Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many of his Departments (a) computers and (b) laptops were stolen in each of the last nine years; and what the total value was of stolen computers and laptops in this period. 
Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will assess the merits of making an annual statement on the implications of the Governments legislative programme for matters that fall within the enhanced legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales. 
Mr. Hain: Yes. The Government of Wales Act 2006 will enhance the legislative competence of the National Assembly, giving the new Assembly the power to pass its own laws for the first time from May next year. I intend in future therefore to make an annual statement making clear the implications of the Governments legislative programme for matters that fall within that legislative competence.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales, pursuant to the answer of 4 December 2006, Official Report, columns 189-90W from the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. McFadden) to the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) on the retirement age, what his Departments policy is for the setting of retirement ages for staff below the senior civil service under the Civil Service (Management Functions) Act 1992. 
Mr. Hain: Staff serving in the Wales Office are either on loan from the Welsh Assembly Government or employed by the Department for Constitutional Affairs. Their individual retirement age is agreed with their home Departments rather than by the Wales Office. The Wales Office sets no standard retirement age and has a number of staff who have opted to work beyond normal retirement age.
Mark Pritchard: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell), representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make representations to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills to ensure that the history and heritage of England's cathedrals is taught in schools. 
Sir Stuart Bell: Contact between schools and English cathedrals is extensive. Each year, cathedrals host a large number of school visits, which support a wide range of curricular activities. Such visits usually combine a focus on the history of the cathedral and the region with the development of the children's awareness of the building's key purposeChristian worship and the celebration of the Christian faith.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effect of recent reductions in British Waterwayss budget on (a) canal maintenance and (b) the number of people employed by British Waterways. 
Barry Gardiner: This is an operational matter for British Waterways. Major engineering works to the value of £5.6 million have been deferred this year. It is for the Board of British Waterways to decide on its future projects and maintenance programme, together with the staffing levels required to support its operations.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what funding his Department provides (a) to the highway authorities to maintain rights of way and (b) for maintenance of coastal access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner: Funding for local highway authorities to maintain public rights of way is through the Environment Protection and Cultural Services block of the Revenue Support Grant. The EPCS block provides for a wide range of services. Provision for rights of way is not separately identified within the total.
The right of access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 was implemented throughout England in October 2005 for land mapped as open country and registered common land; some of this is located near the coast. The Department does not fund highway authorities in respect of their powers, for example, to make byelaws or to appoint wardens under the Act.
We are already looking at a number of ways to improve access to the English coast. I have asked Natural England to come forward with advice and recommendations on coastal access by the end of February 2007. This advice will help to inform a planned public consultation exercise.
John Penrose: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the evidential basis was for determining that the Governments target for GM cross-pollination should be 0.3 per cent.; and whether alternative targets were considered. 
Ian Pearson: The general aim for coexistence is to minimise unwanted genetically modified (GM) presence in non-GM crops as far as possible, while recognising that it is impractical to rule out all GM transfer. This is recognised by the agreed EU threshold for labelling GM presence of 0.9 per cent. In the context of this threshold, coexistence measures have to allow for all the potential sources of GM presence, including crop-to-crop cross-pollination.
These considerations underpin our proposed crop separation distances that aim to limit cross-pollination to a maximum of 0.3 per cent. In practice, any cross-pollination would generally be less than 0.3 per cent. as crops would normally be more than the specified distance apart.
Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to improve scientific understanding of the effect of marine climate change; what research he has commissioned in this area; and if he will make a statement. 
To improve scientific understanding, we have led the development of the Marine Climate Change Impact Partnership (MCCIP) to provide a UK-wide
co-ordinating framework for the transfer of high-quality marine climate change impact evidence to policy advisors and decision-makers. The MCCIP will act as a focal point to investigate, inform, advise and encourage action, in order to adapt to the challenges and opportunities presented by the impacts of climate change in the marine environment.
The first MCCIP Annual Report Card (ARC) was launched in November. The ARC highlights the range of potential impacts in our seas. Many of these, and the connections between them, are poorly understood. We will use the ARC to help focus future research efforts of all MCCIP partners. Copies are available on the MCCIP website at http://www.mccip.org.uk and have been placed in the Libraries of the House.
DEFRA is also funding a project to look at the connections that occur within a marine ecosystem. This project will make predictions of the effect of climate variability on the complex ecosystem connections and the consequences for the health of the sea.
Additionally, DEFRA funds the Marine Environmental Change Network (MECN) which co-ordinates and supports those collecting long-term time series information for marine waters. Long-term data series are important in understanding how much of the change we have seen in the marine environment is due to climate variability, other human pressures or natural fluctuations. One of these time series is the Continuous Plankton Recorder, run by the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (www.sahfos.org), which has collected plankton in the Atlantic, North Sea and Eastern Pacific since 1931.
DEFRA and the Department for Trade and Industry are funding research on the impact of increasing carbon dioxide on the marine environment and the consequent ocean acidification. At present, we have little evidence of changes that have occurred, or are occurring, in UK waters. Therefore, we intend to develop a pilot marine monitoring programme for measuring carbon dioxide in our shelf seas as well as taking further ecosystem-based measurements in conjunction with the Natural Environment Research Council under their Oceans 2025 initiative.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of health risks associated with pesticides in drawing up the National Pesticides Strategy. 
Ian Pearson: The UK Pesticides Strategy published in March 2006 was directed at the sustainable use of plant protection products and their impact on the environment. We did not at that stage include human health issues within the strategy since we were considering the report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) on Crop Spraying and the Health of Residents and Bystanders.
We indicated, however, that we would consider extending the strategy to cover human health issues and we will be consulting on a revised draft strategy embracing both human health and environmental protection early in the new year.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations his Department has received on farmers (a) becoming bankrupt and (b) being threatened with legal action by creditors related to delayed awards of rural payments. 
Barry Gardiner: The Rural Payments Agency has received representations from a number of 2005 Single Payment Scheme claimants about delays in making payments. Where cases of financial difficulty have been raised, the Agency has taken additional action where possible to expedite payment.
Mr. Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will meet representatives from the wood panel industry to discuss forecasts of softwood availability. 
Barry Gardiner [holding answer 11 December 2006]: The forecasts of softwood availability are prepared and published by the Forestry Commission with assistance from the Forest Service, Northern Ireland. I have no plans to meet representatives of the wood panel industry. Any questions about the forecast should be addressed to the Forestry Commission.
British Transport Police
25 Camden Road
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many staff were employed through employment agencies in (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies in each of the last five years for which information is available; and what the (i) average and (ii) longest time was for which these temporary workers were employed in each year. 
|Agency||Number of temp agency staff||Average time||Longest time|
|Agency||Number of temp agency staff||Average time||Longest time|
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