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27 Feb 2007 : Column 1160Wcontinued
Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the remit and role is of scientists in his Department in providing advice on avian influenza; and if he will place in the Library copies of the advice provided by those scientists since 19 January 2007. 
Mr. Bradshaw: As the Secretary of State said in his statement to the House on 19 February 2007, Official Report, column 29, our avian influenza policy is guided by scientific evidence. Scientific evidence is important because it provides the evidence base of our decision making process. The DEFRA Chief Scientific Adviser and, through him, Ministers are guided by expert and, as appropriate, additional independent advice.
A key source of expert advice on avian influenza is the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA), which is an executive Agency of DEFRA. The VLA is the OIE World and European Union reference laboratory for avian influenza. The Agencys disease consultancy is ISO9001 certified and all diagnostic tests for avian influenza are either certified by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) or have been robustly validated and have been submitted for UKAS certification.
Scientists at the VLA together with DEFRA scientists, representatives of the Science Advisory Council and scientists in the Devolved Administrations provide regular advice through the Exotic Diseases of Poultry Experts Group.
DEFRA scientists also monitor outbreaks of high pathogenic avian influenza worldwide since the first reported outbreaks in south-east Asia at the end of 2004, and assess the risk of virus introduction to the UK.
Although it would not be practical to place all scientific advice in the House Library, an interim report into the source of the recent outbreak in Surrey was published on 19 February and is available from the Library. The final report will also be made available when it is published.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the effect of the recent outbreak of avian influenza upon the revenues of poultry farms. 
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact of the recent H5N1 outbreak and adverse publicity on (a) the poultry meat sector, (b) the turkey meat sector and (c) British exports of poultry meat. 
Mr. Bradshaw: We are monitoring the market impact of this outbreak closely. It is too early to say what the wider impacts on the industry will be. Clearly our objective is to manage this situation efficiently and effectively and to minimise adverse impacts on the poultry industry.
Market impacts of animal disease are a risk carried by the industry. However, the Government seek to minimise that risk, particularly by encouraging wide public understanding of the issues and an evidence-based and proportionate response.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many turkeys were brought into the Holton site on each day since the ban on movement was lifted; and how many were slaughtered on each day; 
(2) how many live birds there are at Holton farm. 
Mr. Bradshaw: As part of the disease control measures put into place after H5N1 was confirmed, all the live turkeys on the affected farm were culled. The culling was completed on 5 February and there has been no live poultry on the site since then.
The slaughterhouse and processing plant on the site adjacent to the effected farm are obliged to adhere to the restrictions of the Protection Zone. We do not hold information on the number of turkeys that have been slaughtered on this site since it was re-designated for use.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what monitoring is being undertaken of wild birds for the H5N1 avian influenza virus. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Targeted surveillance for all types of avian influenza viruses in wild birds is in place throughout the UK and is ongoing. The targeted surveillance focuses on species of wild birds that experts believe to have a greater potential role in the spread of avian influenza viruses. There is a comprehensive list which generally includes ducks, geese, swans, gulls and waders. Sampling is targeted to high priority surveillance areas, which have been chosen on the basis of abundance of migratory waterbird species and domestic poultry. Members of the public can report dead swans, ducks, geese, waders and gulls by calling the Defra Helpline on 08459 33 55 77.
There are also over 300 selected reserves across the UK that are actively patrolled by partner organisations on a voluntary basis for dead wild birds, which are then tested. Since the beginning of February over 300 wild bird reserve patrols had been carried out.
Within the area around the infected premises in Suffolk and Norfolk, there have been enhanced levels of surveillance of wild birds. We are aware of 30 key waterbird locations in Suffolk (such as estuaries and marshes). 12 of these locations are within 20 kilometres of the infected premises, of which 10 are patrolled regularly as part of the programme. Six of those sites have been patrolled over 100 times since the patrol programme began in early November 2006.
After consultation with expert ornithological groups we decided that at the infected premises it would be more practical to take faecal samples from the environment than catch and test live wild birds. These samples were negative.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how long he expects it to take to identify the source of the H5N1 virus outbreak at Holton. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The investigation is still ongoing and it is not known, at present, when it will conclude. A full epidemiological report will be published as soon as possible.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of measures to prevent avian influenza through confinement of birds upon the status of organic poultry farms. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Should a requirement to house poultry flocks for veterinary reason be imposed on a national, regional or area basis, poultry flocks will retain their free-range status for up to 12 weeks. The organic status of poultry flocks will not be affected by legally imposed housing measures so long as all other requirements of the Compendium of UK Organic Status continue to be met.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Department for International Development on the impact on developing countries of UK and EU policy on setting targets for bio-fuels. 
Ian Pearson: My Department is in regular contact with the Department for International Development (DFID) to discuss a whole range of issues related to bio-fuels, including the impacts of policies on developing countries.
Defra and DFID sit jointly on the advisory group set up to oversee the sustainability reporting framework being developed for use by obligated companies under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). This work will create a framework which supports the aims of the RTFO while taking into account the interests of developing nations.
Additionally, Defra and DFID are collaborating on a UK-Brazil-Southern Africa Bio-fuels Taskforce that is initially focused on assisting Mozambique to draft and implement a national bio-fuels strategy. It is envisaged that the work of the Taskforce will lead to a global bio-fuels sustainability standard.
Ms Angela C. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the evidential basis is that DNA testing techniques can establish the genetic makeup of falcon hybrids, as outlined in option 4 of the Review of Bird Registration; 
(2) whether birds claimed as hybrids of species (a) not currently listed in schedule 4 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and (b) proposed for removal from the schedule can be reliably distinguished from those species which are required to be registered; and what methods are available to aid identification. 
Barry Gardiner: As part of the public consultation exercise for the review of the Bird Registration Scheme, my officials asked the Forensic Working Group (FWG) of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime to specifically consider the DMA forensic issues relating to registration, including those associated with hybrids. The exercise closed on 16 February 2007 and over the coming weeks we will be considering the Forensic Working Groups contribution alongside all the other responses received. A summary of responses received will be published on the Defra website.
Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment his Department has made of the impact of bird registration under schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 on the number of birds taken illegally from the wild; 
(2) what assessment he has made of the extent of the deterrent effect of convictions based on registration details supplied under schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 on crimes involving schedule 4 birds. 
These assessments will be made as part of the ongoing exercise to review the registration controls under schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Until that exercise is completed, and the
results of the related public consultation have been considered, it would be premature of me to comment on these issues.
Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many convictions for possession of birds listed on schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 have relied on registration details supplied by his Department to secure the convictions. 
Barry Gardiner: No definitive records are kept of such convictions so it is impossible to say how many have relied on registration records for securing the conviction.
Colin Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the UK target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent. by 2050 was first adopted; and what the result was of each review of the target since that date. 
Ian Pearson [holding answer 23 February 2007]: In its 2000 report, Energy-The Changing Climate, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) recommended that:
The Government should now adopt a strategy which puts the UK on a path to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by some 60 per cent. from current levels by about 2050.
In the 2003 Energy White Paper, we said that our ambition is for the worlds developed economies to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 60 per cent. by around 2050 and we therefore accepted the RCEPs recommendation.
The target will be kept under review to take account of emerging scientific evidence and other developments.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the effects of the common agricultural policy on (a) food prices and (b) annual household food bills since its inception; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner: The common agricultural policy (CAP), through a series of policies that offer farmers prices above the world market level for their products, pushes food prices up. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that the CAP cost European Union (EU) consumers about €42 billion in 2005 through higher food prices (about €360 for a family of four). Furthermore, this burden is borne disproportionately by the poorest in society and the poorest EU member states, who spend twice the proportion of their income on food. This is on top of the budgetary costs (another €50 billion a year and at a cost of a further €440 for a family of four).
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he is
reviewing the list of breeds established under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Following the recent tragic dog attacks on children, my Department has been undertaking an urgent review of the dangerous dogs legislation. We have recently written to all chief constables asking for their views on whether the legislation needs to be amended and, if so, what they would wish to see included. We will analyse the responses we receive from the police before consulting more widely.
Although it is not currently our intention to amend the types of dogs prohibited under the 1991 Act, we will need to consider fully what the police and other key interest groups have to say about this matter.
Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which public affairs firms were given contracts by (a) his Department and (b) public bodies sponsored by his Department in each of the last five years; and what the purpose was of each contract. 
Barry Gardiner: Public affairs firms are defined as those advising their clients on politics and Government, including lobbying government. From information held centrally, the core-Department has awarded no contracts to public affairs firms. Information about sponsored public bodies expenditure, if any, with public affairs firms is not held centrally and the information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many regulations his Department revoked in each year since 2001. 
Barry Gardiner: The Department has made over 750 general and local statutory instruments since 2001. However, the Department does not have a central database of revoked regulations and collation of the data requested would involve disproportionate cost.
The Department views the revocation, modernisation and rationalisation of its regulations as an essential part of its approach to regulating better. For example, the Veterinary Medicines Regulations, which govern the statutory controls on veterinary medicines, provided much needed clarity and improved comprehension by replacing part of the Medicines Act 1968 and 49 separate statutory instruments.
The Veterinary Medicines Regulations are one of a number of simplification measures the Department is taking forward. The Department's 2006 simplification plan, Maximising Outcomes, Minimising Burdens, identifies a reduction in the administrative burden Defra imposes on business of £159 million, more than 30 per cent. of the Department's total administrative burden. Copies of the simplification plan are available from the Library of the House.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what expenditure is planned to be carried out in Pendle by his Department in the years up to 2010; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner: Expenditure information is not currently held by the Department on a constituency basis and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Expenditure plans for the years 2008-09 to 2010-11 are subject to the outcome of the 2007 comprehensive spending review which is yet to be concluded.
Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to his answer of 6 December 2006, Official Report, columns 454W on the Environment Agency, what factors were taken into account when deciding to close the website under the Transformational government strategy. 
Ian Pearson: The NetRegs website was included in a list of websites to be rationalised as part of the restructuring of Government channels of advice to the business community, initiated by the March 2005 Hampton Review and developed in the December 2006 Varney Report.
The Government's aim is to preserve and strengthen the availability and accessibility of information and services through a smaller number of high quality websites focused around audiences, including Directgov and Businesslink. Sir David Varney's report has recommended that, by 2011, almost all business e-services should migrate to the Business Link web portal.
The NetRegs website is already closely linked to the Business Link web portal and users are routed from that site to NetRegs for Environmental Advice. There is clear customer demand for the service NetRegs provides. By increasing the integration with Business Link it is expected that more users will take advantage of this resource. The Government continue to support the NetRegs service and have indeed allocated additional funding for its development in 2007-08.
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