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Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many people attended the spring meetings of the IMF and World bank from (a) her Department and (b) other UK Government Departments; and what the total cost of the visit was. 
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) full- time equivalents were employed by her press office and (b) secondees were placed in her press office in the last five years; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 23 July 2002]: Under the Charity Matched Funding Scheme, the Government matches charitable donations from the public pound for pound from Government funds. The Government paid over £17,000,000 to charities to alleviate rural hardship resulting from the foot and mouth disease outbreak in match funding in 200102. Match Funding was not made available in 200001.
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her latest assessment is of the contribution that the closure of footpaths made to resisting the spread of foot and mouth disease. 
Alun Michael: In the early stages of last year's outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD), the extent to which the disease might have spread was highly uncertain. At this stage MAFF encouraged local authorities to close footpaths and other rights-of-way on a precautionary basis. On 28 March MAFF and DETR published guidance advising authorities to reopen footpaths as quickly as possible when reopening was justified by the veterinary risk assessment. It is not possible to quantify the impact that footpath closures had in helping to control the disease.
Responding to the recommendations of the Rural Task Force report published last October, the Government made clear that in any future outbreak of FMD, any restrictions on countryside access would take account both
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of the requirements of disease control and of the impact on countryside users, the businesses that depend on them, and the wider rural economy. On the basis of the current veterinary risk assessment, closures of rights of way would probably be advised only within a 3 km radius zone around infected premises; this is set out in DEFRA's published Interim Contingency Plan for FMD.
Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has for the latest machinery for monitoring and checking bags to tackle the illegal trade of bushmeat into the UK. 
Mr. Morley: In March of this year the Department published its action plan to reduce the risk of plant and animal diseases entering the country and damaging our horticultural and agricultural industries.
In implementing this action plan the Department has been investigating a variety of alternatives for improved detection and deterrence of illegal imports of meat and animal products. The Department has held discussions with officials from other countries on their experience with different regimes and technologies, as well as other individuals, and has a number of pilot schemes due to start this summer to determine the effectiveness of these in detecting illegal imports of meat and animal products.
Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on those groups which are involved in illegally importing bushmeat into the UK. 
Mr. Morley: The Department currently has no conclusive evidence of specific groups involved in the illegal importation of bushmeat into the UK. We are in the process of improving our intelligence gathering and sharing this with enforcement agencies and specialised units such as the Wildlife Crime Unit. If and when such intelligence builds up a suitable evidence action will, of course, be taken accordingly.
Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what arrangements are in place to check against the illegal importation of meat by sea and air, with specific reference to (a) their cost and (b) man hour equivalents devoted to them. 
Mr. Morley: Consignments of meat or animal products entering the European Union are subject to documentary and identification checks as well as physical checks, testing and sampling. The proportion subject to physical checks is dependent on the productfor example, at least 20 per cent. of beef, pork and lamb and at least
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50 per cent. of consignments of poultry, game and honey are checked to ensure they comply with the appropriate rules. The cost of these checks are recovered from importers.
There are enforcement officers employed by local and port health authorities, HM Customs and Excise, Meat Hygiene Service and DEFRA who contribute directly or indirectly to policing laws on meat imports. Total numbers are not held centrally.
Through its action plan published in March, the Government are stepping up activities to improve the prevention and detection rates for illicit trade. Measures include improved co-ordination and co-operation with, and between, enforcement agencies. Certain measures in the action plan measures will have implications for future arrangements. For example the volume and type of checks made will be informed by the outcome of a disease risk assessment, and how checks are arranged, by the outcome of a Cabinet Office review of the current enforcement arrangements. Both reports are due this autumn.
Mr. Morley: The strategy to tackle illegal imports is to assess the disease risks linked to imports; identify the critical control points that need to be strengthened in order to reduce those risks, and to maximise opportunities for the prevention and detection of illicit trade. The strategy is underpinned by improved communication, including campaign to increase public awareness of our import rules and reasons for them.
The various measures we are taking are set out in the action plan published in March, and which have been endorsed by the Curry, Follett and Anderson reports. I refer the hon. Member to our progress report published on 8 July: a copy of which can be viewed on the illegal imports pages on the DEFRA website (www.defra.gov.uk/ animalh/illegali).
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Mr. Morley: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and all of her ministerial team have afforded the highest importance to improving performance against correspondence targets and this has been tackled at the highest levels within the Department.
The Department has addressed this by trebling the number of staff in the correspondence unit and strengthening its line management; introducing a more up to date IT system to facilitate faster transmission of letters within the Department, better case recording and improved management data; strengthening contingency arrangements to deal with surges of correspondence on a particular issue and enhancing guidance and training throughout the department (with input from Ministers) to improve the timeliness and quality of draft replies.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average time taken by her Department has been to answer a letter from an hon. Member since January; and what the longest time for which such a letter has been awaiting a reply is in this period. 
Mr. Morley: The average time taken to answer a letter from an hon. Member since January is 21 working days. The longest time for which such a letter has been awaiting a reply in this period is 139 working days. The latter relates to problems of disruption carried out during the FMD outbreak.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the letter of 10 June from the hon. Member for the Vale of York on behalf of constituent L. Peter Davies, concerning the Meat and Livestock Commission. 
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when a reply will be sent to the letter of 4 March from the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar, on behalf of Mrs. Griffin, a constituent. 
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Totnes of 19 April about illegal trade in wildlife, which was transferred to her Department from the Home Office on 26 June. 
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