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Bovine TB

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made towards the development of a bovine TB vaccine. [65685]

Mr. Morley: DEFRA's ultimate aim is to produce an effective vaccine for cattle to protect against bovine tuberculosis, and it is spending over £1.4 million a year on this. DEFRA recently announced that the sequence of the entire genoma of the organism that causes bovine tuberculosis has been determined in a collaborative project between the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (UK), the Institut Pasteur (France) and the Pathogen Genome Sequencing Unit at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (UK). This breakthrough is a major step forward in the long-term search for a vaccine against bovine TB and more rapid diagnostic testing. However, the Independent Scientific Group for Cattle TB (ISG) advise that this would offer a solution only in the long term.

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made towards the completion of the scientific badger culling trial; when the trial will be completed; and what preliminary results have been obtained. [66078]

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Mr. Morley: Field operations associated with the badger culling trial were suspended during the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak, because of the risk of the disease being carried by field operatives onto agricultural land, and because of the diversion of resources. Surveying resumed in January, with trapping under way on 1 May. The Independent Scientific Group for Cattle TB (ISG) has considered the impact of FMD on the trial and advised that the delivery of results will only be delayed by 3–4 months, to late 2004 or early 2005.

The ISG advise that it is to early for an analysis of results so far. It is a basic rule for scientific trials that results are not published prematurely. It has, however, been possible to complete a preliminary analysis of the risk factors associated with cattle TB and this is set out in the ISG's third annual report, copies of which are available in the House Library.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the possibility of bovine TB being transferred to humans; and if she will make a statement. [66511]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 2 July 2002]: There are estimated to be about 40–50 cases of Mycobacterium bovis (bovine TB) in humans each year in Great Britain. Most of these cases are either contracted abroad or result from the reactivation of M. bovis acquired in the past.

Public health safeguards have been in existence for many years to minimise the risk of people being exposed to bovine TB through meat, milk or dairy products. It is possible that some cases of bovine TB may have occurred in people who have a close association with infected animals. The HSE has published guidance for farm workers on minimising the risk of infection.

Regular meetings are held between Government Departments to monitor the potential for bovine TB to infect humans through the UK food chain and other zoonotic routes.

Common Agricultural Policy

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government's assessment is of the effect of its CAP reform proposals on common agricultural policy spending (a) for the United Kingdom and (b) for the European Union (i) as it stands and (ii) after the accession of the 10 candidate countries to the European Union in 2004. [66094]

Mr. Morley: The effects of CAP reform on national and European spending depends on the detail and extent of the reform. We expect the European Commission to publish proposals for reform of the CAP on 10 July. We would expect any proposals to respect the budget ceilings set out in the Financial Perspective.


Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to promote awareness of the school milk subsidy scheme among primary schools in (a) Lincolnshire and (b) England. [65085]

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Mr. Morley: In addition to campaigns by the dairy sector, the Rural Payments Agency regularly sends out guidance on the scheme to local education authorities.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will hold a meeting with representatives from dairy farmers and buyers regarding the price of milk. [66576]

Mr. Morley: The price that milk purchasers pay farmers for their milk is a commercial matter in which the Government cannot become involved. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State therefore has no plans to meet representatives of dairy farmers and milk buyers specifically to discuss this issue. However, Ministers frequently meet with representatives from all parts of the dairy sector in the course of their duties, do discuss the overall market situation, and are aware of the concern caused by the current low prices. The Government have therefore actively supported measures taken in Brussels to support EU markets for milk and milk products and to encourage exports.

Countryside and Rights of Way Act

Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress she has made in the management of access and systems to ensure that members of the public are informed of their rights and responsibilities if the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 is implemented on a regional basis. [65736]

Alun Michael: Section 20 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 requires the Countryside Agency to issue codes of conduct for the guidance of walkers and land managers about their rights and obligations on access land.

The agency is also revising the Country Code and consulting widely on its content. The agency plans to relaunch the Code, to contain guidance both to walkers and land managers about access under the Act and more generally, in the summer of 2003.

I am currently considering whether it will be possible to opt for a regional roll-out of the right of access and to manage the implementation of arrangements for informing people of their rights and responsibilities accordingly.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the workings of the Access to the Countryside legislation, with particular reference to farm land. [66518]

Alun Michael: The Countryside Agency is consulting on draft maps of open country and registered common land on a rolling, regional, programme. Following the consultation on each draft map, the agency will then issue a provisional map, and land managers will have an opportunity to appeal to the Secretary of State if they object to the mapping of any land as open country or registered common land.

In addition to mapping, there are practical issues which must be addressed, such as managing access and ensuring that members of the public and land managers are properly informed of their rights and responsibilities. We

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are working closely with the Countryside Agency and other bodies to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place before the right of access is commenced in any area.

Flood Defence

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the last assessment of the relative risks and priorities in regard to the categorisation of watercourses in England took place; and when she intends to review this categorisation to determine responsibilities for flood defence measures based on the current assessment of the severity of the flood risk issues and their relative priority. [66189]

Mr. Morley: Watercourses in England are classed either as "main river" or "ordinary watercourses". The Environment Agency has permissive powers to undertake flood defence works on main rivers while for ordinary watercourses similar powers rest with the relevant operating authority, ie the local authority or, where one exists, the internal drainage board.

In 1999 the Government published a series of high level targets for flood and coastal defence, alongside an elaboration of the Environment Agency's general flood defence supervisory duty. Following this, work has been undertaken to identify "critical ordinary watercourses" which are those watercourses agreed between the Environment Agency and the relevant operating authority as presenting a significant flood risk. The Environment Agency has also been working with the operating authorities to ensure that these watercourses and any related flood defences are regularly inspected and their condition reported to the Environment Agency.

We recently consulted on a Review of Flood and Coastal Defence Funding including a number of options for streamlining the service. These included the possibility of transferring to the EA responsibility for watercourses presenting the most significant flood risk. We have received nearly 300 responses to the consultation, and will be considering these and our conclusions through the summer and autumn.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which of the high level targets for flooding and coastal defence her Department (a) met within the stated objective date, (b) has met and (c) has still to achieve. [66555]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 3 July 2002]: The high level targets (HLT) published in November 1999 apply to the Environment Agency and other bodies. No targets apply to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The targets generally require the Environment Agency and others to report on specific issues at specific times. Unfortunately reports due in 2001 were delayed because resources had to be diverted during the serious and widespread flooding in autumn 2000 and to deal with follow-up work.

Reports covering the 2001–02 period were published on 24 May 2002 for: HLT 1 (Policy statements); HLT 2 (Provision of Flood Warnings); HLT 3 (Emergency exercises and emergency plans) and HLT 9 (Biodiversity). I expect shortly to be able to publish reports for HLT 2 (due April 2002) and HLT 5 (Flood defence inspections and assessment).

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On other targets, the National Flood and Coastal Defence Database (HLT 4) is now expected to become operational by September. Coastal groups have provided partial responses under HLTs 6, 8 and 13 and we are working with them to secure fuller and timely compliance in future. Information has been forthcoming from operating authorities under HLT 7, and the Association of Drainage Authorities have issued guidance to IDBs under HLT 14, though this was delayed by factors beyond the Association's control.

The Environment Agency are still awaiting submissions for the targets 10, 11 and 12, and reports will be published in coming months. While there might be some residual delay following the impact of the autumn 2000 floods, I hope to achieve rather more timely publication in future.

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