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(5) what steps were taken to protect against the GM-contamination of the oilseed rape seeds found to be contaminated with GM material grown in Somerset in 2008 (a) during cultivation and (b) post-harvest; [250051]

(6) whether the areas immediately surrounding the GM-contaminated oilseed rape seeds grown in Somerset in 2008 have been examined for potential GM-contamination. [250155]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The affected trial grown in Somerset was of a new variety of conventionally bred, open-pollinated oilseed rape. The seed was imported from the USA with a view to being grown in various trials in the UK. This included national list trials, for which an application was made a year after the Somerset trial was sown. However, these did not take place and the variety has been withdrawn from the national list process. The trial in Somerset was carried out privately on behalf of the company that owns and imported the seed.

The conventional seed had a low level of GM seed mixed within it (0.05 per cent. or one in every 2,000 seeds), of a type approved by the European Union for food and animal feed use, but not for cultivation. It did not become known that the seed planted in Somerset had this GM content until after the trial had been harvested. As such, no measures were applied during cultivation to limit the potential dispersal of GM material. After harvest the farmer contracted to grow the trial left the ground fallow and let his livestock graze on emerging oilseed rape ‘volunteer’ plants (those that grow from seed shed at harvest). The farmer is being advised by the GM Inspectorate on the best way to further manage and reduce any volunteers. Given the low level of GM seed originally sown and the farmer's action post-harvest, it is not expected that GM volunteers will be a significant issue.

A separate trial of a different variety of conventional oilseed rape was grown immediately adjacent to the affected trial crop by the same farmer. Testing indicates that as a result of cross-pollination this adjacent crop acquired a very low adventitious GM presence (less than 0.01 per cent.). No other crops were grown in the vicinity of the affected trial, including on neighbouring farms, that might have been subject to GM cross-pollination. In this situation, it is not proposed to monitor the local area for potential contamination. The accidental sowing of the GM seed has not posed any risk to human health and the environment, and nor should there be any economic prejudice to neighbouring farmers through possible cross-pollination.

The affected trial took place within the south Somerset district council area. We do not think it would be appropriate to disclose the precise location, in part because it might deter people from coming forward with information about potential unauthorised GM releases, which would not be in the public interest. However, we are currently considering requests to release the exact location under the Environmental Information Regulations.

Marine Management Organisation: Finance

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent estimate he has made of the cost of establishing the Marine Management Organisation, broken down by budget heading. [251032]

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Huw Irranca-Davies: A current estimate of the cost of establishing the Marine Management Organisation, which is currently not broken down by budget heading, can be found in the Impact Assessment for the Marine and Coastal Access Bill. This is available on the DEFRA website.


Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) his counterparts and (b) farming industry representatives from (i) other EU member states, (ii) Scotland and (iii) Wales on (A) current and proposed EU pesticide regulations, (B) the import of farm products from countries outside the EU and (C) proposed changes to the EU modulation regime; and if he will make a statement. [251280]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The UK’s negotiating position on the proposed authorisation regulation for plant protection products was adopted in consultation with other Departments and the devolved administrations through the Committee on National Security, International Relations and Development’s sub-committee on Europe. Ministers worked extremely hard throughout the negotiations to secure a balanced outcome, and held bilateral meetings with Commissioner Vassiliou, Ministers of other member states, and key stakeholders on the proposals and its potential impacts. It remains unclear how the introduction of the regulation will affect the import of produce from outside the EU.

The Secretary of State had numerous discussions with other member states, devolved administrations and stakeholders on the CAP Health Check, including changes to the EU modulation regime. These helped to achieve an increased focus on environmental benefits across Europe, by increasing the rate of compulsory modulation to 10 per cent. by 2012, and therefore the share of CAP funding that goes towards environment and rural development schemes. As part of this, the Secretary of State met Ministers from other member states, including France, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Ireland, Denmark and Hungary, as well as Commissioner Fischer-Boel. In their approach to the health check negotiations, the Government worked closely with the devolved Administrations, both through ministerial meetings and technical discussions between officials, and with stakeholders, including through ministerial meetings and a public consultation.

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the effects of a reduction in pesticides usage on levels of greenhouse gas emissions. [251987]

Huw Irranca-Davies [holding answer 27 January 2009]: My Department is currently not conducting any assessments of the effects of a reduction in pesticides usage on levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Water Supply

Mr. Walker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps his Department is taking in its formulation of policy to take account of the impact which climate change will have on England’s water resources; and if he will make a statement; [250953]

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(2) how many water abstractions have been restored to permitted levels since the Restoring Sustainable Abstraction Programme was launched in 1999; and if he will make a statement; [250955]

(3) what steps his Department is taking to prevent over-abstraction of water from rivers, wetlands, lakes and groundwaters; and if he will make a statement. [250956]

Huw Irranca-Davies: In April 2007, it became a statutory requirement for water companies to prepare and maintain previously voluntary water resources management plans. The water resources management plans look ahead 25 years and include projections of current and future demands for water, and how the companies aim to meet this demand.

In their plans, water companies must take into account the implications of climate change in their supply and demand forecasts, and include an assessment of the impact of each water resource supply option in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Environment Agency has responsibility for managing water resources. The Agency’s forthcoming Water Resources Strategy will include the actions that will need to be taken to ensure enough water for people and the environment. It has been informed by research into future river flows to 2050 and groundwater resources to the 2020s and 2030s.

The Environment Agency is the statutory body with a duty to manage water resources in England and Wales and is taking forward the Restoring Sustainable Abstraction (RSA) programme. To date, the RSA has been limited to identifying the sites where abstraction is at unsustainable levels. It has carried out investigations to identify where changes to abstraction regimes are necessary. In many cases those investigations have concluded that the licensed abstractions are having no adverse effect on the environment. Therefore no action to alter licensed abstractions is necessary.

Of the 2,970 Water Resources licences that have been assessed under the habitats regulations review of consents because they were likely to cause a significant effect on high priority Natura 2000 sites (that is special areas of conservation (SAC) and special protection areas (SPA)), 274 have been found to require an options appraisal to remove a possible adverse effect. In 2,696 cases it could be shown that there was no adverse effect on site integrity and therefore no action was required. Further work is required on medium and low priority sites but to date this relates to less than 10 per cent. of the abstraction licences in England and Wales.

It may also be necessary to take action on other sites not designated under the Habitats and Birds Directives or as SSSIs.

The first cycle of the Environment Agency’s Catchment Abstraction Management Strategies has helped to improve the Agency’s knowledge of where there may be problems of unsustainable abstraction around the country and of specific sites that will require further investigation through RSA.

RSA will also contribute to the Water Framework Directive (WFD) by providing a framework to restore unsustainable abstraction and work towards achieving the WFD target of meeting good ecological status by 2015.

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The Agency is expecting to start taking action to revoke or modify abstraction licences at those sites where this is deemed necessary in 2009-10.

Water companies in England have indicated that they intend to take account of the habitats directive changes in their water resource management plans and work with the Environment Agency to resolve unsustainable abstractions. This will mean that some of the licences that have the biggest impacts on some of England’s most important conservation sites will be resolved by voluntary changes.

Mr. Walker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to ensure that Ofwat takes account of the effects of climate change in its periodic review of water prices; and if he will make a statement. [250954]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Ofwat sets out in its documents “Setting Price Limits for 2010-15: Framework and approach” and “Capital Expenditure for 2010-15: Ofwat’s views on companies’ draft business plans” how it is taking into account the impact of climate change for the 2009 price review. These documents are available from the Ofwat website.


Economic Inactivity

6. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on levels of economic inactivity in Wales. [250638]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I have had many recent discussions with the First Minister about economic inactivity in Wales.

We are working together to help create jobs and help people get back to work, while ensuring that those who cannot work receive the support they need.

Job Losses

7. Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate he has made of the number of job losses in Wales since 1 December 2008. [250639]

Mr. David: Labour Market Statistics figures for December will not be published until next month.

However, working alongside the Welsh Assembly Government, we are doing everything we can to help individuals back into work.

Banking Assistance: Small Businesses

8. Nia Griffith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on policy to ensure banks in receipt of public support assist small businesses in Wales. [250641]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I have regular discussions with the First Minister about assistance for small businesses in Wales, not least, at the All Wales Economic summits that I attend.

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Defence Training Review

9. Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the implications for Wales of the defence training review programme. [250642]

Mr. David: The St. Athan Defence Training Academy is a very important project for Wales. The substantial investment of Package 1 will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs both during construction and from 2013, when construction is completed.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill

10. Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will work with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the National Assembly for Wales to ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill in Welsh waters. [250643]

Mr. David: I have discussed the implementation of new marine legislation with the Welsh Assembly Government. This Government and the Welsh Assembly Government are committed to working together constructively to ensure their successful implementation.

Manufacturing Companies

11. Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with Welsh Assembly Government Ministers on the cash flow of manufacturing companies in Wales. [250644]

Mr. Paul Murphy: Through my work on the National Economic Council and the All Wales Economic Forum, I am in touch with economic developments at the heart of Government and directly from the people of Wales.

Last week, I had also had a constructive meeting with David Rosser (Director CBI) and will be meeting FSB on Monday.

Small Businesses

12. Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made of the levels of support from the Government available to small businesses in Wales. [250646]

Mr. Paul Murphy: Small businesses in Wales have a tremendous amount of support from both the UK and Welsh Assembly governments (WAG), such as the recently announced package of a £10 billion working capital fund, Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme, and the Capital for Enterprise Fund.

Further, the Welsh Assembly government’s Flexible Support for Business scheme provides help and advice as well as operating the Single Investment Fund. Businesses in Wales also benefit from assistance with their tax liabilities from the HMRC Business Support Service.

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Public Expenditure

13. Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what the level of public expenditure per head of population in Wales was in 2008. [250647]

Mr. David: Figures for total identifiable public expenditure per head in Wales are published retrospectively by the Treasury as a Command Paper. Figures for 2008 are not yet available.

Departmental Correspondence

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what his Department’s average response time to a letter received from (a) an hon. Member and (b) a member of the public was in each of the last three years. [251429]

Mr. Paul Murphy: The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the performance of departments in replying to Members correspondence. The report for 2007 was published on 20 March 2008, Official Report, columns 71-74WS. Information for 2008 is currently being collated and will be published as soon as it is ready. Reports for earlier years are available in the Library of the House.

For correspondence from members of the public, information for the current year cannot be provided without incurring disproportionate cost. The Wales Office aims to respond to all written correspondence within 15 working days. As reported in the Department’s Annual Reports, 91 per cent. were answered within the timescale in 2007-08, 93 per cent. in 2006-07, and 94 per cent. in 2005-06.


Airwave Service: Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many Airwave handsets issued to the Marine and Coastguard Agency have been lost in each year since their introduction; and how many handsets issued to the Agency have been disabled by the service provider through (a) loss, (b) breakage and (c) other reasons in each such year. [246186]

Jim Fitzpatrick: None.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has never been issued with an Airwave handset.

The MCA has a fixed set and not a handset as stated in the written answer to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) on 17 November 2008, Official Report, column 27W.

A correction has been issued.

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