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Barry Gardiner: The EU regulatory window for payments under the 2005 Single Payment Scheme (SPS) is 1 December 2005 to 30 June 2006. The cost to the agricultural industry of these payments being made in one month rather than another depends on individual farmers' circumstances and the use to which the payments are put.
In light of the situation explained by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South in her written statement of 16 March 2006, Official Report, column 104WS, various managerial and procedural changes have been introduced during the past few months in order to increase the flow of SPS payments. These have contributed to the position where over £1.3 billion, representing 89 per cent. of the total value of such payments, has now been disbursed.
The Rural Payments Agency is working hard to ensure that payments are made as soon as possible within this time frame. Staff have already started basic validation checks on a proportion of the 2006 application forms.
James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on the impact of the late payment of claims under the 2005 Single Payment Scheme on the competitiveness of English agricultural businesses with their counterparts in other EU countries. 
Barry Gardiner: The timing of payments under the decoupled Single Payment Scheme (SPS) only affects the competitiveness of agricultural businesses to the extent that SPS claimants treat those payments as though they remain coupled to production. Discussions within Government and with stakeholders has highlighted widespread recognition of the potential benefits to the English agricultural industry, relative to its counterparts in most other EU member states, that were provided by the decisions made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett) to introduce the SPS at the earliest possible date and not to take up any of the options to retain coupled EU direct payments.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures are being taken by his Department to facilitate payments due under the Single Payment Scheme by extending the permitted time frame; and if he will make a statement. 
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a
statement on the Government's application to the European Commission to delay the payment of single farm moneys to English farmers. 
Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions his Department has had with the European Commission on extending the window for single farm payments beyond 30th June. 
Barry Gardiner [holding answer 5 June 2006]: While the intention has been, and remains, for the Rural Payments Agency to make outstanding payments under the 2005 Single Payment Scheme as soon as possible, it has always been the case that some payments may be made after the end of the EU payment window on 30 June. In those cases, the claimant will still be paid in full, but EU funding of those payments could be reduced. With that in mind and to safeguard the interests of UK taxpayers, a request was made to the European Commission in April to extend the payment window. Subsequent discussions with the European Commission suggest that a formal extension is unlikely, but those discussions will continue, focused on the EU rules governing the funding of payments made after the end of the payment window.
Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate his Department has made of when all single farm payments for this year will have been completed. 
Barry Gardiner [holding answer 22 May 2006]: The RPA has not provided a timetable for the completion of outstanding payments, although it is endeavouring to make payment to all 2005 single payment scheme applicants by 30 June.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures he is taking (a) to ensure that outstanding applications under the Single Farm Payment Scheme are processed as a matter of urgency and (b) to improve efficiency in handling payments under the scheme. 
Barry Gardiner: As of 5 June the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has paid just under £1.33 billion to nearly 96,000 customers, representing 89 per cent. of projected expenditure to 80 per cent. of eligible claimants. RPAs top priority is to pay those claims worth more than €1,000 that have not yet received any payment. The majority of these cases have been allocated to an individual member of staff to resolve any outstanding validation issues and proceed to payment as soon as possible. In a number of cases, this will require the discussion of outstanding validation issues with the claimant.
Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of single farm payments remain outstanding in (a) Hereford constituency, (b) Herefordshire and (c) England. 
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the merits of raising the threshold for single farm payment minimum acreage to one hectare; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner [holding answer 25 May 2006]: Under EU legislation governing the single payment scheme (SPS), member states may set a minimum area for the establishment of SPS entitlements, which cannot be higher than 0.3ha. Following discussions between the Department and the devolved administrations, the UK made maximum use of this flexibility in adopting a minimum area of 0.3ha. The establishment of entitlements is, with very limited exemptions, a one-off exercise undertaken in the year the SPS is introduced. In the UK, this was 2005. Even if it were possible, therefore, for the UK to now set a higher minimum area, it would have little, if any, practical effect going forward.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether his Department plans to introduce a threshold below which single farm payments are deemed negligible; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner [holding answer 25 May 2006]: Under EU legislation governing the single payment scheme (SPS), member states may set a minimum payment figure of 100 euros. That provision is not currently used in the UK, but is among the issues that will be considered further in preparation for the introduction of the 2007 scheme.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on the costs of installing the computer system which processes the Single Payment Scheme. 
Barry Gardiner: The overall cost of the Accenture contract is £53.8 million. This includes not only the development of the core SPS processing system but also a Rural Land Register, Customer Register, Customer Service (Call) Centre and Document Management Unit.
Mr. David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the (a) reliability and (b) cost-effectiveness of electronic tagging for sheep. 
Mr. Bradshaw: An extensive pilot trial took place in 2004-05 to evaluate the use of electronic identification devices (EIDs) and electronic data transfer (EDT) under English sheep farming conditions. The aim of the trial was to identify issues surrounding the practical application, roll-out and implementation of EID on sheep farms in different parts of the country, in livestock markets and in slaughterhouses. Results from the trial are available on the Defra website: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tracing/sheep/eid/index.htm.
These results will be submitted to the European Commission to inform their forthcoming report on EID. A regulatory impact assessment for the implementation of electronic identification of sheep and goats in England is also being prepared.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent conclusions relating to the setting up of fewer, larger sustainable transport resources and waste facilities. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The recent consultation on the review of Englands Waste Strategy put forward proposals for the future of waste policy. These included policies with various environmental impacts, for example, on the quality of local environments and transport.
The procurement of waste services by local authorities is key to delivery, and it is clear that further facilities will be required in order to deal with the commercial and industrial wastes diverted from landfill or requiring treatment to meet landfill controls. The recently created Waste Infrastructure Development Programme will consider how to encourage local authorities to allow, where appropriate, for larger facilities that can serve the non-municipal sector and provide recycling collection services for businesses.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what contingency plans his Department has put in place to deal with outbreaks of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia in live fish in the UK; 
(3) what discussions his Department has had with key stakeholders on compensating fish farmers for the compulsory slaughter of stock in the event of an outbreak of (a) viral haemorrhagic septicaemia and (b) other fatal diseases amongst farmed fish. 
Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 8 June 2006]: On 26 May, Viral Haemorrhagic Septicaemia (VHS) was confirmed in samples of fish taken from a trout farm in the River Ouse catchment area of North Yorkshire. VHS is a notifiable disease and the Department has a contingency plan in place for dealing with outbreaks of VHS and other serious fish diseases.
In line with these arrangements, Fish Health Inspectors from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), under Defra's direction, immediately formed a National Control Centre (NCC) to co-ordinate action to manage the outbreak with other partners, including the Environment Agency. The NCC is based at the CEFAS laboratory in Weymouth.
The cause of the VHS outbreak has not been identified, but extensive epidemiological investigations are underway to try and determine the source. A comprehensive sampling programme is also taking place, targeting fish farms and wild sites in the Ouse catchment as well as other possible contacts. Results are expected within the next 14 days. No further disease cases have been identified by recent sampling and inspections.
Stakeholders make regular representations to the Department about compensating fish farmers for the compulsory slaughter of stock due to an outbreak of a serious fish disease. We have made it clear that it is not our policy to make compensation available in these circumstances. However, EU legislation does allow fish from an infected site to be on-grown for marketing, provided they do not display any clinical signs of disease.
Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the (a) tender documents and (b) construction timetable for the Warden Bay defence scheme will be made public. 
[holding answer 8 June 2006]: Defra has overall policy responsibility for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England, funds most of the Environment Agencys flood management activities and provides grant aid on a project by project basis to the other flood and coastal defence operating
authorities (local authorities and internal drainage boards) to support their investment in capital improvement projects. Defra does not build defences, nor direct the authorities on which specific projects to undertake. The works programme to manage risk is driven by the operating authorities.
The Warden Bay project is being promoted by Swale borough council and details of the tender process and construction timetable are matters for them. A scheme was approved for grant aid by Defra in July 2005 for start of construction in 2007-08, based on the councils assessment of costs at that time.
Ian Pearson [holding answer 5 June 2006]: For the purposes of the Waste Incineration Directive (WID), waste means any solid or liquid waste as defined in Article 1(a) of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD). Whether or not a substance is waste within the meaning of Article 1(a) of the WFD is a matter that must be determined on the facts of the case and the interpretation of the law is a matter for the courts.
In addition the EU Animal By-Products Regulation (ABPR) ((EC) No. 1774/2002) requires a range of animal by-products, and substances derived from them (for example, tallow), to be disposed of as waste. Where the method of disposal is incineration or co-incineration (that is, use as a fuel), the ABPR requires it to be carried out in compliance with the WID. The ABPR is directly applicable in all EU member states.
We understand that other member states are at various stages in discussing the implications of the regulations on burning tallow in their own countries. However, in response to representations by the UK Government, the European Commission has set up a study to help establish whether such controls are proportionate and necessary to the protection of the environment. The study is expected to report by the autumn, and the Government are pressing the Commission for the study to be completed as soon as possible.
Mr. Bradshaw: A number of improvements to existing legislation dealing with litter were made under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, including the introduction of greater powers for local authorities in issuing fixed penalty notices and litter clearing notices. This was complemented by new guidance on the legislation and revision of the statutory Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse.
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