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30 Jan 2003 : Column 953W—continued

Horticulture

17. Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on Government policy towards horticulture. [94174]

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Alun Michael: As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Environment, stated at Oral Questions on 19 December last, the Government welcome the contribution of horticulture to the UK economy. It is worth some £2 billion at the farm gate and supports substantial downstream activity in packhouses, processing and the garden industry. We will continue to work with the industry through the Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy published on 12 December, by funding research and development and through the England Rural Development Programme.

Brown Trout

18. Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what strategy has been in place during the past five years to combat the effects of water acidity upon stocks of native brown trout; and if she will make a statement. [94175]

Mr. Morley: The Government have lobbied for, and implements controls both on atmospheric emissions (to tackle the impacts at source) and on forestry practices (to help minimise the impacts). Alongside these controls we use catchment liming (if feasible and appropriate) as a method of remediation.

Sewer Flooding

19. Mrs. Helen Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action she is taking to tackle sewer flooding. [94176]

Mr. Morley: The Department has been working closely with the Office of Water Services to look at ways of tackling the serious problem of sewer flooding. The Government appreciate this can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for those affected.

Following a consultation on flooding from sewers, Ofwat announced that they will consider proposals from sewerage undertakers for additional schemes to alleviate the most serious problems in the period up to 2005.

Fishing Fleet

21. Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the effect of the forthcoming expansion of the European Union on the economic viability of the United Kingdom's fishing fleet. [94178]

Mr. Morley: We do not expect the forthcoming accession of new member states to affect the economic viability of the UK fishing fleet.

Flooding (Insurance)

22. Sir Michael Spicer : To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to use money allocated to flood defence for self-help schemes aimed at securing insurance at reasonable rates against flooding. [94179]

Mr. Morley: The Government currently have no plans to draw on flood defence budgets to award money to individual householders to install flood protection measures at their homes. Individuals are, however, encouraged to consider with their insurers whether

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investment in such devices will enable them to secure a reduction in their premiums. The development of standards for these devices has been supported by the Government.

Hunting

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the International Fund for Animal Welfare regarding hunting; and if she will make a statement. [92998]

Alun Michael: The International Fund for Animal welfare is one of three organisations which comprise the organisation Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals (the other two being the League Against Cruel Sports and RSPCA). I met representatives of IFAW and the other campaigning organisations on a number of occasions, particularly in connection with the public hearings held in Portcullis House in September. I was meeting the Countryside Alliance and the Middle Way Group in parallel or at the same meetings. A representative of IFAW was present at the hearings examining the evidence put by expert witnesses.

Advertising

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much her Department has spent on advertising since its creation; and if she will make a statement. [93677]

Alun Michael: Defra was formed as a Department in June 2001.

The Department does not maintain records of its expenditure on advertising separately. Our expenditure for publicity, which includes advertising, publications, events, shows and direct information literature mailings, in financial year 2001–02 was £6.64 million. The allocation for publicity in 2002–03 is £4.1 million.

Alternative Fuels

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research has been carried out on the replacement of diesel with fuels based on sunflower or rapeseed; and what plans the Government have to encourage the recycling of cooking oil as fuel for motor engines. [93476]

Mr. Meacher: This Department has funded a small number of projects evaluating the environmental and socio-economic impacts of using oilseed rape for biodiesel. DEFRA does not fund research and development work on liquid biofuels which is largely covered by the programmes of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Transport. The Chancellor introduced a duty cut of 20 pence per litre for biodiesel compared to Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel in 2002. This has stimulated the recycling of used vegetable oil to produce biodiesel, which is now available to the public as a blend with fossil diesel. Over 60 filling stations are currently retailing high quality biofuels made from recovered vegetable oil.

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Animal Welfare Research

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the priorities are of her Department's research into animal welfare issues; and if she will make a statement. [94171]

Mr. Morley: The Government are committed to promoting the welfare of all animals kept by man and to eliminate cruelty. The animal welfare research portfolio is wide-ranging and has projects covering important areas concerning welfare on farm, during transport, at markets and slaughter.

Early Retirement

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much she expects her Department to spend on early retirement packages over the next five years; and how much her Department has spent on retirement packages since its creation. [93675]

Alun Michael: The expected costs of early retirement over the next five years are as follows:

£ million

2003–042004–052005–062006–072007–08
Core DEFRA377
Rural Payments Agency12.316.51.31.21
Total15.323.58.31.21

Historic information on the expenditure since DEFRA was created is not

immediately available. I will write to the hon. Member with the information as soon as possible.

Farm Incomes

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the current levels of farming incomes. [94177]

Alun Michael: As reported to the House this morning, revised estimates of farm income, output and productivity of agriculture during 2002 were published today. These confirm the increase in farm incomes forecast last November, and indicate a rise of 15 per cent. (14 in real terms) compared to 2001. Details have been placed in the Library of the House.

Leadership Review

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the tests being applied to civil servants to evaluate them in the leadership review in her Department. [93674]

Alun Michael: The assessments made on participants in the Senior Managers' Development Programme will be based on DEFRA's Leadership Profile, which describes the skills and behaviour required to be an effective leader. We are awaiting detailed proposals from the consultants recently appointed to design and

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deliver the Programme, which will include how the assessments will be made. A copy of the Leadership Profile has been placed in the Library of the House.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what cost savings she expects to make from the leadership review of her Department; and if she will make a statement. [93679]

Alun Michael: The purpose of the Senior Managers' Development Programme is to achieve a qualitative improvement in the performance of the participants and to strengthen the leadership capability of the Department. We plan to evaluate the impact of the Programme through the performance management systems within which DEFRA staff work, and through customer and staff surveys, rather than through the attainment of targeted cost savings.

Network Rail

Mrs Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the Chief Executive of Network Rail about the environmental and health hazards posed by the deposit of litter and human excrement on railway lines; and if she will make a statement. [88718]

Mr. Meacher: We have had no meetings with the Chief Executive of Network Rail regarding the environmental health hazards posed by litter and human excrement on railway lines.

However, I understand that Network Rail continues to work closely with its maintenance contractors to ensure the lineside is clear from surplus litter, excrement and to prevent the future build-up of such material.

The discharge onto a railway track from a sanitary convenience or sink forming part of a vehicle used for carrying passengers on a railway, where the discharge is less than 25 litres, is exempt from waste management licensing. These exemptions are specific activities and are defined in Schedule 3 of the Waste Management Licensing Regualtions 1994. Exemptions are prescribed so as to meet the terms set out in Article 11 of the Waste Framework Directive. Under the terms of Article 11, exemptions must ensure protection of the environment and human health.

Since 1995 all newly-constructed trains are required to be fitted with retention tanks which obviate the need for such discharge. There is no finance available to make the alterations to pre-1995 carriages.


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