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Jim Knight: The number of agricultural and horticultural holdings in England recorded for the years 1986 to 2005 are shown below. Figures for the other UK countries fall under the jurisdiction of the devolved authorities.
|Number of agricultural and horticultural holdings|
|West Midlands Region||25,851|
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what opportunities exist for farm tenants to diversify as a result of recent changes to landlord/tenant legislation; and what plans the Government has to respond to further changes proposed by the Tenancy Reform Industry Group. 
A Regulatory Reform Order to amend the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 and the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 was laid before Parliament on 30 March 2006. The order is currently going through the parliamentary scrutiny process, but, if adopted, the amendments should make it easier for tenant farmers to diversify. In particular, the amendments would enable potential successors to a tenancy to carry out diversified
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activities on a holding with the consent of the landlord, without jeopardising the right to succession to the tenancy. The amendments should also facilitate tenant diversification by encouraging landlords to agree to improvements to the holding and by making it easier to restructure holdings held under a 1986 Act tenancy.
In addition to the proposed, Defra in conjunction with the Tenancy Reform Industry Group, has published a Code of Good Practice for agri-environment and diversification projects within agricultural tenancies. This sets out a framework to help tenants and landlords come to agreement on proposals for diversification or participation in an agri-environment scheme. Where tenants and landlords are unable to agree in accordance with the Code of Good Practice, Defra has provided funding for an adjudication scheme, free at the point of use, to enable the proposal to be considered by an independent adjudicator. The adjudication scheme is administered by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. The Code of Good Practice is available on the Defra website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/tenancy/trig/trig-cogp.pdf
The Tenancy Reform Industry Group put forward its recommendations to Government in June 2003 and has not since put forward any further proposals for change. The Government responded to the Group's recommendations in December 2003. The Government keeps in close contact with the Tenancy Reform Industry Group on landlord/tenant issues and will continue to do so.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what considerations formed the basis of the decision to extend the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification scheme probation period. 
Mr. Morley: The Government currently accepts certificates from the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) scheme as a means of assuring central departments that their demand for timber from legal and sustainable sources is being met. That acceptance is provisional on recent changes made to the PEFC scheme being implemented by the national schemes endorsed by PEFC.
An initial examination of some of the national schemes showed that the various national decision making processes were not identical. Subsequent information supplied by the schemes indicated that the processes adopted may nevertheless result in compliance with the PEFC Council requirements but the situation was not clear-cut and called for further consideration.
The Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET) will soon undertake a review of all the forest certification schemes assessed by CPET in 2004. The Government have decided that this review will, in addition to examining published scheme requirements, consider evidence of failure to adopt scheme system requirements. The Government would prefer to take a decision on PEFC's probationary status in the light of any new evidence that this review may unearth.
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Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who was involved in the decision to extend the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification scheme probation period. 
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the market towns which have participated in the market towns initiative; between which dates each participated; and which towns have applied for funding but have been unsuccessful. 
Jim Knight [holding answer 26 April 2006]: The national Market Towns Initiative (MTI) was launched in FY 200001 and provided £32 million to Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), and £5 million to the Countryside Agency (CA) to support community-led market town regeneration in the regions. The initiative was therefore not established as a national funding programme, but as a means of enabling regional partnerships to target towns in their region according to regionally agreed selection criteria. The aim was to provide support to 100 towns but, by the time the national initiative ended in FY 200304, over 230 towns had benefited.
Following the end of the national MTI, responsibility for market towns was devolved to the regional and local level, with the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) primarily providing support for market towns through their mainstream activities.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the (a) possible effects on the terms and conditions of and (b) cost impacts on veterinary surgeons of each of the options for proposed changes to veterinary supervision arrangements within the Meat Hygiene Service. 
Effects on terms and conditions of veterinary surgeons and costs of the preferred options for change are being explored as part of the consultation process. A regulatory impact assessment will be completed in light of comments received during the consultation and from more detailed engagement with those stakeholders that are directly affected by the proposed changes, such as veterinary contractors.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she commission an independent assessment of the likely impact of each of the options for proposed changes to veterinary supervision arrangements within the Meat Hygiene Service. 
Development of the proposals has been informed by Professor Wall's independent inquiry into the failure of the MHS in 2004 to ensure all relevant at risk 24 to 30 month bovines had been tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and recommendations to minimise the risk of failure recurring (with three recommendations in particular directed towards improving the veterinary structure). The proposals have also been informed by two subsequent reports commissioned by the Food Standards Agency and the MHS from DNV Consulting and the independent advisory group's requirements relating to the over 30 month rule change.
The various reports are publicly available and comments are invited on the proposed changes as part of the consultation process. A regulatory impact assessment will be completed in light of comments received during the consultation and from more detailed engagement with those stakeholders that are directly affected by the proposed changes, such as veterinary contractors.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the TUPE implications are of each of the options for proposed changes for veterinary supervision arrangements within the Meat Hygiene Service. 
These acknowledge that there are possible TUPE employment rights issues arising from the preferred option (and from other options considered by the MHS in its review), but these are similar to those currently being managed through the existing Official Veterinarian
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contract arrangements, and with the use of other contract or Agency staff more generally. These issues will be explored further during the consultation process.
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