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Agriculture Expenditure

Mr. Gill: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the total expenditure was on British agriculture by (a) the British Government and (b) the European Union in the latest year for which figures are available. [144044]

Ms Quin: In 1998-99, total expenditure on British agriculture under the CAP and on national grants and subsidies was £3,482 million, of which £2,417 million was paid by the European Union and £1,065 million was paid by the Government.

Farmers also benefit from expenditure on market support measures, even though this is not paid directly to them.

Poultry Farming

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the costs of farming chickens and turkeys in (a) the UK and (b) in each other EU member state. [143842]

Ms Quin [holding answer 21 December 2000]: The production costs and revenues falling to farmers, including poultry farmers, form part of the Farm Business Survey, the results of which are published. The EU receives this information for all member states and assesses it.

Part of this Government's Strategy for Agriculture includes a Task Force looking at the input costs into farming which has been asked to report by March 2001.

Agriculture Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the outcome was of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 19 and 20 December; and if he will make a statement. [144176]

Mr. Nick Brown: 1. I represented the United Kingdom at the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers held in Brussels on 19 December.

2. The Council held an open debate on the Commission's proposal establishing a framework for European food law and a European Food Authority. This received a broadly encouraging response from Ministers present. On the basis of Food Standards Agency advice, I welcomed the proposed establishment of a European Food Authority, which we would like to see progressed as quickly as possible. A firm commitment to consumer protection will guide the UK in discussions on the detail of the proposal.

3. The Council unanimously agreed a common position on a proposal laying down rules for the prevention and control of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. This creates a comprehensive framework for all the EU's TSE protection measures and provides a firm basis for future EU-wide action in this area.

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4. A proposal to amend the CAP bananas regime to bring it into line with World Trade Organisation rules was adopted by qualified majority. This provides for a transitional tariff quota regime for banana imports, leading to a tariff only system from 2006, with the Commission authorised to adopt implementing measures to manage the tariff-quota. I voted against the measure on the grounds that neither would it end the current trade dispute nor was it evident that the implementing provisions would ensure the continued viability of the Caribbean banana export industries.

5. The Council also discussed the CAP sugar regime. I strongly supported the Commission's proposal to extend the current regime for only two years, to permit a substantial reform to take place in 2002, although many countries expressed a preference for a five year prolongation of the status quo. Negotiations will continue under the Swedish Presidency.

6. Under "Other Business", I raised the problems which recent flooding was causing for many UK farmers, notably flax and hemp producers who were unable to harvest their crops and were therefore, under existing rules, ineligible for CAP aids. Both the Presidency and Commissioner Fischler expressed sympathy with their plight. The Commissioner undertook to propose measures to the Management Committee to alleviate the problems concerning their eligibility for aid.

7. The Council also agreed by qualified majority (Germany voting against) new rules governing the labelling of eggs, including a requirement to inform consumers of the husbandry system under which the eggs were produced.

Suckler Cow Premium Scheme

Mr. Steen: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how many farmers have been paid the advance suckler cow premium since 1 November; how many are awaiting payment; and if he will make a statement on progress regarding the regular payment of the ASCP on an agreed basis; [143950]

Ms Quin: In England, just under 19,800 producers submitted a 2000 Scheme year Suckler Cow Premium Scheme (SCPS) claim. Of these around 15 per cent. had received their first advance payments by 5 January.

Although the Citizen's Charter deadline for making advance payments is 6 March 2001, we fully expect that all producers who submitted a correctly completed claim will receive their advance payments during January. In addition, we have taken advantage of a very recently agreed Commission Regulation to make suckler cow advance payments at a rate of 80 per cent. of the total amount due, rather than the usual 60 per cent.

The published Citizen's Charter target for making advance SCPS payments for the 2000 Scheme year is 6 March 2001. Interest would be considered only in cases where payments were made after this date, and where MAFF was fully responsible for the delay.

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British Beef

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the progress of the prosecution of the French Government for its illegal ban on British beef. [144346]

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Mr. Nick Brown: The progress of European Court of Justice Cases is a matter for the Court. The deadline for the French Rejoinder which follows the Commission Response to the French Defence was extended to 22 December 2000. This concluded the written part of the procedure.

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TREASURY

Climate Change Levy

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effect of the climate change levy on the use of liquid petroleum gas. [143945]

Mr. Timms: No such assessment has been made. In response to points raised during the consultation process, the Chancellor announced in Budget 2000 that the rate of climate change levy (CCL) on liquid petroleum gas (LPG) would be reduced by half in recognition of its use in rural areas and to discourage fuel switching from LPG to more environmentally damaging fuels.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of combined heat and power systems, including firms using their own CHP and firms importing or exporting energy, will be exempt from the climate change levy. [144120]

Mr. Timms: Combined heat and power (CHP) generation can make a valuable contribution to achieving emissions reductions and the Chancellor therefore announced in the pre-budget report 1999 that electricity generated in "good quality" CHP plant would be exempt from the levy. The majority of CHP schemes will be exempt from all levy payments on the fuel input and on the heat supplied. Qualifying electricity generation from CHP schemes will also be exempt from the levy where that electricity is consumed on site or sold directly to another customer.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many representations he has received concerning the effect of the climate change levy on Northern Ireland; [143947]

Mr. Timms: The Government have received various representations concerning the climate change levy in Northern Ireland. The energy market in Northern Ireland differs markedly from that in Great Britain; in particular, natural gas is not widely available. In order to help the fledgling gas market to develop, the Government are proposing a temporary exemption from the climate change levy for natural gas in Northern Ireland.

Ms Walley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the timetable for implementation of the climate change levy. [144474]

Mr. Timms: The climate change levy will come into effect on 1 April 2001, as planned.

Tax Credits

Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 18 December 2000, Official Report, column 85W, on the children's tax credit, what plans he has to ensure that the credit is received by taxpayers with children who have not returned the claim

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form which he issued; and if he will estimate the latest date by which a claim would need to be made in order for the credit to be paid through the PAYE system at the start of the 2001-02 tax year. [144357]

Dawn Primarolo: The Inland Revenue is planning further publicity in the new year to remind people to send in a claim quickly if they want it to be included in their tax code for April. Claims submitted to the Revenue by the end of February should enable them to give employers sufficient time to use the revised codes at the start of the tax year. However, later claims will be backdated to the start of April 2001 and people have until 31 January 2008 to claim the allowance under the normal tax rules.

Self-employed taxpayers can claim in the usual way when they receive their tax return for the year beginning April 2001.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the cost to the Exchequer of introducing a tax credit for all taxpayers paying income tax at either the lower or the standard rate, set at £1,000 and restricted to 10 per cent. [144356]

Dawn Primarolo: The full-year cost of introducing a non-repayable tax credit set at £1,000 and restricted to 10 per cent. for all taxpayers paying income tax only at the basic and/or starting rate of income tax is estimated to be £2.4 billion in 2000-01. This estimate is based on the survey of personal incomes and is consistent with the November 2000 pre-Budget report.


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