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Ms Drown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if her Department will produce a strategy for reducing the release of dioxins to the levels recommended by the Committee on Toxicity for the tolerable daily intake for dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls, with particular reference to releases from (a) Environment Agency regulated activities, (b) local authority-regulated activities and (c) activities that are not regulated; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: The recommendation of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) is for a tolerable daily intake (TDI) for dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls of 2 picogrammes TEQ/kilogramme bodyweight. The Food Standards Agency's programme of research and surveys for these contaminants has shown that the average dietary exposure in the UK (1.8 picogrammes TEQ/kilogramme bodyweight per day) is already below the new TDI, although consumers who eat a lot of fatty foods can exceed the TDI.
Emissions from Environment Agency and local authority regulated activities are controlled under the systems of Integrated Pollution Control (which are progressively being replaced by the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations) and Local Air Pollution Control. These and other controls have made a major contribution to the approximately 70 per cent. reduction in emissions of dioxins to air during the past decade. As the major industrial sources are reduced, the less well regulated diffuse sources such as bonfires have become relatively more important, so action is also needed in these areas. The Government believe that there is a strong case for reducing environmental emissions of dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), particularly in the light of the revised recommended tolerable daily
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intake by the COT. In consultation with the devolved Administrations, other Government Departments and agencies the Department is, therefore, producing a UK position paper on dioxins and PCBs, which will set out proposals for achieving further reductions in emissions of these compounds, for consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.
Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with her European Union counterparts regarding the continued implementation of the date-based export scheme. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 25 January 2002]: The date-based export scheme continues to be available as the means of exporting beef from the UK, although it has been in abeyance for the duration of the foot and mouth disease outbreak. We recognise that the conditions of the scheme are onerous and that this is a disincentive to potential beef exporters to operate under the scheme. For this reason we are pressing the European Commission to propose changes to the conditions of the scheme to make it a more viable prospect for a wider range of beef exporters.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the source was of the funding for the £6 million offered to those vessels which successfully bid for fishing vessel decommissioning during October 2001. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 28 January 2002]: I announced the £6 million decommissioning scheme on 10 May 2001. These funds are additional to the £5 million provision for Cornwall I announced on 24 July 2000 would be available for the period 200102 to 200304, and the £6 million which I similarly announced for the rest of England. The scheme will be co-financed by the EU under the EU structural fund for fisheries (FIFG).
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress she has made in respect of fulfilment of her Department's obligations regarding the completion of this year's fishing vessel decommissioning scheme. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 28 January 2002]: The applications which offer best value for money have now been approved, and I have extended the final date for claims by a month at the request of applicants.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of the funding for this year's fishing vessel decommissioning scheme was (a) European and (b) UK moneys. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 28 January 2002]: The fisheries structural fund rules apply. For vessels meeting the scheme definition as Cornish 75 per cent. of payments will be funded by the EU. For vessels from the rest of England 50 per cent. is funded by the EU.
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discussions she has had with her counterparts in (a) Europe and (b) Norway, regarding the proposal to (i) take low impact fishing methods out of the quota system, (ii) introduce management regimes which encourage low impact fishing methods and (iii) establish systems which afford protection for low impact fishing methods in future policy development. 
Mr. Morley: Under Community legislation we are required to take account of all landings for quota management purposes: there are no exceptions. However, in the context of the on-going review of the common fisheries policy, the Government have made it clear that we have at hand an opportunity to give new recognition to the role of fishermen using selective and environmentally friendly fishing techniques which have a low impact on stocks, such as North sea cod long liners and mackerel handliners. In our public response to the European Commission's Green Paper on the future of the CFP, we make exactly that point.
In some cases, however, the Government have already introduced measures recognising the importance of certain low-impact fisheries. We have, for example, implemented enhanced underpinning arrangements in the south-west mackerel handline fishery, whereby the handliners receive a guaranteed minimum quota allocation each year. We also arrange 'quota swaps' to obtain additional fish where necessary.
Mr. Meacher: Measures under way to provide further protection for the marine environment include the review of marine nature conservation, extension of the habitats directive out to the limit of jurisdiction of UK waters and proposals for integrated coastal zone management. The forthcoming Marine Stewardship report will set out our strategy for the sustainable development and conservation of the marine environment.
Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the progress being made towards the development of a single definition of rural for use by (a) her Department and (b) other sections of Government. 
Alun Michael: Neither the Department nor the Government as a whole uses a single definition of a rural area, and it would be unrealistic to impose a standard definition for use in all contexts. For example, within a broadly "rural" county or district, not all parishes would be properly described as "rural". However, we recognise that there is a need for a more co-ordinated and consistent approach to the categorisation and use of definitions of urban and rural areas. For that reason DEFRA, DTLR, the Countryside Agency and the Office for National Statistics are working together towards a better set of definitions of urban and rural areas. In the short term, we plan to use for statistical purposes the definitions presently used by the Countryside Agency.
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Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment she has made of the effects of industrial fishing on whitefish species; and if she will make a statement; 
Mr. Morley: The annual weight of bycatch reported to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in relation to industrial fishing in the North sea averaged 6,000 tonnes of haddock, 9,000 tonnes of whiting and 1,000 tonnes of cod for the years 1995 to 1999.
The following table compiled by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (CEFAS) from statistics reported to ICES, shows how these industrial bycatch tonnages compare with landings and estimated discards for the same species, again averaged over the period 199599:
(22) 1999 only
Although these figures leave no doubt that whitefish are caught in the small-meshed industrial fisheries, they do not in themselves, especially when viewed alongside the tonnages discarded by the whitefish fleets, make out a case for banning industrial fishing.
However, on-going work by CEFAS, in part carried out in co-operation with Danish fishery managers, is aimed at refining our understanding of the bycatch, in particular in relation to the extent to which young fish of each of the whitefish species figure in it.
Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the effect of industrial fishing for sandeels on the sea-life food chain. 
Mr. Morley: Using data from international scientific studies, CEFAS has related estimates of the abundance of the fish and seabirds in and around the North sea to information on the amount of sandeel found in their stomachs. The information results from comparing the average populations for the period 1974 to 1995 with a large amount of stomach data collected during intensive sampling of North sea stocks throughout two reference years, 1981 and 1991.
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As a percentage averaged over the year, sandeels represented 20 per cent. of the diet for mackerel and whiting, 10 per cent. for haddock and 5 per cent. for saithe and cod. For sea birds the percentage was higher, averaging 40 per cent. for sea birds, rising to 90 per cent. during the chick rearing period. This is why sandeel fishing is currently not allowed on the Wee Bankie and why there is a seasonal closure at Shetland.
Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she last discussed the issue of industrial fishing with her Danish counterpart; what recent representations she has made; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: Senior officials from the Department held lengthy and productive discussions with their Danish counterparts on 16 November 2001. Scientific collaboration between Denmark and the United Kingdom on industrial fisheries is on-going, in particular in relation to by-catch and to the ground-breaking sandeel closure at Wee Bankie.
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