Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on the operation of the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960; and what amendments have been made to this Act since 1997. 
Under the Act, if someone who is responsible for an animal abandons it and it is unable to fend for itself, the person responsible will have failed to ensure its welfare and therefore committed an offence. If suffering has actually occurred as a result of the abandonment, a further offence will have been committed under the Acts provisions on unnecessary suffering. The maximum fine when suffering occurs has been increased from £5,000 to £20,000.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions (a) he, (b) Ministers in his Department and (c) officials have had with the (i) British Veterinary Association and (ii) horse industry on African horse sickness; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: A working group has been set up, which includes DEFRA personnel and veterinary experts, to look at how best the Government and industry can work together to prepare for and manage any outbreak of African Horse Sickness. So far, there have not been any ministerial contacts with industry on this matter, but the working group is intending to meet regularly and to include interested parties from the industry in future meetings as necessary.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many scientists in his Department are working on research into African horse sickness; and how many there were in January (a) 2005, (b) 2006 and (c) 2007. 
Jonathan Shaw: There are a number of veterinarians working within DEFRA, and the related agencies dealing in laboratory investigations and research, who deal with aspects of African horse sickness (AHS). This position has not altered in the last three years. No one person in any of these arms of Government is assigned full-time to AHS research. It is therefore impossible to give a specific and accurate answer to the hon. Member's question.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research has been (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated by his Department since July 2006 on the potential impact of an outbreak of African horse sickness on the UK's equine industry; what discussions (i) he, (ii) Ministers in his Department and (iii) his officials have had with representatives of the equine industry on the matter since June 2007; what the (A) location and (B) duration of each meeting was; whether a record of each meeting was kept; who attended each meeting; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: In order to develop and maintain our diagnostic capability for the disease, DEFRA has regular contact and arrangements in place with the Pirbright Institute for Animal Health laboratory, which is a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) reference laboratory for African horse sickness (AHS). DEFRA is investing in three research and development contracts which relate to AHS as a vector borne disease. These are:
(1) For the epidemiology and control of orbiviral diseases in the UK, with particular reference to bluetongue and AHStotal project cost £984,000 (project ends 31 March 2008).
(2) For molecular phylogeny of Culicoides midges in relation to vector competence for bluetongue in the UKtotal project cost £430,783 (project ends 30 April 2008).
(3) Concerning the spread of bluetongue and related diseases by wind-borne vector Culicoidestotal project cost £566,358 (project ends 31 October 2009).
Neither the Minister nor other officials have yet met representatives from the industry to discuss the impact of an outbreak of AHS. A working group has been set up involving DEFRA personnel and veterinary experts concerned with equine health and welfare to consider how best the Government and the industry can work together to prevent and manage any such outbreak. The working group meetings are attended variously by between six and eight people, with representatives present from the Horse Trust, the Animal Health Trust, Cambridge University, the Pirbright laboratory and veterinarians from Defra Food and Farming Group. Meetings on average run for two and a half to three hours with minutes kept by a member of the group which are circulated to attendees later.
(a) 2 May in the Horse Race Betting Levy Board premises, London.
(b) 3 October in the SPANA building London.
(c) 17 December in Defra Page street, London.
The next meeting is planned for 7 February 2008, with other meetings to follow. It is intended that members of the industry will be invited to attend some future meetings to widen awareness among the public of AHS.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cases of African horse sickness occurred in (a) Southend, (b) Essex and (c) England and Wales in each year since 1990. 
Jonathan Shaw: African horse sickness is an exotic disease of horses primarily confined to sub-Saharan Africa where it is enzootic. Occasional outbreaks have occurred outside this area in Northern Africa, the Middle East and in Southern Europe (Spain 1966, 1987 to 1990, and Portugal 1989). The disease is notifiable under both EU legislation and within the United Kingdom but there has never been any confirmed case of African horse sickness within the UK.
Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what funding streams are available to help farmers in West Derbyshire to diversify into organic and sustainable farming methods. 
Jonathan Shaw: Aid for farmers who wish to convert their land to organic production is available under Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS). This is a whole farm scheme open to farmers who manage all or part of their land organically and who are not receiving aid under the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) which is now closed to new applicants.
Acceptance into the scheme is guaranteed providing an applicant meets all of its requirements, including ensuring that their organic land is registered with an Organic Inspection Body (OIB) before applying and that it remains continuously registered with an OIB for the five-year duration of the agreement.
OELS is the organic strand of Environmental Stewardship (ES) which is the main agri-environment scheme open to farmers and land managers in England. ES provides grant aid to farmers in order to secure environmental benefits and encourage sustainable farming through a wide range of land management options. It is administered by Natural England.
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 15 January 2008]: The following table is taken from the Farm Business Survey (FBS). The FBS is primarily a survey of levels of farm income rather than specific sources of income, such as Hill Farm Allowance, and is based on a sample of farms with a minimum size of half a standard labour requirement. This means it excludes farms where the labour requirement is less than half a full-time equivalent.
|Average age of farmer receiving Hill Farm Allowance in England( 1)
|(1) Farms greater than 0.5 Standard Labour Requirement
Farm Business Survey
Jonathan Shaw: The Government support Fresh Start, the industry-led initiative which aims to encourage new entrants into the industry by signposting sources of help and support, and by promoting farming as an attractive career option. The Fresh Start academy offers new entrants training in business skills, a mentoring service, and the possibility of identifying business opportunities via a matchmaking network. Since June 2006, 16 Fresh Start academies have opened across the country. More information is available on the DEFRA website.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what dates Ministers in his Department reviewed the decision of May 2001 not to compensate swill feeders following the ban of swill feeding. 
i. Following a meeting between the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Lords) Baroness Hayman and the ASU on 2 May 2001.
ii. Following correspondence from the ASU received on 1 July 2001.
iii. Following a meeting on 4 October 2001 between officials and representatives of the ASU.
iv. Following a meeting between the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Commons) and the ASU on 20 November 2001.
v. Following a meeting on 24 June 2003 between the ASU, some of their MPs and the Secretary of State and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Commons).
vi. Following correspondence from the ASU received on 5 May 2005.
vii. Following correspondence from George Howarth, MP received on 1 July 2005.
viii. Following a meeting on 19 July 2005 between Nick Brown, MP and the Secretary of State.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what mechanisms are in place to ensure that the welfare of animals is safeguarded when they are abandoned as a result of their owners being incapacitated. 
Jonathan Shaw: The Government introduced the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which came into force in England on 6 April 2007 (and in Wales on 27 March). The Act introduces an offence of failing to provide for the welfare needs of an animal; that is, a duty of care which will allow action to be taken before an animal suffers.
The duty of care means that all animal owners are required to promote animal welfare and potential owners must therefore know the welfare requirements of an animal before they acquire one. Those who abandon an animal without taking all reasonable steps to ensure its welfare needs are met, will be committing an offence under the Act.
We have no estimates concerning the number of animals abandoned after the Christmas period but we are grateful to the Dogs Trust, the Royal Society for the Prevention on Cruelty to Animals and other welfare organisations for the work that they do every year to raise public awareness of this problem.
Jonathan Shaw: Mike Radfords report on wild animal acts in travelling circuses was released on 20 November 2007. The Working Group concluded that a ban on wild animals in circuses could not be legally justified purely on scientific grounds. In these circumstances a ban could not be made by using secondary legislation under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Officials are currently considering the feasibility of introducing secondary legislation under the Act to promote the welfare of wild animal acts.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what regulations govern the use of wild animals in circuses; what changes he is planning to make to these regulations; and if he will make a statement. 
In addition, the training and exhibition of performing animals is further regulated by the Performing Animals Act (Regulation) Act 1925, which requires trainers and exhibitors of such animals to be registered with the local authority. Under the 1925 Act, the police and officers of local authorities, who may include a veterinarian, have power to enter premises where animals are being trained and exhibited. If cruelty and neglect is detected, magistrates courts can prohibit or restrict the training or exhibition of the animals and suspend or cancel the registration granted.
Mike Radfords report on wild animal acts in travelling circuses was released on 20 November 2007. Officials are currently considering the feasibility of introducing secondary legislation under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to regulate the welfare of wild animal acts, and so replace the 1925 Act.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to his answer of 26 November 2007, Official Report, columns 28-9W, on animal welfare: codes of practice, how his Department will validate the objectivity of the research it has commissioned from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. 
Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA has commissioned a study by The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust into the welfare implications of using bits and spectacles. The results of the study will be subject to independent peer review.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many (a) males and (b) females have been (i) prosecuted and (ii) convicted of an offence under each relevant section of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 in each year since 1977; 
|Number of persons proceeded against at magistrates courts and found guilty at all courts for the abandonment of and cruelty to animals, England and Wales 1979-2006( 1,2)
|Statute: Protection of Animals Act 1911
|(1) Data provided on the principal offence basis.
(2) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by police. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.
Court Proceedings DatabaseOffice for Criminal Justice ReformMinistry of Justice Our ref: 008 and 009-07