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Wildlife Crime

Martin Linton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress she has made in implementing the recommendations in the report on Wildlife Crime in the UK October 2001, conducted by Wolverhampton University and commissioned by her Department. [51506]

Mr. Meacher: We commissioned this research on behalf of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, to support its work in developing proposals for the National Wildlife Crime Intelligence Unit.

The report's recommendations made a valuable contribution to this process, and I was delighted to be able to launch the Unit on 22 April.

Many of the recommendations have already been wholly or partly implemented. The others will be considered as the Unit settles into its new role. The wider recommendations will be considered by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime.

Nitrate-vulnerable Zones

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations she has received concerning the cost to pig producers of the Government's nitrate vulnerable zone proposals. [51758]

Mr. Meacher: The National Pig Association (NPA) has made representations to the Government about the cost to pig farmers of the Government's proposals for Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. It drew particular attention to the greater difficulty that pig farmers will encounter with the export of surplus manures to neighbouring farms in the proposed, larger, new zones. The Government has considered this representation and proposes to increase the cost assessment in recognition of the need for additional slurry storage capacity to provide more flexibility with the management of exported manures on pig farms.

The NPA urged the Government to introduce a grant scheme to assist farmers to adapt their manure storage facilities to the meet the standards required by the NVZ Regulations. The Government expects to extend the existing Farm Waste Grant Scheme to the new zones when they are designated.

The NPA also argued that the cost assessment for the keeping of additional records should be increased. The Government is not proposing to make changes to the record-keeping component of its cost assessment, which is based on an estimate of the average cost across all farmers affected. We recognise that within this average the costs that individual farmers face will vary depending on the nature and scale of their operations.

The National Farmers Union and the Country Land and Business Association have also made representations to Government about the compliance costs to farmers, including pig farmers.

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We will publish a revised compliance cost assessment in due course, when regulations are made to implement the Nitrates Directive.

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her estimate is of the financial cost to farmers of the extension of nitrate-vulnerable zones. [51938]

Mr. Meacher: The Department's consultation document issued in December 2001 outlines relative costs to farmers of two options for completing implementation of the Nitrates Directive in England.

Total annual costs to English farmers are:

We are currently considering these figures in the light of responses to our recent consultation. We will publish a revised Regulatory Impact Assessment, containing updated compliance costs, in due course when we are in a position to announce a decision on how the Directive is to be implemented.

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to what extent her Department proposes to extend nitrate-vulnerable zones. [51817]

Mr. Meacher: The Department is currently considering options for completing implementation of the Nitrates Directive in the light of responses to our recent public consultation. I expect to be able to announce a decision in May.

Agriculture Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 22 April; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [51634]

Margaret Beckett: I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Agriculture Council in Luxembourg on 22 April. The Scottish Minister for Environment and Rural Development also attended.

The Presidency introduced two memoranda of its own: one on improving the contribution of women to rural development; another on the EU Veterinary Fund. Both will be discussed further at official level.

The Commission gave an update on the BSE situation and introduced a proposal to tighten controls on additives in animal feed and water.

The Council had a further discussion of a proposal on the animal health requirements that apply to the non-commercial movement of pets. Good progress was made and the Presidency hopes to secure agreement at the June Council.

Under other business, the Italians drew attention to the position of young farmers; Greece queried Argentinean measures against exports of tinned peaches; and the Netherlands sought a common approach to the treatment of Chinese imports that fail to satisfy EU import rules.

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Indigenous Forest

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how the area of each of the UK's old-growth indigenous forest has changed in each decade since 1972; [51549]

Mr. Morley: In the UK, separate statistics are not held for "old-growth indigenous forest", for which there is no agreed definition. A number of measures are in place to protect all forests in the UK, including ancient semi-natural woodlands, where the biodiversity and cultural heritage values are highest. In particular, the felling of any type of woodland is controlled through felling regulations. Additionally, many woodlands are subject to further controls because they are within designated areas such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest or Special Areas of Conservation.

Muck Storage

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her estimate is of the average cost to (a) pig farmers and (b) dairy farmers of muck storage in the last 12 months. [51816]

Mr. Meacher: Data from the recently published 2001 Farm Practices Survey indicates that 50 to 80 per cent of slurry stores were built before 1991. Generally, farmyard manure is usually stored in the field or on a concrete base. Therefore in most cases the annual cost of storage consists only of repair and maintenance costs that are likely to be a few hundred pounds. Further estimates could only be undertaken at disproportionate cost.

Photovoltaic Energy

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans the Government have to utilise photovoltaic energy production technology on the Government Estate; and when these plans will be implemented. [51959]

Mr. Meacher: All Government departments have a target to ensure that by 31 March 2003, at least 5 per cent of their electricity comes from renewable sources, or from self-generation, provided this does not entail excessive cost. They also have a longer-term target for at least 10 per cent of their supply by 31 March 2008, which is subject to review after March 2003.

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Photovoltaic energy is just one of the renewable technologies that can help departments meet this target. It will be for each to determine the extent to which self-generation is a practicable and cost-effective option.

I am not aware of any current plans to utilise photovoltaic energy production technology on any significant scale on the Government Estate, although a number of small-scale pilots are planned. There are, however, active and passive solar thermal systems in use in both this Department and Ministry of Defence and a number of other departments are considering their introduction.

Energy Efficiency

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on what has been done to promote energy efficiency since 1997. [51613]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 24 April 2002]: The Government has introduced a wide range of measures, including market incentives, financial assistance, legal obligations, and guidance and information, to promote energy efficiency. These include:

The majority of DEFRA's financial support for energy efficiency measures is channelled through the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (now marketed as Warm Front), the Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme, the Energy Saving Trust and the Carbon Trust. The total funding made available by my Department and its predecessors to support and promote these efficiency programmes in each year since 1997 is set out below:

Total funding for energy efficiency£110.5m£109.0m£112.0m£163.5m£224m*

* Includes funding for the Carbon Trust of £26.5 million from recycled Climate Change Levy receipts.

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