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Rural Development Fund

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to press for a better deal from the EU Commission for the United Kingdom over the Rural Development Fund. [41357]

Alun Michael: Due to decisions taken by the last Government prior to 1997 and to the low historic spend in this sector, the UK's share of the rural development budget (3.5 per cent.) is disproportionately low when compared with its share of agricultural land in the EU (12 per cent.) and with the range of environmental and other problems currently faced by the UK. I am sure that the hon. Member will appreciate that decisions by the last

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Government placed us in a weak position but that this Government's stronger position within Europe puts us in a position to raise these issues again.

CAP reform and increasing the financial resources going towards rural development are key aims for this Government. The mid-term review of the CAP provides us with the opportunity to press hard, not only for increased funds to be made available for rural development, but also to ensure the UK receives a fairer share of these funds.

Foliar Disease

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information and guidance is issued by her Department to cereal growers on the (a) prevention and (b) control of foliar disease. [42249]

Mr. Morley: DEFRA continues to monitor and assess the risk from non-indigenous diseases and take action where they pose a serious threat to cereal crops.

DEFRA conducts annual surveys of indigenous cereal foliar diseases. These data are made available by DEFRA and help industry identify where control measures, particularly fungicides are justified. Research on major cereal diseases is funded by DEFRA to underpin improved crop management with reduced dependence on fungicides.

European Union Subsidies

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the future payment of European Union subsidies to farmers in euros. [42250]

Mr. Morley: The Government are committed to providing farmers with the option of receiving grant and subsidy payments in euro at the earliest practical opportunity, where they request this. We have considered the timing and practical requirements involved very carefully.

IT systems must be in place to deliver euro payments to farmers. A manual system, even to cope with a modest demand, would be extremely expensive and inefficient. In order to be able to make payments to farmers in euro as early as possible, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has included euro capability in the design for all of its system development. The devolved Administrations have programmed in similar work, as all CAP paying agencies must be able to deliver at the same time.

The euro payment service for farmers is expected to be in place by the end of 2004 when RPA and the devolved Administrations have developed the necessary systems.

Once a system for direct payments in euro is available, it is likely that farmers would be asked to commit three months in advance and to sign up for a minimum of a year. That would be in line with the system the RPA is currently running for paying traders in euro where they request it.

Supermarket Chains

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what

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representations she has made to supermarket chains to encourage retailers to stock locally produced food; and if she will make a statement. [42251]

Mr. Morley: We are keen to see supermarkets stock more local produce. The issue of local sourcing has been discussed in meetings with individual supermarkets. Food from Britain, which we grant-aid, has also been encouraging the major supermarkets to introduce regional sourcing policies and most have done so.

Varroa Mite

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action the Government have taken to tackle the varroa mite; and what estimate she has made of its prevalence in England. [42377]

Mr. Morley: The Government assist the UK beekeeping sector to deal with bee health issues, in particular varroa, through programmes costing around £1.6 million in 2001–02. Under these measures, the National Bee Unit (NBU), part of the Central Science Laboratory, provides a free diagnostic and inspection service to beekeepers in England as well as training and advice (including various publications, lectures, workshops and demonstrations) to help them become more self-reliant through improved bee husbandry. Training and guidance is regularly updated to reflect the latest research findings. The NBU also carries out routine screening for varroa resistant to authorised treatments.

Varroa is widely distributed in England. At least 5,000 infested apiaries have been confirmed since 1992, when the mite was first confirmed in the UK.

Sheep Exports

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many and what percentage of sheep exports from the UK to (a) France, (b) Germany and (c) the Netherlands have been refused entry since 1 October 2001. [42126]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 11 March 2002]: Commission Decision 2002/153/EC of 20 February 2002 has lifted the EU prohibition on live sheep exports from GB which has applied since 21 February 2001. As at 14 March 2002 no sheep have been exported from GB since 21 February 2001.

Northern Ireland has been able to export sheep since June 2001 during which time one consignment of 274 sheep, originating from Ireland but on a ship sailing from Belfast, has been refused entry to France. We are not aware of any sheep exports from Northern Ireland which have been refused entry to Germany or the Netherlands since 1 October 2001.

Ruminant Feed

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much ruminant feed was imported into the UK from (a) Belgium, (b) Germany, (c) Spain, (d) France, (e) Ireland, (f) Italy, (g) Luxembourg, (h) Portugal and (i) Finland in each of the last five years; and what proportion was found to be contaminated. [41918]

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Mr. Morley [holding answer 11 March 2002]: Overseas trade statistics do not provide a specific category for ruminant feed. However, the table shows the level of UK imports of all animal feedingstuffs over the past five years:


Irish Republic113,32893,921124,572126,434177,734


HM Customs and Excise

Data prepared by Statistics (Commodities and Food) Accounts and Trade, ESD, DEFRA

Figures on the proportion of animal feed found to be contaminated over this period are not available, but, for example, no case of mammalian meat and bonemeal has been detected in ruminant feed under our national feed surveillance programme since August 1996.

New EU-wide measures (implemented domestically under the Processed Animal Protein Regulations from 1 August 2001) already control intra-Community trade and imports from third countries of a wide range of processed animal proteins, effectively preventing their inclusion in feed for farmed animals in order to stop the propagation of BSE.

In Great Britain, a national feed sampling programme has been in place since 1996 to monitor compliance with BSE-related feed controls. This programme, operated by the State Veterinary Service, typically takes around 20,000 samples per year from feed mills, on-farm mixers and other premises handling livestock feed. The results of the programme are very encouraging and indicate wide compliance with the feed controls, confirming that prohibited ingredients (from domestic or imported sources) are being effectively removed from the market, distribution channels and farms.

Of the 78,202 samples recorded to 6 March 2002 inclusive, 78,001 (99.74 per cent.) tested negative for prohibited proteins. The remaining 201 samples tested either positive or inconclusive. The SVS carry out a full on-site investigation to identify the cause of each positive or inconclusive result. A positive result does not necessarily indicate a breach of the feed ban as the testing mechanism detects the presence of some proteins in feed even where the presence of the protein product is lawful.

Plant and Meat Imports

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answer of 5 March 2002, Official Report, column 229W, on plant and meat imports, what proportion of checks between November 2000 and October 2001 were for (a) commercial and (b) personal purposes; and if she will break down the illegally imported products since April 2001 by category. [41972]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 11 March 2002]: Of the 19,140 checks referred to undertaken at Border Inspection Posts, the majority related to checks on commercial

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consignments of meat and meat products which have to be declared to the port health authorities for clearance. We are aware that included within this figure will be a few checks which were undertaken on personal imports, but the data is not held in a way that the information on the personal imports can be extracted.

A breakdown of the 1,142 seizures taken from personal baggage could be provided only at disproportionate costs.

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