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Flood Defences (Leicestershire)

Mr. Reed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much has been spent by the Environment Agency on improving flood defences in Leicestershire since Easter 1998. [91313]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency has a regular programme of work to maintain and improve main river watercourses in Leicestershire. Since Easter 1998, this has involved expenditure of £570,000.

Dairy Farming

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the prospects for the dairy farming sector. [91419]

Mr. Rooker: Dairy farmers face challenging times as a result of reduced milk prices, increasing liberalisation of world markets, and progress on CAP reform. But the dairy farming sector's ability to respond positively to these challenges will be helped by the high level of producer expertise and commitment, favourable farm structure and ideal climate for milk production.

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GM Crops

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under what circumstances licences for the use of glufosinate or glyphosate on herbicide-tolerant genetically modified crops may be granted before the completion of the farm-scale trials with herbicide-tolerant genetically modified crops in 2003. [91414]

Mr. Rooker: No herbicide will be approved for use with genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops unless a thorough and specific evaluation of the possible effects on people and on the environment has identified no unacceptable risks. Moreover, until a genetically modified herbicide tolerant crop is itself legally on the market in this country I do not expect to grant an approval for use on that crop to any herbicide products containing glufosinate or glyphosate.

Common Fisheries Policy

Mr. Gill: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) of 8 July 1999, Official Report, column 626, on the Common Fisheries Policy, if his statement on the majority of fish discarded being undersize is based upon the (a) numbers and (b) weight of discard; and what estimate he has made of undersize discards as a percentage of total discards. [91768]

Mr. Morley: Sampling of discards in the North Sea in 1997 by CEFAS indicated that, by number, the majority of discarded cod, haddock and whiting were undersized fish. The actual estimates of the proportions of discarded fish, by number, that were undersized were cod 82 per cent., haddock 57 per cent. and whiting 67 per cent.

By weight the percentages were cod 73 per cent., haddock 46 per cent. and whiting 53 per cent.

Badgers

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many incidents there have been where his Department's field staff in the randomised badger culling trial have been (a) threatened and (b) assaulted. [91712]

Mr. Rooker: It would not be appropriate to release this information for operational and security reasons.

The safety of staff is the Department's paramount concern, and we take very seriously any incident where this is put at risk. The Department is committed to supporting prosecutions in the event of damage to property or threats to, and attacks on, staff.

The Government are committed to the field trial as an important part of their comprehensive research and control strategy to tackle TB in cattle. The strategy, including the trial, is based on the best independent scientific advice. The aim is to place future TB policy on an effective and sustainable scientific footing. Disruption of the trial risks delaying its results and so helps neither badgers nor cattle.

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for what reasons badger culling in the randomised culling trial has not started in the proactive area of the triplet in the Forest of Dean. [91706]

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Mr. Rooker: A range of work is being carried out in the four triplets so far identified. For operational and security reasons it would not be appropriate to give details of specific operations.

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when badger culling in the Krebs Trial started in the Hartland reactive area of the North Devon triplet. [91707]

Mr. Rooker: The closed season for the Krebs/Bourne field trial ended on 30 April. Since then, culling has resumed in some areas. For operational and security reasons, it would not be appropriate to give details.

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many new staff have been (a) sought and (b) appointed for the randomised badger culling trial; and what procedures have been established to ensure the training of new staff. [91705]

Mr. Rooker: Approximately 60 new staff are being appointed to work on the trial, 48 are already in post and others will start work shortly. All new staff receive comprehensive training which includes a period of supervised working alongside experienced colleagues.

Bovine Tuberculosis

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many cattle were slaughtered in 1997 and 1998 after testing positive in the tuberculin skin tests; and how many were found not to be infected on post mortem and culture examination. [91711]

Mr. Rooker: The information for 1997 was published on page 4 of Animal Health 1997, the annual report of the Chief Veterinary Officer. A copy was placed in the Library. The report for 1998 has not yet been published.

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what research his Department is conducting into cattle to cattle transmission of bovine tuberculosis. [91725]

Mr. Rooker: The Government are conducting a wide programme of research, based on the recommendations in the Krebs Report and advice from the Independent Scientific Group on cattle TB chaired by Professor John Bourne. Specifically on cattle to cattle transmission the recommendations were:






The Independent Scientific Group believes, and the Government agree, that cattle to cattle transmission,

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including the pathogenesis of the disease in cattle, is an area which merits further consideration as funds become available.

Sulphuric Acid

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under what circumstances farmers are permitted to spray sulphuric acid on potato fields. [91733]

Mr. Rooker: When applied to potatoes for the purpose of desiccating haulms, sulphuric acid falls within the definition of a pesticide. Pesticides may be used only if they are approved by Ministers following assessment of their impact on human health and the environment. The use of sulphuric acid on potato crops has been approved subject to a number of restrictions and requirements, of which the main ones are:



    application is permitted only between 1 May and 15 November;


    the maximum dose permitted is 340 litres/hectare (800 litres per hectare for potatoes grown for canning);


    a written COSHH assessment must be made before use. Operator exposure must be controlled by means of personal protective equipment and/or engineering controls;


    application must be by operators holding a recognised certificate of competence in the use of the relevant equipment;


    at least 24 hours written notice must be provided to immediate neighbours and notices must be posted on adjacent roads and paths and kept in place for at least 96 hours after treatment. Unprotected persons must be kept out of treated areas for at least 96 hours following treatment.

Beef Export Ban

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the EU Commission has agreed to lift the beef export ban from 1 August. [91898]

Mr. Rooker: The European Commission has agreed that exports of boneless UK beef produced under the Date-based Export Scheme (DBES) may start from 1 August. The Commission announced this on 14 July, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food reported it to the House in his statement of 14 July 1999, Official Report, column 405-16.


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