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[holding answer 7 July 2008]: A number of enhancements to cattle controls have been introduced in recent years including: zero tolerance for overdue TB tests (i.e. herd movement restrictions applied immediately a test becomes overdue); mandatory pre-movement testing of cattle in high risk areas; and increased use of the gamma interferon blood test. These measures increase our ability to identify infected cattle, thereby reducing the risk of disease spread. We have also been working with stakeholders to raise awareness of simple biosecurity
measures to keep cattle and badgers apart. We intend to continue to work with farmers and vets to encourage a high level of compliance with these vital measures.
On 7 July, the Secretary of State announced that DEFRAs policy will be not to issue any licences to farmers to cull badgers to prevent bovine TB and that a further £20 million will be invested towards research over the next three years in improved diagnosis of the disease and developing usable cattle and badger vaccines.
Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research his Department has undertaken on the use of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique to identify infected badger setts; and when he estimates an effective PCR test is likely to be available. 
Jonathan Shaw: A number of diagnostic tests for the detection of Mycobacterium bovis ( M. bovis) infection in badgers have been developed through DEFRA-funded research projects at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA). Currently, although a great deal of research has been, and continues to be, carried out in veterinary and medical laboratories to try to develop PCR tests that can be used for routine diagnosis, results so far have shown that the technique is not yet able to perform as well as conventional bacterial culture in the detection of M. bovis in terms of sensitivity, specificity or reliability. Detection of M. bovis directly from live badgers and their excretions using PCR is difficult, largely because of the low levels and intermittent nature of excretion of M. bovis by infected animals but also because of the difficulty in extracting DNA from mycobacteria and the presence of components that slow down the PCR in clinical samples (so-called PCR inhibitors).
From 2007 to 2010, £1.3 million will be invested in work to validate and optimise PCR assays that will allow discrimination between M. bovis and other closely related species of mycobacterium in environmental samples, including soil from badger setts.
While it may be possible to identify areas, such as badger setts, where the organism is present, it would not be possible to identify individual animals that were infected. Nor would it be possible to establish whether the DNA detected was from M. bovis mycobacteria that were viable and infectious. Even if a validated PCR test was available, scientific evidence shows that small scale, localised culling of animals from infected setts is likely to increase disease.
Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions his Department has had with Sir Nicholas Stern on the appropriate interest rate to use in calculating the costs of mitigating climate change. 
Mr. Woolas: DEFRA officials have had discussions with the noble Lord Stern on the approach to discounting that was used in the Stern review and on the implications of the review for broader economic appraisal in Government.
Prior to the publication of the Stern review, DEFRA officials attended an internal meeting at which Lord Stern provided details of the approach to discounting that was used in the Stern review. Lord Stern explained how conventional discounting methodology leads to the use of lower discount rates when assessing whether or not to take global action to avoid dangerous climate change.
Subsequent to the publication of the Stern review, DEFRA officials attended an official-level meeting with Lord Stern to discuss the implications of the Stern review for broader economic appraisal in Government. For example, the Stern review has a number of implications for the tools that are used in Government to perform cost-benefit analysisincluding the appropriate discount rate to use and the appropriate approach to use to value greenhouse gas emissions in cost-benefit analysis.
Jonathan Shaw: The Department has implemented a comprehensive system of by-catch monitoring under the requirements of the EC Habitats Directive and under Council Regulation 812/2004. The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) produces annual reports of this research to the Department, which are published on the Departments website.
The UK has put over £2 million from 2000 to date into researching by-catch mitigation measures and monitoring by-catch on vessels through observers, to try to identify those fisheries responsible for high levels of cetacean by-catch and mitigation measures that are effective at deterring cetaceans over the long-term and are safe and cost-effective for the industry.
Providing updated estimates of marine mammal by-catch for all relevant fishery sectors through analysis of fleet effort data, existing by-catch rate data and through further monitoring of UK fisheries as determined under the UKs Small Cetacean by-catch Response Strategy.
Investigating the impact of by-catch and other indirect effects of UK fisheries on marine mammal populations, and exploring ways of addressing the limits to by-catch from a management perspective.
Exploring as many research avenues as practicable to search for ways of changing fishing gear design or fishing tactics in order to minimise marine mammal by-catch.
Acoustic deterrent devices, pingers, are required to be used in certain fisheries under Council Regulation (EC) 812/2004. The European Commission has recognised that because of deployment problems, member states should continue with trials to develop a
working pinger that is safe and cost-effective for the industry and offer maximum protection to dolphins and porpoises.
The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) has recently undertaken research on behalf of DEFRA into the effects of a new design of acoustic deterrent device (pingers) on porpoise and dolphin distribution. These super-pingers are larger and therefore fewer devices are required, reducing deployment problems. We hope to have more details on the efficacy of these new pingers by spring next year.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much was claimed in reimbursable expenses by special advisers in his Department in each of the last 10 years. 
Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 23 April 2008, Official Report, column 2060W, on departmental property, whether (a) anyone was convicted for theft of the television and (b) the incident was recorded on CCTV; and what steps were taken to improve security following the incident. 
Jonathan Shaw: The incident is recorded as having taken place during October 2005 and was reported to the police immediately its loss was known. However, the property was not recovered and no arrests were made.
The plasma screen television was moved from its usual location to prevent it being damaged during the extensive refurbishment of Nobel House taking place at the time. During this refurbishment many areas of the building were only accessible by building workers. It is believed that the equipment may have been removed during rubbish disposal. Unfortunately its removal was not captured on CCTV.
When visiting Nobel House, the police commented that the building's security arrangements in place were good. Security measures include 24-hour security guards, circle lock access/exit doors activated by photographic proximity pass, CCTV monitoring and a pass wearing policy.
Although the police were satisfied with the security arrangements, they have been subject to continuous review since then and improvements have been made. For example, the procedures governing the removal of equipment from the building have been strengthened and guards are instructed to challenge anyone taking equipment away.
Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the standard retirement age in his Department is; and how many people worked beyond the standard retirement age in each of the last five years. 
Jonathan Shaw: When the new age legislation came into force on 1 October 2006, the Department along with all of its agencies, changed their retirement policies for employees both below the senior civil service and those in the senior civil service. With the exception of Animal Health and the Central Science Laboratory, there is no longer a set retirement age for employees below the SCS and members of staff can work as long as they wish subject to the normal performance, conduct and attendance requirements.
The current retirement age for members of the senior civil service is 65. If an employee wishes to stay beyond 65 they can do so, provided it has been agreed by the Permanent Secretary or the relevant agency chief executive.
The number of staff in Animal Health and the Central Science Laboratory who were allowed to work the mandatory retirement age of 65 since 2005 is shown in the following table. No members of the senior civil service have worked beyond 65 in this period. Data for earlier years could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to paragraph 3.50 of the National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom, Cm 7291, whether the Government (a) plans to increase the UKs grain production and (b) has contingency plans in place for a significant interruption to international shipping. 
Jonathan Shaw: With the recent reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in particular the decoupling of support from production, farmers are now free to follow market signals in terms of their planting decisions. The level of UK grain production will therefore be determined by farmers view of the market return for their crops at the time of planting, as well as the weather. The Governments aim is to ensure that farmers can respond fully to the market, and for this reason we support the abolition in the CAP Health Check of set-aside as a supply control. We have also provided financial assistance to the Home Grown Cereals Authority to provide price risk management training to arable farmers. The evidence from the December 2007 survey of agriculture suggests farmers are responding well to the market, with wheat plantings for the 2008 harvest up by 10 per cent. and barley by 13 per cent., as compared to the previous year.
The types of grain that we do import, typically high quality wheat for flour production or maize for animal feed, mainly come from other EU countries or from other politically stable countries. The Department for Transport (DfT) has contingency plans to respond
when a particular port is out of action, but this is a matter which should be taken up with the DfT. In addition to our domestic production, a multiplicity of trading and transport options allows a flexible response when one element is disrupted.
Mr. Martlew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what mechanisms are in place for the (a) representation of the interests and (b) consideration of the views of the Solway Haafnetters by the North West Regional Fisheries, Ecology and Recreation Advisory Committee when making decisions affecting them. 
The Environment Agency advertises regularly for applications for membership of the Environment Agency's North West RFERAC. The most recent recruitment process took place in May 2008. An application for a committee member place was not received by a Solway Haafnet licence holder at that time.
As standard practice, the Environment Agency would take into account the interests of affected stakeholders when forming views on fisheries and other matters. When items connected with haafnetters are debated by the Committee, members are free to ask for any information to assist with their deliberations. All agendas and minutes of the North West RFERAC are available upon request.
Mr. Martlew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the previous Chair of the North West Regional Fisheries, Ecology and Recreation Advisory Committee made a declaration of relevant interests on his appointment. 
The current chair, Nicholas Marriner was appointed to the role in October 2002. He completed a declaration of interest statement in accordance with our procedures. These forms are also completed on an annual basis, and are available for inspection by the public.
Jonathan Shaw: I appointed the new chair for the north west region in May 2008. The current chair was appointed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) in May 2002 and reappointed by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw) in February 2005.
Mr. Martlew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the reasons are for appointments to the Regional Fisheries, Ecology and Recreation Advisory Committee not falling within the remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. 
Jonathan Shaw: The Commissioner for Public Appointments regulates ministerial appointments to the boards of certain public bodiesincluding that of the Environment Agency. The Regional Fisheries, Ecology and Recreation Advisory Committees are, however, considered sub-committees of the Environment Agency board and do not, therefore, fall within the Commissioner's remit.
Kitty Ussher: I am delighted to say that at the credit union All Party Parliamentary Group reception I announced the Government would be introducing a Legislative Reform Order, which will remove unnecessary burdens on credit unions and help them to grow and develop with fitting legislation for the 21(st) century. We will be publishing a consultation document on the proposed changes before summer recess.
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