Previous Section Index Home Page

12 Dec 2007 : Column 694W—continued


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture: Nitrates

Dr. Richard Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of whether farmers will be able to increase their slurry storage capacity to satisfy the requirements of the Nitrate Action programme; and if he will consider extending the period of implementation. [171201]

Mr. Woolas: We are currently undertaking a consultation on the implementation of the nitrate directive in England, which includes the Nitrate Action programme.

Angling

Sir Paul Beresford: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he plans to implement the recommendations in the Net Benefits report on the development of the UK's recreational sea angling sector, in particular the recommendation that bass be considered as a recreational species. [172781]

Jonathan Shaw: Our plans to take forward the recommendations in the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit report “Net Benefits” concerned with inshore fisheries in England including recreational sea angling, were addressed in DEFRA's “Charting a New Course”. These publications are available in the Library of the House.

These plans included a commitment to consult on measures to increase the number and size of sea bass available to benefit both recreational anglers and commercial fishermen. My decision not to increase the minimum landing size of bass was announced on 25 October. This announcement included a number of other measures to benefit bass stocks and recreational sea angling in general.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) pursuant to the answer of 21 November 2007, Official Report, column 860W, on angling, for what reason he did not launch a consultation on the draft Recreational Sea Angling Strategy in November 2007; and if he will make a statement; [173003]

(2) pursuant to the answer of 21 November 2007, Official Report, column 860W, on angling, on what date the final draft of the draft Recreational Sea Angling Strategy was approved for publication for consultation; and if he will make a statement; [173004]

(3) for what reasons the draft Recreational Sea Angling Strategy was not published for consultation between January and March; and if he will make a statement; [173005]


12 Dec 2007 : Column 695W

(4) what factors he took into account when deciding the date on which to announce the Recreational Sea Angling Strategy; and which bodies he consulted while formulating the strategy. [173032]

Jonathan Shaw: The draft Recreational Sea Angling Strategy was developed with representatives from the following organisations:

It was endorsed by DEFRA’s Inshore Fisheries Working Group on 23 March 2007 and on 3 December 2007. I approved the draft strategy for publication. My priority in relation to sea angling was to make a decision on an increased minimum landing size for bass. I announced my decision on this on 25 October after which I launched a consultation on the draft Recreational Sea Angling Strategy on 6 December, six days later than planned. The closing date for comments is 31 March 2008. A copy of the strategy has been placed in the Library of the House.

Animal Feed: Prices

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment he has made of the effects of the increases in prices of feed on the pig farming industry; [172998]

(2) what assessment he has made of the effect of worldwide increases in cereal prices on the livestock industry in England. [172999]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 10 December 2007]: The higher feed costs in the UK are due to global cereals price rises following two successive lower wheat harvests and increasing demand for cereals for food, feed and fuel purposes. The impact, in financial terms, will differ across the farming sectors, as explained in our recent report “Implications of rising agricultural commodity prices”. A copy of this report is available on the DEFRA website.

I am aware that the pig industry has been particularly affected by increases in feed costs as feed makes up a significantly larger proportion of their total costs. This is reflected in the report.

Projections of the aggregate measure of total income from farming have been published on the DEFRA website and the first full set of farm income statistics, including a breakdown by farm type, will be published at the end of January.


12 Dec 2007 : Column 696W

Animals: Disease Control

Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the reasons are for the reduction in funding for county councils for trading standards officers to carry out animal disease control work; what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the change in funding on the enforcement of animal disease control; and if he will make a statement. [168187]

Jonathan Shaw: The bids received from local authorities this year for additional funding to support their work on animal health and welfare exceeded the budget available by over £1 million. DEFRA has therefore allocated the available funding within the constraints of the available budget.

Local authorities have been asked to discuss with their local divisional veterinary managers any necessary adjustments to the planned level of work under the framework agreement between DEFRA and local authorities.

Animals: Herefordshire

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much he allocated to Herefordshire council for animal health purposes in (a) 2006-07 and (b) 2007-08; and if he will make a statement. [172023]

Jonathan Shaw: The amount allocated to Herefordshire council for animal health purposes in 2006-07 was £128,319 of which £124,109 was spent. The forecast submitted through the divisional veterinary manager for 2007-08 was £136,100. The allocation is £119,768.00.

Aviation

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department spent on (a) business and (b) first class air travel in the last 12 months. [171248]

Jonathan Shaw: From information held centrally, the core-Department spent (a) £899,611 and (b) £11,152 on business and first class air travel respectively in the period October 2006 to September 2007 inclusive.

Bluetongue Disease

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) new farms confirmed bluetongue infection and (b) farms were declared free of bluetongue in each of the last four weeks. [171914]

Jonathan Shaw: The number of confirmed cases of bluetongue in each of the last four weeks is as follows:

Week commencing Premises

12 November

2

19 November

1

26 November

(1)0

(1) No new cases confirmed

12 Dec 2007 : Column 697W

As of 3 December, there have been 66 confirmed premises affected by bluetongue since the first case was confirmed on 28 September. None of these premises has yet been confirmed to be free of the disease. However, in the case of bluetongue, restrictions are lifted on the premises after the veterinary inquiry, and only the area restrictions relating to the protection and surveillance zones remain in place. Cases of bluetongue currently remain contained to the east and south-eastern parts of England, but, since disease is transmitted by midges, there is no use in restricting the individual premises.

Bluetongue Disease: Disease Control

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what side effects have been identified of the use of active vaccines for bluetongue virus; [171865]

(2) what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on side effects of active vaccines for bluetongue virus. [171866]

Jonathan Shaw: There are significant, potential risks associated with live bluetongue vaccines. Live vaccine strains can become more virulent than the field strain, produce new strains through re-assortment with the field strain and circulate in the midge vector. Live vaccines can also cause disease in some breeds of sheep (and potentially cattle), cannot be given to pregnant ewes (as they can cause foetal deformities), and can be a potential source of infection on mating and artificial insemination as the vaccine can be found in the semen of bulls and rams.

For those reasons, the use of live vaccines would not normally be considered as a disease control measure and the tender for vaccine we have issued states that a vaccine should be inactivated (killed).

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what restrictions could be imposed by the Food Standards Agency in relation to vaccinated animals intended for human consumption if active vaccines are used during a bluetongue outbreak. [171912]

Jonathan Shaw: Our recent tender for bluetongue vaccine stated that we would only use inactivated vaccine that had received a marketing authorisation from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. Such a marketing authorisation would certify that the vaccine was both effective and safe for use. The Food Standards Agency has advised that, provided such a marketing authorisation is received, there would be no food safety implications of the use of an inactivated bluetongue vaccine. Therefore, no restrictions would be put in place on the human consumption of bluetongue vaccinated animals.

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what criteria will be used to determine whether the bluetongue outbreak warrants the use of vaccinations; [171915]

(2) when a vaccination programme for bluetongue would be able to start; and which areas would have priority; [171916]


12 Dec 2007 : Column 698W

(3) what plans his Department has to implement a bluetongue vaccination programme. [171917]

Jonathan Shaw: We are currently developing a detailed plan with scientific experts on bluetongue, representatives of the farming industry and others as to how a vaccination programme would work. This plan must be submitted to the European Commission by the end of January. We are also in discussions with the Commission and other affected member states about the content of that plan, which will set out how the Government and industry jointly intend to use vaccination and which areas would take priority. Although EU law provides that vaccination can only take place within the protection zone (currently East Anglia and the South East) we will keep under review with the industry whether to increase the size of that zone to allow vaccination to take place in a wider area.

In order for a vaccination programme to be fully effective next year, it will be important that vaccination starts as soon as the vaccine is available. Given that it can also take six to eight months for vaccine to be produced and made ready for use, we have tendered for between 10 and 20 million doses of vaccine. We are currently considering the bids made and we expect to place a firm order very soon, so we expect to have a vaccine ready by early summer.

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Government allocated to research and development of inactive bluetongue vaccines in each of the last three years; and how much has been allocated for research in each of then next three years. [171985]

Jonathan Shaw: The research, development and production of bluetongue vaccine is a lucrative commercial proposition and there are a number of private companies involved in this process, so there is no need for the Government to carry out such research. We have issued a tender to those companies to supply between 10 and 20 million doses of vaccine which sets out the technical specifications we expect a vaccine to meet.

This tender was based on the advice of experts at the Institute of Animal Health, which carries out general research into bluetongue, and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). These experts have also been assessing the three bids received. It will be a condition of any order for vaccine that the VMD issue it with a marketing authorisation confirming that it is effective and safe for use.

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of individual vaccines required to control the outbreak of bluetongue at present levels of infection; and to which animals the vaccines would be applied. [171986]

Jonathan Shaw: We have tendered for 10 to 20 million doses to ensure that the bank will be adaptable to a range of circumstances. Discussions on anticipated demand for vaccine are currently under way with the farming industry and we expect to place a firm order for vaccine very shortly.


12 Dec 2007 : Column 699W

We are currently developing a detailed vaccination plan with scientific experts on bluetongue, the farming industry and others which will address questions such as the species to be vaccinated. However, it is likely that all domestic susceptible species, for example, cattle, sheep, goats, farmed deer, camelids and zoo ruminants, in a given area would be eligible for vaccination, although it would be impractical to attempt to vaccinate wild susceptible species, such as wild deer.

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the current cost is of individual vaccinations against bluetongue; how widely available the vaccine is; and if he will make a statement. [171987]

Jonathan Shaw: We have tendered for 10 to 20 million doses to ensure that the bank will be adaptable to a range of circumstances. We are currently assessing the bids submitted and we expect to make a firm order very soon. This process of assessment and negotiation with the vaccine producing companies is establishing the likely cost of vaccination.

In keeping with the principles set out in the Bluetongue Control Strategy, which was developed in partnership with the farming industry, livestock keepers will be offered the opportunity to purchase vaccine from the bank. EU law limits vaccination to the protection zone. However, we will keep under review with the industry whether to extend that zone to permit vaccination to take place in a wider area once a vaccine is available in early summer.

Cereals: Prices

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the change in volume of bioethanol production of fuel from cereals; and what assessment he has made of its effect on cereal prices. [173000]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 10 December 2007]: Overall sales of fuel bioethanol into the UK market
12 Dec 2007 : Column 700W
increased from 85 million litres in 2005 to 95 million litres in 2006. These sales have been from imported sources. The UK currently has one fuel bioethanol production plant which opened this year. British Sugar's facility in Wissington processes sugar beet and has a capacity of around 70 million litres per annum. A number of companies are planning to build further plants which would use UK-grown crops such as wheat.

It is unlikely that the production of biofuels has had a discernable effect on UK cereals prices to date. Current high prices are due to global factors, including two successive lower world wheat harvests, low global stocks and increased demand for cereals from the range of sectors including food, feed and fuel. Growing global demand for biofuels will put upward pressure on crop prices, but also increase the supply of crops in the future, leading to a stabilisation of the market. Analysis by the European Commission assessing the impact of the 10 per cent. by energy biofuel target for 2020 indicates that prices for agricultural raw materials in the EU would increase by 3 to 6 per cent. for cereals.


Next Section Index Home Page