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Mr. Meacher [holding answer 13 June 2002]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced on 31 May that the Government considered that there should be a full and informed debate on GM issues, including GM crops. The Government want to start the debate as soon as possible. They are considering the timetable and expenditure for the debate.
Mr. Meacher: All EU member states are in the process of implementing directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms, which replaces and updates the old directive 90/220/EEC.
The new directive introduces a more robust framework for taking decisions on whether or not to allow the release of GMOs, including GM seeds, in the UK and the EU. It clarifies and increases the level of scientific scrutiny required in assessing safety implications of proposed releases of GMOs. Risk assessments have been extended to cover 'indirect' and 'long-term' risks to the environment. It also introduces 'post-market monitoring', under which any GMO which is granted consent to be used commercially must be monitored for unanticipated effects on the environment.
The new directive also introduces a new requirement for mandatory public consultation before decisions are taken on applications for consents to release GMOs. We propose that public consultations in England on research trial applications must last for a minimum of 48 days. Consultations on commercial applications (for which the European Commission is responsible) will consist of two separate periods of 30 days.
The Department consulted the public on broad issues raised by the new directive in autumn 2001. We recently began a second public consultation on draft implementing regulations for England, and aim for the regulations to enter into force in October 2002. Copies of the consultation paper are being placed in the parliamentary Libraries.
The Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales and the Department of Environment for Northern Ireland will make separate implementing regulations on issues for which they have devolved powers.
GM foods are approved in Europe in accordance with the provisions of the EC Novel Foods and Novel Foods Ingredients Regulation (258/97). A European Commission proposal for a single GM food and feed regulation is currently under negotiation. The proposal aims to improve the involvement of the public in the authorisation process.
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Changes to the Seeds (National Lists of Varieties) Regulations 2001 will be needed in the near future to amend references to EC seeds marketing directives which are currently being codified by the Council of the European Union. In addition, on 21 November 2000 the Government replied to a parliamentary question about changes to the arrangement for requesting a hearing on proposed national list decisions. In this reply, the Government said that they would wish to consider whether the current arrangements are satisfactory for all parties, in the light of the proposed addition of a genetically modified plant variety, Chardon LL, to the national list. The Chardon LL hearing will finish around mid-June this year and the time is right to review how those arrangements have worked. If changes are proposed, all interested parties will be fully consulted.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what environmental assessment and assessment of the traffic implications she has made of proposals to encourage the (a) loan of mopeds and (b) cash help for driving lessons to teenagers in rural areas. 
Alun Michael: The rural White Paper charged the Countryside Agency with evaluating existing Wheels to Work schemes and subsequent production of a good practice guide for their development and implementation. The evaluation does not include a specific environmental assessment or an assessment of the traffic implications of encouraging loans of mopeds or cash help for driving lessons for teenagers in rural areas.
Such assessments were not deemed to be necessary because the scale of Wheels to Work is fairly small: 21 schemes were identified and while new schemes will be set up, they are only ever likely to affect a small proportion of the population. The Countryside Agency will continue to monitor the number of new schemes developing to remain informed about possible environmental impacts.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of access to the countryside and right of way broken down by region; and if she will make a statement. 
Alun Michael: We are on course to meet our target to open up all open country and registered common land in England under Part I of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 by the end of 2005. Draft maps of open country and registered common land have been issued and consulted upon for the south-east and lower north-west regions, but no specific assessment by region has been carried out. An assessment of the condition of rights of way in England was published recently by the Countryside Agency, but the Government have not produced any information on rights of way nationally or regionally. Work is progressing to produce regulations for Part II of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 with an aim to have the majority of provisions in force by the end of 2003.
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Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will support the proposal from Nicaragua and Guatemala to upgrade mahogany from CITES appendix III to appendix II at the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in November. 
Mr. Meacher: As with all plant proposals put to the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, we shall be advised on this by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, our scientific authority on these matters.
Mr. Meacher: We have no plans to seize Brazilian mahogany imported since 19 October 2001. All of the mahogany that has been imported into the United Kingdom since then has been accompanied by export permits provided by the Brazilian Management Authority.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of countryside stewardship agreements her Department's Rural Development Service has visited in each year since the scheme began. 
Mr. Morley: A programme of care and maintenance visits is carried out by technical staff from DEFRA's Rural Development Service. This programme currently aims to cover around 20 per cent. of agreements each year. These visits are not part of the separate compliance monitoring programme, undertaken by staff from the Rural Payments Agency which inspects 5 per cent. of agreements annually. Prior to the creation of the Rural Development Service in April 2001, care and maintenance visits were carried out by technical staff from the Farming and Rural Conservation Agency.
Mrs. Helen Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will examine the case for the protection of trickle irrigation in consultations on the draft water Bill; and if she will make it her policy that trickle irrigators are (a) granted time- limited licences equivalent to their current abstraction and (b) equally treated with other abstractors when licences are reviewed under the Environment Agency's Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy. 
Mr. Meacher: I have examined the case for the protection of trickle irrigation before issuing the Government's response to the consultation on the water Bill. There will be a two-year transitional period during which trickle abstractors can apply for abstraction licences. During this time the Environment Agency will be required to ensure that there is no derogation of their abstractions.
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The Department is drawing up transitional provisions aiming to ensure that established use of trickle irrigation is not disadvantaged compared to other licensed abstractions for agricultural or horticultural purposes. In doing so, I shall consider whether present trickle irrigators should be automatically granted time limited licences equivalent to their current abstraction when the exemption is removed, to enable trickle licences to be reviewed on a par with other abstractions as part of the Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy (CAMS) process.
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