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Foot and Mouth

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 30 March 2001, Official Report, column 815W, on foot and mouth, if he will amend the criteria for entry on to the list of authorities able to give relief from business rates to include the incidence of foot and mouth cases within an authority's boundaries. [157088]

Mr. Meacher: I have agreed to keep under review the operation of the special grant for hardship rate relief scheme in relation to foot and mouth disease impacts and I will look at representations which individual authorities make on the scheme.

Tudor Court School, Chafford Hundred

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the Health and Safety Executive last visited Tudor Court School, Chafford Hundred in Thurrock. [157068]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 5 April 2001]: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has not inspected the Tudor Court School in Thurrock since it opened in 1992. However, following a subsidence incident in the school car park on 23 March 2001 the HSE contacted the local education authority, Thurrock council, to ensure immediate steps were taken to ensure the safety of pupils, parents and staff and make the subsidence area safe.

GM Crops

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will place in the Library a copy of the contract between his Department and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology agreed in April 1999 concerning research that forms part of the farm-scale evaluation of GM crops in the UK. [157113]

Mr. Meacher: I have today placed in the Library a copy of each of the four farm-scale evaluation contracts. Certain personal and financial details relating to contractors' staff have been removed.

The farm-scale evaluations are being undertaken by a consortium of three contractors: the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) and the Institute of Arable Crops Research (IACR). CEH leads the consortium and is the main contractor for the maize and beet evaluations,

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sub-contracting some of the work to SCRI and IACR. Similarly, SCRI leads on the spring oilseed rape trials and IACR on the winter oilseed rape, with some work sub-contracted to the other members of the consortium.

The work is overseen by the Scientific Steering Committee. Following the pilot year, protocols for the work have been revised on the advice of the Committee. Details of the current protocols can be found in the six monthly reports produced by the research consortium and published on the Department's website.

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if a farmer chosen to take part in the farm scale evaluations of GM crops in the UK enters into a contract to grow and manage the field of GM and non-GM crop with (a) the Farming and Biotechnology Industry Body (SCIMAC) and (b) the chemical company that developed the GM crop involved. [157158]

Mr. Meacher: Farmers hosting Farm Scale Evaluations on their farm do so by arrangement with the company that holds the consent authorising the release of the GM crop. The companies involved are members of the industry umbrella group SCIMAC. The crops are grown in accordance with the conditions set out in the release consent for that crop.

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will place in the Library a copy of the voluntary agreement between his Department and the Farming and Biotechnology Industry Body concerning the farm scale evaluations of GM crops in the UK. [157112]

Mr. Meacher: I will ensure that a copy of the voluntary agreement with the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops (SCIMAC) on the conduct of the Farm Scale Evaluations will be placed in the Library. A copy can be found on my Department's website http://www.environment.detr.gov.uk/fse/scimac/ agreement/index.htm.

GM Fish

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the research programmes into fish genetics that his Department has been involved with in the last 10 years. [157275]

Mr. Meacher: My Department has funded a desk study and scientific literature review at the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, to consider the environmental implications and risk assessment of GM fish. This work was published as a DETR report in November 1994; "Genetic Modification of Fish--a UK Perspective". ACRE has also published guidance (Guidance note 8, March 1997) for experimental releases and risk assessment of genetically modified fish.

Copies of both these publications are in the House of Commons Library.

Research into GM fish has increased steadily since the first published reports in 1985 and the technology now exists for the routine modification of a variety of fish species. Some modified traits may affect the ecological range of a fish species, for example increasing the temperature range in which they are able to survive and

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breed, or the rate at which the fish grow and mature. The implications of such changes would need to be carefully considered in the risk assessment before a release could take place.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list comprehensive risk assessment programmes the UK has conducted, under EU Directive 90/220 into the implications for human health and the environment following the potential release of GM fish stocks involved in UK-funded research programmes. [157271]

Mr. Meacher: There have been no applications to release GM fish under Directive 90/220/EEC in the UK. However the environmental consequences of the farming of genetically modified fish have been considered by my Department and by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE).

The Department of the Environment published a research report on the "Genetic Modification of Fish--a UK Perspective" in November 1994. ACRE Guidance Note 8, issued in March 1997, provides guidance for experimental releases and risk assessment of genetically modified fish.

The publications offer detailed recommendations on approaches to risk assessment and risk management for GM fish, and for emergency control measures. Guidelines are also provided for carrying out monitoring during and after the release.

Copies of both these publications are in the House of Commons Library.

Air Pollution Control Residues

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with EU officials about the pre-treatment and disposal of APC residue; and if he will make a statement. [157413]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: Officials from my Department are engaged in ongoing discussions with EU officials on technical issues regarding the implementation of the Landfill Directive. The most recent meeting of the Technical Adaptation Committee where such matters are discussed took place on 3 April 2001. One of the issues that has been raised in the Committee is the circumstances under which wastes should be considered corrosive. Under the Directive, hazardous waste that is corrosive in the conditions of landfill, possibly including some air pollution control residues, is likely to be prohibited from landfill sites from July 2002.

Fly-ash

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to classify fly-ash as prohibited waste; and if he will make a statement. [157412]

Mr. Robert Anisworth: My Department is currently in the process of transposing the requirements of the European Landfill Directive into national law. Under these provisions, hazardous waste that is corrosive in the conditions of landfill, including some fly-ash, is likely be prohibited from landfill sites from July 2002. Most waste

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that is landfilled will need to be pre-treated in some way. This requirement will be phased in between 2002 and 2009.

Meat Hygiene Service

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many and what percentage of (a) fresh food outlets, (b) fresh food wholesalers and distributors and (c) fresh food processors were visited unannounced by environmental health officers or Meat Hygiene Service inspectors in each year since 1995. [145003]

Ms Stuart: I have been asked to reply.

Information in the form requested is not held centrally. The numbers of inspections and visits to food premises by United Kingdom local authorities is as follows:

Number
1995828,937
1996827,035
1997787,047
1998745,601
1999734,573

Variations over time in the number of inspections and visits may reflect a number of factors, including changes in the number of food premises and the risk-based frequency of inspections.

As part of the Food Standard's Agency's arrangements to strengthen its links with local authority enforcement, a programme of audits of local authority enforcement services has been introduced. The audits will include checks on the adequacy and effectiveness of local authority enforcement services.

In addition to local authority inspections, the Meat Hygiene Service attends licensed fresh meat and poultry slaughterhouses, cutting plants and cold stores for the purposes of enforcing meat hygiene and animal welfare legislation and carrying out meat inspection and meat marking. Attendance by approximately 1,600 inspection staff ranges from full time to weekly visits, depending on the type of licensed premises. MHS staff make no unannounced visits to licensed premises, except principal official veterinary surgeons, who visit to check the effectiveness of MHS staff in carrying out their duties.


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