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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 17 July 2008

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Fruit and Vegetable Grading

14. Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress is being made in discussions on revising the EU grading rules for fruit and vegetables. [219300]

Jonathan Shaw: The June 2007 Agriculture Council agreed to a package of reforms to the CAP fruit and vegetables sector, since when the European Commission have been taking forward the implementation of the new regime. This includes revised rules on marketing standards which are currently under discussion in the Fruit and Vegetables Management Committee.

Upper River Ray

15. Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make funding available for environmental projects for the Upper River Ray catchment area in Oxfordshire. [219301]

Mr. Woolas: Funding has been available for environmental projects within the Upper River Ray catchment area for over 10 years through various agri-environment schemes.

Agricultural Theft

16. Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the likely effects on trends in the theft of agricultural equipment and red diesel of rising world oil and metal prices. [219303]

Jonathan Shaw: The Secretary of State has not had any discussion with the Home Secretary on the theft of agricultural equipment and red diesel. Farm security is a matter for individual farms to address, with advice from the police if necessary.

I sympathise with farmers who have been victims of crimes, but crime is the remit of the Home Office, and not this Department.

Chewing Gum

17. Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will bring forward proposals for incentives to encourage manufacturers of chewing gum to create a biodegradable product. [219304]

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Jonathan Shaw: Manufacturers assure us that they continue to put significant resources into developing less adhesive products, while retaining their marketability and safety. Additional tax relief is already available to companies incurring expenditure on qualifying research and development activities.

Food Prices

18. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government are taking to seek reductions in food prices. [219305]

Hilary Benn: High food prices are a global issue requiring coordinated action. The G8 recently agreed to invest $10 billion to address short-term humanitarian needs and to improve food security over the longer term. Rising food prices have an impact at home and abroad—particularly for the poorest—and today my Department has published a discussion paper which sets out what we consider necessary to ensure UK food security in a globalised world.

Energy Efficiency

19. Mrs. Hodgson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on making consumer products more energy efficient. [219308]

Joan Ruddock: The publication of the Progress Report on Sustainable Products and Materials was agreed by the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Energy and Environment. Regular meetings have also been held with industry stakeholders such as retailers and manufacturers.

Consumer Council for Water

20. Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the Consumer Council for Water; and what matters were discussed. [219310]

Mr. Woolas: Ministers and DEFRA officials are in regular contact with the Consumer Council for Water on a range of issues.

Fishing Industry

21. Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the performance of the UK fishing industry. [219311]

Jonathan Shaw: Information of the performance of the UK fishing industry is published annually by the Marine and Fisheries Agency in: ‘United Kingdom Sea Fisheries Statistics’. The document includes information on the size of the UK fishing fleet, the number of fishermen, key economic indicators, and the quantity and value of sea fish landings, imports and exports. Comparisons are made with the fishing industries in Europe and the rest of the world.

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Single Payment Scheme

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the Rural Payments Agency's performance against its targets in delivering the single payment scheme. [219296]

Hilary Benn: The Rural Payments Agency met all of their payment targets for the 2007 Single Payment Scheme. This demonstrates a continued improvement in RPA performance and is another important step towards the agency again providing an acceptable level of service to its customers.

Marine Habitats

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent steps he has taken to safeguard marine habitats; and if he will make a statement. [219297]

Jonathan Shaw: The Government are committed to establishing (by 2012) a network of well managed marine protected areas that will conserve the richness of our marine environment.

Carbon Emissions

Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effect of the global economic situation on individual consumers’ carbon footprints. [219302]

Hilary Benn: In the short-term, high fossil fuel prices and the global downturn could lead to slightly reduced demand for fuel and energy, and thus slightly lower carbon emissions in the economy as a whole, as people reduce their demand for fuel and energy.

If fossil fuel prices remain high in the long run, we expect producers and consumers to adapt and consume less fossil-fuel based energy, leading to reduced carbon emissions.

Environment Protection: Housing

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar of 7 May 2008, Official Report, column 905W, on environment protection: housing, whether the carbon footprint regarding the 60 per cent. reduction target relates to housing only. [219021]

Mr. Woolas: The Green Neighbourhoods project aims to retrofit up to one hundred selected neighbourhoods across England, with concentrations of hard-to-treat homes, with energy saving, microgeneration and water efficiency measures that would aim to reduce the carbon footprints of their homes by at least 60 per cent.

Pesticides: EC Action

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason the Government abstained from the vote on the proposed
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Pesticides Directive in the Council of Ministers in respect of changing approval of pesticides from risk-based to hazard-based examination. [219447]

Mr. Woolas: The UK abstained on this issue as we remained concerned that no proper assessment of the potential impact of the proposals on agriculture in the Community, or of their benefits for consumers, had been presented to member states. We could not support measures which would have significant adverse impacts on crop protection and secure no significant health benefits for consumers.

Rural Areas

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of progress against his Department’s objective of achieving fair access to public services for rural communities. [219307]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA’s new departmental strategic objective, which is based on outcomes rather than inputs, is “Strong Rural Communities”. Progress against this DSO, published on the DEFRA website, is assessed quarterly against a range of indicators which show, in the main, a very positive picture.

In addition, the Commission for Rural Communities published its “State of the Countryside” report yesterday, in which the accessibility of services for rural communities is discussed in detail.


Departmental Official Cars

Stephen Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales which make and model of car he has chosen as his Ministerial car to be provided by the Government Car and Despatch Agency. [217750]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick) on 16 July 2008, Official Report, column 414W.

Departmental Sick Leave

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many staff in his Department have had five or more periods of sickness absence of less than five days in two or more of the last five years. [218972]

Mr. Paul Murphy: None.

Northern Ireland

Departmental Sick Leave

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many working days have been lost due to sickness amongst employees for which his Department is responsible in each year since 1997. [218041]

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Paul Goggins: The following table details the number of working days lost due to sickness among employees in the Northern Ireland Office in each year from 2000. Details are unavailable prior to 2000. The figures prior to 2004-05 do not include Home Civil Servants (HCS staff); however, they are included in figures from 2004-05 onwards.

Staff included Total days absence






















Young Offenders

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what procedures are in place to identify (a) mental health problems, (b) learning difficulties and (c) addictions among those entering young offender centres in Northern Ireland; [218760]

(2) what percentage of residents in young offenders centres in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years have been diagnosed as having (a) mental health problems and (b) learning difficulties; [218775]

(3) what percentage of those detained in young offender centres have experienced (a) learning difficulties, (b) literacy and numeracy difficulties, (c) time spent as a looked-after child, (d) mental health problems or personality disorder, (e) family break-down and (f) exclusion from school; [218803]

(4) what procedures there are for assessment of those entering young offender centres for (a) mental health problems or personality disorders, (b) educational under-achievement, (c) learning difficulties, (d) addictions and (e) family difficulties or breakdown. [218810]

Paul Goggins: All young offenders coming into prison undergo a health care committal screen on the first night. They are asked questions about mental health problems, drug and/or alcohol use or misuse and if they have any particular literacy problems. All inmates are also seen, on initial committal, by Opportunity Youth to identify any alcohol or substance misuse problems. If specific mental health problems are identified then they would receive onward referral to mental health support within health care.

The first assessment will be carried out by a mental health nurse who will provide basic support but, if required, a further referral will be made to another specialist, such as cognitive behavioural therapists, Opportunity Youth or psychiatrists.

A health care induction programme, aimed at providing inmates with information regarding the health services available to them whilst in custody, has been produced and is being delivered twice a week to all new committals. Inmates are informed of the clinics and support services available to them and how to access them. All staff, including the dental team, deliver the induction programme on a rotational basis.

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Wider research in the UK suggests that approximately 60-70 per cent. of prisoners have some mental health problem but detailed analysis has not yet been undertaken specifically in relation to the young offender centre population.

Inmates are also given an education assessment within 20 days of committal which assesses literacy and numeracy ability and also tests for dyslexia. They are also asked to make the assessor aware of any other known learning difficulties, in particular ADHD.

In the last three years 31 per cent. of male young offenders have shown some indicators for dyslexia, (this compares with a figure of approximately 10 per cent. in the general population). A pilot is under way to assess better learning difficulties among the young offenders and in particular ADHD, which will also develop and pilot appropriate interventions.

At present, education staff are able to assess but not formally diagnose specific learning difficulties, although they can and do identify indications for certain conditions and plan and deliver lessons accordingly. Prison Service will also consider a diagnosis of dyslexia, which is a more formal process than assessment and must be carried out by a suitable qualified individual, as part of the pilot.

The Prison Service does not routinely have access to the academic, social care and other records of individuals before they come into custody. However, our own assessments on committal show that around 70 per cent. have literacy and numeracy skills below level 1, which is comparable to that of an 11-year-old.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that lead responsibility for the provision of prison health care was transferred to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety on 1 April 2008 and therefore I have copied these questions and my response to the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey MLA.

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