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Foot and Mouth Disease: Mass Burial Sites

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The EA issues licences to waste disposal sites in England and Wales. These licences contain conditions to ensure that the activities authorised do not cause pollution of the environment, harm to human health or become seriously detrimental to the amenities of the locality. Conditions will typically stipulate environmental monitoring requirements for surface and groundwaters, leachate, gases and odours. The licence will also contain conditions relating to the aftercare and post closure monitoring of the landfill site until such a time that the licence is surrendered. The agency carries out appropriate periodic inspections of waste management facilities to check and audit operator compliance with the conditions of the licence and to ensure protection of the environment and human health.

Where odour complaints relate to sources or activities regulated by the agency such as licensed landfill sites, the complaint will be fully investigated and managed in accordance with agency procedures. In light of recent legislative developments, the EA is due to issue a public consultation relating to guidance documents on the management of landfill gas. This guidance will be used by the EA, landfill operators and their advisers to achieve a step change in the management of landfill gas. A number of these guidance documents will focus on the management and minimisation of landfill gas emissions, which will have a beneficial impact on reducing odour.

Horticultural Research

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy on supporting horticultural research in the United Kingdom.[HL189]

Lord Whitty: The Government support horticultural research through the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and through government departments. Research of immediate relevance to the horticulture industry is also funded by the Horticultural Development Council, a levy-funded statutory body.

The goal of the BBSRC is to support science of international quality that is relevant to the council's mission and to the needs of its users and beneficiaries. Funding is allocated to universities and research institutes by a number of mechanisms, mainly through open competition. The agriculture industry, including the horticulture sector, is one of the main beneficiaries of the council's research.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) funds strategic research in support of its published aims and objectives. Individual horticultural research projects are commissioned by

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Defra from a number of research providers. A proportion of the available funding is allocated to open competitions in which research proposals are invited from universities, research institutes and other providers.

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any research programmes currently being carried out at Horticulture Research International are to be terminated next year; and, if so, why.[HL190]

Lord Whitty: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Horticulture and Potatoes Programme consists of fixed-term projects with specified deliverables which are either commissioned individually from research contractors or chosen from among proposals put forward in response to open competitions. A number of such projects will terminate next year in the usual way. The programmes of work identified by Horticulture Research International (HRI) in its annual reports are not directly commissioned by Defra, but encompass work commissioned from a number of customers. The organisation of these programmes is a matter for the management of HRI.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) currently funds HRI on a similar basis to its own sponsored institutes, mainly through a four-year core strategic grant (CSG) that started in April 2002, and will be reviewed in 2005 prior to its potential renewal. The particular programmes of research supported from the CSG and their start and end dates are determined largely by HRI's chief executive, subject to the general direction of BBSRC based on scientific advice obtained in its four-yearly institute assessment exercise. In addition, HRI is able to apply to the council, in competition with other institutions and up to a defined limit, for supplementary grants for specific fixed-term (usually year) projects. There is ongoing turnover of such projects, some of which will come to their scheduled end in 2003.

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What public money has been allocated to Horticulture Research International during the financial years 1997–98, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2001–02 and 2002–03 respectively; and what funds are due to be allocated in 2003–04.[HL191]

Lord Whitty: A summary of total public funds provided to Horticulture Research International during the financial years 1997–98 to 2001–02 and an estimated outturn for the years 2002–03 and 2003–04 are set out in the table below.

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PUBLIC FUNDS(3) ALLOCATED TO HORTICULTURE RESEARCH INTERNATIONAL DURING THE PERIOD 1997–2004

YearR&D payments(4)CMF(5)Grants for re-structuring and pensions by DefraCapital & other payments by DefraTotal (£m)
1997–9817.11.718.8
1998–9917.05.90.423.3
1999–200016.20.416.6
2000–0115.60.34.21.021.1
2001–0215.51.51.60.218.8
2002–0315.23.00.11.119.4
2003–0413.70.10.214.0

(3) Public funds means income from Defra, other government departments, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the EU.

(4) Figures provided on an accruals basis as shown in HRI's accounts.

(5) Treasury's Capital Modernisation Fund.


EU Grant Aid: TSE Programme

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs failed to claim the £4 million European Union grant aid which was available for the monitoring of disease such as scrapie and BSE in 2002.[HL218]

Lord Whitty: 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. The Commission has now confirmed that it is not legally possible for a payment to be made.

Scrapie

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will continue with their plan to establish a scrapie resistant sheep flock, following the recent case of a sheep with the genotype that is most resistant to the brain disease scrapie developing BSE after the infective prion was injected into its brain.[HL221]

Lord Whitty: When the Government announced these emerging sheep research findings on 18 November we said we would continue to operate the National Scrapie Plan as normal pending advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC). That remains the position. A sub-group of SEAC is meeting in early December to consider the findings. We will then review the situation in the light of SEAC's advice. The research project used intracerebral inoculation, and this is not a natural route of transmission for TSEs. It remains the case that no sheep of the most resistant (ARR/ARR) genotype has been confirmed as having developed a TSE in natural, non-experimental, conditions or experimentally through the oral transmission route.

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Child Protection: Staff Shortages

Lord Northbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the finding of the joint inspectorate review published by Ofsted (October 2002) that staff shortages in key social services, including schools and social services departments, are in some local authorities a problem seriously affecting the quality of the service they offer; and, if so, what action is being taken to remedy these staff shortages.[HL68]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baronesss Ashton of Upholland): The joint chief inspectors' report Safeguarding Children, published on 14 October 2002, contains a recommendation that the Department of Health, Home Office, Department for Education and Skills, and the Lord Chancellor's Department should support and facilitate national and local agencies to recruit and retain sufficient levels of appropriately qualified staff, paying particular regard to the image, status, morale, remuneration and working conditions of specialist child protection staff.

The Government have welcomed the publication of this report. They recognise that there is still more to be done to ensure that the highest standards of child protection are applied in every case. That is why they commissioned the joint chief inspectors' report. It is also why the Secretary of State for Health and the Home Secretary set up the statutory inquiry, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, into the circumstances leading up to, and surrounding, the death of Victoria Climbie. The recommendations of the joint chief inspectors' report and those of the Victoria Climbie inquiry will provide the Government with an authoritative basis for any reforms to child protection that may need to be made, and if reform is necessary the Government will implement it.

The Government have introduced initiatives designed to improve recruitment and retention in these key areas.

All our policies that affect teachers aim not only to encourage new graduates into the profession, but also to ensure that teachers already within it stay. The Chancellor announced in the recent spending review that more money than ever is going direct to schools to enable heads to manage and staff their schools more effectively. There is also funding for Recruitment Strategy Managers, who are currently working in over 100 LEAs across the country helping to provide a co-ordinated local approach to vacancy-filling, with three specialist advisers dedicated to helping schools in challenging circumstances.

Similarly, the national social work recruitment campaign was launched in October 2001 by the Secretary of State for Health. This includes both national and local press and radio advertising and particular efforts are being made in London and the South East where retention and recruitment of social workers is a particular problem. The third phase of the recruitment campaign was launched on 24 October

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2002 with the aim of raising by 5,000 the number of people applying for social work training by 2004. Since the start of the campaign, applications have seen the first increase since 1995 and provisional figures suggest a year on year increase in applicants of 8.3 per cent.


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