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Euro Referendum

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the right hon. member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what discussions he has had about preparations the Electoral Commission is making for a referendum on adoption of the euro. [61215]

Mr. Beith: In accordance with its statutory obligations, the Electoral Commission has begun to draw up contingency plans for the conduct of national and regional referendums. In February this year, the Speaker's Committee approved plans for the recruitment of a small team of staff and funding for consultancy on IT issues. The Commission's main objectives for this stream of work are set out in their Corporate Plan 2002–03 to 2006–07. Detailed project plans are in the process of being drawn up.


Cathedral Restoration

39. Michael Fabricant: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, if the Commissioners plan to meet representatives of the National Heritage Lottery Fund to discuss the funding of cathedral restoration; and if he will make a statement. [61213]

Mr. Bell: No. The funding of cathedral repairs is a matter for individual cathedrals and for the body that represents them, the Association of English Cathedrals.


New Direction in Agriculture

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if her Department will spend the match-funded money raised from the introduction of modulation under the New Direction in Agriculture package before the end of the present spending round. [60383]

Margaret Beckett: EC Regulations stipulate that the money raised from modulation has to be spent within three years of being raised. The first receipts were raised in July 2001; between then and the end of April 2002 nearly £28 million has been collected in England, and nearly £9 million has been spent. Modulation funds are used to secure valuable public benefits through agri- environment schemes, in particular the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and the Environmentally Sensitive

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Areas scheme. Receipts will be used progressively as new agreements under the schemes are signed, and as old agreements come forward for renewal. I am confident that the funds will be spent before the deadline.

Agrimonetary System

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to bring forward new policy measures to address the problems faced by British farmers as a result of the expiry of the agrimonetary system. [61544]

Margaret Beckett: We acknowledge the problems facing British agriculture at the moment. We believe that sustainable agriculture can be achieved by encouraging a more market-oriented sector with reduced dependence on production-linked support. This is our aim for the forthcoming mid-term review of the CAP. Also, following publication of the report of the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, the Government are working with a range of stakeholders to chart a way ahead by developing a strategy for sustainable food and farming in England, by the autumn.

Tree Diseases

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to guard against the risk of sudden oak death in the United Kingdom. [61602]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 19 June 2002]: "Phytophthora ramorum"—the causative organism of sudden oak death—is not established in the United Kingdom, but has recently been detected on plants of viburnum and rhododendron in a targeted survey by the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate. Research is in progress to establish whether the "Phytophthora ramorum" found in the United Kingdom exhibits the same pathogenicity as that causing such serious damage in the USA and whether European tree species are susceptible to either the European or North American isolates. This work is being carried out by the Central Science Laboratory and the Forestry Commission Research Agency.

Possible Community-wide measures are being considered and there has already been an exchange of information and some additional survey work by member states. In the meantime, on the basis of a pest risk assessment, precautionary measures have been introduced to prevent susceptible material being imported into the United Kingdom from affected areas of the USA and to allow plant health inspectors to track commercial movements of host plants of any origin. Current controls on imported oak wood from the USA are also being extended to include wood derived from all host trees originating in affected areas. Further information is available on the Forestry Commission and DEFRA websites at and http:// defraweb/planth/ph.htm


Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department is taking to implement the Government's commitment in the Rural White Paper to protect the countryside for its own sake. [63501]

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Alun Michael: The Government set out measures for protecting the countryside in chapters 9 and 10 of the Rural White Paper "Our Countryside: the future—A fair deal for rural England". In December 2002, I reported our progress on implementing the Rural White Paper in "England's Rural Future". My answer to my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) of 12 December 2001, Official Report, column 920W, announced publication of this document.

An explanation of how all the commitments in the Rural White Paper are being taken forward is set out in the Rural White Paper Implementation Plan which is on the Department's website at: http://defraweb/wildlife/ wildlife-countryside/index.htm. This plan will be amended from time to time to ensure it is up to date.

Beef Special Premium Scheme

Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what costs have been incurred by the Rural Payments Agency as a result of the extra information required of farmers in Section 1, No. 5, of the Beef Special Premium Scheme 2002. [63628]

Mr. Morley: When a Beef Special Premium Form is received at the Rural Payments Agency, the contents on the form are entered on to the RPA computer system by staff keying in the information shown. When Section 1 question 5 consists simply of one line of text, the time taken may be measured in seconds. Where more information is received, clearly, the time taken will be longer. However, the main cost to the RPA arises from cases where Section 1.5 is not completed appropriately, that is, information given is not clear, or is evidently incomplete. It is the processing of the cases which led the RPA to re-examine the wording of Section 1.5. It is not possible to calculate accurately the cost of dealing with these.

Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farmers have fully completed Section 1, No. 5, on the Beef Special Premium Scheme 2002 claim form; and how many have not complied and are stating only the holding address. [63627]

Mr. Morley: All Beef Special Premium Scheme 2002 claim forms where the only anomaly concerns the completion of Section 1, question 5 are being accepted and lodged with the Rural Payments Agency.

To date, the Rural Payments Agency has received just under 39,000 Beef Special Premium Scheme 2002 claims. It estimates that the current proportion of the forms having either no, or incomplete, information entered at Section 1, question 5 is 35 per cent. The agency will seek the additional information from producers where required.

Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the need for the changes that the Rural Payments Agency have made to Section 1, No. 5 of the Beef Special Premium Scheme 2002. [63626]

Mr. Morley: Article 10 of Commission Regulation (EC) No.2419/2001, which came into effect on 1 January 2002, requires that a livestock aid application shall contain where applicable, an undertaking by the farmer to keep claimed animals on his holding during the retention

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period and information on the location or locations where the animals will be held including the period or periods concerned. This requirement has not changed from the relevant previous regulation.

For operational reasons, the level of detail and the method of collecting it was changed for scheme year 2002. Following representations from industry representatives the Rural Payments Agency is currently reviewing Section 1, No. 5 of the Beef Special Premium Scheme 2002 form.

Countryside Stewardship Schemes

Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to offer continuous advice to farmers for improvements to their countryside stewardship schemes. [63625]

Mr. Morley: Staff from DEFRA's Rural Development Service operate a programme of visits to farmers with land under Countryside Stewardship Scheme agreement to advise them on technical aspects of management. However, provision of this advice is resource intensive and any decision to increase these advisory visits would need to balance the increase in resource costs against any increased environmental value for money which might result.

Advice on preparing new or upgraded applications to the scheme is available from various organisations including the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, local wildlife trusts, and National Park authorities in the relevant areas.

All aspects of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme are currently under review.

Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when she will review the Countryside Stewardship Scheme; [63623]

Mr. Morley: Countryside Stewardship is currently being reviewed as part of a wider review of English agri-environment schemes. An initial public consultation exercise, inviting views on a number of strategic questions, closed on 27 May 2002. 119 responses have been received and are now being analysed. The results from this consultation exercise will be used to help develop a revised framework for English agri-environment schemes, working closely with stakeholders. Any changes to the schemes will need to be submitted to the European Commission as a proposed modification to the England Rural Development Programme.

All aspects of the current Countryside Stewardship Scheme are under consideration in this review, including the length of agreements.

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