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6 Nov 2002 : Column 365Wcontinued
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of 2001 suckler cow premium payments were outstanding (a) nationally and (b) in each region on (i) 31 August and (ii) 30 September; and if she will make a statement. 
|Region||% Of Claims Outstanding At 31 August||% Of Claims Outstanding At 30 September|
(a) (ii) proportion of 2001 Suckler Cow Premium payments outstanding nationally at 30 September was 19.20 per cent.
(b) (ii) proportion of 2001 Suckler Cow Premium payments outstanding in each region at 30 September (see table above.)
Member States are required under European legislation to cross-check all animals subject to bovine subsidy against their cattle tracing databases. The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has accordingly cross-checked claimed animals against the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS Cattle Tracing System (CTS)). All cross checks have been completed and RPA has discovered a large number of discrepancies. Many of these arise because of the failure by cattle keepers to notify the CTS when animals are born, die or are moved. This has resulted in RPA being unable to meet the statutory payment deadlines in all cases on bovine schemes, although it is making every effort to ensure all outstanding payments are made as soon as possible. The RPA regrets the delays and the impact on farmer's cash flow, but cannot ignore the discrepancies discovered.
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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the total monetary value is of the claims under (a) the beef special premium scheme 2001 and (b) the suckler cow premium scheme 2001 that have been refused by the Rural Payments Agency. 
Margaret Beckett: (a) estimated total monetary value of claims under the beef special premium scheme 2001 that has been refused by the Rural Payments Agency is #2,020,916 compared to total value of payments due of #107,891,000.
(b) estimated total monetary value of claims under the suckler cow premium scheme 2001 that has been refused by the Rural Payments Agency is #2,232,001 compared to total value of payments due of #78,311,000.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the volume of food waste previously sold to swill feeders which goes to landfill. 
Margaret Beckett: The Animal By-products Order 1999 was amended on 24 May 2001 to introduce a ban on the use of catering waste in swill feeding. It is estimated that approximately 80,000 tonnes per annum of catering waste was being sold to swill feeders at the time the ban came into effect. Following a risk assessment, my Department hopes to consult shortly on amendments to the Order which would allow catering waste to be composted and used on land as a soil conditioner rather than going to landfill.
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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what her policy is on the development of alternatives to landfill for the disposal of catering food waste; 
Margaret Beckett: In June, my Department issued the results of a risk assessment on the use of composting to dispose of catering waste and animal by-products. The objective of this study was to determine the risks to public and animal health from the land-spreading of the catering wastes after treatment by composting or in a biogas plant and to compare these with the risks from existing disposal routes.
In summary, the project determined whether current composting processes give a sufficient degree of pathogen destruction such that the risks to humans and animals are acceptably low and the material may be safely spread to land. The composting route for catering waste potentially presents lower risks to grazing animals than disposal through land-fill. This is because composting offers extra control points. First, the raw catering waste could be delivered to enclosed receptions where birds and animals cannot gain access. Second, a no-grazing period could be enforced after application of the compost to land. Following the risk assessment, we hope to consult shortly on amendments to the Animal By-Products Order which would allow catering waste to be composted and used on land as a soil conditioner rather than going to landfill.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects waste acceptance criteria to be (a) discussed and (b) agreed by the EU Council of Ministers. 
Margaret Beckett: The Danish Presidency is expected to put this issue on the agenda for the Environment Council meeting on 910 December. If agreement is not reached at that meeting, the issue will revert to the Commission for a decision.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason the United Kingdom has not submitted to the European Commission its programme for TSE tests; and when she intends to submit it. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 31 October 2002]: The TSE programme was not submitted as a result of an oversight and a subsequent misunderstanding with the Commission. The programme was submitted on 22 October when we asked the Commission to reconsider making an EU contribution.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on her reasons for issuing a licence for the removal and slaughter of badgers at Saltdean, East Sussex. 
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Margaret Beckett [holding answer 21 October 2002]: Defra received an application for a licence under Section 10 of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, to prevent badgers causing serious damage to property.
We investigated the case extremely carefully, and considered the full range of options for addressing the problem. In addition to this, we sought to involve groups associated with animal welfare issues, even though the Act does not oblige us to do so.
The decision to grant a licence for the humane dispatch of the badgers was taken with great reluctance, only after it appeared that all other avenues had been exhausted and in the exceptional circumstances of this case. In dealing with any licence applications we always seek to avoid the need to harm badgers. This was an extreme case where no other option had been identified.
Margaret Beckett: The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) is monitoring the Four Area Badger Study. Members of the ISG, Defra officials and Defra's independent animal vaccine programme adviser visited some of the Four Area Badger Study sites during their visit to Ireland in 2001.
Margaret Beckett: The East Offaly badger removal project was assessed in the ''Krebs'' Report on Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers, published in 1997. Based on many of the recommendations in the Krebs report, the Government have put in place a wide-ranging research programme into cattle TB. The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG), has advised on this research programme and in so doing considered previous badger removal operations including the East Offaly project.
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