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Waste Disposal

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the likely charge per unit waste disposal authorities will make to householders for the disposal of (a) refrigerators, (b) deep-freezers, (c) fridge-freezers and (d) air conditioning units after 1 January 2002. [24168]

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Mr. Meacher: Waste disposal authorities have a statutory duty, under section 51(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to provide reasonably accessible sites where householders can dispose of their waste free of charge.

Waste collection authorities have a statutory duty to arrange for the collection of household waste. However, they are entitled to impose a charge for collection for certain items, set out in Schedule 2 to the Controlled Waste Regulations 1992. Charges vary considerably (with many local authorities not imposing a charge) and may include the collection of more than one bulky item. Charges are in the range of £0 to £35, with higher charges for those living in rural areas.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the chairmen of the independent inquiries into the consequences and lessons of the foot and mouth disease for their proposals for communications with hon. Members; and if she will make a statement. [25402]

Mr. Morley: I have met with the inquiries on a number of occasions to discuss a range of issues. I am aware that both the Royal Society inquiry and the Iain Anderson Lessons Learned inquiry provide regular updates on their dedicated websites. The Lessons Learned inquiry will shortly be writing to hon. Members to update them on progress.

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what communications she has had with hon. Members drawing their attention to the commencement of the independent inquiry into the lessons to be learned from the foot and mouth epidemic; and if she will make a statement. [25403]

Mr. Morley: In my statement to the House on 17 December I announced the start of the Lessons Learned inquiry to hon. Members. I welcome the start of this inquiry and confirm that the Department will co-operate fully with the independent inquiry process.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the uncompensated losses suffered by farmers through foot and mouth are; and how those losses are calculated. [29997]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 24 January 2002]: There are no statistics gathered on uncompensated losses and reliable estimates of these losses are not available at this stage. However DEFRA is working with a number of other Government Departments to prepare such an estimate and the results of this work will be made publicly available. We have carried out a survey of over 1,000 farms in FMD affected areas to collect information on the direct impact and their future intentions. The results of this survey will be published early in February.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the current situation regarding (a) foot and mouth disease and (b) other livestock-related diseases in Settle. [29991]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 24 January 2002]: Livestock related disease surveillance is carried out in the Settle area for DEFRA by the Veterinary Laboratories

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Agency regional laboratories at Thirsk and Preston. I understand that currently the reported incidence of livestock related disease in that area is normal for this time of year. North Yorkshire, like the whole of Great Britain, is now classified as free from FMD. However, it is important that farms and veterinarians remain vigilant.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has made (a) to the European Commission and (b) to the OIE regarding the reinstatement of foot and mouth disease free status to the United Kingdom. [28683]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 18 January 2002]: The European Commission have been kept fully informed of the position in the United Kingdom through monthly meetings of its Standing Veterinary Committee. Having received a report from the State Veterinary Service earlier this month that all counties in Great Britain are foot and mouth disease (FMD) free, the European Commission lifted all export controls except those on live sheep.

My Department also submitted a report to the OIE which set out the work carried out to control the outbreak and invited the OIE to consider whether it was now in a position to restore the UK's FMD free status. This report was considered by the OIE's FMD commission on 22 January. The OIE commission agreed to restore the UK's "FMD free status without vaccination" for the purposes of international trade.

The EU Standing Veterinary Committee is expected to return to the issue of live sheep exports at its 5–6 February meeting, in the light of the OIE decision.

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of her Department's staff remain employed directly in dealing with the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease and consequential activity; how many of these staff members will be re-designated to activities associated with combating incidences of bovine tuberculosis; and if she will make a statement. [29089]

Mr. Morley: About 12 per cent. of the permanent staff in my Department, in offices across the country, are still employed in dealing with the foot and mouth epidemic and consequential activity. It is not possible to say how many of these staff would become available for work on bovine tuberculosis, but veterinary officer effort on bovine tuberculosis has already doubled between June and December last year.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the firms of contractors employed by her Department and its agencies to assist with clean-up work during the foot and mouth outbreak; and what payments were made from public funds in each case. [28183]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 17 January 2002]: Over 1,200 contractors have been employed by the Department to undertake work, including that on secondary cleansing and disinfection. A complete list of all contractors was placed in the Library of the House on 15 October 2001.

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The final cost of all cleansing and disinfection is now estimated to be about £280 million, but the total amount being paid to all of the individual contractors has not yet been finalised.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of hill farmers who have recently left the industry as a result of foot and mouth disease; and if she will make a statement. [28042]

Mr. Morley: At present it is too early to assess the impact of foot and mouth disease on hill farmers.

Farm Subsidies

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the contribution farm subsidies make in reducing the cost of food in the UK. [26021]

Mr. Morley: The only farm subsidies directly aimed at reducing the cost of food are consumer subsidies. However these constitute a very small element of the support mechanism and they do not significantly offset the higher prices consumers face from the CAP. The recent reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy, which have reduced the level of support to the market and increased direct payments to producers, have had the effect of substantially reducing the cost of agricultural support to consumers. However I estimate that in 2000 the overall cost of the CAP to food consumers and taxpayers was equivalent to £8 to £9 per week for a family of four.

Beam Trawlers

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action the Government are taking to monitor the damage caused to sea beds by beam trawlers; and if she will make a statement. [27162]

Mr. Morley: The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) has studied the impacts of beam trawling on different sea bed habitats in the North and Irish seas since 1993 and compared these impacts with other sources of disturbance in the marine environment.

Beam trawling effort is patchily distributed. Most beam trawling takes place in relatively shallow areas with relatively high levels of natural disturbance, and where the sea bed is, to a certain extent, resilient to the effects of the gear. For example, the sandy sea beds of the southern North sea are continually disturbed by tides and wave action, and most of the animals living there are already adapted to cope with disturbance. In these areas the effects of beam trawling on the sea bed are hard to detect, and recovery of areas that are trawled will usually occur in less than one year.

In deeper water, where there is usually less wave and tidal action, beam trawling could have a proportionally greater effect, and recovery of the sea bed will take much longer. However, beam trawls are not widely used in these areas.

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