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6 Apr 2010 : Column WA375

Written Answers

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Agriculture: Genetically Modified Crops

Questions

Asked by The Countess of Mar

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): Summaries of applications to market genetically modified food or feed are available on the website of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In addition, the public can request access from EFSA to all the information contained in applications. Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003 requires these to be made publicly available, apart from certain information that meets defined criteria for confidentiality.

Asked by Baroness Byford

Lord Davies of Oldham: The information requested on the number of genetically modified (GM) crop trials planted and completed from 2002 is given below:

YearNo. of trials plantedNo. of trials completed

2002

109

95

2003

8

5

2004

1

1

2005

0

0

2006

0

0

2007

1

1

2008

2

1

2009

1

1

Of the trials planted in 2002, 87 were for the government-sponsored Farm Scale Evaluations research project. This studied the impact on farmland biodiversity of the novel herbicide use associated with GM herbicide-tolerant maize, beet and oilseed rape. The results showed that the herbicide regimes applied in the trials for the GM beet and oilseed rape crops had a negative effect on wildlife compared to the herbicide regimes for the equivalent conventional crops, whereas the results for the GM maize were better than those for its non-GM counterpart.



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Nine of the trials planted in 2002 and one of those planted in 2003 were conducted as part of the national list process for the marketing of new seed varieties. Under this statutory process, overseen in England by the Food and Environment Research Agency, varieties are trialled to assess whether they are distinct, uniform and stable, and whether they are an improvement over existing varieties. Only those that meet the required criteria are entered on the national list of approved varieties. As most of the GM-related national list trials in 2002 and 2003 were not completed, no evaluation was made of the outcome.

All of the other trials planted from 2002 to 2009 were undertaken by companies or academic research institutes for their own purposes. Defra has not evaluated the results of these trials. As the regulatory authority, Defra's role was to ensure that these trials were conducted in accordance with the relevant statutory conditions, and formal inspection visits were made for this purpose.

Asked by The Countess of Mar

Lord Davies of Oldham: Specific measures are not required for disposing of the residue from these genetically modified (GM) potatoes after starch extraction. The use of the residue for animal feed has been authorised in the European Union (EU) after a robust safety assessment. Feed derived from the potatoes would have to be clearly labelled to indicate its GM origin. The consent holder, BASF Plant Science GmbH, is required to undertake monitoring for possible adverse effects and provide annual reports on this to the Commission. The Amflora GM starch potato will not be marketed or grown in the UK. We do not have a potato starch processing industry or possess an EU quota for the production of starch potatoes.

Agriculture: Maps

Questions

Asked by Baroness Byford

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) does not record information on the number of farmers who have had their landholding reduced or increased after having been sent a final map in a form that is readily accessible.

There are reasons why landholdings may be reduced following receipt of final maps. These include findings from inspections and changes the farmer asks to be made.



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Asked by Baroness Byford

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Rural Payments Agency has been updating the rural land register and as part of this mapping update project had sent a new set of maps to 102,455 customers by the end of February 2010. This equates to 94.6 per cent of customers and 94.4 per cent of the area registered.

Some 5,767 holdings were treated differently and did not receive initial maps because they were subject to remote sensing or a physical inspection for the 2009 single payment scheme. They will receive their updated maps after the end of February once all inspection findings have been taken into account.

Anguilla

Question

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The Chief Minister, Mr Hubert Hughes, and a delegation visited London on 18 March and held meetings with the Minister for the Overseas Territories and with the Director for the Overseas Territories at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Those meetings focused on the difficult economic challenges that Anguilla faces in addressing a sizeable budget deficit and on the commitment of the new Government of Anguilla to tackle crime and corruption. The Chief Minister sought advice and assistance in tackling these issues. The Minister and the director committed to working in partnership with the Government of Anguilla on these and other issues.

Animal Health: Exotic Diseases

Question

Asked by The Countess of Mar

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): Under the responsibility and cost-sharing proposals, the board and its chair will be responsible for day-to-day decisions on animal disease control measures in the event of a disease outbreak in England. The board will take decisions on

6 Apr 2010 : Column WA378

the advice of the England CVO, in consultation with the CVO (UK), core stakeholders, and the devolved Administrations, as well as other appropriate parts of government. The England CVO will lead the immediate response. The chair and board will keep Ministers and the wider government informed as necessary.

Armed Forces: Afghanistan

Questions

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Afghanistan remains the Ministry of Defence's main effort and we keep our force levels under constant review to ensure that commanders have the capabilities that they need to complete the tasks that we ask of them.

Asked by The Earl of Sandwich

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was represented at an outreach event for civil society, including aid agencies, convened prior to the London conference on 26 January 2010. We understand that some aid agencies hold concerns about the role of provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) in delivering development projects.

The UK-led international PRT in Helmand delivers through personnel from the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the stabilisation unit and the MoD. It works closely with the Afghan local and provincial authorities to enable them to address the reconstruction and development needs of Helmand.

The UK continues to work closely with International Security Assistance Force, the Afghans and aid agencies to ensure that PRTs are delivering the most effective support to the Afghan Government, depending on their local situation.

Armed Forces: Aircraft

Questions

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever



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The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): "In service" has been taken to mean the effective fleet, which includes all aircraft barring those that are redundant, declared as surplus or awaiting disposal.

For the month of February 2010, there were a total of 72 Harriers in service, of which 46 aircraft were available to Joint Force Harrier (JFH) for tasking. The number of aircraft in the available fleet will fluctuate from day to day depending on planned maintenance or unforeseen rectification work, so the figure provided is an average rounded to the nearest aircraft. The remaining aircraft were either undergoing depth maintenance or rectification work, awaiting disposal or being used as trial aircraft.

All Harriers in the in-service fleet are based at RAF Cottesmore, Wittering and Coningsby. After a very successful five years deployed in Afghanistan providing close air support to troops on the ground and tactical surveillance/reconnaissance, JFH is now undergoing a period of regeneration to rebuild the wider skill sets not utilised in Afghanistan.

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are jointly developing a transition plan to ensure that the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) Force is manned by transferring personnel from the Joint Force Harrier (JFH), from other aircraft types and directly from initial training. This plan will ensure that both JFH and JCA are appropriately manned through this transition period.

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: There have been 15 military exercises in the past four years that the RAF has conducted involving take-off and landing from an aircraft carrier. The aircraft used were Harriers from the Joint Force Harrier and RAF Chinook helicopters.

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever



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Baroness Taylor of Bolton: As at 20 March 2010, 84 per cent of officers and soldiers of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Parachute Regiment have passed the basic parachute course and are therefore qualified to conduct a static-line jump from any aircraft, including Hercules.

There will always be a number of personnel awaiting qualification given the constant output of newly trained soldiers and other factors, including the recent bad weather, which disrupted the training programme. We are confident that the trained percentage will increase over the next few months.

I am withholding the information for 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the Armed Forces.

Armed Forces: Job Cuts

Question

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Decisions on the particular regiments and service roles on which soldier manning control points will be focused have not yet been made, but this is not a reduction in the overall strength of the Army. It is a sensible approach to delivering the correct manning balance across the Army.

Armed Forces: Languages

Question

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The military requirement for deployed Dari speakers is evolving and is under constant review, with Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) and the Defence Operational Languages Support Unit (DOLSU) working closely together to define all aspects of the language requirements.

The increased requirement is being met through language training at all levels as appropriate, and the use of previously trained personnel. Language training opportunities are widely advertised through defence internal communications channels and generate significant interest. Selection panels are held to select the strongest candidates for long language training.


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