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31 Jan 2008 : Column 557W—continued

Bovine Tuberculosis

Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to review the presentation of the statistics of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle to give an accurate indication of trends in TB incidence independent of any changes to testing regimes. [182373]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA is currently conducting a fundamental review of its bovine tuberculosis (TB) statistics, with the aim of producing statistics that provide a reliable, comprehensive and useful description of the TB situation in Great Britain. The issue of how best to deal with the effect of changes to testing regimes on calculating TB incidence is included in the scope of the review.

Climate Change

Anne Snelgrove: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to ensure the UK is able to adapt to climate change. [178872]

Joan Ruddock: The Climate Change Bill, which it is hoped will receive Royal Assent by mid 2008, will provide a strong sustainable framework for adapting to the impacts of climate change. It will require Government to report at least every five years on current and predicted impacts of climate change, and on their proposals and policy for adapting to these.

Once the legislative framework is confirmed we will be publishing an adaptation policy framework setting out our approach across Government to taking action to adapt.

Departmental Equality

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been spent by his Department (a) in total and (b) on
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staff costs on promoting equality and diversity in each of the last three years for which figures are available; and how many people are employed by his Department for this purpose. [173842]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA has a diversity team in place to develop and implement strategies that actively promote equality and diversity throughout the organisation. The team supports the business to ensure that the DEFRA work force is representative of the wider community and to improve organisational and people management performance as it relates to diversity.

The Department has a duty to comply with current equalities legislation to ensure fairness in our employment practices and in our dealings with those we serve. In particular, we have concentrated on the publication of equality schemes and on training staff to carry out effective equality impact assessments.

Following the 2004 Gershon Report which looked across government for efficiency savings, DEFRA was required to meet significant headcount reductions by March 2008. As a part of the Department’s restructuring staff resources available to work on diversity has been reduced. The number of staff employed in the diversity team has therefore reduced during 2007 from 12 to four. This reduction has been achieved by mainstreaming diversity throughout the organisation and ensuring that the new team adopts a strategic focus.

The total budget for the diversity team in 2004-05 was £499,000. This reduced to £470,000 for 2005-06, and to £368,000 for 2006-07. Forecast expenditure for 2007-08 is in the region of £330,000.

The staffing costs in these three years were £346,000, £357,000 and £297,000. Current staffing costs for 2007-08 are expected to be in the region of £260,000.

Throughout 2007, DEFRA has taken significant action in relation to its statutory responsibilities as set out in equalities legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status. Consultancy costs were circ. £50,000 to ensure the compliance of our disability, race and gender equality schemes.

DEFRA’s diversity team has been working to put equality at the centre of policy making, strategic planning, service delivery and employment practice. Some of the responsibilities under the legislation include carrying out equality impact assessments, publishing equality schemes (race, gender and disability) and publishing annual employment monitoring reports.

An equalities impact assessment process has been developed and embedded into the Department’s policy and project planning processes. There has also been a significant investment in the training of decision makers and policy makers in the use of the DEFRA equality impact assessment tool. This tool enables the potential impact that a policy, process or function may have on different groups to be assessed and addressed, both retrospectively and predicatively.

There has also been activity to support the progression of under-represented groups in senior management positions, and make progress against the 10 point plan for a diverse civil service. For example,
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the Department has developed and run positive action mentoring programmes for women, ethnic minority and disabled staff.

Other training products developed include ‘Looking Beyond the Difference’, a multi-media blended learning solution that is used by individuals and groups to raise diversity awareness and ensure that DEFRA is a place where people respect and value each other.

A number of staff networks are supported by the diversity team. There are networks for: ethnic minority staff; disabled staff; lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender; and work-life balance. These networks are made up of volunteers from around the organisation, who provide a support mechanism for their members and a rich source of advice to the Department. The diversity team allocates approximately £15,000 each year for the work of the staff networks. The cost of making reasonable adjustments for disabled staff is also met from the diversity budget.

Dogs: Quarantine

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the scientific basis is for dogs arriving in the United Kingdom from areas to which the pet passport scheme does not apply to be required to spend six months in quarantine. [181648]

Jonathan Shaw: The quarantine period of six months is linked with the potential incubation period of rabies and was established in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee of Enquiry on Rabies in 1971 (The Waterhouse Report). The Kennedy Report (Quarantine and Rabies: A Reappraisal) published in 1998, reviewed the quarantine period and concluded that it should remain six months for countries other than those to which the pet travel scheme applies.

DEFRA is carrying out a review of its rabies import control policy, including quarantine. The evidence from the review, including an independent veterinary risk assessment of the introduction of rabies into the UK, indicates that the UK's current import controls may no longer be proportionate to the risk of rabies entering the UK. The conclusions of that review are being considered further.

No decisions have yet been made on any changes to our quarantine controls or pet travel scheme requirements and for the present all current controls continue to apply.

Landfill: Health Hazards

Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the effect of landfill sites on the health and well-being of nearby residents. [182296]

Joan Ruddock: All the available evidence on the health effects of living in proximity to landfill sites was assessed and summarised in the report published by my Department in 2004, “Review of the environmental and health effects of waste management”. The report
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was produced by Enviros and peer reviewed by the Royal Society and can be accessed on the DEFRA website.

New Forest Verderers

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) pursuant to the answer of 25 January 2007, Official Report, columns 2305-6W, on New Forest Verderers, for what reason he declined to re-appoint Mr. Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre as Official Verderer of the New Forest; and on what sources of information he based that decision; [183422]

(2) whether he consulted the New Forest National Park Authority before declining to re-appoint Mr. Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre as Official Verderer; [183423]

(3) what assessment he has made of the level of performance of his duties as Official Verderer by Mr. Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre. [183424]

Joan Ruddock: The Official Verderer is a significant appointment and it is important that the process for selecting candidates operates transparently. Mr. Crosthwaite Eyre was first appointed in 2002 and was re-appointed in 2005 for a second three-year term, with the expectation that he would serve until 2008. Towards the end of last year Mr. Crosthwaite-Eyre intimated that he had achieved his aspirations for the post and we therefore concluded that this was an appropriate time to initiate a selection process following the principles of the code of practice for ministerial appointments to public bodies.

The National Park Authority played no part in the decision to accept the Official Verderer’s offer when he placed his office at the disposal of the Crown. The performance of the Official Verderer is not in question and Mr. Crosthwaite-Eyre is free to reapply for the post if he so chooses.

Scrapie: Disease Control

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress his Department has made towards its public service agreement target of a reduction of 40 per cent. in the prevalence of scrapie infection by 2010; and if he will make a statement. [181486]

Jonathan Shaw: The public service agreement (PSA) target was based on a 2004 model that assumed our existing voluntary ram genotyping scheme (RGS), part of the national scrapie plan, would be replaced with a compulsory scheme which was a pending EU-wide requirement. That requirement was dropped by the EU Commission at the end of 2006. A compulsory scheme has therefore not been implemented in Great Britain and we are consulting on closure of the current voluntary scheme.

The 2004 model has recently been re-run with regard to the change in the EU position and assuming that the voluntary RGS closes. It suggests that this PSA target of a 40 per cent. reduction in the prevalence of scrapie infections should nevertheless be reached in 2011.

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Swine Fever

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information is made available by his Department for pig farmers on the prevention of swine fever. [182047]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA has published fact sheets which include information on how to recognise the signs of classical swine fever (CSF) and guidance on biosecurity for prevention of the introduction and spread of disease. These are available in hard copy and are distributed at events such as livestock markets and agricultural shows. The fact sheets would also be issued to livestock keepers within CSF protection and surveillance zones should zones be imposed in an outbreak. The fact sheets, along with further comprehensive information for farmers on both the disease and our control policy, can be found on the CSF pages of the DEFRA website. In addition, there is regular engagement between the Government, industry and stakeholders from the pig industry to ensure a common understanding of the risks and the appropriate outbreak response.

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the risk of (a) classical swine fever and (b) African swine fever to the UK pork farming industry. [182050]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA monitors outbreaks of high impact diseases (including classical swine fever (CSF) and African swine fever (ASF)) worldwide and assesses risks to the UK. These assessments are available on the DEFRA website. In 2007 DEFRA produced nine preliminary outbreak assessments on CSF and ASF.

The overall risk of the introduction of these two diseases to the UK has increased over the past few months, but still remains low. This emphasises the importance of strict compliance with EU rules for the trade in live pigs and their products, appropriate enforcement at the border, and compliance with the swill feeding ban in the UK.

If, despite these precautions, CSF or ASF viruses enter the country, the risk of pigs becoming infected has been reduced by the introduction of the ban on swill feeding in May 2001. If a pig is infected, the spread of the disease would be limited by the standard disease control methods DEFRA would put in place, including culling all pigs on an infected premises and dangerous contacts, and movement controls around those premises.

Swine Fever: East Anglia

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the cause of the outbreak of classical swine fever in East Anglia in 2000. [182049]

Jonathan Shaw: A full investigation was carried out according to standard epidemiological principles at the time of the outbreak. The cause was not finally established but was most likely the result of pigs eating a contaminated imported pork product.

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Swine Fever: Vaccination

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consideration he has given to the merits of putting operational arrangements in place to implement an emergency vaccination programme in the event of a classical swine fever outbreak. [182178]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 25 January 2008]: Although currently available vaccines for classical swine fever (CSF) are able to reduce mortality, it is likely that some vaccinated pigs would still be capable of transmitting the disease if they became infected, but would not display symptoms of disease. This would increase the time taken to detect and eradicate the virus.

In the event of an outbreak, swift detection and culling of infected herds is a more effective and efficient approach. Vaccination could use up resources and reduce our ability to achieve that objective. Therefore, there are currently no operational arrangements in place to mount a CSF vaccination programme, although we keep our policy on CSF vaccination under review in the light of scientific developments in vaccines.

Waste Disposal: Fees and Charges

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 17 January 2008, Official Report, columns 1393-94W, on waste disposal: fees and charges, if he will place in the Library a copy of the separate study with information on larger households referred to in the answer. [178689]

Joan Ruddock: I am arranging for a copy of the study requested to be placed in the House Library.

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the planned timetable is for the (a) running and (b) evaluation of waste charging pilots. [183275]

Joan Ruddock: For question (a), I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) on 14 January 2007, Official Report, column 871W.

For question (b), the timetable for evaluation of the pilot household waste incentive schemes (including those which have a charging element) will in turn be dependent on their start date. As can be seen in the Climate Change Bill, we have committed to report back to Parliament on each of the pilots and we will do so when we have gathered sufficiently robust evidence.

Waste Information Services Ltd: Finance

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 21 January 2008, Official Report, column1498W, on Waste Information Services Ltd: finance, for what purpose WRAP—the Waste and Resources Action Programme—made payments to Waste Information Services Ltd; and what services were provided by that company. [178690]

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Joan Ruddock: Waste Information Services Ltd. has been engaged by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) on two occasions in the last three years to offer specialist advice on the collection of batteries for recycling.


Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what recent discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) representatives of foreign Governments on (i) whaling, (ii) the international moratorium on whaling, (iii) scientific whaling, (iv) whale conservation and (v) whale-related tourism; and if he will make a statement; [181196]

(2) when the most recent ministerial-level discussion was held on whaling; on what dates since 2005 Ministers from his Department have discussed whaling with colleagues in other Departments; when he next intends to discuss whaling with Cabinet colleagues; and if he will make a statement. [181197]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA Ministers have discussed whaling with colleagues in other Government Departments whenever the opportunity has arisen.

On the topic of scientific whaling, I met with Japanese embassy officials on 8 January to express the UK's outrage over Japan's ‘scientific’ whaling activities.

The UK has made representations to foreign governments through our publication ‘Protecting Whales—Global Responsibility’ (endorsed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister (Mr. Brown) and Sir David Attenborough) which has been sent to over 60 countries urging nations to protect these species worldwide. This publication has recently been updated, including a new section on whale-related tourism with the Prime Minister stating on the day of release that

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) has also written to 18 countries encouraging them to join the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for the greater protection of these species through inter alia upholding the IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling.

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