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Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the independent veterinary risk assessment commissioned by her Department into the resumption of fox hunting following the foot and mouth outbreaks. 
Alun Michael: The veterinary risk assessment on the possible resumption of hunting with dogs in England and Wales is currently being considered by Ministers. The assessment will be published on the DEFRA website http://www.defra.gov.uk/ and copies will be made available in the Libraries of the House.
Mr. Morley [holding answer 22 October 2001]: The Government are considering the case for payment of the agrimonetary compensation that is currently available for the arable sector, and have until 31 October to notify the European Commission of any intention to make these payments.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to provide further assistance to protect existing homes from flooding; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 19 October 2001]: I plan to reduce the risk of flooding by investing in effective flood warning arrangements and in flood defences in the highest risk areas. Funding for the Department's programme is increasing from £66 million in 200001 to £114 million in 200304. Further increases are planned in funding delivered through local authorities.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will take steps to ensure that the shortfall in North Yorkshire's flood defence levy for the period 200203 is made up to at least the amount allocated for 200102. 
Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency's flood defence programme is funded mainly by levies paid by county councils, metropolitan boroughs and unitary authorities. These levies, and other flood defence expenditure, are taken into account in determining each council's flood defence standard spending assessment (SSA) for the following year.
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North Yorkshire county council's flood defence SSA for 200102 was £2,423,000; the council paid a levy to the Environment Agency of £2,469,192 and I understand that they have no other flood defence expenditure. However, this has to be seen against an historic failure of some local authorities, including those in Yorkshire, to invest adequate sums to maintain and renew defences over many years.
The Government can compensate authorities collectively for expenditure up to the aggregate 4.2 per cent. increase provided for in Spending Review 2000 but to do otherwise would mean unfairly limiting the increase in other parts of the Environment, Cultural and Protective Services SSA block. Of course a local authority is able to utilise the funds provided for those services it judges a priority.
The Government have recently made additional funds available to the Environment Agency to meet flood defence expenditure in the current year. Alongside funds made available during the previous year, Government have now met almost all the emergency response and repair costs that the Agency incurred in the autumn/winter 2000 floods. In addition for both years it has met the design and feasibility costs of river flood defence schemes in order to accelerate their implementation. This represents a substantial contribution to the exceptional costs arising from those floods and the Yorkshire region is a major beneficiary. These additional funds have the effect of reducing the levy increase necessary to deliver the appropriate flood defence service in the region; we now expect the local authorities to make a proportionate contribution.
Mr. Morley: Personal imports into the UK of meat from countries outside the EU are restricted to one kilogram per person of meat in a hermetically sealed container. People travelling from other EU countries can bring with them up to 10 kg of meat products per person, for their own consumption. However, if there is an outbreak of disease likely to present a risk to human or animal health such as foot and mouth disease (FMD), appropriate safeguard action is taken, which may include a ban on imports of meat from all, or parts, of that country. In those circumstances, personal imports may effectively be prohibited.
We have introduced improved publicity to ensure that travellers are aware of the restrictions on what may be imported. Posters have been placed at main airports and information is being provided to travellers by the travel industry and by British embassies abroad.
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the effectiveness of controls to limit the import of meat and meat products into the UK that could carry contamination with (a) foot and mouth disease and (b) other animal diseases. 
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Mr. Morley: If any third country experiences an outbreak of disease likely to present a risk to human or animal health (such as foot and mouth disease) European Community legislation allows us to take appropriate safeguard action. This may include a ban on imports of meat from all, or parts, of that country. We have recently taken such action in respect of Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Swaziland, Uruguay and Zimbabwe. EU law lays down the protection measures to be implemented by a member state if they experience such a disease outbreak. These include a ban on the movement of susceptible animals, export restrictions on their products and the slaughter of infected animals.
All meat and meat products imported from third countries, must be accompanied by veterinary certification. This must confirm that the meat is derived from animals which have been subjected to an ante-mortem inspection during the 24 hours prior to slaughter at which the animal showed no signs of foot and mouth disease or any notifiable disease.
All meat and meat products imported into the UK from third countries must enter at designated UK Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) where they are subject to veterinary inspections. All consignments are subject to documentary and identity checks and at least 20 per cent. of consignments undergo physical checks. These ensure import conditions are met and that the products remain in a satisfactory condition during transport.
No matter what level of import controls are in place, it will never be possible to guarantee that no exotic disease could be imported into this country. It remains vital that farmers take effective precautions to minimise the possibility of spread of any disease that may occur, whatever its source.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on proposals announced recently by the Countryside Agency to build more social housing in rural areas. 
Alun Michael [holding answer 18 October 2001]: I launched the Housing Corporation's Rural Policy Statement this month which builds upon the commitment in the Rural White Paper to achieve a higher proportion of affordable homes in both market towns and small villages. It illustrates the close co-operation between DEFRA Ministers and the Ministers at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions who also strongly support the statement. It also demonstrates the close co-operation between the corporation and the Countryside Agency which has also welcomed the announcement of the new policy. The agency has confirmed its intention to work closely with the Housing Corporation to assist in 'rural proofing' its policies.
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress in meeting claims for compensation for (a) nuisance and (b) loss of property value by individuals with homes adjacent to the Throckmorton mass burial site in Worcestershire. 
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Mr. Morley: The main nuisance complained of by the residents of Throckmorton was that of smell that was being created by Government activity in containing and eradicating foot and mouth disease. As this activity was being carried out lawfully, there is no liability on the Government to pay compensation.
Alun Michael: The main source of funding to assist farmers to diversify into tourism is the Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES), which is a part of the England Rural Development Programme, measures are available in Objective 1 areas. The total RES scheme budget is £152 million for the period 200106. Another fund which
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can be used to assist farm-based tourism is the regional development agencies' Redundant Buildings Grant scheme.
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