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Hedgerows

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the proposed timetable is for consultation on the revised draft Hedgerows Regulations; and if she will make a statement. [1116]

Alun Michael: We expect to consult on proposals to amend the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 later this year.

Animal Welfare

Sir Sydney Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement about the progress of her review of the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals; and for how long representations may be made to her. [3711]

Mr. Morley: Responsibility for the European Convention was passed from the Home Office to this Department on 8 June. I will be happy to receive representatives from the hon. Gentleman and others about this new element in our responsibilities for animal welfare.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the measures she is taking to improve animal welfare. [3867]

Mr. Morley: This Government are committed to high animal welfare standards, not only in the UK but also on an EU wide basis. High welfare standards are best achieved through effective Community-wide legislation and enforcement. We will continue to work towards the delivery of positive change through a range of UK, European Union and Council of Europe measures designed to improve welfare conditions for all animals, following the transfer of certain animal welfare responsibilities from the Home Office.

Commission on the Future of Food and Farming

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) who will lead the commission to consider the future of food and farming; [3855]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 16 July 2001]: An announcement will be made soon on the membership and terms of reference of the commission.

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Wildlife Crime (Birds of Prey)

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures are in place to (a) stop wild birds of prey being illegally sold in the United Kingdom and (b) detect and prosecute those responsible for the illegal sale of wild birds of prey; and what further action is planned. [4167]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 16 July 2001]: Legislation is already in place prohibiting the sale of most birds of prey species, unless a licence has been issued by my Department or one of the devolved Administrations. People found guilty of sales offences could face an unlimited fine and/or a prison sentence of up to two years.

Responsibility for enforcing the controls rests primarily with the police service. Most forces now have at least one part-time Wildlife Liaison Officer who would normally investigate these offences. The Department actively supports investigating officers, by providing information about the licences and permits it has issued, and from its bird registration system. It also manages a panel of Wildlife Inspectors, who check compliance with certain wildlife controls.

The Department also co-chairs the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, comprising all the main Government and voluntary organisations committed to combating crimes against wildlife. The Partnership is taking forward a range of initiatives to raise awareness of wildlife crime and to support the work of police officers. One of its main priorities is to take forward work to establish a dedicated unit to tackle wildlife crime at national level.

Flood Defence Schemes (Robertsbridge)

Mr. Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will instruct the Environment Agency to commence work immediately on the flood defence schemes for Northbridge street and Rutley close, Robertsbridge. [3858]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 16 July 2001]: The Department has policy responsibility for flood and coastal defence and provides grant aid for capital works that meet certain criteria. However operational responsibility, including decisions on which projects to promote and their timing, rests with local operating authorities, such as the Environment Agency. I understand that the Agency is building on the findings of the pre-feasibility study of flooding problems in Robertsbridge, by commissioning a feasibility study to develop the outline design for suitable flood defences. The study will include consideration of flood defences for Northbridge street and Rutley close. Depending on the results of the study, I understand that the Environment Agency plans to commence works at Robertsbridge in summer 2002.

Flood Protection

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to amend the funding arrangements for flood protection measures; and if she will make a statement. [4136]

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Mr. Morley: The funding arrangements for flood and coastal defence are currently being reviewed with a report due in September. I shall, of course, inform the House of the conclusions that are reached.

Departmental Co-operation

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when she met the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions to discuss inter-departmental sharing of papers and joint decision-making; what is the intended timetable for future meetings to take place; and if she will make a statement; [4005]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 July 2001]: It is vital that the Department works effectively with other Departments to deliver the Government's policy objectives. I regularly meet Ministerial colleagues from relevant parts of Government to discuss matters of shared interest. My officials also have frequent contacts with their counterparts in these areas.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans her Department has for future joint decision making in conjunction with the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions; and if she will make a statement. [4004]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 July 2001]: It is vital that the Department works effectively with other Departments to deliver the Government's policy objectives. We work closely with all relevant parts of Government, including the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, on matters of shared interest.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans her Department has for future joint decision making in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry; and if she will make a statement. [4007]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 July 2001]: It is vital that my Department works effectively with other Departments to deliver the Government's policy objectives. We work closely with all relevant parts of Government, including the Department of Trade and Industry, on matters of shared interest.

Common Agricultural Policy

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her timetable is for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to reflect environmental concerns more closely; and if she will make a statement. [3987]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 July 2001]: We expect the European Commission to table proposals to the Agriculture Council for discussion next summer. The timing of those negotiations will be the responsibility of

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the member states holding the presidency at the time, which will be Spain for the period up to June 2002 and then Denmark.

We are committed to CAP reform and want to reduce the overall burden of the CAP, to secure a closer alignment between EU and world prices and to re-focus support on measures benefiting the rural economy and the environment.

Biotechnology

Linda Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the consultation exercises that have been undertaken over the last five years on farm animal biotechnology and cloning; what decisions have been made following these exercises; and which issues are still under consideration. [2562]

Mr. Morley: The Government received advice on the implications of cloning for farm animals in a report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (published December 1998). Since then, the Government have established the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC). Its remit includes providing strategic advice on the ethical and social aspects of developments in biotechnology, and on their public acceptability. An AEBC sub-group is currently exploring the subject of animals and biotechnology with the aim of providing a report to Government early next year. This may include consideration of the issue of the welfare of cloned animals. More generally, the Office of Science and Technology commissioned a consultation exercise on public attitudes to biotechnology in 1998–99, which included questions on the public perception of animal cloning.


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