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5 Jun 2006 : Column 155W—continued

Pest Control

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will reconsider the decision to ban the use of strychnine for mole control by dairy farmers; and what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the effectiveness of alternatives. [72732]

Mrs. McGuire: I have been asked to reply

The UK Government have not banned the use of strychnine for mole control by dairy farmers.

The use of strychnine for mole control is controlled under the Biocidal Products Directive administered in the UK by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the UK Competent Authority.

This Biocidal Products Directive aims to harmonise controls for marketing and use of biocidal products across Europe, while ensuring a high level of protection for human health and the environment. This includes the assessment of the active substances (such as strychnine) in biocidal products, followed by the authorisation of individual products containing those substances. These risks assessments should be based on scientific data packages provided by industry or other interested parties.

Industry did not submit any such data to support the continued marketing and use of strychnine, and so under the requirements of the directive, strychnine must be removed from the market by 1 September 2006.

However, the directive does allow member states, on behalf of applicants, to apply for a temporary exemption for substances considered to have ‘essential use’ in those member states. The HSE has received an application for the ‘essential use’ of strychnine to control moles from the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) and will forward this to the European Commission for consideration.

If this application is successful, it will allow strychnine to continue to be used until 14 May 2010. However, in the meantime, industry will need to develop alternative methods for controlling moles in the future.

On research into alternatives to strychnine, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published in 2004 a report produced by the Central Science Laboratory which reviewed the range of mole control methods that exist across the EU. The report is available on DEFRA’s website at: (

Private Members' Bills

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will list
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those Private Members’ Bills in respect of which his Department has adopted a policy of neutrality in each session since 2001-02; and if he will make a statement. [72475]

Barry Gardiner: The information requested is not collected by the Department and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps are being taken to increase recycling in England. [74160]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government's vision for sustainable waste management in England and Wales and their plan of action are set out in their document, “Waste Strategy 2000”, available on the Defra website: This is currently under review and our revised strategy will put forward a range of measures to build on recent improvements in recycling.

Defra has set national targets to increase household waste recycling to 25 per cent. by 2005-06, 30 per cent. by 2010 and 33 per cent. by 2015. The amount of household waste which is recycled has doubled in the last four years and is continuing to rise.

Local authorities are working hard to improve their performance in household waste recycling, however, Defra is proposing more targeted intervention and engagement with the poorest performers. Those local authorities with the lowest recycling rates in England have had their targets for 2007-08 raised from 18 per cent. to 20 per cent.

The Waste Minimisation and Recycling Fund and its successor (the Waste Performance and Efficiency Grant) have provided funding totalling £294 million over the three years to 2005-06 for specific projects to expand recycling operations. Through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), credits worth £355 million have been made available over the same period as an extra source of funding, with a further £535 million available in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

The Business Resource Efficiency and Waste (BREW) Programme has been developed to give £284 million in additional landfill tax revenues back to business in a revenue neutral way. This is being done by funding resource efficiency and waste projects that will benefit business, including recycling.

On a national basis, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is working to promote sustainable waste management by creating stable and efficient markets for recycled materials and products. WRAP also runs the Recycling and Organics Technical Advisory Team (ROTATE), which is available to all local authorities in England to provide support and advice on the separate collection of dry recyclables and organic wastes.

Rural Enterprise Scheme

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much is
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available to support applications to the Rural Enterprise Scheme in the South West in 2006-07; how much has been allocated; which applications are being considered; and what the deadline is for applications. [73273]

Barry Gardiner: The England Rural Development Programme's Project Based Schemes, including the Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES), will close to new applications on 30 June 2006.

RES is a competitive scheme that has been very popular and successful in the South West and across the country. The announcement that the scheme would close on 30 June has lead to an increased number of applications, and that has meant that competition for funding has been much higher than usual.

Over £5.2 million has been allocated to RES in the South West in 2006-07 and a substantial amount of this is now fully committed. Around 100 applications are currently being considered in the South West and the large number of applications will inevitably mean that some projects are unlikely to be funded.

The Rural Development Service is working to make the best use of funds under the current England Rural Development Programme—to ensure that as much of the money allocated to this programme is spent. RDS will continue to review the funding situation across these schemes and across the country as a whole.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the costs to farmers of making applications to the Rural Enterprise Scheme. [74089]

Barry Gardiner: No specific assessment of the cost of making an application to the Rural Enterprise Scheme has been carried out, but we know from our work with applicants to schemes run by my Department that the costs associated with applications can vary considerably from case to case. This will depend on the project size and complexity and is usually in proportion to the amount of grant being requested.

My Department recognises that costs to applicants can be significant. Indeed, the costs of preparing a project and its supporting documentation (which may include feasibility studies, technical development work and preparation of a detailed business case), are themselves eligible for funding. Development costs will not be funded in respect of unsuccessful Rural Enterprise Scheme applications, however; and it is clear throughout the guidance that work is undertaken at the applicant's own risk

In 2003 we introduced a fast-track system for smaller projects to reduce the detail required. This has helped to keep the costs of applying for small amounts of grant to a minimum.

Rural Payments Agency

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what systems have been established to monitor the quality of Rural Payments Agency staff responses to (a) telephone calls and (b) electronic mail. [71512]

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Barry Gardiner: The information is as follows:

(a) Telephone calls

Customer Service Centre (CSC) telephone agents are monitored by their team leaders and given feedback reports each week. Team leaders also listen into calls on a regular basis. From this, agents are given more specific feedback and advice on call handling techniques. The results of these checks are recorded with the weekly feedback to show where development is required and where progress is being made.

Team leaders also carry out sample checks of customer records on the main computer application to ensure that calls are being logged to the required standard and all relevant information is noted.

(b) Electronic mails

A call tracking system logs all incoming e-mails and date stamps their receipt. The e-mail is assigned to the appropriate Rural Payments Agency site for a response and the time taken to reply is tracked against published charter targets. Using this system, RPA can measure its e-mail handling performance and also identify bottlenecks in the process and allocate resources efficiently to remove them.

Once the member of staff has investigated the customer’s query and drafted a response it is checked by their line manager to ensure that the reply fully answers the customer’s query and that the spelling and grammar is correct. This is then forwarded to the monitoring office for a final review where the reply is checked for plain English, spelling, grammar and layout.

RPA launched a CSC on 14 February 2005. This was done to streamline single payment scheme and customer registration telephone enquiries into the agency through one route, to allow staff to concentrate on processing. More importantly, this system aims to ensure that customers receive consistent answers and any more complex inquiries can be directed to specialist areas of the business to call the customer back.

The main call centre is based in Workington with facilities for calls to be diverted to staff at other RPA sites during periods of unusually high demand.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what records he keeps of calls back (a) promised and (b) made by Rural Payments Agency staff. [71514]

Barry Gardiner: The Rural Payments Agency maintains a central computerised database of callers to its customer service centre that require a return call. The system is used when a member of staff is unable to answer a customer's question during the incoming call. All calls requiring a follow up response are logged on a database. Progress in clearing follow up responses is managed by a central team and reported daily to Senior Managers.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many complaints about Rural Payment Agency (RPA) payments have been received by RPA staff in each of
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the last five years; and how complaints were (a) identified and (b) defined. [71516]

David Tredinnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 10 May 2006 to Question 66634, on single farm payments, how many such complaints have been received for England. [72291]

Barry Gardiner: The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) does not separately monitor official complaints made to its Customer Relations Unit that specifically relate to payments.

Since the establishment of RPA in October 2001, 1,325 official complaints have been received covering all areas of its business. The table shows these broken down by calendar year.














RPA operates an appeal procedure to deal with appeals from customers about decisions reached by RPA which affect the amount of payment which they receive. The Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) appeal procedure in England was introduced on 1 April 2002 and was extended in April 2004 to cover some 60 non-IACS schemes and in November 2004 to cover the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). To date 260 IACS, 15 non-IACS and 51 SPS appeals have been received. In addition, the appeal procedure has dealt with 181 appeals against the Moorland Line and 280 appeals against the historic element of the SPS prior to payments being made.

IACS Non-IACS Moorland Line SPS (Historic) SPS





















Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many telephone calls to the Rural Payments Agency Customer Service Centre (a) were answered and (b) went unanswered in each month since 2001. [71533]

Barry Gardiner: The figures show calls to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) Customer Service Centre (CSC) Number 0845 603 7777. The CSC went live on 14 February 2005 and therefore we only have the number of calls answered for the last two weeks of February.

The figures for May, June and July 2005 are gathered from a number of sources and include the use of an external call centre.

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Calls offered to 0845 603 7777 Unanswered Percentage unanswered

February 2005

(Calls answered 12,971

Not available

Not available

March 2005




April 2005




May 2005




June 2005




July 2005




August 2005




September 2005




October 2005




November 2005(1)




December 2005




January 2006




February 2006




March 2006




April 2006




(1)The November 2005 figure was the result of an emergency evacuation when approx 600 calls (with a high number of repeat calls) were lost.

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