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Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what powers his officials have to speed up the destruction of livestock affected by foot and mouth disease, and in particular to deal with cases whereby owners have delayed settlement of compensation. 
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not specify how slaughter should be carried out, but, in the vast majority of cases animals are slaughtered very quickly following confirmation of disease.
An Order has been made to change the valuation procedure for animals slaughtered for foot and mouth disease. This Order gives farmers the option of receiving payments at standard rates or of having animals valued by a valuer. This is intended to help speed up the valuation process and so ensure that animals can be slaughtered as quickly as possible. Where matters are delayed because an owner has disputed the valuation, all animals clearly affected with the disease are slaughtered without any further delay. The valuation of these animals is resolved after slaughter.
There have been some localised problems. Officials are working with a number of experts, including those from the armed forces to improve the planning, co-ordination and management of the slaughter and disposal process.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will make a statement on the procedures for compensating farmers whose stock have had to be destroyed because of foot and mouth disease; 
Ms Quin [holding answer 19 March 2001]: The normal process of paying compensation involves an independent valuation of the animals which are to be slaughtered. Valuers are employed by the Ministry for this purpose, and where appropriate this can mean a specialist in the particular class or breed of animals involved.
If agreement can not be reached quickly on the value of animals due to be slaughtered, all animals that are clearly affected with the disease are slaughtered without any further delay. The valuation of these animals is resolved after slaughter.
Ms Quin: My right hon. Friend the Minister announced on 27 March that we could consult on the principle and detailed application of a ban on the use of pig swill. Copies of the consultation document are available in the Libraries of the House.
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Mr. Prescott: I have today published my Department's Annual Report for 2001, and copies have been placed in the House Libraries. The Report sets out the Department's achievements over the last year and its detailed plans to continue to meet our over-arching aim of improving everyone's quality of life, now and for the future.
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many responses were received to the public consultation on proposals to permit technetium-99 radioactive discharges from licensed nuclear reprocessing sites. 
Mr. Meacher: The Environment Agency published a consultation document on 30 November 2000 outlining proposals for the future regulation of technetium-99 discharges from the British Nuclear Fuels plant at Sellafield. The Agency has advised that it received 97 responses to its consultation which ended on 5 March 2001.
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has held with (a) MAFF and (b) the Environment Agency, in respect of the environmental hazards posed by the burial of animal carcases arising from the animal slaughter undertaken because of the spread of foot and mouth disease. 
Mr. Meacher: My Department is working in close co-operation with MAFF and the Environment Agency to ensure the fulfilment of the environmental requirements of Article 3(2) of the Animal Waste Directive (90/667/EEC) on the burial of animal carcases. Each proposal for the burial of carcases is the subject of a site-specific risk assessment carried out by the Agency. No carcase burial has been carried out at a site where, in the view of the Agency, there is an undue risk of environmental pollution (eg contamination of groundwater).
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will include Stafford Borough Council in the list of authorities able to give relief from business rates to rural businesses affected by the foot and mouth outbreak. 
Mr. Meacher: Any local authority can give discretionary hardship rate relief and the Government underwrite 75 per cent. of the cost. As part of the package of measures to help business meet the costs imposed by the effects of the foot and mouth outbreak, Government have agreed to increase their support by underwriting 95 per cent. of the costs of hardship rate relief in 151 rural local authorities for properties below £12,000 rateable value. The list of rural local authorities, which does not include Stafford Borough Council, is based on sparsity of population, a standard definition of rurality.
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Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will publish a summary of the measures he is taking to promote economic recovery from the effects of foot and mouth disease. 
Mr. Meacher: I set out a package of short term practical measures to help rural business in my statement to the House on 20 March 2001, Official Report, columns 191-210, which included the deferral and rearrangement of payments to Customs, Inland Revenue and of business rates. I also announced a new scheme to enable rural local authorities to offer discretionary hardship rate relief of which further details were given in my answer to the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) on 26 March 2001, Official Report, columns 425-26W. The Rural Task Force is continuing to look at the scope for additional measures to help rural businesses severely affected by the effects of foot and mouth disease.
Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions on what basis he set the limit of rateable value for businesses able to claim serious hardship as a result of foot and mouth disease. 
Mr. Meacher: There is no such limit. All businesses irrespective of their size that are adversely affected by the foot and mouth outbreak, or are suffering hardship for other reasons, may be granted rate relief at the discretion of local authorities. The authority granting rate relief on these grounds is required to fund 25 per cent. of the cost of providing that relief with central government meeting the rest.
On 22 March, the Government announced an increase in the central government contribution from 75 per cent. to 95 per cent. of the cost of giving hardship rate relief to small businesses which are suffering from the adverse effects of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. This financial help is being made available to local authorities and targeted at vulnerable small businesses, where rates liabilities represent a greater proportion of turnover and profits than for larger firms.
This additional funding is available for relief granted in 151 rural local authorities in England to properties with a rateable value of up to and including £12,000. This will embrace 77 per cent. of the total number of 494,000 business properties located in these areas. This level of rateable value is used in targeting relief on small businesses in other parts of the rating system. Discretionary relief is made available under the village shop rate relief scheme for properties within that threshold, and it is also used to define a small property outside London for the purposes of the transitional relief scheme introduced following the revaluation on 1 April 2000.
Mr. Purchase: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will publish a consultation paper on the proposed European Directive on access to ports services; and if he will make a statement. 
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a Directive on Access to Ports Services. The consultation seeks views on the Communication and, in particular, on the potential impact of the proposed Directive.
The consultation paper has been sent to some 300 people and organisations including ports, port users, port service providers, trade associations, trade unions and others with an interest in the ports industry. It is also available on the DETR website and copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House. The deadline for responses is 30 June 2001.
The responses received as a result of this exercise will be used to inform a detailed Regulatory Impact Assessment on how the proposed Directive might affect the ports industry and to formulate the Government's response to the Commission on its Communication.
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