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Duck Producers

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many inspections have been carried out on the premises of duck producers in the last five years. [63170]

Mr. Morley: The State Veterinary Service carried out 50 welfare inspections of duck producers during 2000 and 32 welfare inspections in 2001. Separate figures for duck welfare inspections are not available for earlier years.

Japanese Knotweed

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research the Government are conducting into tackling Japanese knotweed, with particular reference to natural biological methods of control. [57931]

Mr. Meacher: The Department is not currently undertaking any research specifically into biological control of Japanese knotweed.

However, through the joint DEFRA/Environment Agency flood management research programme, the Government are supporting a programme of work relating to management and control of aquatic and riparian plants, including Japanese knotweed, by the Centre for Aquatic Plant Management. Also, English Nature, the Government's scientific adviser on wildlife and conservation in England, has commissioned a study on management of problem non-native species, which includes consideration of Japanese knotweed.

National Waste Minimisation and

Recycling Fund

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will announce how the National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Fund will be distributed. [64784]

Mr. Meacher: I am pleased to announce today the arrangements for the distribution of the National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Fund. Local authorities in every region of England (apart from London which is being handled separately) will receive a total of £42 million in 2002–03 from the fund to kick start new projects. The money will go to schemes that improve recycling, complement municipal waste management strategies and contribute to a better quality of life for residents.

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From over 190 applications to the fund for 2002–03, 112 schemes were approved by DEFRA with the assistance of an expert panel. Details of the successful schemes will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses shortly when the local authorities have been informed. We are now inviting applications for grants from the fund for 2003–04 when £76.3 million will be available; almost double the amount for 2002–03.

The national fund prioritises five key areas:

Overall, England recycled just 10 per cent. of its household rubbish in 1999–2000—one of the lowest rates in Europe and we are taking action to improve this. We have set a target of 25 per cent. recycling by 2005–06 and have allocated £19.9 million from the fund for helping turn around low performance and £12.5 million for partnership working. The assistance given by this fund will help some of the lowest performers in their efforts to reach a minimum recycling rate of 10 per cent. in 2003–04.

Neighbourhood renewal is also a key area of Government policy and over half of the 88 NRU local authorities in England are low recycling performers. 21 NRU local authorities were approved for direct grant in 2002–03, amounting to a total of some £14 million.

We will be publishing revised guidance for the submission of bids to the fund for 2003–04 very shortly on DEFRA's website.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures her Department has implemented since June regarding the conservation of (a) albatrosses and (b) petrels. [61168]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 13 June 2002]: The main threat to albatrosses and petrels arises from long-line fishing for tuna and toothfish in the southern oceans, in which I understand that no metropolitan UK vessels are involved. Last June the UK signed the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), made under the Convention on Migratory Species. ACAP will require its parties to co-operate in the development and implementation of an action plan for the conservation of these species, encompassing both the control of fishing activities, including measures to mitigate the impact of long-line fishing, and the protection of breeding sites, some of which are in the UK's overseas territories. The RSPB has recently undertaken research into these and other bird species on Gough Island, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Government are currently in discussion with the authorities of the range state overseas territories to ascertain whether they need new legislation in order to implement the requirements of ACAP. We are also considering the position in respect of the metropolitan UK, and will explore with our partners in the European Union the prospects for wider European participation.

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I hope the UK will be in a position to ratify ACAP, possible initially on behalf of some of the overseas territories, later this year.

Food and Agriculture Organisation

Discussion Paper

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the recent FAO discussion paper on Good Agricultural Practice, with specific reference to the section on animal welfare; and if she will make a statement. [63330]

Clare Short: I have been asked to reply.

FAO's discussion paper on Good Agricultural Practice was circulated for comment to the "Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) Major Stakeholder Groups" defined in chapter 14 of Agenda 21. The UK Government have not been consulted and we have as yet made no assessment of the paper.

Food Safety

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what is the maximum safe concentration of ethinyloestradiol in foods for human consumption. [60833]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

Ethinyloestradiol is a human drug that is available only on prescription. It is not authorised for use in animals and its presence in any concentration in food is unacceptable.

It has not been possible to identify a dietary concentration of ethinyloestradiol that is universally accepted as being safe for everyone, as a level of exposure that is without hormonal effects has not been found. In addition, ethinyloestradiol is a human carcinogen, but a threshold dose below which there is no increased risk of cancer for anyone has not been established.


Royal Prerogative

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what decisions have been made by his Department in the last year under authority from the royal prerogative. [63139]

Ruth Kelly: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) on 23 October 2001, Official Report, column 207W.

VAT (Face Value Vouchers)

Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the consultation on the VAT treatment of face value vouchers announced in the 2002 Budget. [64686]

John Healey: Customs have today issued a consultation document entitled "Modernising the VAT Treatment of Face Value Vouchers". Copies have been placed in the Library of the House. Responses to the consultation are invited by 1 October 2002.

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Queen Mother (Memorial Coin)

Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans Her Majesty's Government have to issue a coin in memory of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. [61140]

Mr. Gordon Brown: Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously pleased to approve my recommendation that a crown piece should be issued to celebrate the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Collector versions of the coin will be ready by early summer and the coin will also be available, later in the year, at its face value of £5 from most post offices.

Working Families Tax Credit

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the answer of 5 February 2002 to the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), Official Report, column 851W, on fraud and error, if he will place a copy of the report on the benchmarking exercise on working families tax credit fraud in the Library. [56462]

Dawn Primarolo: The Inland Revenue are continuing to analyse the data from their compliance benchmarking exercise. We shall be considering the results, and questions of publication, when we have received their report.

Remarriage Statistics

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of the married population was represented by those previously divorced in each year since 1997. [60839]

Ruth Kelly: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Andrew Turner, dated 25 June 2002:

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