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Committee Mandates

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the Advisory Committee on the Control and Reduction of Pollution Caused by the Discharge of Hydrocarbons and other Dangerous Substances at Sea is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if she will list the items currently under its consideration; if she will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if she will make a statement. [61708]

Mr. Spellar: I have been asked to reply.

The Advisory Committee on the Control and Reduction of Pollution Caused by the Discharge of Hydrocarbons and other Dangerous Substances at Sea (known as ACPH) was established in 1980 under Decision Number 80/686/EEC of 25/6/1980 of the European Parliament and the Council. The committee was composed of representatives of member states and was chaired by the European Commission. The terms of reference of the committee were as follows:



This was amended by Decision Number 85/208/EEC, which expanded the focus of the committee from "hydrocarbons discharged at sea" to "oil and other harmful substances discharged at sea".

This advisory committee provided valuable advice on Commission proposals and its members—who were high- level government experts—acted as the interface between the services of the Commission and the corresponding national administrations. In December 2000 the Commission decided to develop a new committee to

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address marine pollution issues under new European rules and regulations. Therefore, the Management Committee on Marine Pollution was established under Decision Number 2850/2000/EC of 20/12/2000 of the European Parliament and the Council. This set up a Community framework for co-operation in the field of accidental or deliberate marine pollution. A similar question on the role and cost of this group was answered in column 188W, question number 56809 of the 21 May edition of Hansard.

Together with member states, the Commission is currently conducting a review to bring existing legislation on the conduct of comitology committees into line with Council Decision 1999/468/EC, to "simplify the requirements for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission". As an obligation to this Decision, the Commission undertook to publish an annual report on the working of committees. The first report was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses on 26 February (Com (2001) 783 Final). As part of the review process, the UK Government has encouraged the Commission to produce and maintain an electronic database of every comitology committee, its agendas and recent actions, to be accessible through its website.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of ordinary written questions for her Department were answered within a week of tabling in each month since June 2001; and what proportion of questions for named day received a substantive answer on that day in each month since June 2001. [58979]

Mr. Morley: The information requested is in the table.

Percentage

Named days—PQs answered on timeWritten questions—PQs answered within 5 days
2001
June 242
July822
Augustn/an/a
Septembern/an/a
October1956
November2060
December2432
2002
January2058
February2053
March1660
April753
May932

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which ministers and officials have (a) been invited to give evidence and (b) given evidence to the Lessons Learned inquiry; and if she will make a statement. [61580]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 June 2002]: This is a matter for the Lessons Learned inquiry. As indicated on its website, the inquiry has held a series of meetings with

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key Ministers, senior officials and organisations involved in the handling of the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many animals, by type, were slaughtered during the foot and mouth outbreak on the 13 infected premises in Wigtownshire which returned negative blood tests. [56624]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 15 May 2002]: The following animals were slaughtered on the 13 infected premises in Wigtownshire:


Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) cattle, (b) sheep, (c) pigs and (d) other animals were slaughtered during the foot and mouth outbreak on the basis of (i) contiguous premises, (ii) three kilometre premises, (iii) slaughter on suspicion and (iv) other reasons as a result of the two infected premises which returned positive blood tests in Wigtownshire; and how many animals of each type were slaughtered on the infected premises themselves. [56623]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 15 May 2002]: The table sets out the animals it was necessary to slaughter for disease control purposes as a result of the two infected premises in Wigtownshire.

CattleSheepPigs
Contiguous premises3,4852,424
3k cull9528,8012
Dangerous contacts2,0491,462

299 cattle, 803 sheep and 27 pigs were slaughtered on the infected premises themselves.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what additional steps she is taking to prevent the importation of foot and mouth virus during the World cup finals in South Korea; [57141]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 16 May 2002]: In recent weeks, we issued advice to travellers, via the Football Association website and the British Consulate in Seoul, not to visit farms and to either keep to the current personal import allowance of 1kg of meat cooked in a hermetically sealed container or, preferably, not to bring any meat at all to the UK. In addition we sent letters to 5,000 World cup ticket holders reiterating this information. We have also advised our port and airport enforcement authorities of the outbreak of foot and mouth in South Korea.

South Korea is not a country that is authorised to export meat/animals to the EU. Veterinary advice is that the risk of travellers bringing foot and mouth disease back from South Korea is not significant. Most games are taking place in Japan, which does not have foot and mouth disease. As part of the Government's Action Plan, we will

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continue to gather intelligence to support the risk assessment currently under way, this will inform decisions about the nature of the risks and actions to be taken to reduce the risk of exotic diseases entering the country.

Rural Payments Agency

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what additional staff resources she has allocated to the Rural Payments Agency this year to handle payments under the beef support schemes. [61568]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 June 2002]: Rural Payments Agency staff at offices across the country are giving priority to the processing of bovine subsidy claims for payment. Additional staff have been recruited and existing staff are working extra hours and at weekends in order to process claims for payments and to resolve queries as quickly as possible.

In addition, the RPA currently has a large team of short-term staff based at the offices of the British Cattle Movement Service checking queries against the cattle tracing system database.

The total cost of undertaking the additional checks required to make payments will be in the region of £3.8 million, this includes provision for staff working overtime.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when Ministers were first informed that the Rural Payments Agency would be unable to complete payments for the 2001 beef support schemes by 30 June. [61566]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 June 2002]: My noble Friend the Under-Secretary was advised on 15 May 2002 of the Rural Payments Agency's inability to complete all payments under the 2001 bovine subsidy schemes by 30 June 2002.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many beef producers she expects not to have received all due beef support payments by 30 June. [61571]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 June 2002]: At this stage it is predicted that approximately 38 per cent. of Beef Special Premium (BSPS), 88 per cent. of Suckler Cow Premium (SCPS), 63 per cent. of Extensification Premium (EPS) and 30 per cent. of Slaughter Premium (SPS) claimants may not have been paid in full until after the 30 June deadline. However, producers claiming BSPS, SCPS and the Slaughter Premium Schemes should have already received their advance payments equating to 80 per cent. of the premium due.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the total value of beef support payments due to producers for 2001 which will not have been paid by 30 June. [61570]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 June 2002]: The current estimate provided by the RPA is that approximately £47 million will remain outstanding at 30 June. This represents 16 per cent. of the total projected

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bovine scheme payments due to have been completed by that date. This figure includes the unpaid extensification element.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Rural Payments Agency began to cross-check beef support scheme applications against the UK Cattle Tracing System. [61578]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 June 2002]: The Rural Payments Agency did not come into existence until 16 October 2001. However, before that date, cross-checks had already begun to be undertaken by the Department.

Beef Special Premium Scheme claims were checked against previous animal documentation before the BCMS Cattle Tracing System (CTS) was set up. After the database became operative, these basic identification checks were run against CTS data. On the other hand, checks on the identity of the older female animals which form the basis of Suckler Cow Premium claims were not undertaken against the database until last summer.

More extensive checks on the location of animals during periods of retention required by EU legislation have been introduced more recently and are causing particular difficulty.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the cost of overtime payments in the current year to staff at the Rural Payments Agency who are working on payment under the beef compensation schemes. [61567]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 June 2002]: No differentiation was made in arriving at the projected costs between the use of overtime or of additional temporary staff. Each RPA site is utilising additional staff and overtime on the most suitable basis, taking into account local conditions, particularly the availability of accommodation to house additional staff, and the capacity of permanent staff to work overtime.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) permanent and (b) temporary staff are employed by the Rural Payments Agency to process payments due to beef producers in respect of the 2001 beef support schemes. [61569]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 June 2002]: Details of staff numbers currently involved in some form with the processing of bovine subsidy claims for payment are as follows:

SchemePermanent staffTemporary staff
Beef special premium/slaughter332152
Premium schemes17735
Suckler cow premium scheme292
Extensification payment scheme065
Total538254


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