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14 Jun 2010 : Column 256W—continued

Fishing Catches

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the (a) volume and (b) monetary value of fish stocks landed by the UK fleet in each year since 2005. [2381]

Richard Benyon: The Marine Management Organisation's (MMO; previously the Marine Fisheries Agency (MFA)) annual "Sea Fisheries Statistics" publication covers the volume and value of all landings, broken down by species, into the UK.

Data for 2005 to 2008 inclusive are available in the MFA's 2008 edition which was placed in the Library of the House.

Provisional data for 2009 are available from the MMO's website:


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The MMO will publish the final figures in the 2009 edition in September.

Land Drainage: Finance

Mr Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will review Environment Agency spending guidelines for the purposes of ensuring the availability of adequate funding for land drainage maintenance. [1570]

Richard Benyon: The Environment Agency's investment programme is prioritised to deliver the flood and coastal erosion risk management targets set by Government. The Environment Agency, internal drainage boards, local authorities, water utilities and landowners have powers to provide drainage of land for purposes such as to improve agricultural production but this is not the objective of the Government's investment in flood risk management. The Environment Agency assists with drainage where it is the most cost-effective way of achieving its flood risk management objectives.

Providing more funding for land drainage would mean less money for the core purpose of the Environment Agency's flood defence grant, which is aimed at managing the risk of flooding and coastal erosion.

The Environment Agency may carry out additional drainage related work where it is given funding to do so.

Livestock: Transport

Miss Anne McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will bring forward proposals to abolish the six-day rule relating to auction marts. [1592]

Mr Paice: The Government have no plans to abolish the six-day standstill rule. Standstills confer real benefits by reducing the speed at which undetected disease can spread. Research has shown that the length of time between disease entering the country and its detection is the biggest single factor in determining the size, and hence the cost, of disease outbreaks.

Mackerel: Conservation

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to protect mackerel stocks in UK waters. [2380]

Richard Benyon: Sustainable management of the mackerel stock is extremely important. DEFRA officials are fully involved in the ongoing negotiations involving the European Union, Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and the Russian Federation. The most recent round of negotiations took place at the headquarters of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission in London on 28 to 30 May.

Unfortunately, it was not possible for all the parties to come to an agreement on the management of the stock at that meeting, but efforts will continue to reach an agreement in the coming months.

I also intend to raise this issue, and stress its importance, when I meet the European Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, in the near future.

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Mr Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has for improving river quality in England; and if she will make a statement. [1982]

Richard Benyon: River water quality has improved significantly since the early 1990s. Under the Environment Agency's previous method of assessment, the number of rivers described as good increased from around 50% to over 75% between 1990 and 2008.

Under the new classification system brought in under the 2009 EU Water Framework Directive, the number of water bodies now classed as good is 26%. The quality of our rivers has not suddenly decreased, but good status is now significantly harder to achieve and also includes parameters that were not assessed previously. Through the introduction of the River Basin Management Plans, required under the same directive and published on 22 December 2009, we have agreed measures that will improve the number of water bodies classed as good to at least 30% by 2015. The plans also contain over 8,500 investigations to be completed by the end of 2012, which will provide us with the necessary evidence base to require further measures ahead of 2015 and beyond.

Rural Areas: Broadband

Miss Anne McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, on delivering fast-speed broadband in rural areas; and if she will make a statement. [1594]

Richard Benyon: The Secretary of State has both written to, and spoken with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to express her personal support for the initiatives outlined in his speech of 8 June 2010 to take broadband to rural communities. Enabling investment in new high-speed broadband connections is a priority for the Government, and DEFRA officials will continue to work with their counterparts in DCMS and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to implement these initiatives.

Water Abstraction

Mr Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many investigations have been (a) conducted and (b) completed under the Environment Agency's Restoring Sustainable Abstraction programme to date. [1979]

Richard Benyon: The Environment Agency has conducted and completed preliminary investigations on 305 schemes under the Restoring Sustainable Abstraction programme.

Following these investigations, 148 schemes are being examined to identify the most effective restoration solution that delivers the best environmental improvements. Investigations on the remaining 157 schemes concluded no further action was necessary.

There are another 229 schemes which are undergoing preliminary investigations.

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Mr Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans her Department has for amending or retracting water abstraction licences. [1980]

Richard Benyon: All abstraction licences are assessed through the Environment Agency's Catchment Abstraction Management Strategies.

Licences identified as potentially impacting the environment undergo further analysis in the Environment Agency's Restoring Sustainable Abstraction programme.

Currently, the Environment Agency has 377 open schemes within this programme, covering 638 abstraction licences.

Restoration solutions can include licence changes as well as in river modifications.

Mr Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether compensation funds will be available for amending or retracting water abstraction licences for sites not covered by the EU habitats directive. [1981]

Richard Benyon: Compensation may be payable under Section 61 of the Water Resources Act 1991, where the Secretary of State has directed the Environment Agency to revoke or modify an abstraction licence.

The Environment Agency's annual water resources abstraction charge includes an Environmental Improvement Unit Charge.

Funds collected via this charge are for potential compensation claims payable for abstraction licence changes at habitats directive sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and local undesignated sites, including actions required to deliver Biodiversity Action Plan targets.

Water Companies: Regulation

Miss Anne McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will bring forward proposals for legislation on regulation of the water industry, including competition, metering and water efficiency. [1593]

Richard Benyon: The Government's coalition statement said that we will examine the conclusions of the Cave and Walker reviews, and reform the water industry to ensure more efficient use of water and the protection of poorer households.


Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what public spending projects within (a) Wigan constituency and (b) the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan her Department had secured Treasury approval between 1 January 2010 and the date of her appointment as Secretary of State. [1690]

Richard Benyon: The Government are reassessing spending approvals granted between 1 January 2010
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and the general election to ensure that they offer good value for money and are consistent with the Government's priorities. Further announcements will be made in due course.


Allied Health Professions

Ms Gisela Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the work of his Department's physician's assistants scheme; and whether he expects the scheme to continue. [1377]

Anne Milton: Skills for Health, in their role as the Sector Skills Council for the United Kingdom health sector, have been supporting employers to develop new roles such as the physicians' assistant. The role of physicians' assistant has been particularly successful in London and the west midlands and Skills for Health are sharing this good practice with employers in other areas so that they can consider whether to introduce this new role into their work force.

Given the length of time that the physicians' assistants have been in post, there has been no national evaluation of the role. However, there is to be a formal review of the Competence and Curriculum Framework later this year.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Health Services

Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease national strategy is expected to be (a) completed and (b) implemented in practice. [2142]

Mr Simon Burns: The Department is currently reviewing the 117 responses received to its consultation on a strategy for services for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in England, and is expecting to make further announcements once the review process has concluded.

Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much the NHS spent on treatment of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in each of the last five years. [2143]

Mr Simon Burns: The Department publishes best estimates of the totality of its expenditure split by Programme budget on the Department's website at:

Programme budgeting expenditure at England level is calculated using data from the Department accounts, arm's length bodies within the resource accounting boundary, primary care trusts and strategic health authorities.

The figures for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease fall under Programme Budgeting Category (PBC) Code 11A: Problems of the Respiratory System: Obstructive Airways Disease as shown in the following table.

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Gross expenditure
PBC code Programme budgeting category 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09


Problems of the Respiratory System







Problems of Respiratory System-Obstructive Airways Disease







Problems of the Respiratory System-Asthma







Problems of the Respiratory System-Other






As the underlying data are subject to yearly changes, the figures should be treated with caution when drawing any conclusions on changes in spending patterns between years. Also, the PBC figures for disease-specific expenditure do not include expenditure on prevention, or general practitioner expenditure, but do include prescribing expenditure. Some expenditure on obstructive airways disease may also be included in the "other" category due to problems with miscoding and difficulties with providing a definitive clinical diagnosis for all patients.

Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. [2145]

Mr Simon Burns: The most recent data for 2008-09 published by the NHS Information Centre for health and social care show a total of 834,312 patients were counted on general practitioner practice chronic obstructive pulmonary disease registers as part of the Quality and Outcomes Framework for England.

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