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Thomsen Judgment

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions her Department has had with the European Commission on the recent Thomsen judgment in respect of the management of milk quotas with regard to (a) whether quotas are for the beneficial use of the named holder or the farm holding and (b) whether any beneficial trade in entitlements attaches to the landowner or tenant in the case of rented holdings. [108771]

Mr. Morley: None. The discussions that my officials held with the European Commission on the Thomsen judgment concerned the timing of implementation of the judgment.

Veterinary Medicines

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with EU states concerning the mutual recognition of veterinary medicines. [108905]

Mr. Morley: The main forum for discussion of issues concerning the mutual recognition of marketing authorisations for veterinary medicinal products is the Veterinary Mutual Recognition Facilitation Group (VMRFG). This meets monthly (except in August) and is attended by my officials and those from the other member states and the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA). The UK was instrumental in establishing the VMRFG in April 1997. In addition, there are a number of other EU fora at which issues relating to veterinary medicines are discussed and at which issues relating to mutual recognition may be raised.

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Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the benefits of combining the Medicine Control Agency with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, with reference to EU Directive 6565. [108906]

Mr. Morley: The Department carried out a Review of its five science-based agencies, including the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), in 2002. It was published on 17 December 2002. Copies of the report are available on: www.defra.gov.uk/agency review/index.asp

The Review explored a number of possible options on the organisational structure for VMD, including combining the Medicines Control Agency (now the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)) and VMD. Having taken account of the current assessment of business prospects, it concluded that there should be no organisational change for VMD. However, there should be a further reassessment of the option of a merger with MCA once the future role of the European Medicines Evaluation Agency in the EU's approval procedures is known.

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the cost to British industry of delays in the processing of authorisation applications by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. [108904]

Mr. Morley: European legislation requires member states to process applications for new marketing authorisations for veterinary medicinal products within 210 "clock" days of the submission of a valid application. "Clock days" are calendar days, including weekends and holidays but excluding any period where further information is requested and awaited from the applicant. In addition to this legal requirement, annual performance targets are agreed for the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) which, together with details of how they have been met, are published in the VMD Annual Report and Accounts. The Annual Report for 2001–02 illustrates that, during the period 1999 to 2002, the VMD met its target of determining 100 per cent. of valid applications for new UK marketing authorisations within 210 clock days in each successive year. Furthermore, during each of these years, the VMD has exceeded agreed performance targets of determining or referring to the Veterinary Products Committee (VPC) valid applications for new marketing authorisations within 120 clock days, achieving outturns of 92.2 per cent., 95.9 per cent. and 94 per cent. respectively. For 2002–03, the average time for determining or referring applications for new marketing authorisations to the VPC is 89.1 clock days. Applications are only referred to the VPC where the product is novel or where the VMD considers a marketing authorisation cannot be granted.

In the light of the VMD's performance in processing applications I do not consider an assessment of the cost to British industry of delays in the procedures to be

appropriate.

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact on British industry of

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disallowing alternative presentations of single products in the marketing authorisation of parent producers by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. [108907]

Mr. Morley: The Veterinary Medicines Directorate ceased to accept applications to include alternative presentations in single marketing authorisations in April 1997. The decision to do so was made to bring UK procedures into line with those of the other member states and procedural guidance produced by the European Commission. It was considered that the practice of allowing alternative presentations on marketing authorisations was not compatible with European harmonised procedures and could be detrimental to holders of UK marketing authorisations who wished to apply to have them recognised in other member states under the mutual recognition procedures. It was further considered that facilitating easier access to the markets in other member states through the mutual recognition procedures would counterbalance any resulting additional costs to British industry.

Water Industry

Andrew Bennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many water companies have not yet reached the targets for leakage agreed at the Water Summit in 1997. [109091]

Mr. Morley: Following the Water Summit in 1997, Ofwat set each water company annual leakage targets to progressively reduce leakage to its economic level by 2003. This is defined as the level at which the costs to make further reductions in leakage are greater than the costs of supplying additional water from its sources. Ofwat published details of companies' performance against their targets for 2001–02 in the "Security of supply, leakage and the efficient use of water" report, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. Of the twenty-one companies set targets, two failed to progress in line with their annual target. Ofwat is monitoring the actions taken by these companies to recover their positions. Thames Water was subject to special measures rather than being set a volumetric target in 2001–02, due to its unsatisfactory performance in managing leakage. Ofwat is taking a number of increased measures to ensure that Thames Water brings its leakage under control, including the recent setting of leakage targets for North London, South London and the area outside London. Water company performance against targets for 2002–03 will be published in July this year.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the Director General of OFWAT on changing the investment criteria for Thames Water to enable them to invest more in capital infrastructure to alleviate sewage flooding in rural areas. [109144]

Mr. Morley: The Department has been working closely with the Office of Water Services to look at ways of tackling the serious problem of sewer flooding. Following a consultation on flooding from sewers last year, OFWAT announced that they would consider proposals from sewerage undertakers for additional schemes to alleviate the most serious problems in the period up to 2005. Thames Water has been given approval for significant additional investment before

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2005. All sewerage companies are currently developing proposals for investment to deal with sewer flooding during 2005–10.

In the Secretary of State's initial guidance on the Periodic Review of water price limits for 2005–10, it was made clear that there should be closer attention to tackling sewer flooding in all areas. This should help to ensure that many more customers than at present benefit from sewer flooding schemes.

Working Hours

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what policy on (a) core hours and (b) flexible working hours is operated by her Department and each agency and non-departmental public body for which her Department is responsible. [107609]

Alun Michael: Defra is committed to accommodating staff requests to work flexibly subject to the overriding needs of the Department. Flexible working hours are available to staff except where overriding business, operational or management requirements make this inappropriate. Most Defra staff are required to observe core hours (10–12 am and 2–4 pm) although pilot schemes are exploring how greater flexibility could be offered to staff without reducing operational efficiency.

The position in the Agencies for which Defra is responsible is similar, although the Rural Payments Agency has recently introduced new flexible working arrangements on the basis of daily bands of 7.30 am to 7.30 pm without core hours. Defra sponsors a number of other public sector bodies, including 20 executive NDPBs. Information is not held centrally on their working hours arrangements and could only be obtained as requested at disproportionate cost.


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