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27 Jan 2003 : Column 549Wcontinued
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice she has given the Environment Agency about ethical and sustainable investment of its pension fund. 
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is responsible for the regulatory framework governing the Local Government Pension Scheme, to which the Environment Agency belongs. The investment practice of the agency's pension funds is a matter for their fund managers, supervised by the relevant investment committee, within the regulatory framework set out in SI 1998 No 1831 (the Local Government Pension Scheme (Management and Investment of Funds) Regulations 1998), as amended. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has no authority to offer specific advice or guidance on what individual investments should or should not be made.
Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost of (a) setting up and (b) running the Environment Agency website, 'What's in Your Backyard' is; how many users on average it has attracted per month; and if she will make a statement. 
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representations she has received about the proposed EU directive requiring all equids to have passports; and if he will make a statement. 
Alun Michael: We consulted on implementation of the EU legislation on horse passports in summer 2000. The proposal for all horses to have passports received the support of the equine industry as represented by the British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC).
Tony Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what account the European Commission took of the impact of a 50 per cent. cut in the price of rice on the economy of Guyana in its proposals for reform of the EU rice regime. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 23 January 2003]: The European Commission's proposals for reform of the EU rice regime were published in detailed form only on 22 January 2003. According to the Commission's own explanatory memorandum they are designed to correct current imbalances in the market and to prepare for the liberalisation of trade already agreed under the Everything But Arms initiative.
Bringing the internal EU rice price closer to world market levels may in the short term reduce the value of certain existing preferential market access arrangements to beneficiaries such as Guyana and others in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries. But in the longer term CAP reform should improve market prospects and opportunities for all developing country exporters.
Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assistance she (a) has given and (b) plans to give to Exmoor following the foot and mouth epidemic. 
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Deferring tax, VAT and National Insurance payments, without interest charges, for businesses severely affected by foot and mouth disease (with a total amount deferred in excess of £250 million throughout England).
Helping local authorities defer rate payments and/or give hardship rate relief through the non-domestic rates system by increasing the central Government contribution towards local authority costs of providing relief to rural businesses. 151 rural local authorities could underwrite the cost of giving relief to businesses with properties under £12,000 rateable value generally, and properties under £50,000 rateable value in the 39 worst affected rural authority areas for the 200102 financial year, which includes the rural authorities that cover Exmoor. North Devon District Council granted over £240,000 of relief under the scheme; West Somerset District Council granted nearly £390,000; over 95 per cent. of the cost was met by central Government.
Fast tracking other measures to speed up rural regeneration, for example rapid introduction of mandatory rate relief for pubs, garages and other food shops in small settlements and extending the market towns programme to include towns badly affected by FMD;
Matching over £14 million in donations from the public to charitable organisations helping farmers and rural communities hit by FMD, including over £40,000 for the Exmoor Trust.
Providing £0.5 million for the Countryside Access Recovery Fund to promote access to and/or understanding of the countryside.
Mr. Meacher: We will be addressing the question of how to deal with waste non-packaging farm plastics in the forthcoming consultation document on the application of the waste framework directive to agricultural waste, which is due to published in May 2003.
Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much subsidy was received directly by farmers in the last 12 months; and what the average subsidy received by (a) arable and (b) livestock farmers was. 
Mr. Morley: Direct subsidies paid to farmers in the United Kingdom in the financial year 200001 totalled £2,348 million. The Farm Business Survey provides an estimate of average subsidy receipts by full-time farm businesses in England. The table shows average direct subsidies received by farm businesses of different types in 200102. Payments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were the responsibility of the devolved authorities in this period.
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These figures include all production related payments, together with agri-environment and rural development payments. They do not include payments made to farmers during the FMD crisis for reasons of disease control or animal welfare. Farmers may also have benefited from payments of market support, though these are also available to traders.
1. Average account year end February.
2. Full-time businesses are defined as those greater than eight European Size Units, an economic measure of size.
3. 'Livestock' farms cover the following farm type categories used in the Farm Business Survey: cattle and sheep (hill and lowland), dairy and pig and poultry.
4. 'Arable' farms cover the farm types: specialist cereals and general cropping.
Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answer of 13 January 2003, Official Report, column 372W, on fisheries, for what reasons a copy of Opinion of the Legal Service, Council of the European Union, No. 13585/02, Limite, JUR424 PECHE164, dated 29 October 2002, was not passed by her Department to the (a) Scottish Fishermen's Federation and (b) National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations. 
Mr. Morley: Documents bearing the classification "Limite" are internal to the Council of the European Union and are not intended for disclosure to the public. Moreover, the Council Legal Service provides legal advice to assist the Council in the course of its work. The opinions are excluded from the categories of Council decisions subject to publication under the Council rules of procedure.
Under the terms of European Parliament and Council Regulation 1049/2001 it is not open to the Government to decide unilaterally to release a Council Legal Service opinion, unless there is a strong public interest to do so. Recent case law and Council decisions confirm that it is not in the public interest to release documents containing Council Legal Service advice. Release would also run contrary to the principle of Legal Professional Privilege.
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