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Barry Gardiner [holding answer 8 May 2007]: DEFRA is committed to a comprehensive programme of regulating better. Our December 2006 Simplification Plan, Maximising Outcomes, Minimising Burdens, explains the action that is being taken across DEFRA and its agencies to reduce administrative burdens and to improve regulations. That includes removing redundant legislation, without compromising environmental standards, seeking alternatives to traditional regulation and taking a risk-based approach to enforcement and inspection.
The Simplification Plan, which is available from the Library of the House, identifies over 130 separate initiatives that will contribute to meeting our target of reducing the administrative burden we impose on business by 25 per cent. by 2010. Those initiatives are scheduled to deliver an annual administrative burden reduction of around £159 million. They include:
Movements of hazardous wastesimplifying paperwork for monitoring movements will deliver savings of £2.1 million.
Whole Farm Approachthe administrative saving for farmers is estimated at £2.9 million by 2009-10 (based on current uptake).
Replacement of the over 30 month scheme with the older cattle disposal schemewill deliver administrative savings of £3.49 million by the end of 2008.
Fruit and vegetable marketing standards (introduction of electronic certificates of conformity with EU marketing standards)will achieve administrative savings of £3.22 million in 2007.
The Game licensing reviewrealises administrative savings of £0.6 million per annumstarting in mid-2007.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is
taking under the public sector food procurement initiative to encourage public sector bodies to purchase non-cage eggs when procuring food and meals; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner: The public sector food procurement initiative does not have specific guidance on purchasing eggs. Key objectives of the initiative, which apply to all food purchases, include increasing tendering opportunities for small and local food producers, raising standards of production, and addressing barriers to supply.
DEFRAs Procurement and Contracts Division has included a model specification clause on farm assurance standards in the public sector food procurement initiatives catering toolkit. This is helping to raise the profile of animal welfare in public sector food procurement and facilitate the purchase of products from welfare friendly producers.
In the longer term, the European Commissions Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-10 proposes quantifiable animal welfare indicators and an EU welfare labelling scheme for products produced from high welfare protection systems. This should enable public sector purchasers to make more informed decisions.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his estimate is of the amount of fish discarded in UK waters in each month since January 2006 by (a) UK vessels and (b) non-UK vessels; and if he will make a statement. 
(a) It is not possible to provide figures for discards solely in UK waters. The discard estimates used by ICES in stock assessments are carried out in relation to particular sea areas (e.g. the North Sea) rather than national waters.
Since 2002 all EU countries have been required to collect data on discarding under Council Regulation 1543/2000, but the information is not yet compiled systematically. Quantities of discards are estimated quarterly using data collected by scientific observers aboard commercial fishing vessels. They are required to record the quantity landed and discarded, and the species and size composition of the discards each time the fishing gear is hauled. Deploying scientific observers in this manner is expensive and time consuming, with the result that it is usually only possible to sample a small proportion of the overall fishing trips in a given area. As a result it is necessary to extrapolate from the limited sampling to provide estimates for the entire fleet. Although the sampling is intended to cover a representative sample of the fleet, this does mean that the estimates of total discards are subject to uncertainty.
Quarterly figures for discards of some important commercial species in 2006 are given in the following table. The table also includes estimates of landings and discard rates by the same fleet segments in order to provide an indication of the relative importance of discarding in each case. The figures given are as follows:
L: Estimated landings (tonnes)
D: Estimated discards (tonnes)
DR: Discard rate, i.e. percentage of total catch in weight that is discarded.
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