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GM Trials

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Government have spent on GM trials in the past five years. [27741]

Mr. Meacher: The Government are funding two research programmes which aim to provide information on the consequences, if any, for agriculture and the environment of growing certain genetically modified herbicide tolerant (GMHT) crops. The Farm Scale Evaluations (FSEs) programme is a three-year programme allowing independent researchers to study the effect that the management practices associated with GMHT crops might have on farmland wildlife, when compared with weed control used with non-GM crops. The Botanical and Rotational Implications of Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerance (BRIGHT) project aims to determine the agricultural implications of GMHT crops and produce management information for their sustainable production.

The costs of the FSE programme and BRIGHT project met by Government are:

Project£
FSEs(12)5,123,265
BRIGHT(13)235,521
Total5,358,786

(12) To end March 2002

(13) To end March 2002


IACS Payments

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason the IACS payment due to be paid by 31 January is being withheld; and if she will make a statement. [27954]

Mr. Morley: The RPA expects to be able to pay the vast majority of Arable Area Payment Scheme (AAPS) claims within the regulatory time frame, which ends on 31 January. However, because of the processing time that has been lost due to industrial action, (which was suspended on 11 January), it is likely that more claims than usual will be carried over into February. Every effort will be made to keep this to the absolute minimum. As at 16 January 81 per cent. of AAPS claims have been passed for payment.

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farmers in Wiltshire applied for assistance under the IACS scheme in (a) 2000 and (b) 2001; and of these how many have been paid. [28834]

Mr. Morley: 989 IACS (Arable Area Payment Scheme) applications were received from farmers in Wiltshire in 2000 and 983 have been paid.

The figures for 2001 are 979 IACS applications of which 562 have been paid. 2001 applications are still being processed.

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Countryside and Rights of Way Act

Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to bring into force section 57 and schedule 6 to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. [28581]

Alun Michael: Section 57 introduces schedule 6 to the Countryside and Rights of way 2000, which contains a wide range of provisions relating to the creation, stopping-up and diversion of highways. These provisions require the enactment of detailed secondary legislation to bring them into effect.

I intend to implement those new measures that relate to the closure or diversion of rights of way on the basis of crime prevention and pupil and teacher safety ahead of the other provisions in schedule 6. I will be issuing a consultation paper on these shortly. The crime prevention measures will be restricted to areas designated by the Secretary of State for this specific purpose.

Public consultation on the other schedule 6 provisions is planned for early next year.

Radioactive Waste

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) levels and (b) amount of stock piled radioactive waste is held in the UK from (i) civilian and (ii) military establishments. [28755]

Mr. Meacher: Using data from the 1998 UK Radioactive Waste Inventory the amounts of waste (expressed in conditioned form) are as follows:

Units = m(16)

CivilMilitary
HLW700
ILW70,0002,700
LLW4,7001,200

Organic Fruit Growers

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Government have spent in assistance to organic fruit growers in the past five years. [27742]

Mr. Morley: Aid is available for the conversion of land to organic farming and free advice is available to farmers through the Organic Conversion Information Service. Statistics are not available specifically on payments to organic fruit growers as the data are collected by reference to general land type.

Agriculture Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 21 and 22 January; what the Government's position was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [30374]

Margaret Beckett: I represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture Council meeting on 21 January in Brussels. The council held initial debates on commission

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proposals concerning potato starch quotas and animal health requirements governing the movement of pet animals. I welcomed both proposals and, on the latter, stressed the importance of having rules safeguarding against the risk of importing rabies that were fully based on scientific advice.

The council agreed unanimously to permit Portugal to pay a state aid to pig producers to offset the repayment of aids paid illegally in 1994 and 1998. In consenting to this I expressed grave concern at the council's increasing tendency to approve aids which, particularly in sensitive sectors such as pigmeat, could undermine the integrity of the Single Market.

The council also received a report from Commissioner Byrne on the commission's progress in negotiating veterinary and phytosanitary equivalence agreements with third countries, notably in relation to the Mercosur countries and Chile. I welcomed this but called upon the Commission to ensure all Mercosur countries complied with existing obligations to permit imports of milk products and bovine semen from all EU countries.

Community Vibrancy

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which organisation initiated the idea of an indicator of community vibrancy; whose decision it was to publish a list of communities' vibrancy; and if she will make a statement. [29681]

Alun Michael: The Countryside Agency worked with the Rural White Paper team during development of the set of headline indicators published in the Rural White Paper. Indicator 15 Community vibrancy, under the theme A Vibrant Countryside was to measure


The purpose of the indicator is to measure on a national basis the trend over time.

The list of communities' vibrancies was made available to Members of Parliament through the House of Commons Library after the information was requested in a parliamentary question by the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) on 28 November 2001, Official Report, column 1018W. The list had not been previously published as it represents work in progress for the headline indicator as simply a broad measure at the national level.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which organisation devised the criteria for an indicator of community vibrancy; what consultation there was with individual communities in advance of the publication of this information; and what opportunity there is for communities to dispute their classification after publication. [29682]

Alun Michael: The Countryside Agency published interim results from its own interpretation of community vibrancy based on three 'classes' in its State of the Countryside Report 2001. The indicator was based on interim findings of the 2000 Rural Services Survey and

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the State of the Countryside report recognised some limitations with the indicator, stating that these findings largely reflect the 'critical' mass of population needed to enable the community activity opportunity to become viable or functional. The indicator does not reveal the extent to which smaller settlements and parishes are able to take up community activities in neighbouring parishes. Further, communities in all size of parish may exhibit community vibrancy in other ways than those assessed here.

Consultation was not done directly with individual communities. However the scoring system used for the sub-set of parishes analysed was contained in the State of the Countryside Report 2001. Following this publication, the Countryside Agency received no comments on the components of the scoring system. The indicator is still in development and the scoring was adapted to meet the four classes used in the RWP headline indicator.

Individual parish scores were not intended to be published, but used within an overall indicator based on returns submitted through the Rural Services Survey parish questionnaire to all rural parish clerks during autumn 2000. Some forms were interpreted differently or inadequately completed and, to date, the indicator has used these returns as the sole basis. The indicator is thus based on a standard national measure for 2000. For future work, the Countryside Agency is looking at ways of improving the collection and robustness of data to inform our indicator. This will include working with DEFRA, National Association of Local Councils and bodies such as rural community councils.

The Countryside Agency recognises some shortcomings in the data and it is not intended for any listing of parishes to be used for targeting funding or similar policy initiatives. The Countryside Agency intends to look at the whole issue again through consultation on the methodology, rather than amending individual classifications. Differing views over individual classifications are inevitable but the Countryside Agency would prefer to address these in a review of the indicator rather than on a case-by-case basis. In particular, the naming convention of the groups may be reconsidered to more accurately reflect the underlying information.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the survey results of the questionnaire sent out to parish and town council clerks by the Countryside Agency in advance of its classification of communities according to the indicator of community vibrancy. [29683]

Alun Michael: The survey results of the questionnaire sent to parish and town council clerks has been published on the Countryside Agency's website at www.countryside.gov.uk/ruralservices/index.htm


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