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27 Oct 2008 : Column 607W—continued

Agriculture: Manpower

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment his Department has made of the availability of agricultural and horticultural labour in the UK; and if he will make a statement; [227300]

(2) what assessment his Department has made of the effect on the fruit and vegetable crop on the availability of agricultural and horticultural labour. [227301]

Huw Irranca-Davies: When the new member states acceded to the EU in 2004, the Government decided to allow A8 nationals to take up work freely in the UK subject to registering with the Workers Registration Scheme. Information collected via the scheme records show that by June 2008, some 85,000 accession nationals had registered to take up work in the agricultural sector. Of these, around 6,400 were specifically registered to work as fruit pickers, and 12,900 as crop harvesters.

In addition, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) provides an assured annual quota of 16,250 workers from the A2 countries, and is an important source of seasonal labour for farmers and growers, particularly at periods of peak activity. Given the importance the industry attaches to SAWS, Government agreed not to phase out the scheme until 2010 in order to give the industry time to adapt to a labour market expanded by nationals from the new member states.

SAWS is administered by the UK Borders Agency. DEFRA Ministers continue to remain in regular contact with their colleagues at the Home Office about the operation of the scheme. In March of this year, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw) and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne) met representatives of the National Farmers Union (NFU) and SAWS operators to listen to their concerns about the current level of quota and changes made to the scheme as a result of the accession to the EU of Romania and Bulgaria. This meeting concluded with a commitment to maintain a dialogue between Government and the industry on this matter, and this is ongoing.

In March 2007, the Government set up the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to provide independent, transparent and evidence-based advice on where labour market shortages exist which can sensibly be filled by migration. MAC underpins the new points-based system for migration to the UK by advising Government on which occupations should be designated as shortage occupations. Tier 3 of the PBS provides a potential route for low-skilled workers from outside the EU to take up work in the UK but is suspended for the foreseeable future, while restrictions remain in place for A2 nationals.


27 Oct 2008 : Column 608W

However, immigration is not the only tool available for tackling the problem of labour shortages. The industry also needs to be prepared to consider the scope for technological innovation, and to examine the conditions and prospects available for those working in agriculture. This will enable the industry to compete more effectively in the job market and to re-integrate the domestic labour force.

I am aware of the concerns expressed by some farmers and growers about seasonal labour shortages and the impact these are having on the cultivation and harvesting of fruit and vegetable crops, and we are in regular contact with the Home Office on this and other matters.

Agriculture: Subsidies

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been distributed by Yorkshire Forward under agricultural schemes in each of the last three years. [227767]

Jane Kennedy: The principal agricultural scheme managed by Yorkshire Forward is the social and economic elements of the Rural Development Programme for England (although this also benefits non-agricultural businesses operating in rural areas). Yorkshire Forward only assumed responsibility for this funding from October 2006. Before this, it was the responsibility of the Rural Development Service, part of DEFRA.

The total spend under the RDPE and the predecessor rural development programme by Yorkshire Forward since it assumed responsibility is:

£ million

16 October 2006 to 15 October 2007

1.76

16 October 2007 to 15 October 2008

1.08


The total RDPE budget allocated to Yorkshire Forward in 2008-09 is £9.89 million.

In addition, Yorkshire Forward has supported agricultural businesses through its single programme budget. The spend on specific agricultural projects over the last three financial years is:

£

2005-06

240,200

2006-07

1,071,700

2007-08

654,800


In addition, agricultural businesses may also have received support through some small ad hoc projects, as well as through mainstream support services, for which it is difficult to obtain separate figures for agriculture.

Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his policy is on badger culling as it relates to the control of bovine tuberculosis. [228910]

Jane Kennedy: In a statement to the House on 7 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1153-55, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) announced the Government’s policy that no licences will be issued for culling badgers to prevent the spread of bovine
27 Oct 2008 : Column 609W
tuberculosis (TB) in cattle. We remain open to the possibility of revisiting this policy under exceptional circumstances, or if new scientific evidence were to become available.

We are strengthening our programme of research to develop cattle and badger vaccines and plan for their deployment. Cattle-based TB control measures continue to be critical.

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what contingency plans his Department has in the event that cases of bovine tuberculosis spread across the UK. [229328]

Jane Kennedy [holding answer 23 October 2008]: We aim to slow down and prevent the geographic spread of bovine TB to low incidence areas through a comprehensive and risk-based control programme. This includes a surveillance programme of routine testing for all cattle herds and compulsory pre-movement testing of cattle from high-risk herds.

In the event of the disease spreading to new areas across the country we implement measures to try to root out the disease and prevent it from becoming established. In all cases where TB is identified, the herd is placed under movement restrictions until all the eligible cattle in it have cleared two further short interval tests. In addition, in the low incidence areas of the country we use the more sensitive gamma interferon blood test alongside the skin test to identify as many infected cattle as possible at the earliest opportunity and try to clear out infection in the herd quickly.

Bovine Tuberculosis: Vaccination

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department has spent on research on a bovine tuberculosis vaccine in each of the last three years. [229330]

Jane Kennedy [holding answer 23 October 2008]: DEFRA has spent the following amounts on bovine TB vaccine research over last three years:

£

2005-06

1,990,418

2006-07

4,957,539

2007-08

5,561,752

Total

12,509,709


Of the total, this works out at around £6.7 million on cattle vaccines and £5.8 million on badger vaccines.

Cats: Tuberculosis

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department has taken to identify whether bovine tuberculosis is carried by cats. [229329]

Jane Kennedy [holding answer 23 October 2008]: All mammals including cats are susceptible to the disease to a variable degree; cats can contract and carry the causative bacteria (M. Bovis) if they come into close contact with a source of infection.


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DEFRA has been funding passive TB surveillance in domestic and zoo animal species for several years. This consists of a free post mortem and culture service for suspect cases of TB provided by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

In addition, since February 2006, the identification of M. bovis in tissues and clinical samples from farmed and companion animals, including cats, became notifiable to the Divisional Veterinary Manager of Animal Health.

Costs

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much was claimed in expenses by Ministers in his Department in each of the last three years. [229250]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The information requested could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. However, all DEFRA Ministers are bound and abide by the provisions set out in the Ministerial Code.

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991: Prosecutions

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many people were prosecuted for offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 in 2007. [228908]

Jane Kennedy: Court proceedings data held by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform for 2007 will not be available until the end of November 2008.

Departmental Buildings

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans his Department has for the future use of the office building at 1A Page street; and if he will make a statement. [229116]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Following the re-organisation of departmental accommodation in 2007-08, the office premises at 1A Page street became surplus to operational requirements in March 2008. The Department has been actively seeking to dispose of its property interest both across Government and via exposure to the commercial property market. Current market conditions are challenging and we continue to explore every avenue to secure a disposal of this surplus accommodation.

Departmental Security

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many security passes have been reported (a) lost and (b) stolen by staff in (i) his Department and (ii) agencies sponsored by his Department in each year since 2001. [228937]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The following table shows lost and stolen passes from core DEFRA and its agencies from 2001 until 1 October 2008.


27 Oct 2008 : Column 611W
Lost Stolen

DEFRA Core Department

2001

60

5

2002

108

16

2003

108

12

2004

152

18

2005

147

11

2006

138

13

2007

149

13

2008

106

7

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science

2001

n/a

n/a

2002

10

0

2003

16

1

2004

20

1

2005

20

2

2006

7

0

2007

8

0

2008

6

0

Central Science Laboratory

2001

12

0

2002

14

0

2003

11

0

2004

15

0

2005

8

2

2006

5

1

2007

7

0

2008

7

0

Veterinary Medicines Directorate

2001

6

0

2002

9

0

2003

10

0

2004

6

0

2005

10

0

2006

12

0

2007

9

0

2008

6

0

Veterinary Laboratories Agency

2001

5

0

2002

8

1

2003

6

0

2004

7

0

2005

28

4

2006

11

0

2007

n/a

n/a

2008

29

0

Rural Payments Agency

2001

5

0

2002

23

1

2003

24

2

2004

19

2

2005

9

0

2006

40

4

2007

53

8

2008

74

5


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