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5 Jun 2006 : Column 149W—continued


Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what average time was taken by Ministers in his Department to respond to correspondence from hon. and right hon. Members in the last period for which figures are available; and what targets he has set for this process. [72402]

Barry Gardiner: Departmental performance in responding to correspondence to Ministers from hon. and right hon. Members, including Members of the House of Lords, is reported annually to Parliament by the Cabinet Office. The latest annual report shows that
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Defra received 14,305 letters in 2004 and replied to 81 per cent. of these within the Department’s target of 15 working days. In 2005, Defra received 12,051 letters and replied to 75 per cent. of these within its target.

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Nottingham, North on organic food dated 16 March. [75063]

Mr. Bradshaw: A reply was sent to my hon. Friend on 11 April 2006. I will arrange for a further copy to be sent.

Departmental Estate

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) land and (b) property his Department and its predecessors (i) leases and (ii) leased in (A) Southend, West constituency, (B) Essex, (C) Hertfordshire and (D) the Metropolitan police area of London in (1) 1979, (2) 1983, (3) 1987, (4) 1992 and (5) 1997. [72476]

Barry Gardiner: The Department was not created until 2001. Leased property occupied by its predecessor, MAFF, prior to 1990 was acquired for the Ministry by the Property Services Agency (PSA). The dates on which such property was acquired are not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Leased property held in 1992 and acquired between then and 1997 is listed as follows. No land was leased in these areas during the years concerned.

1. Southend, West constituency:

2. Essex:

3. Hertfordshire:

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4. Metropolitan police area of London:

Departmental Expenditure

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many staff from his Department attended the Civil Service Islamic Society Eid-Ul-Adha event in London in 2005; and what the total cost to his Department was of their attendance. [73096]

Barry Gardiner: My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will write to the hon. Member with details of the Civil Service Islamic Society Eid-UI-Adha event. Copies of her letter will be placed in the Library.

Departmental Funding

Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what procedures he will use to assess the socio-economic effects of reductions in funding by his Department to research establishments following the effects of publication of the Research Council Institute's Public Sector Sustainability Survey. [72850]

Barry Gardiner [holding answer 22 May 2006]: Decisions on where to place research contracts are taken on assessment of how the identified research need can best be met. Socio-economic considerations are not part of the scientific review process when assessing research proposals.

Departmental Staff

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many staff by (a) headcount and (b) full-time equivalent work on his blog, broken down by (i) grade and (ii) office or directorate of his Department in which the staff work; and if he will make a statement. [72801]

Barry Gardiner: The Secretary of State writes his own blog. Two staff in Defra's Communications Directorate—at Grade 7 and Higher Executive Officer grades—have integrated the blog into Defra's website, and continue to oversee operation. For the two weeks following the recent ministerial changes, approximately
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30 to 40 per cent. of their time was spent on work in some way connected to the blog. This is expected to decrease.

The blog promotes a new and more direct form of communication between the public and the Secretary of State.

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many staff in his Department have had (a) five or more, (b) four, (c) three and (d) two periods of sick leave of less than five days in each of the last three years. [73095]

Barry Gardiner: The number of staff in Defra, the State Veterinary Service, the Marine Fisheries Agency and the Government Decontamination Service that had two or more periods of sickness absence of fewer than five days in 2005 was as follows:

Number of periods of absence Number of staff

(a) 5 or more


(b) 4


(c) 3


(d) 2


The number of staff in Defra, SVS, MFA and GDS in 2005 was 7,315 full-time equivalents.

Data on sickness absences for Defra's other Executive Agencies are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Data for other years are unavailable.

In Defra, managers are responsible for managing sick absence levels and encouraging a working environment where people want to come to work and where they support each other. They discuss each occasion of absence with the employee upon their return to work to determine any action or individual support needs. A new contract for the provision of occupational health services ensures that assistance is available to managers who have particular concerns over an individual's general health or sickness absence.

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what incentives his Department offers to encourage staff to share vehicles when travelling to work. [73098]

Barry Gardiner: The majority of larger Defra and Agency sites have Green Travel Plans which apart from promoting other forms of travel to work, such as cycling, include local arrangement where priority parking provision for the drivers of shared vehicles is made available where space permits.

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many and what percentage of staff in his Department are making additional voluntary contributions to their pension. [73099]

Barry Gardiner: Members of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS) can pay additional contributions to top up their pension either through the Civil Service Additional Voluntary Contributions Scheme (CSAVCS), a money purchase arrangement, or
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by buying added years of service in the PCSPS. As an alternative to membership of the PCSPS recruits from 1 October 2002 have been able to join a stakeholder arrangement, the partnership pension account.

The number and percentage of staff in the department who are making additional voluntary contributions to their pension as at 31 May 2006 are shown in the table.

Number Percentage




Added Years






These figures, taken from the DEFRA payroll also include agency staff in the: Pesticides Safety Directorate, State Veterinary Service, Veterinary Medicines Directorate, Marine Fisheries Agency and Government Decontamination Service.


Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will propose to his EU colleagues a ban on EU fishing in the waters of Western Sahara in view of the fact it is a disputed territory. [74820]

Mr. Bradshaw: The UK's position on the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement remains that Morocco, the de facto administering power of Western Sahara, is obliged under international law to ensure that economic activities under their administration do not adversely affect the interests of the people of the Western Sahara.


Colin Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what documentary proof his Department requires to determine the age of an ivory item claimed to be of antique status; [75076]

(2) what action his Department has taken to curb the illegal ivory trade in the UK since 2004. [75080]

Barry Gardiner: The “antiques derogation” as defined in Article 2 of Council Regulation EC 338/97 states that

“50 years previously” is defined as pre 1 June 1947.

An item that satisfies this derogation does not require any application for sale within the ED, and no specific documentary proof is required. Similarly, no permit is needed for re-export, providing that the item is carried in the personal luggage of the traveller. Only where the specimen is being re-exported by an antique dealer and being sent to a purchaser outside the EU is a CITES permit required.

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In these circumstances, where an application has been made, it would be usual to accept the assurances of a reputable antiques dealer that an item is pre-1947. However if there were to be any doubt my officials have an agreement with the British Antique Dealers Association (BADA) for an independent expert to make an assessment on our behalf.

It is unrealistic to specify documentary evidence as in many cases this simply will not exist. If documentary evidence is thought necessary an affidavit from an independent expert will usually suffice.

Last year officials prepared a specific guidance note for antique dealers in consultation with the British Antique Dealers Association concerning the control of trade in endangered species. It explains the requirements dealers must comply with when they are engaged in the sale of antique items in the UK, or their export overseas, and the ramifications of non-compliance with the regulations, This has been distributed to trade associations, and to applicants and other people with antique queries.

Statistics from the Elephant Trade Information System (a global monitoring system established to track and assess the scale of illegal trade in ivory) has not revealed any significant problems of illegal ivory trade in the UK.

Ministerial Cars (Fuel Costs)

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the fuel costs were for ministerial cars used by her Department in each of the last five years. [67021]

Barry Gardiner: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 27 April 2006, Official Report, column 1226W by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Transport (Dr. Ladyman).

Ministerial Portfolios

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on the portfolios of the Ministers within his Department. [74073]

Barry Gardiner: Ministers' portfolios remain substantially unchanged from those held by their predecessors.

Organic Food

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what views (a) consumer organisations, (b) the Soil Association and (c) supermarkets have expressed to him regarding the European Commission’s proposal to revise Council regulation 2092/91, on organic production, which will impose a requirement for all organic food produced by British farmers to be labelled with an EU logo and/or the words EU organic. [73242]

Mr. Bradshaw: Stakeholders in the organic sector have been consulted on the possibility of the compulsory use of the EU logo or the indication EU
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organic through a written consultation and meetings with the Organic Action Plan group. The Advisory Committee on Organic Standards has also been consulted. In line with the majority of responses we have negotiated on the basis that the UK would prefer a voluntary approach to the use of these indications.

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