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Jonathan Shaw: I would expect the issue of discards to be a key topic of discussion during the negotiations surrounding the setting of total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas for 2008 at the December EU Fisheries Council.

The first Council debate was held at the June Agriculture and Fisheries Council and the Commission hopes to finalise a plan for implementation by the end of 2007 and develop and introduce legislative proposals during 2008.

The Commission published its policy paper containing proposals to address the problem of discarding on 28 March 2007. Member states and regional advisory councils among others have since been consulted by the Commission on its proposals in order to develop an implementation plan.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with (a) his Belgian counterpart, (b) his Danish counterpart, (c) his French counterpart, (d) his Portuguese counterpart, (e) his Spanish counterpart and (f) the European Commission on the submission of discard data to the Commission's Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries; and if he will make a statement. [173013]

Jonathan Shaw: I have made clear to the Commission and other member states that I am concerned about the absence of adequate data on discards. I expect the Commission to be pressing those who have failed to deliver to provide the data as soon as possible. The Commission have assured me that this is a key priority for them.

Since 2002, all EU countries have been required to collect data on discarding under Council Regulation 1543/2000. Unfortunately, the information has not yet been systematically compiled.

A report published in November this year by the Subgroup on the Assessment of the Fishing Effort Regime of the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee (STECF), presents an overview on 2003-2006 catch data reports (landings and discards) provided by EU member states with and without special conditions laid down in Annexes IIA-C of Council Reg. 41/2007. These are shown in the following table.


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According to 41/2007 Annexes 11A-C
Country Landings data 2003-2006 Discards data 2003-06

Belgium

Landings, age composition (no special condition)

None

Denmark

Landings, age composition

Data not in the requested format

France

Landings, age composition, not for ICES Div. 8c-9a

None

Germany

Landings, age composition

Discards, age composition

Ireland

Landings, age composition (no special condition)

None

Netherlands

Landings, age composition (no mesh size for beam, no special condition)

Discards, age composition (no mesh size for beam, no special condition)

Portugal

Landings, age composition (only 2004-2006, no special condition for regulated gears)

None

Spain

None

None

UK England incl. Northern Ireland

Landings, age composition

Discards, age composition

UK Scotland

Landings, age composition

Discards, age composition

Sweden

Landings, age composition, not by quarter

Landings, age composition, not by quarter


Foot and Mouth Disease

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the costs associated with the 2007 outbreak of foot and mouth disease, broken down by subheading. [169446]

Jonathan Shaw: As of 26 November the estimated total cost of the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak was in the region of £48.3 million and is broken down as follows:

Costs (£000)

Staff costs

13,112

FMD aid package for farming

12,500

Compensation costs

793

Cleansing and disinfecting costs

1,792

Vaccination and vaccine bank costs

2,246

Communications costs

191

Surveillance and diagnostic testing costs

11,490

Infected Premises and Local Disease Control Centre costs

6,100

Consultancy

84

Total

48,308


Foot and Mouth Disease: Disease Control

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what restrictions on movement remain in place to counter (a) foot and mouth and (b) bluetongue; and if he will make a statement. [171167]

Jonathan Shaw: For foot and mouth disease, there are some remaining movement restrictions in some boroughs and districts in the south east. These restrictions also prevent exports of meat and meat products from the area. A decision was agreed by EU member states on 3 December to allow live animal exports, which will come into force later in December. Details, and a map outlining the boundaries of these zones, can be found on the DEFRA website.


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For bluetongue, a protection zone exists in East Anglia and south east England, and a wider surveillance zone is in place covering a large part of England except the north and south west. There are a number of restrictions relating to movements in and across these zones, and details can be found on the DEFRA website. We are keeping these restrictions under review with industry during the low vector period over winter.

International Whaling Commission

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on recent UK Government representations to the International Whaling Commission. [172563]

Jonathan Shaw: The UK plays a prominent role within the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in building and maintaining the coalition of anti-whaling countries. At this year's meeting, due in part to the UK's efforts to increase the number of anti-whaling countries within the IWC, the anti-whaling bloc regained the simple majority within the Commission.

This majority enabled the UK and our allies to pass several key resolutions, in which the IWC: called on Japan to halt it's lethal “scientific” research programme known as JARPA II; recognised the need to promote the non-lethal use of cetaceans (i.e. whale-watching); and reaffirmed the continuing need for the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling in the face of proposals to be considered by the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) aimed at eventually permitting trade in some cetacean products.

Marine and Fisheries Agency: Finance

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when he will decide on the grants he will give to the Marine and Fisheries Agency for each of the next five years; and if he will make a statement; [173009]

(2) what account he will take of the likely costs to the Marine and Fisheries Agency of the proposed EU legislation on electronic recording and reporting of fish when deciding to allocate the moneys allocated to his Department in the next comprehensive spending review period; and if he will make a statement; [173010]

(3) what representations he has received from the Marine and Fisheries Agency on its budget for each of the next five years; and if he will make a statement. [173011]

Jonathan Shaw: As an Executive Agency of DEFRA, the Marine and Fisheries Agency participates in our business planning and budgeting process. Their applications for funding for the period covered by the comprehensive spending review are now being considered by DEFRA as part of that process. That process will also take into account the future spending requirements of the Agency to meet their statutory and policy delivery priorities. This includes those costs currently identified as necessary to cover the requirements of the proposed EU legislation on electronic recording and reporting of fish. However, final decisions on some aspects of the implementation
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of these requirements in the UK have yet to be taken. The Agency will seek additional funds if shown to be necessary.

Pirbright Laboratory: Disease Control

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps have been taken to prevent further leaks from the laboratory at Pirbright. [164406]

Jonathan Shaw: As soon as we became aware that Pirbright was a potential source of the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak we put in place a number of additional safeguards at the Pirbright site. We immediately asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Professor Spratt to carry out reviews of biosecurity and subsequently accepted all of the recommendations in their reports. Since then, stringent new biosecurity conditions have been applied to work on the Pirbright site, providing several independent layers of safety and ensuring that the process is contained. For example, the drainage system has been relined and tested. These measures will ensure the highest level of biosecurity at Pirbright.

Additional measures have been implemented for the Institute of Animal Health, including tougher controls over access and on movement of people and vehicles, and an agreed protocol to prevent activities that could result in virus entering the drainage system. We have worked closely with the HSE and are satisfied that all necessary measures are in place to manage any risk of further virus release.

On 22 November, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) made a written statement, Official Report, columns 143-44WS, after Merial informed DEFRA officials of an incident that led to a possible leak of live virus into the contained drainage system.

A joint DEFRA, HSE and veterinary medicine directorate inspection team visited the site on 21 November. They confirmed that all work with live virus had stopped, and they carried out a detailed inspection.

The inspection team judged that, while it was possible that live FMD virus had entered the contained drainage system, they were assured that live virus had not been released into the environment. The extensive layers of biosecurity that we require under the Special Animal Pathogens Order licence effectively contained the virus in the closed, re-lined drainage system, before deactivation in the chemical treatment facility.

Pork

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consideration he has given to intervention buying of pork products to take excess supply from the UK market; what consideration he has given to the banning of pork imports which are not produced to British standards; and what steps he is taking to ensure pork products carry labelling indicating from which country the pork has been sourced. [172829]


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Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 10 December 2007]: Intervention buying of pigmeat is governed by the EU pigmeat regime which includes provision for limited private storage aid under certain market conditions. Applications for private storage aid were recently opened for the period from 29 October to 4 December. Uptake in the UK was very low compared to the rest of the EU.

The vast majority of pigmeat imports into the UK are from EU countries and are, therefore, protected by single market legislation. There are very few areas in which UK law goes beyond the requirements of the EU minimum standards. The principal remaining difference between UK and other member states’ pig welfare standards regards the use of sow stalls, where UK-type restrictions will not apply across the EU until 2013. World Trade Organisation rules currently do not allow us to restrict trade on animal welfare grounds.

All consignments of meat imported into the UK from other EU member states and third countries must have been produced in accordance with the harmonised animal and public health rules laid down in European Community legislation.

The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 and the Food Safety Act 1990 govern the use of labelling including that for country of origin. Any labelling that provides information on the origin of meat must not mislead consumers. Where meat has been processed, provided it is a substantial change, it is permissible to describe as its origin the country where that change took place. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has lead responsibility for labelling and has issued guidance which suggests that if the absence of information might mislead consumers, both the origin of the meat and the country where the processing takes place should be declared in order to facilitate informed consumer choice. The FSA also leads on engagement in the EU’s Review of Food Labelling and DEFRA is liaising with it to ensure that concerns such as country sourcing are taken fully into account.

We also welcome initiatives such as that of the British pig industry to develop a code of practice to help make consumers better informed about methods and origin of pigmeat production.

Public Sector: Procurement

Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment he has made of the effect of the public sector food procurement initiative on the animal welfare standards related to the production of the meat and eggs purchased by public sector bodies; and if he will make a statement; [173459]

(2) what the public sector food procurement initiative for public sector bodies concluded on the purchase of conventional battery eggs or food and meals using such eggs; and if he will make a statement. [173461]

Jonathan Shaw: No such assessment has been made.

The public sector food procurement initiative (PSFPI) does not contain any specific guidance on purchasing eggs. However, objectives which apply to all food purchases include: increasing tendering opportunities for small and local food producers;
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raising standards of production; and, addressing barriers to supply. We have recently published a new guide, “Putting it into practice”, which promotes animal welfare along with other PSFPI objectives.

Seas and Oceans

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his estimate is of the costs to the public purse of introducing the measures proposed in the Marine Bill White Paper over the next 10 years; and if he will make a statement. [173008]

Jonathan Shaw: In the partial regulatory impact assessment, published with the Marine Bill White Paper, we have set out the estimated costs and benefits of our proposals. We are updating that assessment and will publish it next year alongside the draft Marine Bill.

Seas and Oceans: Biodiversity

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 4 December 2007, Official Report, columns 1097-8W, on seas and oceans: biodiversity, which special areas of conservation he has identified beyond the 12 nautical mile limit; what measures he is taking to protect these areas; and if he will make a statement. [173014]

Jonathan Shaw: We are finalising our Natura 2000 network of sites in the marine area, which we hope to substantially complete by 2012. We expect to send an initial tranche of candidate offshore special areas of conservation to the European Commission before September 2008.

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee will be consulting on seven initial sites later this month. These include: Braemar Pockmarks, Darwin Mounds, Haig Fras, North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef, Scanner Pockmark, Stanton Banks and Wyville Thomson Ridge.

At the time of the consultation the sites are not European offshore marine sites so the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2007 do not apply as a matter of law or as a matter of policy. However, DEFRA will consider what action might reasonably be taken to protect sites. Consenting authorities are encouraged to take note of proposals in consideration of any licensing or consenting decisions that may affect sites.

If the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), as our scientific nature conservation advisers, advised us that potential offshore sites were being damaged by fishing activities, we would approach the Commission to ask them to consider proposing protective measures. The JNCC have not indicated that there is any such damage occurring in our current potential sites.

Our programme of data collection and survey work will continue to identify further sites required to complete the UK network.


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