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Bovine Tags

Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the use of yellow tags used to label cows (a) to consider if there is a better alternative tag available and (b) to reconsider the £5 replacement fee for damaged or lost tags. [148845]

Ms Quin [holding answer 7 February 2001]: The requirement for cattle eartags is laid down in European Union legislation (Council Regulation 1760/2000). Any changes therefore would need to be agreed at EU level.

Eartags authorised for official cattle identification are supplied to the industry by a range of eartag manufacturers. The price they charge for replacement tags is a commercial matter. Farmers may be able to reduce their costs by selecting an alternative supplier. We are currently investigating the principal reasons for loss or damage to cattle eartags with a view to helping the industry minimise the need for replacement tags.

Sea Defence Projects

Mr. Harvey: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what funding he will make available

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for research into coastal erosion and sea defences in Devon under the shoreline management plan; and when such work will take place. [149513]

Mr. Morley: The Ministry funds a programme of strategic research and development on flood and coastal defence. However, it is for local operating authorities (normally the Environment Agency and local authorities) to undertake more site-specific studies, such as those identified in shoreline management plans. The Ministry provides grant aid to operating authorities for studies of coastal processes and scheme feasibility, provided the proposals meet certain criteria. The timing of such studies is a matter for the operating authorities.

Common Agricultural Policy

Mr. Spring: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will make a statement on the implications for the CAP budget of Commissioner Schreyer's statement on additional financing in respect of BSE on 31 January; [148760]

Ms Quin [holding answer 7 February 2001]: The Commission's initial estimate of the cost of the measures agreed at the December Agriculture Council was 971 million euro. We understand that the Commission will be proposing further measures to the February Agriculture Council, which will now take place on 26/27 February. We do not yet know what the Commission will propose but welcome the fact that it recognises the need to constrain total CAP expenditure within the ceilings set out in the current financial perspective.

Mr. Spring: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals the Government have made to ensure that the cost of the CAP remains within the Berlin financing perspectives following recent changes in demand in the EU. [148761]

Ms Quin [holding answer 7 February 2001]: The Commission is responsible for making proposals. The UK Government support the Commission's intention to propose a package of measures before the February Council which ensure that total CAP expenditure remains within the ceilings set out in the current financial perspective.

Beef Labelling

Mr. Webb: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to ensure that beef which is slaughtered abroad and processed in the United Kingdom is not labelled as solely British; and if he will encourage local authority trading standards officers to enforce existing regulations. [149583]

Ms Quin: Under EU rules, fresh, chilled or frozen beef must not be labelled as British unless it is derived from cattle born, raised and slaughtered in the UK. To use the term "British", an operator must have an approval issued by one of the UK agriculture departments and employ an independent third party verifier to check the validity of the claim. My Department has issued guidance on the EU beef labelling rules to operators in England and has

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worked closely with LACOTS on guidance to local authorities on enforcement. The guidance which has been issued by LACOTS asks local authorities to be pro-active in securing compliance with the rules. Further information is available via the Department's website (

Skills Deficiencies

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to follow-up skills deficiencies in land-based industries revealed by skills checks and to secure their remediation through vocational training programmes. [149472]

Ms Quin [holding answer 8 February 2001]: Some 10,000 skill check training need assessments are being co-ordinated by Lantra national training organisation using funding provided under the action plan for farming. Lantra is aggregating the information obtained through this exercise to compile a comprehensive picture of the sector's training needs at both a national and regional level. Where relevant, the information will be used to help refine the work force development plan which Lantra is currently developing for DfEE.

£22 million has been made available to fund training through the vocational training scheme (VTS) which forms part of the England rural development programme. The VTS is open for applications and farmers who have identified a training need through the skill check programme can apply for funding where they wish to undertake 20 days or more of training. Alternatively, training providers can apply on behalf of groups of farmers. This can be for much shorter periods provided the collective time is for 20 training days or more. Lantra is working closely with training providers to ensure that the funding available under the VTS is fully and effectively utilised to address key skill gaps. The VTS will fund up to 75 per cent. of eligible training costs. To date, just over 90 VTS applications have been received and 20 projects worth some £300,000 have been approved.

Flooding (Hereford)

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the report from W. S. Atkins regarding flood defences for the City of Hereford will be published; and if he will make a statement. [149524]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 8 February 2001]: I understand that Messrs. W. S. Atkins have completed preliminary investigations into potential options for flood alleviation at Hereford and have submitted a report to the Environment Agency. The report will be presented to the Wye local flood defence committee for consideration at its meeting on 2 March 2001.


Mr. Burnett: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the companies that have tendered in the last three years for Government contracts for rendering beef, indicating which of them are associated or connected with each other. [R] [149686]

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Ms Quin: There have been no tenders for rendering services in the past three years, the previous tender having been held in 1997. The arrangements are being reviewed this summer.

Farmers (Retirement Schemes)

Mr. Burnett: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he proposes to introduce a retirement scheme for owner occupiers and tenant farmers; and if he will make a statement. [R] [149688]

Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) on 23 January 2001, Official Report, column 515W.

Agrimonetary Compensation

Mr. Burnett: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, during this financial year, he proposes to draw down the full agrimonetary compensation to which the UK agricultural industry is entitled. [R] [149689]

Ms Quin: In the current financial year we expect to pay some £182 million in agrimonetary compensation, including £100 million of optional compensation. Further compensation became available on 1 January this year; we expect the Commission to notify us of the amount later this month. The Government then have until the end of April to decide whether to pay any optional amounts.


Regional Aid

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement on European Union regional aid (a) in the years 1997 to 2000 and (b) proposed for 2001. [145665]

Mrs. Liddell: Structural fund expenditure in Scotland for 1997-98 was £164 million, for 1998-99 was £160 million and for 1999-2000 was £205 million. Planned expenditure for 2000-01 is £130 million. Total funds available for 2000-06 are euro 1,700 million (about £1 billion at current exchange rate).


Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement on poverty in Scotland, and numbers of Scottish people living in poverty, in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999 and (d) 2000. [145645]

Mrs. Liddell: The UK Government have introduced a range of measures to address poverty and social exclusion. For example, the national minimum wage has ensured decent minimum levels of pay for over 100,000 people in Scotland and the New Deal has helped over 30,000 young people in Scotland into jobs since its introduction in 1998. The Working Families Tax Credit benefits over 100,000 families in Scotland and, together with other measures introduced this Parliament, is estimated to lift around 100,000 children in Scotland out of poverty by 2002. (We are committed to abolish child poverty in 20 years, with the ambition to halve it in 10 years.) For the elderly, we have introduced the Minimum Income Guarantee, which

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benefits around 164,000 people aged 60 or over; an increased Winter Fuel Payment, which benefits around 1 million people aged 60 or over; and free television licences for those people aged 75 or over, benefiting over 300,000 pensioners. Over the course of this Parliament, we are spending across Great Britain an extra £9 billion, over and above inflation, on pensioners, with over half going to the poorest third.

The Government have also set up the Joint Ministerial Committee on poverty to ensure that the UK Government and the devolved Administrations can work together to tackle the problems of poverty and social exclusion.

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