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Refrigerants

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to what extent his Department's headquarters buildings use hydrofluorocarbons for (a) refrigeration and (b) air conditioning; what amounts of hydrofluorocarbons have been purchased in each year since 1995; and what plans he has to phase out the (i) purchase and (ii) use of hydrofluorocarbons. [160008]

Mr. Morley: Hydrofluorocarbons are used in air conditioning equipment, and refrigeration equipment in kitchens and tea points (e.g. domestic refrigerators).

The equipment is maintained in good order, and is being replaced when maintenance becomes too costly or no longer feasible. Over the years only small quantities of refrigerant have been purchased to maintain equipment in good running order. Details of quantities purchased since 1995 are not readily available.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what his Department's policy is regarding the purchase of (a) hydrocarbons and (b) other environmentally benign refrigerants to meet the refrigeration and other relevant energy needs of London headquarters buildings and premises owned and leased by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [160007]

Mr. Morley: Maintenance is carried out by approved contractors, who supply refrigerants as necessary. It is anticipated that all equipment using hydrofluorocarbons will be replaced by equipment using more acceptable refrigerants within the present deadline.

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Following the earlier agreement to phase out the production of chlorofluorocarbons, an exercise was undertaken in the Department to convert or replace all equipment using chlorofluorocarbons. This was accomplished well within the statutory time limit. Most conversions/replacements involved the use of hydrofluorocarbons.

As HCFC's are now being phased out another rolling programme is being planned to replace this refrigerant with environmentally acceptable alternatives.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which London headquarters building and premises owned or leased by his Department use (a) chlorofluorocarbons and (b) hydrochlorofluorocarbons for refrigeration and other relevant energy needs. [160006]

Mr. Morley: (a) The Department has phased out the use of chlorofluorocarbons.

(b) Hydrochlorofluorocarbons are used to a small degree in all London headquarters buildings owned or leased by MAFF.

Arable Area Payments Scheme

Mr. Derek Twigg: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the largest single payment made to an applicant was in 2000 under the arable area payments scheme. [159845]

Ms Quin: £1,644,270.61. In common with other recipients of substantial payments under the arable area payments scheme, the applicant concerned is a large scale farm business with many different production units, widely situated in the United Kingdom.

Livestock Movements

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to carry out an economic analysis of the movement of livestock around the United Kingdom. [155615]

Ms Quin: The Ministry has no immediate plans to carry out such analysis but will keep the matter under review. However, taking account of what we have learned from the current foot and mouth outbreak, the Government are consulting on proposals to introduce a 20 day standstill period for cattle, sheep and goats. Officials will be meeting with industry to discuss the implications of the proposals.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make it his policy to take steps to reduce the length of animal movements by securing an increase nationally in the number of abattoirs. [159597]

Ms Quin [holding answer 30 April 2001]: Despite the reduction in abattoir numbers over recent years there remains a spread of abattoirs across the country. However, where animals do have to travel, such journeys must comply with the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997 which sets out in some detail a variety of measures designed to protect animals, including maximum journey times, vehicle standards, transporter competence, etc. These rules are, of course, rigorously enforced.

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Farmers

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will prepare proposals to place before the next meeting of the Council of Agricultural Ministers of the Community designed to permit the United Kingdom to adopt systems of support to farmers and their auxiliary services aimed at sustaining their income and economic security at levels approximating to their purchasing power in the financial year 1999-2000. [158813]

Ms Quin: The Government recognise that this is a difficult time for farming, and has introduced a wide range of measures since 1997 investing around £1.35 billion in the industry. This is over and above regular support for UK farmers available under the CAP, totalling about £3 billion each year.

The CAP is clearly failing to deliver on its aim of ensuring a fair standard of living for the agricultural community. This is one of many factors underlying our commitment to secure a more economically rational CAP to enable the industry to react flexibly to consumer wishes without being constrained by the market-distorting nature of the current CAP.

We are working closely with like minded member states to put pressure on the Council to reform the CAP on the basis of proposals from the EU Commission which we expect to issue next year.

Sheep Exports

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will reinstate the special central unit of officials monitoring and enforcing statutory provisions relating to sheep exports. [157886]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 10 April 2001]: The team in Animal Welfare Division concerned with policy towards the transport of live animals and the monitoring of international journeys has not been abolished. This function has always been part of the division.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Fabricant: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of written parliamentary questions tabled to his Department during the last four weeks have received a holding answer; and what was the average time taken after the date of the holding answer for a full answer to be given. [157178]

Ms Quin [holding answer 9 April 2001]: In the four week period from 6 March up to and including 4 April, 96 per cent. of Named Day questions received a holding reply. This Department receives large numbers of named day questions, for answer on the earliest permitted date.

Where full answers have now been given our records show the average gap between holding reply to full reply as 8.8 days.

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he intends to provide a substantive reply to the question about Dawn Cardington abattoir in Bedfordshire tabled for answer on 4 April; and what the reasons are for the delay in answering. [159183]

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Ms Quin: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 24 April 2001, Official Report, column 258W.

Environment Agency Report

Mr. Todd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the Government will publish its response to the Environment Agency's "Lessons Learned" report. [159356]

Mr. Morley: In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) on 20 March 2001, Official Report, column 186W, I expressed the Government's welcome for this report and the work that we, the Environment Agency and others would be undertaking to pursue the lessons learned. I do not propose making any further response to the report at this time.

Abattoirs

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures his Department is taking to help small and medium-sized abattoirs. [159371]

Ms Quin: The Government have agreed to transfer £8.7 million per year for the next three years to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to enable them to implement the principal recommendations of the Maclean Task Force Report on charging for Meat Hygiene Service inspections in abattoirs and cutting plants. The Taskforce considered that in view of what it saw as a serious threat to small and medium-sized abattoirs and cutting plants, the Government should contribute to the costs of meat inspection in Great Britain. The Taskforce recommended that the Government should therefore change their policy of requiring the Meat Hygiene Service to recover as much as possible of its hygiene inspection costs from the meat industry (since this is not required by Eu rules on charging). It recommends that the current method of charging for meat inspections on an hourly basis should be changed and that, instead, all abattoirs and cutting plants should be charged the standard (headage) fees laid down in the EU Charges Directive or their actual inspection costs where these are lower.

Implementation of the Maclean recommendations will significantly reduce inspection charges levied on many small and medium-sized meat plants and will be of considerable benefit to rural communities. We will be monitoring developments and giving further consideration as to how to maintain a sufficient number of small and medium-sized abattoirs.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the number of slaughterhouses in the UK; and what assessment he has made of (a) the additional costs to farmers, (b) the animal welfare implications and (c) the impact on the environment from extra transport movements resulting from the contraction in the number of slaughterhouses since 1979. [159593]

Ms Quin [holding answer 30 April 2001]: Abattoir numbers have been declining year on year for more than 20 years, in response to commercial pressures and demand in particular areas. There is intense competition between slaughterhouses, both for throughput and for customers, and profit margins are low.

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Despite the reduction in abattoir numbers over recent years there remains a spread of abattoirs across the country. However, where animals do have to travel, such journeys must comply with the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997 which sets out in some detail a variety of measures designed to protect animals, including maximum journey times, vehicle standards, transporter competence, etc. These rules are, of course, rigorously enforced.


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