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Foot and Mouth

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) which countries have used inoculation as a preventive tool in trying to combat foot and mouth disease breakdowns over the last five years; [8545]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 18 October 2001]: These questions can be fully answered only at disproportionate cost. However, the website of the Office International des Epizootics www.oie.int/eng/en—index.htm provides a very detailed range of statistics regarding the control measures employed by its member countries.

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Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if her Department has identified the origins of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. [15625]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 16 November 2001]: The current epidemic has been caused by a specific strain of the foot and mouth virus (PanAsian Strain O) which has occurred in a number of countries around the world. The precise means of the introduction of the virus into Great Britain is unknown and the subject of continuing investigations, but is more likely to have been introduced in illegally imported meat or meat products.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what contingency plans and resources were established within MAFF to deal with foot and mouth disease before the outbreak this year. [15370]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 16 November 2001]: Prior to the current outbreak of foot and mouth disease, MAFF had contingency plans for dealing with outbreaks of serious animal disease which included detailed operational instructions for use by the state veterinary service. The general contingency plan for foot and mouth was updated and submitted to the European Commission in July 2000. MAFF regularly held local emergency exercises in co-operation with the police, supervised by the divisional veterinary manager. Animal health offices were required to regularly update their local contingency plans.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which office in her Department is responsible for co-ordinating policy on foot and mouth; and how many civil servants are working in this policy area. [15373]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 16 November 2001]: The co-ordination of foot and mouth policy is the responsibility of the DEFRA ministerial team. Day-to-day responsibility for foot and mouth eradication policy lies with Jim Scudamore as chief veterinary officer and director general of animal health and welfare in DEFRA. The CVO is closely supported in this work area by the veterinary director and the director of animal health.

The directorate general includes veterinary and administrative staff engaged in an extremely wide rang of FMD related duties, and works closely with other teams inside DEFRA, notably the joint co-ordination centre (JCC) which reports to Mark Addison, director general operations and service delivery.

The number of officials, at all levels, within Jim Scudamore's team in headquarters who work full time in the exotic diseases veterinary team and the foot and mouth division is 47.

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what instructions have been issued by her Department to the chairmen of the foot and mouth disease inquiries (a) to concentrate on the handling of future animal disease outbreaks and (b) to exclude the handling of the outbreak from their inquiries and final reports; and if she will make a statement. [16659]

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Mr. Morley: On 9 August 2001 the Prime Minister announced two independent inquiries and a policy commission into the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.

The "Lessons Learned" inquiry is to make recommendations for the way in which the Government should handle any future major animal disease outbreak in the light of the lessons identified from the handling of the 2001 FMD outbreak in Great Britain. The Royal Society has been asked to review scientific questions relating to the transmission, prevention and control of epidemic outbreaks of infectious diseases in livestock in Great Britain. The Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food will advise on how to create a sustainable, competitive and diverse farming and food sector.

No specific instructions have been issued to the chairmen of the two inquiries and the Policy Commission beyond the terms of reference.

Appeal Mechanism (Farmers)

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will establish an independent appeal system for farmers in disagreement with her Department over the processing, interpretation or assessment of applications for financial support and other statutory services and procedures. [16400]

Mr. Morley: A consultation paper was issued in December 2000 on the introduction of an independent appeals procedure for farmers wishing to contest decisions to reduce or withhold payments under IACS (Integrated Administration and Control System) subsidy schemes in England. We announced on 15 May that we would work with industry to introduce new arrangements as soon as we can. Since then, DEFRA officials including the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) have been working on the details of the procedure prior to further consultation with the industry. The RPA is also working on parallel procedures for non-IACS schemes. In addition to this new procedure a senior DEFRA official acts as the Department's Impartial Complaints Adjudicator to investigate complaints about standards of service provided by the Department.

Fishing

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment she has made of progress in management of fishing effort in the Irish Sea. [15869]

Mr. Morley: Management of the Irish Sea focuses on setting TACs in line with scientific advice, enhanced technical conservation measures and, in 2000 and 2001, a prohibition on demersal fishing so as to allow the maximum number of cod to spawn.

The European Commission is currently preparing a proposal to the Council of Ministers for a Regulation establishing the long-term framework for recovery plans. An element of this proposal is expected to involve a significant reduction in fishing effort.

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Coastal Protection

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in her discussions with the Environment Agency on coastal protection, what definition she has used for the phrase, Coastal Squeeze. [15812]

Mr. Morley: In the context of coastal defence, the term "coastal squeeze" is taken to refer to the process whereby, in the face of rising sea levels, an area of intertidal habitat, such as saltmarsh, mudflat or saline lagoon is prevented from migrating landwards owing to the presence of a hard boundary such as a sea defence.

(This description is set out at page 17 of Flood and Coastal Defence Project Appraisal Guidance, Volume 5, Environmental Appraisal (FCDPAG5)).

Flood Defences (Suffolk)

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been spent on sea and river defences in Suffolk between and including the rivers Blyth and Stour in each of the last 10 years. [15835]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency does not have information readily available on this basis.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to protect Suffolk environmentally sensitive areas from flooding due to bad weather. [15833]

Mr. Morley: Operational management of flood and coastal erosion risk in England is a matter for local operating authorities—the Environment Agency (EA), local authorities and internal drainage boards. I understand the Norfolk and Suffolk Flood Defence Committee of the EA is currently planning to undertake some 17 work projects or studies with a view to alleviating flood risk in areas that include environmental sites of European importance (Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Ramsar sites) in Suffolk which are at risk of flooding.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the shingle bank that protects the Alde and Ore estuary will be recharged. [15814]

Mr. Morley: I understand that, subject to the completion of an Appropriate Assessment as required by the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations 1994, the Environment Agency plan to begin to recharge this shingle bank in April to May 2002. However the Agency have an agreement with English Nature that emergency works can be carried out if these become necessary in the meantime.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the annual cost is of shingle bank recharge between and including the rivers Blyth and Stour estuaries; and what the cost is of recharging the shingle banks that protect the Alde and Ore estuary. [15813]

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Mr. Morley: I understand from the Environment Agency that the average annual costs of shingle recharge/movement on the following areas is:

£000 per annum
Slaughden (Alde-Ore Estuary)30
Easton Broad (North of Southwold)10
Dunwich-Walberswick15
Total55

There is not shingle recharge/movement on the River Stour.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the loss of habitat in environmentally sensitive areas of Suffolk as a result of breached sea and river defences in the last 10 years. [15834]

Mr. Morley: Operational management of flood and coastal erosion risk in England, including environmentally sensitive areas, is a matter for local operating authorities. I understand that the Environment Agency, the main flood defence operating authority, has not abandoned any sea or river defences in Suffolk in the last 10 years.


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