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Mr. Don Foster:
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when he expects the pilots of the proposed independently funded news consortia to start; which English region will host a pilot scheme;
what plans he has to fund such pilot schemes; and what plans he has to make provisions in relation to the existing regional news employees in the pilot area. 
Mr. Simon: The Government expect the independently funded news consortia pilots to commence in 2010; the English region will be determined by Christmas 2009; the Government will be announcing its funding conclusions shortly; and matters of employment have been discussed with the Channel 3 public service broadcasters and are being looked at further as part of the tender process.
Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions he has had with (a) the Football Association and (b) Premier Rugby on primacy of tenure at shared stadia. 
Mr. Sutcliffe: I have had no recent discussions with either the Football Association or Premier Rugby about the primacy of tenure at shared stadia. This is a matter for the national governing bodies and individual clubs to discuss and agree.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission when the Electoral Commission plans to publish its guidance on the new provisions on non-resident donors in the Political Parties and Elections Bills. 
Mr. Streeter: The Electoral Commission informs me that it will develop guidance on the new provisions when the commencement date of the provisions is confirmed and the contents of any secondary legislation relating to the provisions are known.
I also refer the hon. Member to comments made by the Minister of State for Justice, the right hon. Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills), on 20 July 2009, Official Report, column 687, during consideration of Lords Amendments to the Bill that
"given their complexity, we are practically unable to commence provision before the summer of 2010".
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average cost of processing a Single Farm Payment scheme claim was in each of the last four years for which figures are available; how many such claims were made in each such year; what the (a) mean, (b) median, (c) minimum and (d) maximum claim was in each such year; and if he will make a statement. 
The NAO Value for Money Report quoted the following figures for the processing cost per claimant calculated on the basis of including IT depreciation, amortisation, contractors, staff costs, accommodation, foreign exchange, communication and other non-IT running costs.
|Single payment scheme year||Number of claims|
In an answer given to the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) on 17 November 2008, Official Report, column 89W, the (a) mean, (b) median, (c) minimum and (d) maximum claim value for the SPS 2007 was reported as:
The information in respect of the (a) mean, (b) median, (c) minimum and (d) maximum claim value in the other scheme years is not readily accessible and I will write with the information, along with an update on SPS 2007 when it is available, with a copy being placed in the House Library.
Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate his Department has made of the number of single farm payments which have been (a) withheld and (b) cancelled by the Rural Payments Agency in each of the last five years. 
Dan Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether (a) bacillus thuringiensis and (b) agro bacterium have been identified in cases of bee colony collapse. 
Dan Norris: The Food and Environment Research Agency's National Bee Unit has been investigating the causes of colony losses in England and Wales over the past two years. The results have shown that the most important risk factor in the mortality or weakening of colonies is deformed wing virus, a virus transmitted by the parasitic varroa mite, clearly indicating failed or unsuccessful treatments of mite infestations. Samples were not screened for bacillus thuringiensis or agro bacterium as these have not been identified as possible risk factors. A final report with the results from the investigations into abnormal colony losses will be published later this year.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the potential use of biochar as a means of promoting agricultural production; and if he will make a statement. 
[holding answer 9 November 2009]: No formal assessment has been made of the potential use of biochar as a means of promoting agricultural production. However, a short research project has been commissioned to assess the potential benefits, costs and
issues surrounding the addition of biochar to soil. The research report will critically review the state of knowledge regarding biochar, identify the uncertainties and the risks associated with the addition of biochar to soil, and identify gaps in the evidence base. We expect the review will be completed by the end of December 2009.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many landowners in each designated area (a) were requested to take part in, (b) took part in and (c) refused to take part in the bovine TB vaccination programme for badgers; and what financial incentives are available to land owners to encourage them to participate in the programme. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) are currently in the process of signing up landowners in the project catchment areas. Fera are inviting all registered cattle owners in the six 75,000 acre catchment areas to register their interest with the aim of identifying potential participants on up to 25,000 acres of land on which to vaccinate badgers. Therefore not all farmers within the catchment areas will be able to participate in the project.
This is an ongoing process and Fera have not yet completed the process of writing to all cattle owners in the catchment areas. However, the response so far has been encouraging with 255 landowners responding positively.
|Catchment area||Number of letters sent to farmers||Information and registration meeting held in area||Number of positive responses to date||Number of negative responses to date|
|(1) Letters and visits to landowners.|
The table was provided by Fera.
There are no financial incentives available to farmers to encourage participation. The project is free for farmers to participate and they do not have to take any action themselves other than grant access to their land. Participating farmers will also potentially reduce the risk of transmission from badgers to their cattle.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps he plans to take to improve the animal welfare standards of cattle; and if he will make a statement; 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The welfare of cattle is provided for by way of the general provisions of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007, which has specific schedules relating to cattle and calf welfare. DEFRA also has a welfare code for cattle which provides good husbandry advice, which producers have by law to be familiar with and have access to.
Animal Health enforces on-farm welfare legislation and conducts regular programmed inspections of farmed premises to check the welfare of livestock, as well as investigating all complaints and allegations about poor welfare on-farm.
DEFRA is currently considering the Farm Animal Welfare Council's Opinion and the European Commission's European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reports on the welfare of dairy cows which have been recently
published. The findings of both will feed into the UK's negotiating line for the Council of Europe's Convention on the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes current discussions on revising its cattle recommendation.
DEFRA has a contract with ADAS to run an advisory programme for farmers in England to encourage good animal welfare. Each year ADAS run, on DEFRA's behalf, a series of awareness campaigns for producers to promote good standards of animal welfare and husbandry. This year's cattle campaign will focus on promoting best practice in managing the dairy cow around calving. In previous years, successful campaigns have included lameness and herd mobility scoring, avoiding losses and improving welfare in cattle rearing systems and housing the modern dairy cow.
DEFRA's animal welfare research programme also funds research into welfare issues affecting dairy cattle. Recent projects include: alleviation of lameness in dairy heifers; development of a lameness control plan; and investigating the management and welfare of the continuously housed cows.
Mr. Benyon: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Leominster of 22 July 2008, Official Report, column 1002W, on cetaceans, what information his Department holds on the recipients of the video and photographic material collected by the Sea Mammal Research Unit; 
(2) with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Leominster of 22 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1004-5W on cetaceans, for what reasons evidence of cetaceans being caught in nets collected as part of Government-funded research is not made publicly available; and what account he take of obligations under the EU Habitats Directive on decisions on whether to make available such evidence; 
(3) with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Leominster of 22 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1004-5W, on cetaceans, whether (a) Ministers, (b) advisers and (c) officials in his Department have seen the photographic and video evidence of cetaceans being caught in nets collected by the Sea Mammal Research Unit; 
(4) with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Leominster of 22 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1004-5W, on cetaceans, whether photographic and video evidence of cetaceans being caught in nets collected by the Sea Mammal Research Unit as part of Government-funded research has been destroyed; and what his policy is on the (a) retention and (b) publication of the outcomes of research funded by his Department; 
(5) with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Leominster of 22 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1004-5W, on cetaceans, what photographic and video evidence of cetaceans being caught in nets has been collected by the Sea Mammal Research Unit as part of Government-funded research since July 2008; and if he will (a) obtain and (b) make publicly available the photographic and video evidence of cetaceans being caught in nets collected by the Sea Mammal Research Unit. 
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