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12 Feb 2009 : Column WA211

Written Answers

Thursday 12 February 2009

Agriculture: Bluetongue

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Given the existing surplus of vaccine, Defra will not be underwriting the purchase of additional vaccine for livestock keepers in 2009; it will be for livestock keepers themselves to procure sufficient vaccine for their stock. This approach to vaccine supply, developed with the core group of industry stakeholders, has been adopted for two reasons:

1. Around 12 million doses of vaccine remain in the supply chain from the 28 million bought for England in 2008. Defra is making this vaccine available to livestock keepers for use in 2009, and will go a long way to supplying likely demand in 2009.2. BTV-8 vaccine is expected to be readily available from three manufacturers who are supplying vaccine direct to the market. This was not the case earlier in the year when Defra had to stimulate supply by placing a firm order. Defra's actions have now stimulated the market to the degree that continued intervention by Defra is not necessary to ensure supply of additional vaccine, which can be delivered through the open market.

However, Defra will monitor uptake regularly in 2009 and reserves the right to intervene in the event of supply problems.

Agriculture: BSE

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Holbeach



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The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (England) Regulations 2008 apply the sanctions necessary to ensure compliance with obligations imposed directly on livestock keepers and others by “the Community TSE Regulation”; namely, Regulation (EC) No. 999/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001. These lay down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, as amended from time to time and as read with relevant Commission decisions.

Livestock farmers do therefore need to be aware of the requirements imposed upon them by this EU Regulation to ensure that they comply with the law. However, Defra provides guidance on these requirements both via its website and directly. For example, we recently wrote to all cattle keepers in England to explain the new requirements for testing fallen cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and to remind them that it is a notifiable disease.

We also aim to ensure that enforcement action is proportionate and risk-based in line with our enforcement policy statement (PB 12963) which is available on the Defra website.

Asked by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Community TSE Regulation contains legal requirements that are directly effective against those to whom they apply—they do not need UK legislation to give them force.

The purpose of the TSE (England) Regulations 2008 is to introduce the provisions necessary to ensure compliance with those requirements; namely, to impose sanctions on those who fail to meet them. Since we cannot legislate domestically for something that already represents the law, the regulations use a form of words that avoids doing so by referring to the EU legislation that imposes the requirements. Similar wording is used in other statutory instruments that enforce directly applicable EU legislation.

Asked by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The sanctions referred to are those that apply on summary conviction for the offence in regulation 17 of intentionally obstructing an inspector. These sanctions, consisting of a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months, have regard to the sanctions imposed on summary conviction for the similar offence of obstruction in Section 66 of the Animal Health Act 1981. These sanctions, imposed under Section 75 of the Animal Health Act, differ only in that the maximum term of imprisonment is six months, as opposed to three months. This is because the TSE (England) Regulations 2008 were made under the European Communities Act 1972 and are therefore subject to the restriction in Schedule 2 to that Act which limits the term of imprisonment which may be imposed on summary conviction for an offence created under the Act to three months.

Sanctions imposed for fisheries offences do not include imprisonment in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which binds the UK under international law.

Agriculture: Dairy Farms

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: There are no specific requirements in UK animal welfare legislation regarding head space for dairy cows in cubicles. However, Defra’s Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Cattle, withwhich dairy farmers must by law be familiar, includes a section on cow cubicles. The code recommends that cubicles should be designed to enable cows to lie down and stand up easily without injuring themselves.

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government have a number of strands of work that aim to foster reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the dairy sector and agriculture as a whole:

We have worked collaboratively with the dairy supply chain to develop the Roadmap process to reduce the negative environmental impacts of liquid milk

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production and consumption in the UK. The Milk Roadmap, published in May 2008 includes a number of challenging targets for the entire sector to achieve. The Roadmap and targets will be reviewed regularly.We are looking to establish a cost-effective policy framework to reduce GHG emissions from the agriculture, forestry and land management sector and encourage practices that sequester carbon.We are working with the Rural Climate Change Forum and through the FarmingFutures project to raise awareness of climate change and to help ensure that farmers and land managers have the information and advice they need to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to the effects of a changing climate.We are working to drive faster growth in the uptake of anaerobic digestion. We are also working to influence international policy and organisations and to learn from the experience of other countries.Our agriculture and climate change workstream is supported by a strong programme of research which is developing options for GHG mitigation from agriculture including emissions from the diary sector.In partnership with the Carbon Trust and British Standards, we have developed a publicly available specification (PAS) for assessing the lifecycle GHG emissions of goods and services to enable those in the food supply chain who wish to do so to measure the embedded GHG in their products, and identify where reductions can be made.

Animal Welfare: Wild Birds

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): In 2006 Defra held a public consultation on the bird registration scheme (Schedule 4 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) to investigate the regulatory burden the scheme places on bird keepers. The key motivation behind the review was to ensure that the scheme was targeted at those species most at risk and to reduce the bureaucracy and costs placed on legitimate keepers and traders of birds.

Species of wild birds that are listed in Schedule 4 may be kept in captivity only if specimens are certified by a vet as being unfit to return to the wild. Presently and historically, the majority of Schedule 4 birds kept in captivity are captive bred and very few birds registered have been wild taken.



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The reverse burden of proof contained in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 means that it is an offence to possess a wild bird unless a person can show that it was legally acquired.

Bailiffs

Question

Asked by Lord Morris of Manchester

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): Powers contained within Schedule 12 to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 allow regulations to make further provisions about taking control of goods which could encompass vulnerability and impoverishment.

However, vulnerability and impoverishment are difficult to define and occur across a wide spectrum. The regulations will seek to ensure that nobody suffers disproportionate enforcement and this will include the vulnerable and impoverished.

Furthermore, it is intended that a major consultation exercise will be undertaken that will include a consultation paper setting out the draft regulations.

Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [HL]

Question

Asked by Lord Patel of Blackburn

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): We are not proposing to make any changes in relation to the status of British nationals within the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. We have already made provision for those holding other forms of British nationality to register as British citizens. If a person lives in the United Kingdom for a period of five years, and meets certain residence requirements, he or she can apply for registration under Section 4(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981. Since April 2003, British overseas citizens, British subjects and British protected persons have been able to apply for registration under Section 4B of that Act if they do not have any other nationality. The British Nationality Hong Kong Act 1997 also provides for the registration of those who would otherwise be stateless and are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong.



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In his citizenship review Lord Goldsmith noted that there are particular legal reasons why we need to retain the category of British National (Overseas) with links to Hong Kong, because of our treaty commitments. He also acknowledged that the status of British overseas territories citizen needs to continue in order to recognise connections to a particular overseas territory as well as to Britain. He therefore proposed a change to end the separate statuses of British overseas citizen, British subject and British protected person.

We are of the view, however, that any changes to the status of those in these three groups at this time would still leave complications in the overall nationality framework, and that our earlier reforms and the passage of time will have the combined effect of reducing any current anomalies.

Burma

Question

Asked by Baroness Cox

Lord Tunnicliffe: DFID’s grant of £600,000 for people affected by food shortages in Chin State is being used by two United Nations agencies and their partners as follows:

The United Nations Development Programme is giving funds to 85 villages in the worst affected areas in southern Chin state to provide food.The World Food Programme, alongside three non-governmental organisations working in Chin state, is providing a mixture of food and cash for work in 54 villages.

DFID has asked both agencies to investigate reports from Chin organisations that some villages are not being reached by this aid.

Asked by Baroness Cox

Lord Tunnicliffe: The Department for International Development (DFID) regularly discusses with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Food Programme (WFP) their logistic arrangements for delivering food to people who need it in Chin state.

WFP’s view has been that the use of helicopters would not be the most appropriate means of delivering food in the context of Chin state. We will, however, encourage WFP to keep the situation under review and to discuss with the Burmese authorities whether helicopters could be used effectively.



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The provision of bulldozers or other equipment to improve roads and clear rivers would not be consistent with the EU common position on Burma.

Case Resolution Directorate

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): We do not hold this information. To obtain this information would entail significant new work which would involve disproportionate cost.

Child Protection: Witchcraft

Question

Asked by Baroness Warsi

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): The Department for Education and Skills commissioned research in 2005 looking at the extent, nature and geographical spread of child abuse linked to accusations of “possession” or “witchcraft”. This research, published in June 2006, analysed 38 cases involving 47 children, reported between 2000 and 2005. In light of this research, guidance on “Safeguarding Children from Abuse Linked to a Belief in Spirit Possession” was published in May 2007.

Childcare: Grandparents

Question

Asked by Baroness Hollis of Heigham



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): Data are not collected centrally on the number or characteristics of grandparents providing informal childcare. Information is not collect centrally on the gender, ethnicity, age, employment status or pension contributions of grandparents providing informal childcare.


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