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Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the likely effects on the UK economy are of producing foot and mouth disease vaccine in Britain; and if he will make a statement; 
Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA has not made an assessment of the financial merits to the economy of producing foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccine in the UK. However, having a readily available stock of FMD vaccine is of clear benefit in terms of ensuring timely access to vaccine in the event of an outbreak.
Jonathan Shaw: On 8 October, DEFRA announced a package of assistance worth £12.5 million aimed at supporting those livestock farmers in England most severely affected by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD), including those in the restriction areas. Implementation of all elements of the package is well under way and some are almost completed.
£1 million was allocated to raise the level of subsidy from 10 per cent. to 100 per cent. for the National Fallen Stock Scheme for farmers in the FMD Restricted Zone while it was in place. This scheme closed when the Restricted Zone was lifted on 19 November.
£2 million was to promote the sales of lamb, beef and pork domestically and in our export markets. The first payment of £250,000 has been made. Lamb promotion activity has begun and additional beef promotion will start later this month. The demand for lamb from European partners is proving strong. Preparatory work has started for promoting third country exports of pork once we have regained World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) freedom, and additional domestic pork promotion will start in January.
A donation of £1 million was made to the Arthur Rank Centre for disbursement to Farming Help charities, which provide advice and practical and emotional support to farming families. £500,000 has already been transferred.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research he has (a) initiated and (b) evaluated on (i) the proportion of shot game which is released to the black market and (ii) the proportion of shot game in respect of which income tax is declared. 
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the gamebird shooting industry on (a) the killing of indigenous mammals and birds, (b) damage to moorland peat deposits and (c) burning of heather; and if he will make a statement. 
Joan Ruddock: The gamebird shooting industry involves the shooting of the native grey partridge and red grouse in addition to non-native gamebirds such as red-legged partridge and pheasant. These populations are managed for shooting and there is no evidence to suggest that shooting has resulted in population declines. In order to enhance gamebird populations, a range of native birds and mammals are killed legally as part of pest control campaigns. These species are generalist predators, including foxes, stoats, weasels, carrion crows and magpies. There is no evidence to suggest that this has an adverse affect on populations of these species, although little information is available on which to assess the impacts of killing stoats and weasels. The illegal persecution of native birds of prey, especially for the threatened hen harrier in England, has been associated with game rearing interests and remains a serious problem.
Natural England is working to establish management agreements with landowners and managers, including those associated with the game industry (especially on sites of special scientific interest), to restore peatlands by the blocking of drains and agreement of burning plans. In addition, DEFRA has recently set up a policy project to coordinate the Government's work on peat. This aims to protect and enhance peat under all forms of management. As a part of this work, we plan to commission research to assess the environmental impacts of peatland management.
We are aware of the potential for damage of unregulated or poorly practised burning. This is why we introduced the Heather and Grass etc. Burning (England) Regulations 2007. The regulations protect people, property and the natural environment, and introduce new rules to safeguard carbon-rich soils. In addition, we have published the Heather and Grass Burning Code 2007. The regulations and the code have the support of Natural England and key stakeholders, including the National Farmers' Union and the Moorland Association.
Mr. Boris Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what meetings he had with the Secretary of State for Transport on the expansion of Heathrow airport before the publication of responses to the consultation on the subject. 
Mr. Woolas: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) met the Secretary of State for Transport in September when, among other things, the expansion of Heathrow airport was discussed. This issue has also been discussed during the general course of Cabinet business.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what recent representations he has received on insurance industries offering home insurance to new developments built against Environment Agency advice; 
Mr. Woolas: There is a continuing dialogue with the Environment Agency, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Association of British Insurers on this issue with the aim of ensuring widespread availability of insurance cover for flooding.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations he has received on the likely effect of funding reductions for inland waterways on tourism; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the Agriculture and Fisheries Council held in Luxembourg on 22 and 23 October 2007 and the discussions on the animal health strategy (1) what steps he is taking to ensure improvements in biosecurity in laboratories; and if he will make a statement; 
Stringent new conditions have been applied to work undertaken on the Pirbright site, and a safety alert was issued to all similar laboratories immediately following the August outbreak. A follow-up round of inspections
has been taking place jointly with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Additionally, we accepted all recommendations that apply to the Government contained in the HSE and Spratt reports. These measures will ensure the highest level of biosecurity both at Pirbright and at all other laboratories working with specified animal pathogens.
Following the incident announced by DEFRA on 22 November, Merials Specified Animal Pathogens Order licence was suspended. The incident was contained in the enclosed, re-lined drainage system, and there was no release of virus to the environment. An inspection team has produced a full report for the acting chief veterinary officer.
Jeremy Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance his Department provides to livestock show judges on the avoidance of contamination on clothing. 
Jonathan Shaw: Livestock shows must be licensed by DEFRA and each show must have a biosecurity officer to assist the licensee in ensuring the rules of the licence and the Animal Gatherings legislation are followed.
DEFRA has issued specific guidance to show organisers and their biosecurity officers for implementing the biosecurity conditions of the show's licence and the legislation, which are their responsibility. The guidance is available from the DEFRA website.
Judges at livestock shows, as well as owners of animals and stockmen, should understand all the biosecurity rules, including those for clean clothing and personal biosecurity when leaving the area to which animals have access.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) economic and (b) other factors he took into account in granting licences to produce vaccines to Merial at Pirbright. 
Jonathan Shaw: Specified Animal Pathogen Order (SAPO) licenses are only granted if the laboratory can demonstrate that they have the necessary management processes, trained staff, documented operating procedures and facilities to ensure the safe containment, handling and disposal of the specified animal pathogens concerned. Laboratory inspections are carried out to assess this, and economic factors are not a consideration.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to his written ministerial statement of 22 November 2007: Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) Licence Conditions at Merial Animal Health, whether the valves on the steam lines used to sterilise the associated pipework were inspected by his Departments officials prior to restoring the SAPO licence to Merial Animal Health on 6 November 2007; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: The facility was inspected prior to restoring the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) licence on 6 November. Following inspections and documentary evidence from Merial, we were satisfied that they complied with all of the required licence conditions and had in place all the necessary measures to ensure strict biosecurity throughout the site.
As part of the SAPO licence, we require Merial to apply rigorous standard operating procedures. In relation to the valves, these mean that each time the centrifuge is used, two operators must certify that the valve is locked shut and its integrity is confirmed by pressure tests before and after each batch. In addition, the preventive maintenance system includes regular inspections and although the valves on the centrifuge have a three-year life expectancy, they are replaced annually. All these checks must be recorded.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to his written ministerial statement of 22 November 2007: Specified Animal Pathogens Order Licence Conditions at Merial Animal Health, what risk assessment he has carried out to the risks to British livestock of contamination from the live virus leak reported; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: An assessment carried out by the inspection team, on 20 November, concluded that live virus had not been released to the environment. This was the result of the extensive layers of biosecurity that we require under the Specified Animal Pathogens Order licence, which effectively contained the virus in the enclosed, re-lined drainage system before deactivation in the chemical treatment plant within the Pirbright site.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to his written ministerial statement of 22 November 2007: Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) Licence Conditions at Merial Animal Health, and the decision to suspend the SAPO licence, what assessment he has made of the effect this will have on the production of a bluetongue vaccine; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: On 20 November, Merial informed DEFRA of a biosecurity incident at Pirbright and, although the incident was contained, the use of live virus was immediately suspended as our paramount concern is the security of the site. An inspection team urgently conducted detailed checks and we are considering what further action needs to be taken.
It is too early to say what implications this may have on the production of a bluetongue vaccine. However, this suspension does not prevent Merial from conducting development of a bluetongue vaccine as their Pirbright site is primarily a production, rather than research, facility; Merial conduct the majority of their research elsewhere. There are also two other manufacturers of bluetongue vaccine, Intervet and Fort Dodge. We are currently considering bids from all three companies that were submitted following our recent tendering exercise and we plan to make an announcement on the outcome shortly.
Jonathan Shaw: The Food and Agriculture Organisations report on Paying Farmers for Environmental Services is a helpful contribution to the debate on how best to secure delivery of environmental public goods for which there is no return for farmers from the market. The contribution which can be made in this country by organic farmers is recognised through aid paid under the Organic Entry Level Scheme.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government have taken to increase the availability of organic food to low income families. 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 6 December 2007]: The Government offers considerable support to the organic sector through financial aid to organic farmers and the organic action plan, in order to make organic produce more accessible. The stakeholder group supporting the organic action plan is currently examining the issue of how income and geographical locations impact on the ability of consumers to purchase organic food and will make recommendations to DEFRA in the new year.
We have to recognise that, by its very nature, organic food is more expensive to produce because of the greater emphasis on sustainable extensive management systems in preference to artificial inputs and intensive farming systems.
|Number of pigs in breeding herd|
1. Pig breeding herd is sows and gilts in pig and other sows either being suckled or dry sows being kept for further breeding.
2. These totals are estimates based on a sample survey and are therefore subject to a degree of sampling error.
June Survey of Agriculture
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