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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 3 May 2006

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Avian Influenza

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): On 27 April the House was informed of the finding of avian influenza in samples from chickens on a poultry farm near Dereham in Norfolk. The strain was confirmed as low pathogenic H7N3 on 28 April. The Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) are carrying out further investigation before the presence of the high pathogenic strain in the flock can be completely ruled out.

The Veterinary Laboratories Agency on 29 April reported to DEFRA positive results for avian influenza in free range chickens on two further poultry farms near Dereham, Norfolk. Further testing has confirmed the low pathogenic H7N3 strain.

On all three premises the birds have been culled and disposed of, and cleansing and disinfection is being carried out. A 1km restricted zone is in place around each of the premises. Movements of poultry and poultry products may only take place under licence from the state veterinary service. The necessary surveillance is being carried out within the restriction zones and movements and contacts are being traced.

A preliminary epidemiological report has been produced which has been published today, and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. It sets out our current understanding of the source and spread of the disease based on the evidence available. The report concludes that it is not possible to say at this stage whether any of the three flocks was the index case—other premises may be involved. It is also not possible to determine yet whether they were infected by a common source—wild birds and other possibly infected premises are being investigated. However, the report does explain that it is likely that the first free range flock was infected around 20 March, some 11 days later the virus infected the second free range flock, and the housed poultry flock was infected between 15 and 18 April. Any links or movements between the premises involved are being investigated.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Health Estates Corporate Plan 2006–07

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): The targets, which have been set for 2006–07, are based on the strategic aim and objectives of the agency as set out in section 4 of its corporate and business plan. The targets are in line with the Department's policy of seeking to improve the service provided to the agency's clients in
 
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terms of both quality and value for money and I am satisfied that they present a demanding challenge for the agency. A copy of the corporate and business plan will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The targets are as follows:

Quality

Throughput/Service Delivery Targets

Resource and Financial Management Targets


 
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WORK AND PENSIONS

Independent Living Funds

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mrs. Anne McGuire): I am today announcing my intention to engage a consultant to conduct a strategic review of the Independent Living Funds, in the context of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit report "Improving the Life Chances of Disabled
 
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People". This is in line with our aim to regularly review the functions, organisation and management of all non-departmental public bodies.

The Independent Living Funds enable thousands of severely disabled people to live independently and we need to consider the future direction of the funds in the light of our goal of equality for disabled people and the wider context of proposed changes in social care outlined by the Department of Health White Paper: "Our health, Our care, Our say".

The consultant will supply independent expert advice and carry out a public consultation in order to provide recommendations as to the future direction of the funds. The Independent Living Funds will discharge £263 million of public funds during 2006–07 so it is essential that we have an independent and informed review of their role.

I am placing a copy of the terms of reference for the review in the Library. The consultant will be asked to report to Ministers by the end of December 2006.