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Veterinary Medicines

8. Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): If she will make a statement on the regulatory framework for prescribing veterinary medicines. [13070]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley): The over-30-months scheme was started in England on 30 July—[Interruption.]

Mr. Gray: That is the wrong answer.

Mr. Morley: I am sorry.

The regulatory framework for prescribing veterinary medicines is set out in section 58 of the Medicines Act 1968.

Mr. Gray: I am grateful to the Minister for giving me the correct answer—albeit belatedly. He will no doubt be aware of article 67 of the EU review 2001, which would

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mean that such things as worming powders and salt licks would be issued only under veterinary prescription and not by saddlers or agricultural merchants as they are at present. Does he agree that that would have a devastating effect on saddlers and agricultural merchants; it would have a damaging effect on animal welfare because, for example, people would be reluctant to buy wormers; it would endanger the 3,200 people who are currently qualified to issue those medicines without being vets; and it would have an appalling effect on the countryside in general? Will he bring the strongest representations to bear on the European Commission and the European Parliament to ensure that this does not happen?

Mr. Morley: I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall certainly raise the matter with the Commission. There needs to be common sense in the application of such regulations. Of course, there are serious issues about veterinary medicines and food animals, and about animal welfare. In relation to animals such as horses, there are a range of medicines and there needs to be some flexibility. Discussions will be held, probably for about two to three years, during which we shall try to resolve these issues.

Flood Prevention

9. Gareth Thomas (Clwyd, West): If she will make a statement on steps taken to co-ordinate flood prevention. [13072]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley): The Environment Agency has a general supervisory responsibility for all matters relating to flood defence in England and Wales. The agency has been working with the other operating authorities in developing arrangements for inspecting defences and watercourses, receiving reports and assessing flood risk. We have been reviewing the present arrangements for funding flood and coastal defence as part of that, and we will consider whether the institutional arrangements are fit for the purpose.

Gareth Thomas: I am grateful for that response. On the subject of insurance against flooding, I am sure that the Minister will be aware that many householders are now finding it difficult to obtain insurance cover. Does he think that the Government have a role—and if so, what role—in ensuring that the insurance industry, which is so keen to collect premiums from people in good times, provides affordable cover, save in exceptional circumstances?

Mr. Morley: I agree with my hon. Friend. The Government are regularly in touch with the Association of British Insurers, and we have held several meetings recently to discuss those points. Insurance companies are of course in the business of managing risk, while the Government are in the business of reducing risk for people in relation to the threat from floods. The substantial sums that we are putting in and the substantial programmes that we have in place are reducing those risks, and we expect the insurance companies to respond accordingly.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): The flood problems in Wales are far more than a bijou

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problemette; they are serious and subject to repetition. Has the hon. Gentleman held discussions with officials of the National Assembly for Wales? The Welsh Local Government Association has estimated that it will cost about £50 million of new money to set up a co-ordinated flood defence strategy in Wales. What input has the hon. Gentleman made in that matter?

Mr. Morley: We meet regularly with our colleagues from the Welsh Assembly. Of course, their input in long-term strategy is most important and we take their views into consideration.

Mr. Michael Foster (Worcester): One of the barriers in setting up flood defence mechanisms seems to be the economic test to which they are subject. Will my hon. Friend impress on the Treasury the need to change the economic test so that, when it is used to assess value for money for flood defence schemes, it includes social costs, impact on health, and business and commercial losses?

Mr. Morley: We are currently reviewing the way that we apply the points score on the very issues raised by my hon. Friend. Of course, issues such as the effect on health can be difficult to quantify, but we accept that that is a perfectly legitimate consideration to take into account, and we are examining how that could be done in the future review of assessments.

Pig Farming

11. Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): What assessment she has made of the profitability of the pig sector. [13074]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley): The UK pig industry is going through a difficult time, partly as a result of the foot and mouth disease outbreak but also because of slack demand and plentiful supply. However, with the re-opening of export markets and the ability of the industry to restructure, using funds provided by the Government, medium-term prospects look more promising.

Mr. Heath: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that reply, although it is a slight understatement to say that the industry is going through a difficult time. Historically, the pig industry has neither sought nor received Government subsidy and it is still reeling from the after-effects of, first, classical swine fever and then foot and mouth. It still cannot believe that the Government are not taking action to prevent illegal meat imports.

Will the Minister tell us about the pig industry restructuring scheme? The Government set aside £66 million, which was welcome. How much of that has been spent, how has it been distributed and what will be done with any residue to help our hard-pressed pig industry?

Mr. Morley: I certainly accept the hon. Gentleman's point that the pig industry has never really sought support from the Government and the taxpayer, and it deserves great credit for that. As he rightly states, the industry has been under some pressure and we acknowledge that.

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The full £66 million for the pig industry restructuring support scheme was not taken up. The financing is complex and £3 million was used for business recovery schemes, which can also benefit the pig industry. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have been successful in getting pig exports moving again earlier than expected and that will doubtless have a beneficial effect on the whole sector.

I have to take issue with the hon. Gentleman over the point about illegal imports. We are spending a great deal of time, money and resources to ensure that illegal imports do not get into this country and we shall, of course, continue to review and strengthen those efforts. However, no one can give a 100 per cent. guarantee that it will not happen.

Waste Management

12. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West): If she will make a statement on the Government's waste management strategy. [13075]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): The national waste strategy, published in May last year, seeks to encourage more sustainable resource use by reducing the amount of waste created and by extracting value wherever possible from the waste that is produced.

We have set demanding statutory recycling targets for local authorities, increased the landfill tax, held consultations on a system of tradable landfill permits to achieve the required diversion from landfill, and established the waste resources action programme to help create stable and efficient markets for recycled materials and products.

Later this month we shall hold a waste summit for those with an interest in waste issues to discuss what more needs to be done.

Mr. Amess: The Secretary of State will be aware that in Essex recycling is running at 19 per cent. countywide; in civic amenities the figure is as high as 53 per cent. Does she realise that in order to meet increased targets local authorities will incur huge extra costs? In July, the comprehensive spending review promised more money—specifically, £140 million was promised to local authorities. Will she explain why local authorities have not so far received any extra money?

Margaret Beckett: The hon. Gentleman correctly says that extra resources were made available, but that was, of course, over a three-year period. I accept his point about

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what is being done already by Essex, among other local authorities, but he will know that it is important for the Government to encourage them to do far more, and that only through a constructive and effective partnership between Government and local authorities can we reach and achieve the targets. I anticipate that all those issues will be thrashed out at the waste summit.

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