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Entertainment Costs

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost was of the Department's 2001 staff Christmas Party; and how many people attended. [61651]

Mr. Morley: The Department did not hold a party for staff at Christmas 2001.

EU Management Committee

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the EU Committee on the supply of agricultural products to the population of the former Soviet Union is next due to meet; whether experts nominated by the Scottish Executive (a) have been and (b) are members of it; and if she will make a statement. [64901]

Mr. Morley: The Department has no record of such a committee.

Environment Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Environment Council on 25 June;

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what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [65276]

Margaret Beckett: I represented the UK at Environment Council on 25 June, accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Environment. The Council made real progress on a range of important issues.

The Council approved a Decision, on behalf of the European Community, to ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The UK supported Community ratification of this important instrument. The Protocol establishes clear and specific international rules on the import and export of genetically modified organisms (GMOs): prompt ratification by the EU will help secure its entry into force.

Council Conclusions were adopted paving the way for a thematic strategy on the sustainable use of soil. The UK supported the Conclusions, which invite the Commission to produce a Community Strategy and, where appropriate, general principles for assessing and managing threats to soil but, with France, Austria and Denmark, made a written declaration on the importance of respecting and subsidiarity principle.

Conclusions were also adopted emphasising the need to take measures to halt biodiversity loss by 2010, and welcoming the outcome of the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ministerial Declaration made there. The Conclusions also suggested next steps in the implementation of the Habitats Directive and management of the Natura 2000 network.

Brief Council Conclusions were adopted on progress on ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. These expressed disappointment at Australia's recent withdrawal from the Protocol and urged other parties who have not yet done so to ratify as soon as possible.

Ministers held general orientation debates on three subjects: the proposed amendments to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive recovery and recycling targets, the proposed revision of the Seveso II Directive, and a proposed Environmental Liability Directive.

On packaging and packaging waste, the UK intervened in support of a compromise Presidency text and registered a Parliamentary Scrutiny reserve. The compromise text maintains the Commission's minimum overall targets, and broadly maintains their proposed material specific targets (plastic recycling target increased to 22.5 per cent), but extends the deadline for Member States to meet those targets from 2006 and 2008 and removes the maximum target for recovery. The European Parliament first reading is expected to be in September, and so Council is likely to agree a Common Position in October.

Member States, including the UK, supported the Presidency compromise text on proposed amendments to the Seveso II Directive. The Directive aims to prevent major accidents involving dangerous substances. The proposed amendments would alter the classification system for explosives, change threshold quantities for substances dangerous to the environment, and for carcinogens, and add new named carcinogens to those

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already listed in the Directive. France proposed lower thresholds for reject ammonium nitrate, following an accident at Toulouse in September 2001 when a quantity of ammonium nitrate exploded. This change was agreed with UK support. Again following the European Parliament first reading in early July, the Council is likely to agree a Common Position in October.

During the debate on environmental liability, Ministers focused on the issues of financial security and subsidiary responsibility. The UK intervened arguing that subsidiary responsibility was not consistent with the polluter pays principle and that the Council should not make a decision on the appropriate system of financial security until the precise scope of the Directive was clear. The Presidency concluded that Member States were divided on these issues but that a majority favoured both some form of compulsory financial security and some form of subsidiary responsibility for Member States.

The Council took note of COREPER's conclusions in support for Environment Council in its contributions on follow-up to the EU Sustainable Development Strategy, including if necessary the establishment of a group of high-level officials, and on co-ordination between the sectors concerned by sustainable development.

The Presidency gave a progress report on the proposed emissions trading Directive and invited views. The UK expressed support for a Community emissions trading scheme. The Presidency also updated Council on a proposal for a Regulation concerning traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and on the Decision to ratify the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, and its associated implementing Regulation.

Under Any Other Business, Sweden drew the Council's attention to the progress made by industry in developing technology to reduce emissions from diesel cars and suggested that community rules needed revising to reflect this. Portugal presented its national strategy for Sustainable Development. The Netherlands called for a proposal accelerating the phase out of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Germany raised the issue of co-existence of GMO and conventional crops. Belgium asked the Commission for an update on the forthcoming white Paper in Integrated Product Policy. The UK asked whether the Commission has decided on its intended legislative approach for Fluorinated gases. The Commission replied that it was still considering various options for legislation, and would make a proposal by the end of 2002.

Bovine TB

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost has been so far to her Department of compensating farmers for losses due to the deaths of bovine TB infected cattle. [65689]

Mr. Morley: From the beginning of 1997 until the end of 2001, a total of #26,144,176 has been paid out to farmers for cattle slaughtered under TB control measures.

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Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what interim measures are being undertaken to provide farmers with financial and other support whilst awaiting bovine TB trial results. [65688]

Mr. Morley: The Government recognise the economic difficulties that farmers face from the disclosure of bovine tuberculosis in their herds, and from the imposition of movement restrictions by the State Veterinary Service. In accordance with the recommendation of the Agriculture Select Committee, officials are currently considering potential future strategy options, including measures to alleviate economic difficulties faced by those under movement restrictions. Consultation with stakeholders (including farmers' union) have started.

CAP Underspend

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the total CAP underspend was in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; and if she will make a statement. [66513]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 2 July 2002]: Expenditure on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is made in accordance with the EU regulations. Actual CAP expenditure may be higher or lower than forecast at the beginning of each budgetary year, due to the market situation, exchange rate fluctuations, or exceptional items. Surplus from one year's EC Budget is returned to Member States in the following year's Budget by means of a reduction of the amount to be financed from own resources. This has the effect of reducing the amount each Member State is required to pay from the GNP-based resource. The budget process requires the Commission to estimate the level of expenditure necessary in a particular year. It would be misleading to describe a difference between the estimate and outturn expenditure as an Xunderspend". Information on the implementation of the budget is available from the House of Commons Library in the Annual Reports of the Court of Auditors.


Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farms there were in England in each reporting period from 1979–80 to 2002; and if she will make a statement. [66278]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 4 July 2002]: The number of main holdings included in the overall Agricultural and Horticultural Census results (following the periodic reclassification between main and minor holdings) were:

Number of Holdings



1. Holdings in the census have been classified as main and minor. Main holdings are included for selection in the annual census (since 1995 this has been on a sample basis). Minor holdings are only surveyed once every five years following which a review of the classification between main and minor takes place. New holdings are counted as main holdings until the next reclassification exercise.

2. Additional holdings from a significant register updating exercise were identified in 2000 and first included in 2001.

3. The figures for June 2002 Census are still being processed. From this year the distinction between main and minor is being dropped.

4. Holdings may not relate to individual farms. A single business may consist of several holdings.


June Agricultural and Horticultural Census

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