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2 Apr 2008 : Column 908W—continued


Repossession Orders

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many homes were repossessed in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. [197278]

Mr. Hanson: I have been asked to reply.

Repossessions following a court order are dealt with by the Enforcement of Judgments Office (EJO) of the Northern Ireland Court Service.

The following table sets out the number of repossession applications lodged with EJO and the number which have been resolved by way of eviction over the last five years.

Repossession applications lodged with EJO Repossession applications finalised by way of eviction

2003

914

152

2004

945

200

2005

972

188

2006

1,002

184

2007

923

128

Total

4,756

852


In addition to those cases in which the EJO repossess the property and give vacant possession to the applicant, a larger number of cases are resolved by agreement reached between the parties or where the occupant vacates the property voluntarily.

Wales

National Assembly

8. David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on bringing forward legislative proposals to increase the number of Members of the National Assembly for Wales. [197232]

Mr. Paul Murphy: None.

Economic Inactivity

9. James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on economic inactivity in Wales. [197233]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Secretary of State has regular discussions with the First Minister on all issues affecting Wales, including the economy and employment.

Child Poverty

10. Mrs. Betty Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on measures in Budget 2008 designed to address child poverty in Wales. [197234]

Mr. Paul Murphy: The excellent measures announced by the Chancellor in his Budget will underpin our commitment to halve child poverty by 2010 and totally eradicate child poverty by 2020.

Flood Defences

11. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the First Minister on the condition of flood defences in Wales. [197235]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Regular discussions take place with the First Minister on such matters. The Welsh Assembly Government, local authorities and the Environment Agency are actively involved in flood defence planning within Wales.

Research Funding

12. Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will hold discussions with the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills on UK Government funding for research in Wales. [197236]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills to discuss a variety of issues affecting Wales.


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Welsh universities have a vital role to play in meeting the challenges of the future, not only in increasing the knowledge economy of the region but also in encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation.

Cross-border Health Services

13. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Assembly Government on consultation on cross-border health service issues. [197237]

Huw Irranca-Davies: My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government on these matters. These discussions include the protocol currently in place to underpin cross-border health delivery arrangements.

Offender Management

14. Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on offender management in Wales. [197238]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Government remain committed to ensuring efficient offender management. We have committed a further £40 million towards more effective community sentences; are providing increased prison capacity with an extra £1.2 billion to deliver a further and extended building programme that will create 15,000 places in England and Wales by 2014, 330 of which will be at Parc Prison in Bridgend by 2011.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture: Co-operatives

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what response he plans to make to the French proposal to strengthen agricultural sectors by promoting co-operative organisations. [198108]

Jonathan Shaw: The French proposals were discussed under any other business at the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting on 17 March. I expressed interest in exploring ideas about how farmers could be competitive in global markets through greater collaboration, but did not share the French conclusions about the need for new EU measures.

Animal Welfare

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what codes of practice outlined in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 his Department is working; and when they are expected to be published. [197846]

Jonathan Shaw: The information requested is not yet available as the departmental business planning process for the forthcoming financial year has still to be finalised.


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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the size was of the Departmental team dealing with codes of practice relevant to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in (a) 2004, (b) 2005, (c) 2006 and (d) 2007; and what the size of the team is now. [197847]

Jonathan Shaw: Precise figures for the number of staff working on codes of practice are difficult to estimate as this work does not require full-time input from staff. However, work on an individual code of practice under the Animal Welfare Act typically involves the input of one veterinary adviser and one higher executive officer plus administrative support.

Animals: Disease Control

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what arrangements there are to deal with circumstances where a devolved Administration disagrees with his Department’s policy or actions in the event of an animal disease outbreak. [197428]

Jonathan Shaw: Disease control functions are a devolved matter, but DEFRA and the devolved Administrations all work to EU rules. This aligns our policies and minimises any serious differences. During an animal disease outbreak, consultations and discussions take place at all levels to ensure that coherent and effective measures operate across the UK.

Bees

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the number of queen bees which have been imported in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. [197462]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 1 April 2008]: Importers of queen bees from third countries are required to notify DEFRA about the intended import and then must send the cages and accompanying worker bees to the National Bee Unit for analysis. In the last three calendar years DEFRA was notified of the following imports of queens:

Number

2005

2,385

2006

2,435

2007

3,097


Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the UK bee population (a) in each year since 1997 and (b) in each of the next 10 years; and if he will make a statement. [197595]

Jonathan Shaw: On the basis of the number of colonies estimated by ADAS in their 2001 survey, there are around 273,000 managed honey bee colonies in the UK. In population terms, there are approximately 5 billion honey bees in winter (20,000 per colony), rising to some 16 billion in the summer (60,000 per colony). Numbers of colonies may have declined in recent years. The numbers in each of the next 10 years will depend
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on the number of beekeepers and their stockmanship and colony husbandry skills, including effective pest and disease management. No estimate has been made of the numbers of bumble bees or solitary bees etc.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he has received a research plan from Rothamstead and Warwick Horticulture Research International on bee health; and if he will make a statement. [197672]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA has not received any such research plan. Short descriptions of two research projects proposed by the two organisations were included in a “Beekeeping Research” paper produced by the British Beekeepers' Association.

Bees: Conservation

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he expects the small hive beetle to become a threat to UK beehives; what measures he is taking to prevent the small hive beetle entering the UK; and if he will make a statement. [197591]

Jonathan Shaw: The possibility of the small hive beetle arriving in the UK is a recognised threat to the health of honey bees. To help mitigate this threat, DEFRA has developed a contingency plan in consultation with stakeholders. Additionally, DEFRA is funding research into a “lure and kill” monitoring system for rapid deployment should the beetle be detected. To promote early detection, publicity material has been distributed to help raise individual beekeepers’ awareness of the risk. Plant health import inspectors and horticultural marketing inspectors have also been alerted, as one possible entry pathway is imported fruit. DEFRA is also pressing the European Commission to introduce tighter contingency arrangements to reduce the risk of spread should the beetle be introduced into another member state.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of threats to the UK bee population; and if he will make a statement. [197596]

Jonathan Shaw: The importance of the contribution of honey bees to sustainable agriculture is well recognised. For this reason, DEFRA continues to fund a programme of controls and education for beekeepers through the National Bee Unit and the Bee Inspectorate. To further this, work DEFRA will shortly be consulting on a draft Bee Health strategy. The main aim of the strategy will be to focus future action by both DEFRA and other key stakeholders, especially individual beekeepers, on the main threats facing our honey bees.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many beehives were damaged by the varroa mite in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [197598]

Jonathan Shaw: By 1995 virtually all apiaries in England had some degree of varroa infestation. While there may be colonies in isolated areas, which have yet
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to be infested by varroa, the pest is virtually ubiquitous. Every colony is damaged by varroa to varying degrees once it becomes infested. Uncontrolled it will kill colonies and that is why it is important for beekeepers to understand the biology of the mite, know the levels of varroa populations and how to treat their colonies to keep the mite below damage thresholds.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to prevent the spread of the varroa mite; and if he will make a statement. [197599]

Jonathan Shaw: Despite the implementation of an extensive control programme, varroa is now endemic and is no longer notifiable under EC law. However, while it cannot be completely eradicated, beekeepers can keep productive bees despite its presence, providing they operate effective controls The best way of tackling varroa is by means of a careful programme of integrated pest management and DEFRA has published detailed advice for beekeepers on this. Experience has shown that it is effective.

A comprehensive advisory leaflet is available from the National Bee Unit.

The Bee Health Strategy, which will shortly be published for consultation, will address the issue of varroa and whether control should have greater priority compared, for example, to threats for exotic pests.

Bees: Diseases

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if he will make a statement on bee colony collapse; [197593]

(2) what recent research he has commissioned into colony collapse disease affecting bees; and if he will make a statement. [197594]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA is aware of the press reports last year about the serious situation in the USA in respect of cases of abnormally high levels of colony loss, described as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). While some common factors have been identified, such as high levels of Israeli Paralysis Virus, the cause of colony collapse has yet to be identified.

Scientists and inspectors at DEFRA’s National Bee Unit (NBU) are continuing to monitor the situation in the USA. To date, we do not have evidence to suggest that there is something similar happening in the UK.

The limited cases of high losses which occur here, for which there is no ready explanation such as poor management or failure to control the varroa mite, are investigated in depth as part of the NBU’s horizon-scanning work.

National Bee Unit: Finance

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding he proposes to provide to the National Bee Unit in each of the next five years; and if he will make a statement. [197597]


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Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what allocations were made to future funding for bee health in the Comprehensive Spending Review. [197461]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 1 April 2008]: Detailed allocations have still to be finalised. The expectation is that funding for DEFRA’s ongoing programme of support for bee health will be around the same level as previously. In the event of a need to respond to new serious threats, there are contingency arrangements in place for additional funding to be made available.


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