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Agriculture Council

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Luxembourg on 19 June was. [2509]

Margaret Beckett: I attended the meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers in Luxembourg on 19 June.

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The Council adopted by qualified majority (Spain and Netherlands opposing) measures to tackle the problems in the EU beef market resulting from the discovery of BSE in certain continental countries late last year. I was pleased to secure important exemptions for United Kingdom farmers from the measures cutting back suckler cow production, in recognition of the particular impact of FMD, as well as rejection of the excessively bureaucratic proposals to impose individual farmer quotas on beef special premiums and to reimpose the 90 head limit on individual claims.

The Council also adopted—by qualified majority with Spain opposing and Portugal abstaining—rules to restrict the use of close confinement stalls for sows. This brings other countries into line with conditions already applying here. It is an important and welcome step to improve pig welfare across the Community, albeit less radically than I would have preferred. The Council also resolved to improve the welfare of animals during transport, which I urged must be given effect speedily.

I updated my colleagues on the latest situation on FMD in the UK. The Council also discussed further measures on BSE, as a result of which the Commission will enact a range of further controls including an extension to the current ban on the use of animal protein in animal feed.

The Council unanimously adopted conclusions following up the Copenhagen Conference on organic food and farming, and setting the framework for the European Action Plan. It unanimously agreed proposals concerning the olive oil and hops regimes, inspection and control of animal feedingstuffs, a special aid scheme for small farmers and a common position on controlling undesirable substances in animal feed. By qualified majority, it agreed common positions on the processing, use and disposal of animal by-products and on classical swine fever (Germany and Austria opposing in both cases).

Landfill Tax (Fly-tipping)

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research she has produced on changes in the incidence of fly-tipping following the increase in the level of the landfill tax; and if she will make a statement. [812]

Mr. Meacher: The Tidy Britain Group (TBG) has carried out three surveys to determine the effect, if any, of the landfill tax on fly-tipping. The TBG's most recent report, "Effects Of The Landfill Tax On Fly-Tipping (April 1997-March 1998)", confirmed that the type of waste most frequently fly-tipped is household waste. However, local authorities have a legal duty to collect household waste and householders are not directly affected by the landfill tax.

The Fly-Tipping Forum, under the chairmanship of the Environment Agency, has commissioned research to assess the problem of fly-tipping on farm land. However, the survey which is an essential part of the project was suspended on the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. The Forum will consider in the autumn whether it is then practicable to carry out the survey.

The action being taken by the Government on fly- tipping, and other forms of unlawful waste disposal, was set out most recently in the Government's response to the

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Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee's Report on the Environment Agency (Cm 4832—paragraphs 55–60).

Air Pollution

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she is expected to make a statement on the Government's policy towards air pollution. [1674]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 3 July 2001]: The Government's policy towards air pollution is set out in the Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, published in January 2000. The Strategy sets health-based standards for the eight air pollutants of most concern, as well as the Government's and devolved Administrations' air quality policy objectives for the short to medium term. We will also be consulting shortly on a number of new or revised objectives for certain pollutants. In doing so, we will take full account of the emerging evidence on the health effects of long-term exposure to air pollution.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which areas within the Yeovil constituency have air pollution above the Government's targeted limits; and if she will make a statement. [1499]

Mr. Meacher: Local authorities across the country have been carrying out detailed studies of their local air quality over the past three years. Within the Yeovil constituency, the relevant authority (South Somerset district council) is undertaking a major study of air quality in Yeovil town centre, having identified some potential air pollution problems there. No other areas within the Yeovil constituency have so far been identified as having levels of air pollution which might exceed the nationally prescribed objectives.

Within Yeovil town centre, South Somerset district council has identified a potential exceedence of the nationally prescribed objective for nitrogen dioxide in the vicinity of the A30/A37 hospital roundabout. A new monitoring station has therefore been installed in the grounds of the Yeovil district hospital, to measure levels of nitrogen dioxide and particles in the area of concern. I understand that South Somerset district council is due very shortly to publish an interim report giving the first detailed monitoring results from this station.

Illegal Meat Imports

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much illegal meat was imported into the UK and confiscated from ports and airports in the last 12 months; and if she will list the species of animal concerned. [1999]

Mr. Morley: A number of enforcement authorities are involved in the seizure of illegal imports of meat into the UK and no central records are kept of meat confiscated from ports and airports. As part of the new action across Government on illegal imports of animal products, we are developing mechanisms to centralise such records in future. Consolidated historical figures are not available but the information we have gathered to date indicates that in excess of 1,750 kg of illegal meat was confiscated from individuals during the financial year 2000–01

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and that over 450 kg was seized from commercial consignments at Heathrow airport alone in the 12-month period from May 2000.

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action the Government are taking to control the trade in smuggled meat, with particular reference to smuggling from countries with foot and mouth. [1998]

Mr. Morley: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is co-ordinating action across Government to ensure that rules governing both commercial and personal imports are enforced effectively at ports and airports. We have introduced improved publicity to ensure travellers are aware of the restrictions on what may be imported. Posters have been placed at main airports and information is being provided by the travel industry and FCO posts abroad. New arrangements have been introduced to improve sharing of information within Government on known or suspected illegal imports to enable enforcement authorities to better target their activities. In addition, the European Commission have agreed to give urgent attention to ensuring that the law on personal imports is clear and robust so that consistent and effective controls can be maintained across all the Community's borders.

Civil Servants

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many civil servants were employed by (a) the Department of the Environment and (b) the Ministry of Agriculture in April 1997. [1802]

Mr. Morley: In April 1997 the Department of Environment (Central) employed 3,180 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) civil servants; this does not include staff within its Agencies. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food employed 10,314 FTE civil servants, which includes staff in its Agencies.

Radioactive Waste

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she plans to publish the White Paper on radioactive waste. [1771]

Mr. Meacher: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) on 2 July 2001, Official Report, column 47W.


Pensioners (Benefit Take-up)

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his latest estimate is of the number of pensioners who are entitled to, but fail to claim, each benefit or allowance; what is the total annual amount which consequently remains unclaimed; and if he will make a statement. [1379]

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Mr. McCartney: Available information on take-up of benefit can be found in "Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-Up 1998–99", a copy of which is in the Library.

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