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I am confident therefore that the intelligence gathering capability and the monitoring of wildlife imports has been greatly improved and that our ability not only to monitor wildlife imports but more importantly to prevent the illegal importation of wildlife has been greatly enhanced.

HMRC is responsible for the enforcement of import and export CITES controls at the UK frontier and has a specialist CITES team based at London Heathrow airport. Profiling and targeting activities are included within the team's responsibilities to combat illegal imports. The team also makes an active contribution to work on the UK national CITES priorities.

In accordance with animal health requirements, animals have to be accompanied by animal health and public health certification as appropriate. Animals are subjected to post-import tests based on risk, taking into account the species and the country of origin.

Avian Influenza: Disease Control

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps the Government is taking to work with producers of free range turkeys to reduce the likelihood of outbreaks of avian influenza; [222385]

(2) whether his Department has consulted the (a) National Farmers Union and (b) British Poultry Council as part of the process it is undertaking to draw up best practice guidelines to reduce the risk of an outbreak of avian influenza. [222386]

Hilary Benn: The Government have published extensive advice to all keepers of poultry and other kept birds on the steps they can take to minimise the risk of introducing avian influenza to their flocks. This advice is available on the DEFRA website and in leaflet format. These messages are particularly reinforced during incidents of avian influenza. We have also invited representatives of the poultry sector to work with us on the guidance and encourage poultry keepers to consider the contingency plans needed in the event they do find themselves in a disease control area. We applaud the joint initiative by the British Poultry Council, National Farmers Union, Quality British Turkey and Golden Promise (free range Traditional Farmfresh Turkeys) to produce and distribute best practice advice on housing, sighting, management of flocks and biosecurity for free range turkeys.

Batteries: Recycling

Mrs. Hodgson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the percentage of spent batteries which were recycled in the latest period for which figures are available. [222739]

Hilary Benn: The UK currently recycles 90 per cent. of automotive and industrial batteries and approximately 3 per cent. or 600 tonnes, of waste portable batteries each year.

Mrs. Hodgson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with producers of batteries on EU Directive 2006/66 on the recycling of batteries. [222745]


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Hilary Benn: DEFRA policy officials have been engaged in informal discussions with battery producers through periods of formal and informal consultation for the past 12 months. Discussions covered the various aspects of forthcoming producer obligations under the Batteries Directive and included the directive’s recycling targets.

Beekeeping

Bill Etherington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what departmental initiatives are in place to increase the number of honey beekeepers in the North East region. [223871]

Hilary Benn: New beekeepers can request a free apiary visit from their local bee inspector, who will provide help and advice. This is part of the National Bee Unit’s (NBU) statutory inspection programme for notifiable diseases and pests. The NBU also provides a free comprehensive training and education programme for beekeepers to enable them to develop their skills and become more self-reliant in combating disease problems through improved bee husbandry. In 2007, beekeepers benefited from more than 26,000 colony inspections and an extensive programme of training, including over 600 technical events of which 134 were in the north east region), delivered by the NBU to help improve disease control through good apiary management.

Bees

Tom Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research his Department is funding on the promotion of selective breeding of bees to encourage behaviour that will protect the viability of colonies. [224158]

Hilary Benn: DEFRA currently spends around £1.3 million per annum on a range of bee health measures to assist the beekeeping sector in England. There are no funds allocated specifically for research on selective breeding programmes.

However, this issue is addressed in the draft Bee Health Strategy, which has just completed its public consultation. It is envisaged that the strategy will be published in the autumn.

Bees: Diseases

Bill Etherington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the resistance of northern brown honey bees to (a) the varroa mite, (b) foulbrood diseases, (c) colony collapse disorder and (d) small hive beetle. [223872]

Hilary Benn: No assessments regarding northern brown honey bees have been made. However, a project studying the genetic basis of resistance pathways in honey bees commenced at the National Bee Unit in 2007-08 and resistance to European foulbrood is currently being studied.

The cause of colony collapse disorder in the USA is unknown and there is no current evidence to suggest that the losses experienced in the UK are related. However,
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investigations into cases of colony losses this season where there is no readily available explanation are continuing as a high priority.

Research into small hive beetle is currently focussed on development of lures to facilitate early detection.

Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 10 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1772-3W, on bees: diseases; what further steps he plans to take following reports of further colony losses; [223979]

Hilary Benn: The proportion of colonies found dead at the beginning of September was 12.3 per cent. of nearly 23,000 colony inspections. This is slightly higher than at the same time in 2007. The NBU are continuing to investigate reports of significant colony losses as a high priority.

Tom Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans he has to make infestation of beehives by the small hive beetle a notifiable condition. [224159]

Hilary Benn: The small hive beetle ( Aethina tumida), is a notifiable pest under the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (England) Order 2006 (SI 2006 No.342).

Tom Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research his Department is funding on ways to combat the varroa mite. [224160]

Hilary Benn: Funding across DEFRA and the devolved administrations on bee health in 2007-08 is around £1.9 million, including £200,000 for research and development. This overall funding includes work to develop sustainable approaches for controlling both statutory and non-statutory pests. This year research projects include work on the taxonomy of UK and exotic honey bee viruses, further details of which can be found on the science pages of the DEFRA website.

Government investment in research on varroa exceeds £2.2 million over the past 12 years. It is proven that the best way of tackling varroa is by means of a careful programme of integrated pest management, and beekeepers need to learn to control it to protect their bee colonies. The National Bee Unit assists beekeepers in improved bee husbandry, and has produced a comprehensive advisory leaflet on the subject.

The priorities for future funding will be determined in the context of developing a bee health strategy in liaison with stakeholders.

Tom Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the risk of colony collapse disorder affecting the bee industry. [224161]

Hilary Benn: The proportion of colonies found dead at the beginning of September was 12.3 per cent., based on nearly 23,000 colony inspections. This is slightly higher than at the same time in 2007. The NBU are continuing to investigate reports of significant colony losses as a high priority.


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Birds: Animal Welfare

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the animal welfare implications of the types of mesh used in the construction of bird feeders; [222361]

(2) what steps his Department is taking in response to representations received on the risks of certain types of mesh on bird feeders to birds; [222362]

(3) what assessment his Department has made of the risks to birds of certain types of mesh on bird feeders; what representations he has received on this issue; and if he will make a statement. [222364]

Hilary Benn: DEFRA has not carried out any research on the animal welfare aspects of the types of mesh used in the construction of bird feeders or made an assessment of risks to birds of certain types of mesh. I am not aware of any representations on this issue.

Cetaceans: Fisheries

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) dolphins and (b) porpoises died as a result of by-catch in fishing nets in UK waters in the latest period for which figures are available; and what target his Department has to reduce mortality rates in each case. [222724]

Hilary Benn: In August 2008 the UK submitted to the European Commission its annual report on the implementation of Council Regulation 812/2004 on cetacean by-catch. The report was produced by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) as part of their scientific research contract with DEFRA and it summarises cetacean by-catch observations undertaken in 2006-07.

The report states that no cetacean by-catch was observed in the fleet segments designated under Council Regulation 812/2004 on cetacean by-catch in the period of 2006-07. The Annual Report of the United Kingdom to the European Commission on the implementation of Council Regulation 812/2004 on cetacean by-catch is available at:

This report also includes data on cetacean by-catch observed under the obligations of the Habitats Directive.

DEFRA and the devolved administrations' fisheries departments published the UK Small Cetacean By-catch Response Strategy in March 2003, which highlights the Government's thinking on how to tackle cetacean by-catch in certain fisheries in UK waters. An update on specific targets and progress to date on implementing the strategy can also be found at:

Coastal Areas: Land

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 22 July 2008, Official Report, column 1005W, on coastal areas: land, what powers will be available to local communities to affect the poisoning of the coastal corridor. [224281]


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Hilary Benn: The draft Marine Bill proposes that Natural England will be able to identify a coastal route and associated coastal margin around the English coast, to which there will be a right of access on foot.

The Bill requires Natural England to consult affected landowners before preparing its coastal access report which it has to submit to the Secretary of State. The report will include details of the route, of associated spreading room and of any proposals for exclusions and restrictions on access. In addition, the landowner and access authorities will be given an opportunity to make representations about matters in the coastal access reports. The final decision on the route and margin will be taken by the Secretary of State after consultation and representations have been made on any proposals from Natural England.

Cremation: Fees and Charges

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effects of implementing Environmental Protection guidance note PG5/2(04) on local authority crematorium fees. [222444]

Hilary Benn: The costs of implementing controls over mercury emissions, which comprise the main additional requirements of guidance note PG5/2(04), as amended in 2005, were set out in two consultation papers published in 2003 and 2004, which can be found on the DEFRA website. The 2003 estimate was £55 per cremation, which was substantially reduced when the decision was taken to apply the requirements to only 50 per cent. of cremations.

Crops

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact on farmers of the levels of rainfall over the 2008 harvest season; and if he will make a statement. [224151]

Hilary Benn: The 2008 harvest period has been one of the wettest on record with rainfall around double normal levels, which slowed progress with the harvest. The Government have taken action to help farmers in England by granting a temporary exemption from the cross compliance standard to enable them to use mechanical equipment and vehicles on waterlogged soils in order to complete the harvest. We are continuing to monitor developments closely, but it is still too early to make a full assessment of the impact of the wet weather on yield and crop quality.

Departmental Data Protection

James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many notifications (a) his Department and (b) its agencies made to the Information Commissioner following the loss or mishandling of personal information or data in each of the last three years; and what was notified in each case. [222897]

Hilary Benn: DEFRA has published details of the personal data related incidents notified to the Information Commissioner's Office in 2007-08 in its 2008 Departmental Report published on 19 May 2008.


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Before November 2007 the Information Commissioner's Office did not specifically keep records of instances of security breaches.

I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 25 June 2008, providing the final report on measures for data handling procedures in Government.

Departmental Databases

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what use (a) his Department and (b) its agencies make of (i) MOSAIC data and (ii) ACORN data. [221935]

Hilary Benn: The DEFRA Survey of Public Attitudes and Behaviours toward the Environment 2007 included both ACORN and MOSAIC in the data coding to facilitate secondary analysis.

ACORN and MOSAIC datasets have also been used by third parties working on our behalf, for example, for DEFRA-funded research related to perceptions of quality of life.

Further information is not held centrally within DEFRA and to obtain this would incur disproportionate cost.

Departmental Home Working

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 3 July 2008, Official Report, column 1079W, on departmental home working, if he will make it his policy to collate and maintain central records of home working by his Department's staff. [222461]

Hilary Benn: All staff at DEFRA can apply to work flexibly, including working from home.

As requests to work from home are submitted on an informal basis for approval within the local business area, we do not monitor applications and we have no plans to change this and collate and maintain central records.


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