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26 Jan 2007 : Column 2122W—continued


Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what environmental impact analysis has been conducted of blight-resistant potatoes in terms of (a) fungicide use and (b) the costs and risks of contamination. [110774]

Ian Pearson: I assume my hon. Friend’s question refers to the recent decision to approve trials of a genetically modified (GM) blight-resistant potato. It is planned to use less fungicide on the GM trial potatoes than in normal conventional practice, in order to test the effectiveness of their blight-resistance to UK strains of the disease. With regards cross-contamination, statutory conditions have been attached to the trials to ensure that no GM material enters the food, or animal feed, chain.

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Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what safety information he has received from BASF plc in respect of their application for GM blight-resistant potatoes in the UK; and if he will place a copy in the Library. [110784]

Ian Pearson: The BASF application provided a range of safety assessment information, in line with the legislative requirements. A copy of the application will be placed in the Library of the House.

Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what risk assessments have been conducted on the viability of the 20 metre exclusion zone surrounding the GM potato trial sites; [110804]

(2) what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on separation distances required for GM potato trials; and what representations he has received calling for separation distances in excess of 20 metres. [110875]

Ian Pearson: The 20 metre separation distance was assessed as being appropriate by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE). It based this view on a scientific report, published in 1996, that gave a comprehensive review of data on potato cross-pollination frequency. Several representations were received that referred to, or recommended, a separation distance above 20 m, and these were considered by ACRE before it finalised it’s advice to Ministers.

Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the safety procedures for the genetically modified (GM) trial sites with respect to the potential for GM potato groundkeepers to survive until the next growing season. [110876]

Ian Pearson: Based on an assessment by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), conditions have been specified to ensure that genetically modified (GM) groundkeepers do not persist at the trial sites. The conditions require groundkeepers and volunteers (plants that develop from true seed) to be closely monitored and controlled after the trials have ended. The trial sites will not be released from statutory control until there have been two consecutive years in which no groundkeepers or volunteers are observed. The application of these provisions will be overseen by the DEFRA GM Inspectorate. ACRE’s advice and the statutory consent are available on the DEFRA website.

Public Service Agreements

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which statistics are used to determine whether his Department’s Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets have been met, broken down by PSA target; and which of these are classified as national statistics. [115342]

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Barry Gardiner [holding answer 15 January 2007]: Defra’s latest performance against its PSA targets, along with supporting statistics, was published in the Department’s Autumn Performance Report, in December 2006. More detail can be found at:

Defra’s Public Service Agreement incorporates technical notes which contain information about the statistics used to monitor progress towards meeting the Department’s PSA targets. The Agreement can be accessed using the following URL:

Further details of how the Department measures performance against its 2004 Spending Review PSA targets can also be found at:

A report by the independent Statistics Commission entitled ‘PSA Targets: the Devil in the Detail,’ which was published on 20 March 2006, contains an independent analysis of each Department’s PSA targets. Copies of that report are available in the Library of the House and can also be accessed using the following URL:

Recruitment Agencies

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department paid to recruitment agencies for the hire of temporary staff in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [110474]

Barry Gardiner: Defra came into being in June 2001. From information held centrally, the core-Department’s expenditure on personnel engaged through employment agencies since 2001 is as follows:

Financial year Value (£)









1 April to 30 September 2006


Information for the financial year 2001-02 is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research has been (a) conducted and (b) commissioned by his Department into the effect on pensioners of the introduction of a municipal tax on household rubbish to incentivise segregation, minimisation and recycling. [115904]

Mr. Bradshaw: Householders already contribute to waste service provision through council tax.

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No specific research has been conducted on the impact of financial incentives such as recycling rebates on pensioners. DEFRA has commissioned an independent research project examining the international evidence on incentive schemes and the potential impact of incentives in England, including their distributional impact.

England’s Waste Strategy is currently being reviewed and DEFRA is considering the full range of measures that could encourage producers and consumers to change their behaviour regarding waste and recycling in general. Most existing incentive schemes reward those householders that produce less residual waste after recycling. By minimising waste and recycling or home composting as much as possible, householders can help to keep down waste costs and, therefore, help reduce pressures on council tax bills. Pensioners tend to produce less waste than the average household, so would be likely to gain from any incentive scheme. Any new initiatives on waste would of course need to take into account the impact on different groups, including the vulnerable and those on low incomes, as part of a Regulatory Impact Assessment.

Research and Development

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his Department’s expenditure was on research and development in financial year 2006-07; and what his estimate is of expenditure in 2007-08. [111605]

Mr. Bradshaw: The current budget for 2006-07 is £146 million, but total expenditure can only be fully reported after the financial year’s end. The budget estimate for 2007-08 is the same, at £146 million.

Rural Payments Agency

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many staff are employed in the Rural Payments Agency; what the cost of staff salaries was in 2005-06; and what the (a) highest and (b) lowest salary is for each job. [111396]

Barry Gardiner: The total number of Rural Payment Agency (RPA) employees on the payroll as of 31 December 2006 was 3,187 (3,025.26 FTE).

The RPA paybill for the 2005-06 financial year was £85,792,426 and this includes employer national insurance contributions and superannuation.

Salary is determined by grade and the highest and lowest salary in each grade at RPA is:

Highest Lowest




Grade 6



Grade 7












EO and PS



AO and SGB1 and typist



AA and SGB2



Note: The pay scales above are effective from 1 July 2006.

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Smart Electricity Meters

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will take steps to promote the installation of smart electricity meters in private homes. [116818]

Ian Pearson: I refer the my hon. Friend to the answer given by the Minister of State for Science and Innovation on 22 January 2007, Official Report column 1569.

Tobacco Production: European Union

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of tobacco produced in the EU is high tar. [116504]

Caroline Flint: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is not available.

Maximum machine-measured tar levels in cigarettes produced in the European Union are set by Directive 2001/37/EC, a copy of which is available in the Library.

Because machine-measured tar levels in cigarettes do not provide a meaningful indication of the tar levels actually obtained by an individual smoker, the Directive also banned the use of misleading descriptors on cigarettes packs such as “low tar”, “light” or “mild” from 30 September 2003.


Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to curtail commercial whaling. [110462]

Mr. Bradshaw: Since the 1985-86 whaling seasons, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has maintained a moratorium on the hunting and killing of all great whales. Norway and Iceland, who objected to the introduction of the moratorium, are thus not bound by it and therefore conduct whaling operations legally.

The UK will continue to protest at the highest diplomatic level against Norway and Iceland’s activities which, though legal, are not in keeping with the spirit of the IWC. We will continue our efforts, along with other countries, to urge these countries to reconsider their position and reverse this unjustified and unnecessary practice. Indeed, in November, the UK led a diplomatic demarche of 25 countries together with the European Commission in condemning the Icelandic Government's decision to resume commercial whaling.

DEFRA officials also ensure that Foreign and Commonwealth Office posts in the relevant capitals are briefed, and engage in discussion with their counterparts on whaling at every appropriate opportunity. This ensures that these countries are in no doubt of the importance that the UK places on whale conservation.

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Duchy of Lancaster

Deliberative Forums

Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if she will make a statement on the anticipated cost and purpose of the Government’s proposals to use deliberative forums to consult public opinion. [114111]

Mr. McFadden: Following a formal process Ipsos MORI have been selected as partners to recruit a representative sample of the population, develop stimulus materials and deliver five regional forums and a national citizens summit.

This deliberative public engagement exercise is being developed to complement the policy review process announced by the Prime Minister in the autumn. The representative group of the general public will explore aspects of what people think as ‘citizens’ and as ‘customers’ of public services. The results of their deliberations will go directly to Cabinet to inform Government policies for the future.

Deliberative research is focused on engaging people in a dialogue rather than taking a snapshot of their opinions. It involves people more fully in the processes of research, ensuring that results reflect their concerns; participants are involved in creating and exploring different options.

The process builds on good practice in engaging citizens in policy making, through, for example the Department of Health’s “Your Health Your Care Your Say” consultation on the future of community services and the Department for Work and Pension’s national pensions debate.

The anticipated cost of the deliberative exercise is £90,000, less than the cost of the exercises referred to above.

Government Websites

Martin Horwood: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which Government websites (a) have been and (b) are planned to be closed under the Transformational Government strategy; which are expected to remain open for the foreseeable future; and if she will make a statement. [110483]

Mr. McFadden: The Government’s objective is to improve citizen and business focus, coherence, effectiveness and efficiency in the Government’s web services as set out in “Transformational Government: Enabled by Technology” (Cm 6683) and Sir David Varney’s report on service transformation “Chancellor of the Exchequer on Service Transformation: a Better Service For Citizens and Businesses, a Better Deal for Taxpayers”. We will preserve and strengthen the availability and accessibility of the information and services themselves through a smaller number of high quality websites focused around audiences, including Directgov and Businesslink.

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