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Institute for Animal Health: Pirbright

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what removals of contaminated soil from the Pirbright site have taken place; whether required waste shipment licences were obtained upon each occasion; what steps his Department took to ensure that each removal complied with the relevant waste management regulations; and if he will make a statement. [177563]

Jonathan Shaw: There is no evidence that loads of contaminated soil were transported from the Pirbright site, and the area where contamination might have occurred was reported to be cordoned off from the rest of the site on 8 August. However, lorries were driven over the potentially infected area and could therefore have picked up contaminated soil on their tyres. These lorry movements have been mapped and assessed. Full details of the epidemiological investigations into the outbreak can be found on the DEFRA website.

Laboratories: Security

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome has been of the high-risk laboratories' review of biosecurity arrangements; and whether any changes are planned to be made to those arrangements. [177044]

Jonathan Shaw: We accepted all recommendations that apply to the Government contained in the Callaghan, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Spratt reports. The regulatory outcome will be one that provides an assurance that the risk of accidental release of specified animal pathogens is as close to zero as possible.

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 2007 outbreak. A follow-up round of inspections took place jointly with the HSE. The first phase of the safety alert inspection programme focused on containment level (CL) four facilities and was completed by mid-November 2007. These inspections, carried out by regulatory inspectors, revealed no breaches of the legislation and no formal enforcement action was taken. This process has provided both the regulatory bodies and the operators of the laboratories with the assurance that their facilities are well managed. The inspections have also provided a useful opportunity to provide advice and guidance on good practice.

A second phase involving regulatory visits to CL3 facilities, prioritised according to risk, is being developed, with visits planned for later this year.

Milk: Prices

Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to ensure dairy farmers are paid a fair price for their milk. [178545]

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Jonathan Shaw: The Government believe that the setting of milk prices is a commercial matter to be resolved by private negotiation which should take place within the parameters set by competition law and that the market must determine prices.

National Fruit Collection

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans he has for the future administration, finance and control of Brogdale and of the UK's special fruit tree collection; and if he will make a statement; [180194]

(2) what criteria his Department will use to estimate best value when considering tenders to provide long-term relocation of the fruit collection at Brogdale; and what independent scientific and horticultural advice on those criteria was received by the Department; [180303]

(3) what assessment his Department has made of the potential risks of re-propagation and removal of the fruit tree collection at Brogdale to any new site; [180203]

(4) what private companies are involved in the control of the national fruit collection at Brogdale; what scientific evidence is available on the costs and benefits of a relocation of the collection; and if he will publish this evidence. [180322]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 21 January 2008]: The National Fruit Collection is currently maintained by the Brogdale Horticultural Trust and scientifically curated by Imperial College.

In response to an open competition, which allowed DEFRA to look at all the available options for the future of the collections, tenders were received and assessed by expert peer reviewers and an internal selection panel. The selection process also included visits to all prospective sites and presentations from the applicants. The selection process was carried out in line with the guidelines set out in DEFRA’s Science Handbook.

Any potential relocation of the collection was considered to be a relatively low risk procedure as there are a number of suitable locations in the UK for growing fruit trees. The whole collection was moved successfully from Wisley to Brogdale in the 1950s, and fruit trees are regularly re-propagated as a matter of course.

On 19 December 2007, DEFRA announced the Collections would remain at Brogdale for the foreseeable future. From 1 April 2008, the maintenance and curation of the collection will be managed by the University of Reading, subject to agreement with the landlord to extend the lease at Brogdale.

Natural England: Rural Payments Agency

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the potential to transfer some of Natural England’s scheme payment functions and staff to the Rural Payments Agency. [177625]

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Jonathan Shaw: We have not made any detailed assessment of the potential for transferring functions or staff from Natural England to the Rural Payments Agency, or “vice versa”. However, I am aware that Natural England’s Board recently decided to explore this issue and I have told them that I shall be interested to hear their conclusions.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones: Capital Investment

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if he will make it his policy to introduce capital grants to assist farmers with increased storage requirements under the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones directive; [178159]

(2) what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on introducing measures to provide financial assistance to farmers to comply with Nitrate Vulnerable Zone regulations. [178161]

Mr. Woolas: DEFRA does not intend to provide funding to help farmers to comply with measures required under the proposed Action Programme, as set out in the consultation on implementation of the nitrates directive in England. It has regular discussions with the Treasury on financial arrangements in relation to delivery of its policies.

We are committed to seeking a derogation from the 170kgN/ha/yr whole farm limit for livestock manure. If approved, this will significantly reduce the economic cost to the livestock industry in the short term.

We have also committed £98 million under the Rural Development Programme to the livestock sector, to improve competitiveness, animal welfare and on-farm management of nutrients.


Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how the Government plans to use the data held on the GB Poultry Register to prevent the spread of avian influenza. [177654]

Jonathan Shaw: The GB Poultry Register was created in response to an increased threat of an outbreak of the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza (Al). It captures details of all those premises that keep 50 or more birds (even if the premises is only stocked for part of the year), with details of the location, numbers and types of birds kept and some relevant risk factors.

These data have helped to manage the risk of Al in a number of ways, and have enabled us to:

We are currently consulting on a range of possible changes to the use of personal data held on the GB Poultry Register; for example, the use for other notifiable diseases. The consultation closes on 5 February 2008 and full details are available on the DEFRA website.

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Protection of Animals Act 1911

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 Protection of Animals Act 1911; and what amendments have been made to this Act since 1997. [177127]

Jonathan Shaw: The Protection of Animals Act 1911 was largely repealed and replaced by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which came into force in England on 6 April 2007 (and in Wales on 27 March). The Animal Welfare Act updates and strengthens the offences of animal fighting and causing unnecessary suffering which were contained in the Protection of Animals Act 1911. The 2006 Act also introduces an offence of failing to provide for the welfare needs of an animal—a ‘duty of care’ which will allow action to be taken before an animal suffers.

The provisions of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 which remain in force relate to the sale of poison grain, precautions when laying poison and the inspection of spring traps for catching hares or rabbits.


Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress his Department has made on transferring ownership of private sewers to water and sewerage companies; and if he will make a statement. [179399]

Mr. Woolas: The Government announced on 22 February 2007 that they had decided to transfer existing private sewers and lateral drains in England into the ownership of the water and sewerage companies, as the most comprehensive solution to the problems faced by householders whose properties are connected to a private sewer or drain. Transfer will apply to all private sewers and lateral drains that drain to the public network. It will bring clarity for owners, local authorities and sewerage companies. It will also significantly help address a lack of integrated management of the sewerage network as a whole, and provide greater efficiency of effort, environmental stewardship and expenditure.

The Government undertook to consult further on options for the implementation of transfer and a public consultation ran from July to October 2007 seeking views on options and also considered questions of the scope of transfer and the prevention of new private sewers.

The responses are currently being considered and will inform the regulations needed to bring transfer into effect. As required, there will be a further consultation on these regulations in 2008. Once Parliament has approved the regulations transfer will be a statutory duty for Water and Sewerage Companies in the form and to the timetable set out in the regulations.

Specified Diseases (Notification and Slaughter) Order 1992

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) males and (b) females have been (i) prosecuted and (ii) convicted of breaking the Specified Diseases (Notification and Slaughter) Order 1992 in each year since it came into force. [177124]

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Jonathan Shaw: The information requested is not held centrally.

The information that is available on prosecutions taken under the Animal Health Act 1981 is supplied by local authorities to DEFRA and included in the return to Parliament laid before both Houses before 31 March each year.

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the operation of the Specified Diseases (Notification and Slaughter) Order 1992; and what amendments have been made to the Order since its coming into force. [177144]

Jonathan Shaw: The Specified Diseases (Notification and Slaughter) Order 1992 (the Order) came into force on 1 January 1993 and reflects some of our community obligations, as set down in council directive 92/119/EEC. This Directive sets down minimum control measures considered to be effective for a range of notifiable diseases of livestock.

It is kept under review and the Order has been amended by different orders to revoke it for the following reasons:

I am satisfied with the operation of the Order.

Supermarkets: Sustainable Development

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will take steps to seek a reduction in the food miles of produce in national supermarkets. [177650]

Jonathan Shaw: While research for DEFRA has shown that food miles are an incomplete measure of the sustainability of the supply of food, reductions in transport can benefit society through reduced congestion and improved air quality. DEFRA supports the Food and Drink Industry Federation’s voluntary commitment, announced last October, to reduce the environmental and social costs of domestic food transportation by 20 per cent. by 2012 compared to 2002.

Sustainable Development: Public Buildings

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what responsibility he has for sustainable construction on the Government estate; and what steps he has taken to ensure sustainability is achieved. [179809]

Mr. Woolas: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, is the Minister accountable for overseeing the implementation of the “UK Government Sustainable Procurement Action Plan (SPAP)”, launched in March 2007, and reports to
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the Prime Minister. Permanent Secretaries are accountable for their Department's overall progress and performance on implementing the SPAP.

Targets for sustainable operations on the Government estate were launched in June 2006 and reaffirmed in the SPAP. These targets include a mandate for individual Departments to conduct sustainability appraisals of office locations, and to apply the buildings research establishment environmental assessment method (BREEAM) excellent standards or equivalent, to all new builds or major refurbishments.

DEFRA applies BREEAM excellent standards to all new builds, and have undertaken sustainability appraisals for all office relocations in 2007.

Trade Unions

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what meetings he has had with trade unions officials since 1 July 2007; on what dates; and with which trade unions. [179855]

Jonathan Shaw: Ministers meet many people as part of the process of policy development. It is not normal practice to disclose details of such meetings.

Water Companies: Fines

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on which occasions the Office of the Water Regulator imposed penalties on water companies in each of the last three years; what the (a) penalty, (b) company penalised and (c) reason for penalty was in each case; and to what purpose the fines have been put. [179744]

Mr. Woolas: The Water Service Regulation Authority's (Ofwat's) powers to impose financial penalties on water and sewerage companies came into effect on 1 April 2005.

In June 2007, Ofwat fined United Utilities £8.5 million (0.7 per cent. of the company's applicable turnover) for breaching rules governing trading arrangements with associate companies.

All fines are paid into the Consolidated Fund as required by section 22a of the Water Industry Act 1991.

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