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Garden Compost

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the Environment Agency regarding the safety of garden compost; and if she will make a statement. [54906]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 8 May 2002]: As the hon. Member will know, the Government strongly support composting as a way of getting value from biodegradable waste by improving soil quality and replacing non-renewable products such as peat.

Composting is covered on frequent occasions in discussions between my Department and the Environment Agency. However, the specific issue regarding the safety of garden compost rarely surfaces as householders who compost their garden waste are exempt from the requirement to have a licence or a permit under waste management or pollution control legislation enforced by the Environment Agency.

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Foot and Mouth

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what clinical tests for foot and mouth disease were carried out by departmental vets in England to establish the existence of foot and mouth prior to 20 February 2001. [52313]

Margaret Beckett: Any person who suspects the presence of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in an animal or its carcase is legally obliged to notify MAFF/DEFRA without delay. In England and Wales in the period 1 January 1999 to 20 February 2001, there were four occasions on which a private veterinary surgeon sought a second opinion from a departmental veterinary officer in order to rule out foot and mouth disease or consider whether to treat the case as a suspect. Three were in 1999 and one in January 2001. In all four cases, clinical examination by a departmental VO ruled out the possibility of FMD without the need for laboratory tests. The last of these cases was on 1 January 2001 in Lostwithiel, Cornwall. It resulted from a post mortem inspection from a private veterinary surgeon of two sheep. The veterinary surgeon did not suspect FMD but requested confirmation from a veterinary officer from Truro Animal Health Office. A visit to inspect the carcases took place the same day. Both the veterinary surgeon and the veterinary officer were confident that FMD was not present. This list excludes the discovery of suspect FMD at Cheale's abattoir by an Official Veterinary Surgeon of the Meat Hygiene Service on 19 February 2001, which was confirmed as FMD the following day.

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many animals have been slaughtered as a precautionary measure against foot and mouth in the last three months, broken down by (a) species, (b) location and (c) date. [41685]

Mr. Morley: Since the last case of foot and mouth disease on 30 September 2001 all animals that have been slaughtered have been either dangerous contacts as a result of sero-positive blood samples or slaughter on suspicion cases. All have been thoroughly investigated and in no case has evidence of foot and mouth virus been found.

The following table provides a breakdown by location and date of the animals slaughtered since 1 January 2002. All of these have been sheep.

LocationDateNumber of sheep
Northumberland1 January 20022,067
Northumberland9 January 20022
Lancashire24 January 20021
Cumbria22 February 20021
North Yorkshire26 February 20022
North Yorkshire11 March 20021


Mr. Lyons: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much compensation has been paid to farmers as a result of culling for BSE. [55017]

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Mr. Morley: Compensation has been paid to farmers as a result of BSE since August 1988. A total of £277,988,250.45 was paid to 31 March 2002 inclusive. This comprised:

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the recent European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office report on the implementation by the French authorities of European rules on protective measures against BSE in France; what discussions she has had with (a) her French Government counterpart and (b) the European Commission about the report's findings; and if she will make a statement on the continuing French ban on imports of British beef. [51455]

Mr. Morley: It is the European Commission's responsibility to ensure that member states take adequate steps to follow up findings from the reports of Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) missions, to make certain that appropriate and timely corrective actions are taken and necessary improvements achieved. In the past, the Commission has prepared infringement proceedings as a result of the FVO's findings against member states which were considered to have taken inadequate steps to implement EU rules relating to BSE. It should be noted, however, that the initial response of the French authorities to the FVO's recent inspection suggests that serious attention is being paid to following-up the mission's findings, so as to rectify the deficiencies that the visit identified.

The Secretary of State continues to make it clear to both French Ministers and Commissioner Byrne that France should respect the 13 December 2001 judgment of the ECJ, which judged that the French ban was illegal. France should lift its ban on imports of British beef as soon as possible.

Flood Defences

Mr. Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of flood defences damaged in autumn 2000 have been (a) reinstated, (b) returned to their original level and (c) enhanced. [54233]

Mr. Morley: Operational responsibility for flood defences rests with the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards. I understand that the Environment Agency has reinstated and returned to their original level all of their flood defences that were damaged in autumn 2000. The agency has also investigated to a pre-feasibility stage all those defences that were identified as requiring enhancement and, where

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appropriate, they have been included in capital investment programmes. Information is not readily available on this basis for local authorities and internal drainage boards.

This Department provided contributions of £16.35 million to the Environment Agency and £1.0 million to internal drainage boards in respect of emergency costs and repairs following the autumn 2000 floods.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on measures she has taken to improve protection against flooding and to assist those affected in recent floods. [55175]

Mr. Morley: I plan to reduce the risk of flooding by investing in effective flood warning arrangements and in flood and coastal defences in the highest risk areas. This Department provides grants for flood and coastal defence capital works, and associated studies, which meet essential technical, economic and environmental criteria and achieve an appropriate priority score. However as the bulk of expenditure is ultimately met by taxpayers, both DEFRA and the operating authorities have a responsibility to ensure that value for money is obtained when funding works. Further to increases in the last two Spending Reviews, additional funding of £51 million over the four years from 2001–01 was announced in November 2000 following the severe flooding. In all DEFRA flood and coastal defence funding is set to increase from £66 million in 2000–01 to £114 million in 2003–04. Funding for future years will be considered in the Spending Review process. Responsibility for deciding which projects to promote and their timing rests with the operating authorities. The operating authority for each area draws on its local knowledge to decide what needs to be done.

Local authorities take the lead in providing emergency support to those affected by flooding and the costs so incurred may be eligible for refund under through Bellwin Schemes that are administered by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. The Government do not, however, provide direct financial support to those affected by flooding as it is generally an insurable risk. We are working with the insurance industry to help ensure the continued widespread availability of affordable flood cover.

Farm Assurance Schemes

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farm assurance schemes are open to farmers in the United Kingdom; and if her Department's regional offices are equipped to advise farmers on these farm assurance schemes. [54812]

Mr. Morley: Assurance schemes are private initiatives. The Department does not maintain a comprehensive record of the schemes operating in the United Kingdom, nor does it have responsibility for advising farmers on their relative merits.

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