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12 Jun 2006 : Column 884W—continued

Surveillance Commissioner

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister what factors underlay his decision to appoint Sir Charles Mantell as a Surveillance Commissioner. [76281]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the press notice issued by my Office, a copy of which is available on the Number 10 website. A copy has also been placed in the Library of the House.

Witness Statements

Mr. Duncan: To ask the Prime Minister what sanctions are available under (a) the Ministerial Code and (b) the Civil Service Code against someone who, when providing a witness statement in support of an application to the High Court by a Secretary of State, (i) withholds information which is material to the Court's consideration of the application and (ii) includes in his statement information which he knows to be false or misleading. [76307]

The Prime Minister: Section 1 of the Ministerial Code sets out the process for handling alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code. Departmental staff handbooks will set out the procedures for handling alleged breaches of the Civil Service Code.

Leader of the House

Parliamentary Calendar

25. Mr. Mackay: To ask the Leader of the House what plans he has to review the parliamentary calendar. [76117]

Nigel Griffiths: My right hon. Friend remains open to representations on issues relating to the parliamentary calendar.

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Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Bone: To ask the Leader of the House what steps he is taking to improve the speed and accuracy of answers to written parliamentary questions. [76115]

Mr. Straw: All Ministers fully understand the requirement for timeliness and accuracy in providing answers to written questions. I have discussed at Cabinet with my ministerial colleagues the importance we attach to proper accountability to Parliament. My Office helps to ensure that the standards are adhered to and Mr. Speaker knows my own commitment to this.

At the same time, the House must accept that there has been an ever-increasing number of written questions being tabled. Not all perhaps are tabled with the full involvement of the Member in whose name they are tabled and some perhaps may be inspired by outside pressure to be seen to be tabling a high number. This inevitably places the system under pressure.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Bovine TB

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research his Department has undertaken regarding methods of badger culling; and if he will make a statement. [75583]

Mr. Bradshaw: My Department undertook a desk study of possible culling methods and identified shooting, snaring and gassing as the methods most worthy of further investigation. This research is currently under way. A full report will be published when the work is completed.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Home Secretary regarding the issuing of licences for authorising badger culling. [75584]

Mr. Bradshaw: This issue has not been discussed with the Home Secretary.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when his Department expects to make its response to the public consultation on bovine tuberculosis and badger culling. [75585]

Mr. Bradshaw: At this stage we cannot give an indication on the specific timing of a response to the consultation or a decision.

However, given the seriousness of the disease situation we aim to proceed as quickly as possible while giving the issue the thorough consideration it requires.

The decision is not a simple one. We are taking into account all the evidence, including the science.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether his Department has a preferred method of culling badgers. [75586]

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Mr. Bradshaw: No decisions have yet been made on whether or not it is appropriate to cull badgers in order to prevent the spread of bTB, nor by what method if a cull was considered appropriate.

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will visit Shrewsbury constituency to meet a farmer who has had a recent outbreak of bovine tuberculosis to discuss the Government's plans to help farmers fight this disease. [74759]

Mr. Bradshaw: Defra Ministers receive many invitations to visit individual farmers around the country to discuss their circumstances. Unfortunately, it is not possible to accept all of them. However, Ministers and officials meet regularly with organisations representing farmers and cattle keepers to discuss a variety of important matters, including bovine TB.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made by his Department of the (a) movements, (b) relocation and (c) displacement of protected species, with particular reference to badgers, resulting from work by transport infrastructure companies required for (i) health and safety, (ii) environmental and (iii) other reasons; and whether badgers relocated in such circumstances are routinely tested for bovine tuberculosis. [74984]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 5 June 2006]: Defra issues licences to allow the interference with badger setts to prevent serious damage to property, and to permit agricultural, forestry or drainage operations. The majority of licences involve interference to exclude badgers from part or all of a sett, sometimes followed by sett destruction. Very few licences for translocation of badgers are granted. Some licensed activities include maintenance works undertaken by transport infrastructure companies.

Badgers typically have more than one sett which they use in their territory. Thus there is no reason to believe that the closure, or partial closure, of a sett would necessarily cause badgers to move outside their normal range. My Department has commissioned a study which involves looking at badger movements when licensed sett interference is carried out in urban situations. However it is too early to draw any conclusions from this work which is currently under way.

Defra's wildlife management advisers ensure that a proportion of licences is assessed through monitoring. The method, timing and amount of monitoring will vary depending upon a number of factors such as the species, site or activities being licensed. Defra aims to monitor around 30 per cent. of badger licences. A proportion of these will be targeted towards sensitive or complex cases such as those involving translocation or cases that have attracted a high level of public attention. The results of monitoring are recorded and if a breach of licence conditions has been identified Defra will consider an appropriate course of enforcement action.

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English Nature issues licences to permit the disturbance of badgers and destruction of setts during the course of development activities, which would include some activities associated with the maintenance of transport infrastructure. English Nature does not license the translocation of animals in these cases—it licenses disturbance to setts, and where setts are to be lost as a result of the activity the licence allows animals to be excluded from the sett before it is destroyed. Where no suitable alternative setts are available nearby for the badgers to move to, an artificial sett must be constructed within the animals' existing territory, before they are excluded from their existing sett. No significant movement of badgers is likely to result from these activities.

In the very few cases where Defra has licensed the translocation of badgers to another part of the country, it has been a condition of the licence that all badgers caught must be tested for bTB.

Brixham Fish Market

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what funding his Department will make available for the development of the Brixham Fish Market and Employment Space Development. [75514]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 8 June 2006]: Torbay council has submitted an application for part funding of this project under the terms of the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance scheme. My officials are currently assessing this application in accordance with normal procedures and expect to make a decision shortly.

Dairy Farmers

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans he has to help dairy farmers to cope with changes in milk prices. [74761]

Barry Gardiner: Price negotiations are a private commercial matter in which Government cannot get involved, provided competition rules are respected. Milk prices are subject to change on a regular basis, and farmers understand that they fluctuate throughout the year as a result of supply and demand. However, the underlying price of milk is expected to fall as a result of CAP reform. Through the Dairy Premium, farmers were partially compensated for these price reductions.

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The Government do recognise that the dairy industry is facing a number of challenges, not least because of farm-gate prices. Although the Dairy Supply Chain Forum does not discuss milk prices, it provides information to help the dairy industry make informed decisions about its future in a world with much freer trade and lower prices. It has also welcomed the moves in the industry towards more transparent milk contracts.

Dangerous Dogs Act

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on the operation of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991; and what recent representations he has received about the operation of this Act. [75632]

Mr. Bradshaw: There are no plans to review the Dangerous Dogs Act. The police consider that the 1991 Act is a useful tool in dealing with dangerous dogs. Most dog owners are aware that as a result of this legislation there can be serious legal consequences if they fail to keep their dog under control.

The Department receives various representations and holds regular discussions with our partners on the operation of the Act.

Departmental Budget

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much of the budget for his Department remained unspent in the last financial year. [70541]

Barry Gardiner: The provisional outturn currently shows that £24 million of the total departmental budget of £6,043 million for 2005-06 was unspent at the end of the last financial year.

Departmental Staff

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what incentives are available to encourage members of his staff to use public transport for travelling to and from work. [75106]

Barry Gardiner: Defra encourages the use of public transport and cycling as an alternative to car use for business as well as personal travel. In order to help staff carry out their normal commutes to work in a sustainable way, Defra offers advances of salary for season ticket purchase (repayable in equal monthly instalments within the life of the season ticket). Advances for purchase of a bicycle are also available.

Environmental Liability Directive

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the scope of the Environmental Liability Directive, without extension of its scope in implementing
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legislation, is (a) wider and (b) narrower than the (i) Environmental Protection Act 1990: Part I Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations (England and Wales) 2000 and Environmental Protection Act 1990: Part II, (ii) Water Resources Act 1991, (iii) Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and (iv) Environmental Protection Act 1990: Part IIA. [74281]

Ian Pearson [holding answer 5 June 2006]: The question is a difficult one to respond to meaningfully. The referenced domestic legislation and the ELD are not directly or entirely comparable. The ELD, unlike the Pollution Prevention and Control or Waste legislation, is not a regulatory regime—there are no initial compliance costs; it imposes costs only when a business causes significant environmental damage. The legislation dealing with EU and domestic biodiversity provides a much more limited framework for liability for remediation than the ELD. The contaminated land (part IIA, Environmental Protection Act 1990) regime has some overlapping features with the ELD and can deal with current damage, but it is largely concerned with historic damage, which is outside the scope of the ELD.

Fallen Livestock

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will list the sites in (a) England, (b) Wales and (c) Scotland which are licensed to incinerate fallen livestock. [75396]

Mr. Bradshaw: Defra licenses facilities to incinerate animal carcases under the Animal By-Products Regulations (ABPR). I will write to the hon. Member with a list of APBR-approved sites and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of farmers who have left the agricultural sector in each of the last 10 years. [74501]

Barry Gardiner: Figures from the Agricultural and Horticultural Survey indicate labour on agricultural holdings in June each year. These figures therefore show net change only in the number of farmers.

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Number of farmers in England
Full time Part time Total





































(a) Figures prior to 2000 are for main holdings only. Figures from 2000 onwards include all holdings. A minor holding has to meet all of the following conditions:
(i) the total area less than six hectares
(ii) the labour requirement is estimated to be less than 100 standard person days
(iii) there is no regular full-time farmer or worker
(iv) the glasshouse area is less than 100 square metres
(v) the occupier does not farm another holding.
(b) Number of farmers includes partners, directors and spouses (if working on the holding). Part-time and full-time split not available for 1996 and 1997.
(c) Estimates have been made for non-respondents.
June Agricultural Survey

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