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Government-owned Vacant Housing Stock

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The information is given in the table below:

1 April 19971 April 19981 April 1999
Government departments and other public sector 19,28019,11919,965
--of which
Housing Action Trusts 2,5502,7103,383
Home Office 268217259

As the majority of government department stock is owned by the Ministry of Defence, DETR (Highways Agency) and Home Office these figures are shown separately. Figures for housing action trusts are also shown. The remainder consists mainly of vacant stock owned or controlled by NHS trusts, provincial police forces, Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly.

These figures incorporate estimates by individual departments and agencies where precise data are not available for security reasons.

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Termite Infestation at Saunton

Lord Methuen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Baroness Hayman on 28 April 1998 (H.L. Deb., cols. 150-51) and the Written Answer by Baroness Hayman on 3 June 1998 (WA 30), whether there has been any spread of the termite infestation in Saunton, North Devon, beyond the two properties stated; and what success there has been in controlling the infestation in those two properties.[HL1491]

Lord Whitty: The Building Research Establishment monitoring team has noted a substantial reduction in termite activity at the affected sites and there is no evidence of the colony having spread beyond the two properties originally infested. Routine monitoring at the two properties and surrounding area conducted in the first week of March recorded only a single residual isolated colony at one of the properties. I am therefore cautiously optimistic of the eventual outcome of the eradication programme deployed at Saunton.

GM Food

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which specific scientific papers led the Prime Minister to say that there is cause for legitimate public concern about genetically modified food.[HL1283]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Government recognise the public's desire for reassurance and a precautionary approach on the environmental, ethical and health aspects of genetic modification technology. That is why our view has been, and continues to be, that we should proceed cautiously and ensure that we have robust regulatory regimes in place based on sound science. The recent OECD conference, hosted by the UK in Edinburgh, provided a forum for a range of scientific views on these issues to be debated.

Badger Culling Trials

Lord Davies of Coity asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to bring further areas into the badger culling trial recommended by Professor Sir John Krebs to address questions about the incidence of tuberculosis in cattle.[HL1583]

Baroness Hayman: The next two sets of badger culling trial areas have now been identified. One will be located in Staffordshire/Derbyshire, and the other in

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Devon/Somerset. These are the seventh and eighth areas to be enrolled in the trial, and we expect to announce the remaining areas later this year. The Government are committed to a wide-ranging research and control strategy to find a science-based solution to TB in cattle. The badger culling trial is an important element of that strategy.

Flood Defence Emergency Response Project

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the Flood Defence Emergency Reponse Project, established by the Environment Agency. [HL1584]

Baroness Hayman: The Flood Defence Emergency Response (FDER) Project was established by the Environment Agency as part of its response to the Easter 1998 floods. Membership of the project team comprised representatives of the Environment Agency, Local Government Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers Association and the

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Association of Inland Navigation Authorities, represented by British Waterways.

The project's general remit was to review existing local arrangements for responding to and exercising major flooding emergencies; to make recommendations for improvement; and to define the roles of the organisations involved.

We have seen the FDER Project report and the project team is to be congratulated on its positive contribution in helping to bring about improvements to the arrangements for flood emergency response. It is important that its recommendations are implemented at local level by the organisations involved in emergency response. We are not, however, persuaded that it is appropriate to establish a standing national joint strategic flood group in the terms described.

"Agriculture in the United Kingdom"

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect the latest volume of Agriculture in the United Kingdom to be published. [HL1585]

Baroness Hayman: Agriculture in the United Kingdom 1999 was published on 16 March 2000 and copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

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