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Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate (a) he and (b) the Environment Agency has made of trends in the rat population and significant rat infestations over the last three years. 
DEFRA will shortly be publishing an interim report on rodent presence in domestic
properties as revealed by the English House Condition Survey data for 2002-03 and 2003-04. Key findings are that the occurrences of rats inside and outside properties in these years are not significantly different from those observed in 2001.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he or officials from his Department (a) have been invited to attend and (b) will attend meetings of the Scottish Fisheries Council; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Richard Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on canoe access agreements; and how much his Department has spent on researching such agreements. 
Jonathan Shaw: The Government share canoeists', and other user groups', aspirations for more and better access to inland water and have been working, through our agencies, to deliver this over a number of years. The Government's view is that a statutory right of access to inland waterways is not appropriate. The evidence indicates that the demand for access would more effectively be met by a targeted approach, which involves identifying where access is needed, and then creating access agreements with the landowner and other interested parties. Since 2001 £399,000 has been spent researching such arrangements.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) pursuant to the answer of 29 January 2008, Official Report, column 246W, on whales, to how many (a) International Whaling Commission (IWC) members and (b) non-IWC members the Protecting WhalesA Global Responsibility document has been sent; to how many countries in each continent (i) the document has been sent and (ii) he has written encouraging them to join the IWC; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) how many of the letters he plans to send will be addressed to (a) heads of state, (b) heads of government, (c) his counterparts, (d) ambassadors and (e) other foreign government officials; and if he will make a statement; 
As I stated in my answer of the 29 January 2008, the publication Protecting WhalesA Global Responsibility has been sent to over 60 countries, both anti and pro-whaling, including current and non members of the International Whaling
Commission (IWC), encouraging them to join the effort to protect these species.
Providing details of these countries and the letters sent to them could compromise our efforts to persuade them to either join the IWC and adopt an anti-whaling stance or, if already an IWC member, increase their commitment to protecting whales.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to whom at the Japanese Embassy the recent request to discuss Japanese whaling was addressed; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 31 January 2008]: The request to discuss Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean was made to the deputy ambassador of the Japanese embassy in London. The Japanese embassy responded by sending the deputy ambassador Wataru Nishigahiro to meet me on the 8 January.
The deputy ambassador was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling in this country and that the UK is outraged by Japan's whaling activities and considers Japan's lethal research wholly unnecessary.
A meeting at this level demonstrates to Japan the extent of our concern over the issue and I was left in no doubt that the deputy ambassador would convey the UK's position back to the Japanese Government. The UK Government will continue to make our opposition to whaling known to Japan at every appropriate opportunity
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 24 January 2008, Official Report, columns 2127-8W, on white fish: conservation, pursuant to the advice given by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea ICES that bass stocks appeared to be fished sustainably, for what reasons his Department previously committed to increasing the bass minimum landing size; if his Department was aware of the ICES advice when it made that decision; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: The commitment made by this Department in August 2006 to increase the bass minimum landing size was intended to provide: (i) benefits for commercial and recreational fishermen through increases in the number and size of bass available for capture; and (ii) increased protection for the bass stock.