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15 Oct 2002 : Column 567W—continued

Ecological Surveys

Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what ecological surveys have been conducted by (a) English Nature and (b) his Department in respect of the sites identified for development as asylum accomodation centres to determine the presence of protected species; if the Government will publish the reports; and what further plans the Government have to commission such surveys. [74521]

Mr. Morley: I understand that there are Home Office proposals to build asylum seeker accommodation centres on surplus land at three sites; the Defence Storage and Distribution Centre near Bicester (Oxfordshire), RAF Newton (Nottinghamshire) and Throckmorton Airfield (near Pershore, Worcestershire).

It is not the Department's role, or English Nature's, to commission or undertake ecological surveys of potential development sites. As with any planning proposal, it will be for the relevant planning authority to ensure that potential impacts on protected species are identified and considered, including requiring the developer to undertake ecological surveys where appropriate.

English Nature's role is to provide advice to the planning authority and also to the developer on the nature conservation issues. With respect to the specific sites, English Nature reports that Wychavon District Council has commissioned an ecological survey of the Throckmorton site and also that English Nature staff have liaised with ecological consultants engaged on behalf of developers in respect of the Bicester site.

Where European protected species will be affected by an activity such as development works then my Department administers a licensing regime under the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994. A licence under these Regulations may be needed to allow the development works or other activity to

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proceed. Ecological surveys of sites are required from applicants as part of applications for such licences, in order to allow the conservation issues to be fully considered. There is no Crown immunity from these Regulations. At this point in time no applications have been received by my Department in respect of these sites.

Emergency Disposal Sites

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has made to implement the recommendation of the Anderson Committee that the question of compensation for communities accommodating emergency disposal sites should be researched. [73433]

Mr. Morley: We will examine this recommendation as part of our work to prepare a response to the inquiries carried out by Dr. Anderson and Sir Brian Follett.


Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what incentive schemes are in place to (a) encourage farmers to avoid over-production, (b) increase the sustainability of farmers, (c) to make alternative use of surplus agricultural land and (d) extend the programme of crop growing for energy production. [73557]

Mr. Morley: The Government is committed to moving rapidly towards a more sustainable, competitive and diverse farming industry. Key to this is reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), where we want to phase out market price support and production controls, reduce direct payments and decouple them from production. We are also seeking to shift towards the CAP's ''second pillar'', expanding the opportunities available for targeted support for rural development and agri-environment schemes. In this context, we welcome the proposals brought forward by the Commission as part of the CAP mid-term reviews.

In England, the schemes covered by the England Rural Development Programme play a significant role in delivering the Government's objectives for sustainable production and land management, including those listed in the question. These schemes are the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme, the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, the Organic Farming Scheme, the Hill Farm Allowance, the Woodland Grant Scheme, the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme, the Rural Enterprise Scheme, the Vocational Training Scheme, the Processing and Marketing Grant and the Energy Crops Scheme. The budget for the Programme is #1.6 billion over the period 2000–2006. Similar schemes specific to Welsh needs operate within the Rural Development Plan for Wales, the total budget for which is #450 million over the same period.

In addition, there are incentives under some of the CAP subsidy regimes to limit production, for example through livestock extensification and some schemes under the ''national envelopes''.

The Government is working with stakeholders to develop and deliver a new strategy for sustainable farming and food in England, to be published in the autumn, which may include further measures of this

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kind. The devolved administrations are pursuing their own strategies. For example, the strategy for agriculture in Wales, ''Farming for the Future'', prepared in association with industry and countryside interests, was published last November.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farmers have been declared bankrupt per month in each of the last 10 years; and if she will make a statement. [74188]

Alun Michael: Data are available for England and Wales only on a quarterly basis. The level of farm bankruptcies and insolvencies tends to be in the order of a few hundred a year (as at June 2002 there were approximately 210,000 main and minor agricultural holdings1). The annual number of total insolvencies in the last five years (1997–2001) was 240 which is nearly 40 per cent. lower than the average number in the previous 5 years (1992–1996). In 2001, the total number of insolvencies rose by 14 per cent. Quarter 1 figures are available for 2002 and show a 9 per cent. increase over the same period for 2001.

Table 1 Number of Quarterly Bankruptcies in the Agriculture and Horticulture Sector: England and Wales 1991–2002

YearQuarterIndividual Bankruptcy Orders 2 Company Insolvencies 3 Total Insolvencies 4


1 Defra statistics

2 Figures for individual insolvencies comprise bankruptcy orders and individual voluntary arrangements under the Insolvency Act 1986 and deeds of arrangement under the Deeds of Arrangement Act 1914.

3 The figures for company insolvencies are made up of compulsory liquidations (winding-up orders made by the courts) and creditors' voluntary liquidations registered at Companies House.

4 Individual Bankruptcy Orders plus Company Insolvencies


Department for Trade and Industry

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Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of trends in farmers' suicides in the past 12 years; and how many such suicides have taken place per month in the last 12 years. [74189]

Alun Michael: There were the following number of farmers' and farm workers' deaths classified as suicides per month in the 12 years 1989–2000 in England and Wales:

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecMonth unknownAnnual total


Office for National Statistics

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Figures for 2001 are not yet available.

In the Department of Health's ''National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England'', published in September 2002, farmers (and agricultural workers) are identified as a high risk occupational group. A suicide prevention strategy for England has been formulated by an expert advisory group through consultation with mental health professionals, researchers, survivors of suicide attempts, the voluntary sector, and others with relevant experience. The target is to reduce the death rate from suicide and undetermined injury by at least a fifth by the year 2010. The implementation plan will be the responsibility of the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE).

Prior to this, the Government launched the Rural Stress Action Plan in 2001 with the aim of working in partnership to deliver support to make a difference to those in distress in rural areas. Its objectives are:

I recently announced the extension of the Plan for a third year, 2002–03; in total nearly #1m of public funding has been provided. Its existence proved of great value during last year's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. We hope that this modest funding will go a long way to help convey the message that advice and information is available to those suffering distress in rural areas.

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