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LGC

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answer of 29 January 2002, Official Report, column 240W, on genotype test errors, if she will list the contracts that her Department and its predecessor Department has had in the last five years with LGC.[33776]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 6 February 2002]: The following are the contracts undertaken by LGC in the last five years:

















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Correspondence

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria she uses to decide which letters from (a) hon. Members and (b) members of the public will receive an answer signed by herself. [7562]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 15 October 2001]: A range of criteria—including the position held by the individual concerned, the subject matter and the background to the correspondence—is used to determine whether my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State responds to letters from hon. Members or asks one of her Ministerial team to reply on her behalf. By convention, Privy Councillors only receive replies from fellow Privy Councillors, unless they have expressly written to another Minister.

Similarly, whether or not my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State replies in person to letters from members of the public depends on whether the letter-writer holds a particular position in public life, or if he or she is known personally to the Secretary of State and on the nature and content of the letter.

The hon. Member may be interested to know that since the beginning of January 2002, DEFRA Ministers have received over 4,200 letters from hon. and right hon. Members, and in excess of 45,000 letters from members of the public. The majority of these were addressed to my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State.

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Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the correspondence from the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed dated 20 June 2001 relating to the future prospects of livestock auctions. [33877]

Mr. Morley: A reply was sent on 8 April to the right hon. Member.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the letter of 6 August from the hon. Member for North Shropshire concerning his constituent Ms J. Vernon. [12632]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 6 November 2001]: I am sorry for the delay in replying to the hon. Member's letter. A reply was sent on 26 March.

Ministerial Meetings

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the Prime Minister regarding (a) the future of farming and (b) the future prospects of small family farms; and if she will publish the record of those discussions. [16394]

Margaret Beckett: On 9 August the Prime Minister announced the setting up of the Independent Policy Commission on farming and food. Government asked it to advise on how we create a sustainable, competitive and diverse farming and food sector within a thriving rural economy which advances environmental, health and animal welfare goals and is consistent with the Government's aim for CAP reform, enlargement of the EU and increased trade liberalisation.

Following the publication of the Policy Commission's Report on 29 January, my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister and I met leaders of farming, food, rural, environmental and consumer bodies to discuss how to take the recommendations forward. The outcome of that meeting was published in a News Release (No 117/02), issued by my Department on 26 March.

Mobile Telephones

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list, for 1997–98 and for each subsequent financial year, the amount spent (a) in the United Kingdom and (b) abroad by (i) her Department, (ii) its agencies and (iii) its non-departmental public bodies on (1) providing mobile telephone equipment, including handsets and other associated equipment, (2) telephone calls made using such equipment and (3) telephone calls made using privately owned mobile telephones but subsequently reclaimed by (x) Ministers and (y) staff. [34413]

Mr. Morley: DEFRA came into being on 8 June 2001. The information requested can only be provided at disproportionate cost.

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Illegal Meat Imports

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures the Government are introducing to curb the importation of illegal meats. [35710]

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Mr. Morley: On 28 March the Government published an action plan which commits it to a range of measures to reduce disease risks presented by illicit imports of animal products. A copy of the plan is being placed in the Libraries of the House.

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what progress has been made with investigations into the feasibility of using x-ray machines to detect illegal meat imports; and if she will make a statement; [47912]

Mr. Morley: The Government has published an action plan, the aim of which is to reduce the risk of exotic animal and plant diseases entering the country. The plan takes account of recent discussions the Government has had with stakeholder interests on the priorities and actions for the coming year to tackle the issue of illegal imports. A copy of the plan has been placed in the library of the House. It contains a range of measures, including those listed in these questions.

We are gathering information to help examine the potential benefits of using x-ray equipment to scan containers and personal baggage to detect illegal imports, leading if successful to a trial. On the use of dogs, we are working towards commencing a pilot this summer.

Enforcement officers will be given new powers (already available to customs officers) in April to search baggage, etc for illegal imports of animal products. The central and local government agencies involved in importation of food and other goods are working closely together to achieve effective inter-agency co-ordination of checks, and which will include discussions about how these search powers will be used.

Information about our import rules has been provided to Embassies to publicise locally through travel agents and when visas are issued. Posters have been put on display in the arrival baggage halls at UK airports advising of the penalties for smuggling animal and plant products. Information on restricted produce is also contained in HM Customs' Guide for travellers entering the UK, and which can be viewed on-line at http://www.hmce.gov.uk/forms/notices. Further publi- city measures will be developed.

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Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what outbreaks of disease in animals in Britain have been linked to the import of illegal meat products in the past five years.[46789]

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Mr. Morley: We cannot be certain as to the precise origin of the Classical Swine Fever and Foot and Mouth Disease outbreaks in 2000 and 2001. However, absence of any evidence that these diseases were introduced through the import of live animals suggests infected meat or meat products are the source. The precise route for introducing infection is likely to remain unknown, though the controls in place for legal imports point to an illegal or inadvertent introduction.

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the role of her Department has been in checks on illegal meat imports at airports in the last two years; and if she will make a statement. [46383]

Mr. Morley: DEFRA has lead responsibility for animal health controls on imports of meat, working with the Food Standards Agency which has responsibility for public health aspects, and HM Customs, the devolved administrations, and Local and Port Health Authorities. The last two years has seen greater co-operation between these authorities.

The Department held a meeting on 21 March with all the public enforcement authorities, the ports, airports, airlines, agriculture and food industry to intensify efforts to reduce illegal meat imports.


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