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Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the (a) timetable and (b) practical requirements of delivering CAP payments to British farmers in euros. 
To operate a manual system, even to cope with modest demand, would be inefficient. IT systems are therefore being developed in the Rural Payments Agency and in the devolved Administrations to deliver such a service. The work has to be dovetailed with other developments and is therefore not expected to be complete before 2004.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at which European Council meeting the decision was taken to replace the ECU as the common currency for the Common Agricultural Policy with the euro; which UK Ministers attended; what reasons underlay the decision; and what assessment she has made of the financial consequences of the EU payment to UK agriculture. 
Mr. Morley: On 9 June 1997 the UK Parliament lifted its long-standing scrutiny reserve on the regulations under article 235 (now article 308) of the treaty providing the legal basis for the introduction and use of the euro. This allowed the text to be adopted formally by the Council in Luxembourg on 17 June. My right hon. Friends the Deputy Prime Minister and the Member for Edinburgh, East and Musselburgh (Dr. Strang) represented the UK. These provisions applied to all transactions involving the ECU, including those relating to the Common Agricultural Policy. The introduction of the euro was in accordance with the procedure and timetable set out in the treaty. It is not possible to assess the financial consequences to UK agriculture of the replacement of the ECU with the euro, because we cannot tell how the currencies from which the value of the ECU was calculated would have fluctuated had the euro not been introduced.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how much of the CAP underspend related to arable farming in each of the last five years for which figures are available; 
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(3) what representations she has made to the EU about the CAP underspend; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 28 February 2002]: Expenditure on the Common Agricultural Policy is made in accordance with the EU regulations. Actual CAP expenditure may be higher or lower than forecast at the beginning of each budgetary year, due to the market situation, exchange rate fluctuations, or exceptional items. Surplus from one year's EC Budget is returned to member states in the following year's Budget by means of a reduction of the amount to be financed from own resources. This has the effect of reducing the amount each member state is required to pay from GNP-based resource. Moneys returned in this way are not broken down by category and information is not therefore available for specific items of expenditure. So we have made no representations on this matter.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many new entrants to the civil service were employed in her Department in each of the last five years; and how many in each year were aged 50 and over. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 25 February 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Leslie) on 25 February 2002, Official Report, column 880W.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with other EU countries concerning monopolies with respect to milk marketing; and if she will make a statement. 
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has made to the European Commission on the proposed milk quota allocation for applicant EU member states; and what assessment she has made of the impact on the UK dairy industry of the quota allocations proposed under the EU formula for new member states. 
Mr. Morley: The UK favours the abolition of milk quotas in advance of enlargement. If, however, this does not prove to be possible we believe the approach taken in the European Commission's paper on milk quota allocation for acceding countries to be a sound one. It follows previous practice, when quotas were first introduced in 1984, and in other EU enlargement processes, whereby quota is fixed on the basis of historical production during a set reference period, in this case the average for the years 199799. As such, there should be no impact on the UK dairy sector. We have made it clear to the Commission that we are looking for an outcome which is both fair and does not create new obstacles for CAP reform.
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Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what transport was arranged for DEFRA official Mr. Tim Render to return home after the public hearing in Okehampton on 23 January of the Lessons Learned inquiry. 
Mr. Morley: Mr. Tim Render (Director, Food, Farming and Rural Development in the Government Office, South West) accompanied the Lessons Learned inquiry for part of its visit to the South West. Mr. Render made his own travel arrangements but, after the public meeting in Okehampton, asked for a lift on the inquiry mini-bus to Gloucestershire, in preparation for the continuation of the visit the following day, which was granted.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what transport was arranged for the chairman of the Lessons Learned inquiry to return home after its public hearing in Okehampton on 23 January. 
Mr. Morley: I understand the Inquiry Secretariat hired a mini-bus for Dr. Anderson's visit to the South West. He left the public meeting at Okehampton by this mini-bus to continue his visit in Gloucestershire the following day.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many dolphins have been drowned through being caught in fishing nets in each of the last three years in the EU; and if she will make a statement. 
Sample surveys of the incidental capture of cetaceans have demonstrated that there is a significant bycatch problem in the bass fishery off South West England which is why we are urgently conducting trials of mitigation measures to reduce bycatch in this fishery.
In my recent letter to Commissioner Fischler on the bycatch problem and the need for EU action, I also pressed the Commission to institute an observer programme across the EU to broaden the information available on bycatch.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans she has to press for the compulsory introduction of new fishing nets with an escape hatch for dolphins across the EU; and if she will make a statement; 
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Mr. Morley: I have written recently to Commissioner Fischler explaining the trials on separator grids which the Sea Mammal Research Unit will be undertaking on our behalf in the offshore bass fishery in March. I urged the Commissioner to be ready to take action to address the problem of cetacean bycatch in this EU fishery, either through compulsory introduction of this gear if the trials are successful, or by other means if they are not.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has made to the (a) French, (b) Spanish and (c) Portugese Governments on the issue of dolphins being trapped in fishing nets; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: For international fisheries implicated in the bycatch problem, action is required at EU level. This is why I have written recently to Commissioner Fischler alerting him to my concern on this issue and urging EU action to resolve the problem. We will also be briefing other member states about the evidence we have and the state of progress of trials on mitigation methods. As a start I have written to M. Glavany, the French Minister with responsibility for fisheries, drawing my concerns to his attention and seeking support for my approach to the Commission. Spain rarely fishes in the mouth of the Channel where the current problems seem to be focused. We are not aware of any Portuguese activity in this area.
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