfied that a statutory nuisance does or may occur, the local authority must serve an abatement notice requiring that the nuisance be ceased or abated within a specified time scale.

It is an offence to breach or fail to comply with an abatement notice, with a maximum fine on conviction of £20,000 for industrial, trade or business premises.

Defra is about to issue a Code of Practice on Odour Nuisance from Sewage Treatment Works to provide high level guidance on the handling and resolution of complaints.

A few sewage treatment works are controlled under the Integrated Pollution and Control regime monitored by the Environment Agency. Local authorities cannot take action against these plants to abate odour under the statutory nuisance regime unless my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, gives consent, to avoid 'double jeopardy'.

Single Farm Payments

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the minimum amount of single farm payment is. [50672]

Jim Knight: The minimum total area that can be claimed by a farmer under the single payment scheme is O.3ha. If this area was situated in the moorland region the minimum payment for 2005, based on current estimations of the regional average, would be less than one pound.

This calculation assumes that the applicant had no subsidy claims in the reference period of 2000–02, and therefore would only receive the area flat rate.


Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much sugar was imported into the UK in (a) 1977, (b) 1997 and (c) 2005. [50108]

Mr. Bradshaw: In 1977 the UK imported 1,870,000 tonnes of sugar, by 1997 this had dropped to 1,358,000 tonnes and this dropped further in 2003 to 1,218,000 tonnes. These figures include imports of white, beet and cane sugar whether refined or not. They do not include high sugar content products such as honey, syrups and confectionery. All figures quoted are to the nearest thousand tonnes.
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Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what legal advice her Department received regarding the exclusion of social criteria in legislation relating to illegal timber imports and exports. [50839]

Mr. Morley: I am not aware of any legislation related to the import and export of timber that specifically prohibits social considerations from being considered in such commercial activity. This question is closely related to a request made by WWF UK to see the legal advice on which the Government's timber procurement policy was based and I shall explain why that request was declined.

The European Treaty and European public procurement directives set principles and rules that govern the manner in which public contracting authorities specify their requirement, select potential bidders and award contracts. The UK Government's interpretation of these principles and rules has led it to conclude that it is not permissible for public sector contracting authorities to specify requirements that are not directly related to the subject matter of the contract in question and that criteria aimed at protecting or improving the economic and social well being of forest dependent people are generally not directly related to the subject matter of public sector contracts for works, goods and services.

The advice that the Department received on this matter was a combination of guidance published by the European Commission, guidance published by the Office of Government Commerce and communications between Government officials. The published guidance documents were: the Commission's Interpretative Communication on the possibilities of integrating social issues into public procurement under Community law-see and Chapter 9 of the Joint Note on Environmental Issues in Purchasing"-published by The Office of Government Commerce and Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in October 2003. The Office of Government Commerce have very recently published a Note on Social Issues in Purchasing to further clarify the position-see

The Government will not provide the information requested because we consider the public interest is best served by not disclosing the internal legal advice held by DEFRA. Decisions by Government must be taken in a fully informed legal context, which includes assessing the perceived weakness of its position. It follows that the disclosure of internal communications between Government officials could prejudice the government's ability to defend its legal interests-both directly by unfairly exposing its legal position to challenge and indirectly by diminishing the reliance it can place on the advice having been fully considered and presented without fear or favour.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many times action has been taken to stop illegal timber imports into the UK in the last 12 months; and what plans she has to improve her Department's performance in this area. [50852]

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Mr. Morley: The UK is the world's fourth largest importer of wood products. However, it is not possible for action to be taken specifically to stop illegal timber imports into the UK in the last 12 months, as timber is not currently identified as legal or illegal at ports of entry. UK Customs have made seizures of wood and wood products under separate CITES legislation but legality of their sourcing is not material.

Once the recently adopted EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Regulation comes into force it will enable member states to prohibit the entry into the EU of illegal timber products from countries that enter into Partnership Agreements with the European Union.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government are taking to extend the requirement to consult the Central Point of Expertise on Timber to more public bodies. [51059]

Mr. Morley: The Government have not set a requirement for any public body to consult the Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET). Central Government departments are required to seek to purchase legal and sustainable timber and are aware that CPET has a help line facility should they experience difficulty in obtaining such timber but they are free to choose not to seek help from CPET.

CPET is a free service that is available to all public sector bodies and their suppliers should they have need of it. The Government are raising awareness of the CPET facility at conferences and training workshops and through press articles and direct mailing. A number of public bodies outside of central Government have sought advice from CPET and we expect the numbers of enquiries to increase as word spreads.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if the Government will set a target for all Departments and other Government bodies to purchase only sustainable timber within five years. [51060]

Mr. Morley: The Environmental Audit Committee's Second Report of Session 2004–2005 on Sustainable Timber, paragraph number 91, concluded that it is

I consider that it would be inappropriate for me to answer your question, which addresses exactly the same point made by the Committee, before the Government have formally responded to the Committee's Report.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions the Government have had with the Austrian Government on taking forward Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade; and if she will make a statement. [51065]

Mr. Morley: As part of the EU Presidency Troika we continue to be supportive of efforts to take forward the development of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan and have been in regular contact with Austria.
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Work is now focused on implementing the FLEGT regulation and exploring additional options. Following a stakeholder consultation on additional options held in Brussels in January, the European Commission is now considering all the options raised. We expect the delayed report on this to be published by early summer 2006.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects EU Ministers to discuss Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade and the EU Commission's report on relevant legislative options. [51066]

Mr. Morley: The next opportunity for EU Ministers to discuss Forest Law Enforcement Governance & Trade will be once the European Commission tables the Additional Options report later this year.

Following the adoption of the FLEGT Action Plan by Council Conclusions in October 2003, (which committed the EU to exploring options to tackle the trade in illegally logged timber additional to the proposed FLEGT regulation), the UK Government has been frustrated at the time it has taken the Commission to produce this additional report.

Officials attended a European stakeholder consultation meeting in Brussels on 31 January 2006. This was held by the European Commission and the UK's Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs). The European Commission will consider all the options and issues raised at the stakeholder consultation meeting and produce the delayed report on additional options by early summer 2006.

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