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Written Answers

Volume 481: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2008

Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Electoral Commission Committee

Electoral Register

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission whether the Electoral Commission has taken steps to encourage the use of doorstep canvassing in increasing registration. (228702)

The Commission informs me that under section 9A of the Representation of the People Act 1983 electoral registration officers (EROs) are required to visit, at least once, any property for which an annual canvass form has not been returned.

The Commission has produced comprehensive guidance for EROs, which outlines this legal responsibility. Prior to each canvass, the Commission issues a circular to EROs reminding them of this guidance.

In addition, the Commission has recently published performance standards for EROs. The standards cover the extent to which EROs use house-to-house inquiries to ensure that all eligible residents are registered. The Commission will publish its assessment of EROs' performance against the standards in spring 2009.

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what steps the Electoral Commission has taken to measure the effectiveness of electoral registration officers in increasing levels of registration. (228703)

The Electoral Commission informs me that in July 2008 it published 10 performance standards for electoral registration officers (EROs) covering the following key areas:

planning and organisation;

participation;

integrity and completeness; and

accuracy of the electoral register.

Three of these standards deal specifically with:

sources of information used by EROs to verify records on the electoral register and identify potential new electors;

sources of information used by EROs to ensure all relevant properties are included in the database; and

the extent to which EROs use house-to-house inquiries to ensure that all eligible residents are registered.

The Commission will shortly be assessing EROs against these standards and will publish an assessment in spring 2009.

Members: Misconduct

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission how many allegations of misconduct by hon. and right hon. Members the Electoral Commission has received in the last five years; how many such allegations it investigated; how many such allegations were dismissed (a) following an investigation and (b) without an investigation having been held; what the cost was of the 10 most expensive such investigations; and what the average cost was of investigations. (228704)

The Electoral Commission informs me that it received 16 allegations of misconduct against hon. and right hon. Members in the last five years.

The Commission further informs me that it opened formal investigations into four of these allegations. One of the investigations is ongoing; one resulted in a referral to the police and is presently pending; and one resulted in a voluntary forfeiture of a donation. The other case was closed without further action being warranted.

The 12 remaining allegations were dismissed or otherwise resolved without the need for a formal investigation.

The Electoral Commission does not record expenditure in relation to individual investigations and is therefore unable to provide costs.

Northern Ireland

Taxis

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much was claimed in expenses for taxi travel by officials from (a) his Department and (b) its executive agencies in (i) 2006-07, (ii) 2005-06, (iii) 2004-05, (iv) 2003-04 and (v) 2002-03; and if he will make a statement. (227043)

Due to the processes involved in making payments for expenses to officials, for both the Northern Ireland Office and its Executive agencies, it would only be possible to separate the reimbursement of taxi fares at disproportionate cost.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agricultural Products: EU Action

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his policy is on the EU Council of Ministers' common position on the Regulation for Placing Plant Protection Products on the Market on arable and horticultural production in England reached on 23 June 2008. (227323)

The pesticides safety directorate published an assessment of the agronomic impact of the restrictions set out in the Commission's original proposals in May 2008. The impacts of the common position are expected to be very similar. A copy of the assessment has been placed in the Library of the House.

Agriculture: Subsidies

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make it his policy to pay single farm payments to all farmers at the same time; and if he will make a statement. (228176)

The EU payment window for the single payment scheme (SPS) runs from 1 December to 30 June and the Rural Payment Agency (RPA) aims to ensure that payments are made as early as possible within that payment window. However in line with detailed EU regulations, before making each payment, RPA is required to perform detailed validity checks including carrying out cross-checks against all other SPS applicants to ensure that there are no dual claims. The timing of each payment will therefore vary according to the complexity of the claim with simple claims processed and paid quickly and more complex claims taking longer.

In order to pay all claimants on the same day, RPA would have to delay making any payments until the last claim had completed validation.

Agriculture: Temporary Employment

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the return rate was of workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme in each of the last five years, broken down by country of origin. (227299)

I have been asked to reply.

Information is not collected on the return rates of workers who have participated in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS).

Since 1 January 2008, SAWS has been restricted to Romania and Bulgaria. As European Economic Area nationals, there is no requirement for them to leave the United Kingdom upon completion of their SAWS placement.

Angling

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he plans to introduce angling-only areas; and if he will make a statement. (228047)

I have no current plans to introduce sea angling-only areas. However, DEFRA is funding research to explore whether closing specific coastal areas to commercial fishing with nets and lines (alongside limits on angling such as catch and release requirements or bag limits) would improve sea bass survival. The project is also assessing whether such restricted-catch areas could provide benefits to anglers. Emerging results from this project will be published shortly and discussed with stakeholders, although the final report is not due until 2011.

In inland waters, the vast majority of fishing is by angling and in many lakes and rivers the only form of fishing allowed is angling. The Environment Agency has responsibility for regulating salmon and freshwater fisheries in England and Wales. It has a statutory duty to maintain, improve and develop these fisheries. The Environment Agency's approach is to seek to ensure first that target stocks of fish are maintained at satisfactory levels and that fishing is undertaken in a sustainable way. In some places only angling is permitted. Where different fishing methods are allowed, the level of fishing is regulated by controls on effort and the restrictions on exploitation are balanced between the types of fishing allowed, for example, between nets and rods.

Animal Welfare Act

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 14 January 2008, Official Report, column 856W, on the Animal Welfare Act 2006, when he expects to complete the review of the timetable for the delivery of secondary legislation and codes under the Animal Welfare Act 2006; when he expects to implement secondary legislation in relation to (a) racing greyhounds, (b) pet fairs, (c) primates as pets, (d) wild animals in circuses, (e) the cat code, (f) the dog code, (g) pet shops, (h) game birds, (i) animal (cat and dog) boarding, (j) tethering of horses, (k) livery yards, (l) riding schools, (m) animal sanctuaries and (n) performing animals; and if he will make a statement. (228140)

The proposed timetable for the introduction of secondary legislation and codes under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 has been adjusted so that it takes account of those areas which parliament regards as a priority.

In 2009, the Department will be issuing a commencement order allowing s8(3)-(6) of the 2006 Act to come into force (provisions relating to the recording of animal fights); a cat welfare code; a dog welfare code; and an equine welfare code. In addition, it is proposed to issue the following consultation documents in 2009: draft proposals on regulating the welfare of racing greyhounds; a draft gamebird rearing code; a draft code on the private keeping of primates; and draft proposals on the transposition of EU legislation concerning the welfare of meat chickens.

It remains the Government’s intention to review other animal related activities, in due course.

Animals: Electronic Tagging

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 3 July 2008, Official Report, column 1075W, on animals: electronic tagging, when he expects the proposed Exemption Order under the Veterinary Surgeons Act in relation to permitting lay persons and non-veterinarians to wing and web tag non-farmed birds for conservation purposes to be in force; whether the exemption order has been drafted; whether he has consulted the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons on the exemption order; and if he will make a statement. (228141)

The Exemption Order is in preparation and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons will shortly be consulted. We anticipate that the Exemption Order will come into force in spring 2009.

Badgers

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his most recent estimate is of the badger population in England. (228191)

[holding answer 17 October 2008]: Surveys of badger populations in Great Britain were undertaken in the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. In the mid-1980s the badger population was estimated to be 250,000 and in the mid-1990s a survey estimated the population to have increased by 77 per cent.

Bees: Diseases

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the additional £90,000, announced for research into bee colony collapse on 17 June 2008, has been allocated. (227328)

This funding has been allocated to the National Bee Unit (NBU). The Welsh Assembly Government have also allocated an additional £30,000 to the NBU to investigate colony losses in Wales.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he has taken in response to the reported 30 per cent. bee population loss in winter 2007; what assessment he has made of the potential impact of this loss on food security; and if he will make a statement. (227330)

Reports of significant colony losses are being investigated as a high priority. To facilitate this, additional funds of £120,000 (£90,000 from DEFRA and £30,000 from the Welsh Assembly Government) have been allocated to the National Bee Unit to expand the investigations they started last year under a Horizon Scanning project into significant losses and to meet the demand for increased inspections of bee imports consequential to the colony losses.

DEFRA recognises the contribution that honey bees make to sustainable agriculture via their role in pollination and take seriously any threat to the sustainability of the beekeeping sector. The development of the Government's bee health strategy confirms our ongoing commitment to protecting and improving the health of honey bees and to sustaining and supporting beekeeping now and for future generations.

Bluetongue Disease

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he plans that the penetration of bluetongue vaccination in UK livestock will reach 85 per cent. (227324)

Vaccination against bluetongue in England and Wales is voluntary. Vaccine was first made available from 30 April 2008, and the Protection Zone was extended step by step as further vaccine consignments were delivered. Initial vaccine uptake was high—reaching between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent. in the South East and East of England, but uptake in the counties of northern England and in Wales has been lower.

To date the overall uptake of vaccine across the whole of England is about 60 per cent.

My Department has underwritten vaccine supply to ensure that it is available. Beyond that I have made no plans to reach specific levels of vaccination at specific times. Vaccination is the responsibility of the livestock industry. An industry-led communications campaign has promoted the benefits of vaccinating, and the risks of not doing so.

Vaccination in Scotland will be compulsory. The whole of Scotland will become a Protection Zone from 3 November.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the potential for bluetongue to transfer to calves in utero from infected cows. (227325)

The most recent assessment on “in-utero” infection in calves was done following the discovery of Bluetongue Serotype 8 (BTV8) infected calves in Northern Ireland in February 2007 which were born to recently imported cattle (“Menzies et al 2008, Vet record, 163, 203-209”) and the finding that some English cows infected in 2007 also transmitted the virus to their calves. These findings prompted new legislation to be brought forward at EU level on the export of pregnant cattle and resulted in the UK testing all calves born to imported cattle for evidence of BTV 8 infection. This is still subject to further investigation and research at the Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright, and elsewhere in mainland Europe.

As yet, there is no evidence in Europe of such “in-utero” transfer of BTV1 virus.

Bluetongue Disease: Vaccination

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what level of take up there has been by British farmers of the bluetongue vaccine. (227799)

[holding answer 17 October 2008]: Vaccination against bluetongue in England and Wales is voluntary. Vaccine was first made available from 30 April 2008, and the Protection Zone was extended step by step as further vaccine consignments were delivered. Initial vaccine uptake was high—reaching between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent. in the South East and East of England—but uptake in the counties of northern England and in Wales has been lower.

To date the overall uptake of vaccine across the whole of England is about 60 per cent.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will ensure that bluetongue vaccine is available to veterinarians in small bottles to reduce the price of the vaccine to smallholders. (227800)

[holding answer 17 October 2008]: DEFRA has underwritten vaccine supply to ensure that it is available to farmers throughout England and Wales. Vaccine is available in a variety of bottle sizes (20 ml, 50 ml and 100 ml). This has provided livestock keepers with a choice as to which sized bottles they should purchase when vaccinating their stock to provide the best value for money.

Full pricing details are available on the DEFRA website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many and what proportion of animals have been vaccinated as a protection against bluetongue. (228180)

Vaccination against bluetongue in England and Wales is voluntary, an approach agreed with the livestock industry. Vaccine was first made available on 30 April 2008, and the protection zone was extended step by step as further vaccine consignments were delivered. The livestock population eligible for vaccination against BTV-8 in England is 26,419,472. Initial vaccine uptake was high—reaching between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent. in the south-east and east of England—but uptake in the counties of northern England and in Wales has been lower.

To date the overall uptake of vaccine across the whole of England is about 60 per cent., based on purchasing data. Because the approach to vaccination is voluntary, no exact figures can be provided about the numbers of livestock actually vaccinated.

Bovine TB Partnership Group

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with industry representatives on the constitution of the Bovine TB Partnership Group; and when he plans that the group should be operational. (227317)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made clear that he is keen for Government to work in partnership with industry to develop a joint plan for tackling bovine tuberculosis. This offer to work in partnership remains open.

Bovine Tuberculosis

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of animals which have been infected with M. bovis in each year since 1997, broken down by species; and if he will make a statement. (228139)

The number of cattle slaughtered as a result of bovine TB control measures in each year in England since 1997 are shown in the following table:

Number of cattle slaughtered under bovine TB control measures

1997

3,123

1998

5,027

1999

5,580

2000

7,190

2001

4,438

2002

18,443

2003

17,551

2004

17,306

2005

23,135

2006

16,007

2007

19,794

Note:

All data provided are provisional and subject to change as more data become available.

Source:

Animal Health Database (Vetnet). 2005-07 data extracted on 18 March 2008; 1998-2004 data extracted on 7 March 2006, and 1997 data extracted on 5 March 2007.

In addition there have been a small number of cases of where Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) has been identified in non-bovine species. The identification of M. bovis in tissues and clinical samples from all mammals (excepting man) and the detection of suspect TB lesions in farmed and companion mammals (other than cattle and farmed deer), became notifiable only in February 2006.

DEFRA can only provide data on the number of M. bovis isolations from notified suspect clinical and post-mortem cases of TB arising in some non-bovine species. The relevant data for non-bovine species in England are given in the following table:

Species

Total number

1997

n/a

0

1998

Deer

8

Domestic cat

2

1999

Deer

9

2000

Deer

8

Domestic cat

3

2001

Deer

1

2002

Deer

7

Domestic cat

2

Dog

1

Domestic pig

1

Sheep

1

2003

Domestic pig

8

Alpaca

2

Llama

1

2004

Domestic cat

6

Dog

1

Domestic pig

1

Alpaca

1

Sheep

3

2005

Deer

1

Domestic cat

11

Domestic pig

12

Llama

1

Sheep

2

Ferret

3

2006

Deer

5

Domestic cat

13

Domestic pig

1

Farmed wild boar

2

Alpaca

1

Llama

8

2007

Deer

1

Domestic cat

14

Domestic pig

5

Goat

2

Alpaca

2

Llama

5

Source:

Veterinary Laboratories Agency TB Culture database

Bovine Tuberculosis: Compensation

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of options to alter the tabular system for home tuberculosis compensation payments, with particular reference to separating out compensation for premium and organic animals. (222669)

A range of proposals for altering the table valuation system were presented to DEFRA by members of the Cattle Compensation Advisory Group (a stakeholder group set up in spring 2006 to monitor the roll-out of the table valuation system). We identified problems with these proposals—which focused on premium and organic cattle—and so did not take them forward.

The issue of whether a different approach is required when compensating for ‘high value’ cattle is at the heart of an ongoing legal challenge against DEFRA's table valuation based compensation system. DEFRA have lodged an appeal against the court's finding that it is unlawful to use table valuations for ‘high value’ stock. Any changes to the table valuation system will need to take into account the judgment of the Appeals Court, which is due to hear this case in March next year.

Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact of pre-movement testing on the level of bovine tuberculosis in national livestock herds. (227340)

We are continuously monitoring the impacts of pre-movement testing and key statistics are published on the DEFRA website each month. Evidence to date is encouraging and shows that new TB incidents are being prevented by pre-movement tests as well as Government-funded routine surveillance tests. The policy is also picking up infection earlier in high risk herds. Latest published data show that pre-movement testing led to the detection of 834 reactors in 458 herds in England between March 2006 and the end of July 2008.

Bovine Tuberculosis: Vaccination

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consideration he has given to the impact introducing a bovine tuberculosis vaccine for cattle will have on Britain’s tuberculosis free status; and what discussions he has had with the European Commission on this issue. (228377)

Cattle vaccines for bovine tuberculosis are currently prohibited under EU legislation.

Our proposals for cattle vaccination are being developed with industry and we are aware of their concerns and the desire to maintain trade which is linked to Officially Tuberculosis (TB) Free status.

Cattle vaccines are based on BCG and this interferes with the tuberculin skin test. Vaccinated animals would therefore appear to be infected and herds could not be declared Officially TB Free. Therefore, as part of the UK research programme we are developing what is known as a differential diagnostic test to allow vaccinated animals to be differentiated from infected animals (DIVA). Changes will be required to the EU legislation to allow this test to be used in place of, or alongside the tuberculin skin test to confer Officially TB Free status.

The use of cattle vaccines has been discussed with the European Commission. The Commission has indicated that an accredited DIVA test will be critical for a cattle vaccination policy.

Cattle: Databases

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cattle are recorded on the cattle tracing system register; how many of those born after 1996 have been reported (a) lost and (b) not traced; and how many have an unreported final destination. (227003)

There are a total of 39,747,916 cattle recorded on the cattle tracing system (CTS).

Farmers must keep accurate records and tell DEFRA of all cattle movements. If animals are lost or stolen, the keeper must report this to the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) who record details on the CTS. Of those cattle born after 1996, 65,722 (0.17 per cent. of the total) have been reported to CTS as lost or not traced, either by the keeper, or following a farm inspection, for reasons including alleged theft.

21,276 cattle born after 1996 have not yet had their final destination reported to CTS. In these cases, the animals’ movement off their last location has been reported but the new keeper has yet to notify CTS.

Such movement anomalies are routinely followed up by BCMS who contact the previously known keeper with a view to establishing the whereabouts of the cattle.

Cattle: Disease Control

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likelihood of herd health plans being in place for 95 per cent. of dairy farms by 2010. (227318)

We have made no assessment against this target, which is set out in the Milk Roadmap. The Roadmap was published in May 2008 by the Dairy Supply Chain Forum’s Sustainable Consumption and Production Taskforce. Monitoring and reviewing the Roadmap is the responsibility of that Taskforce. The Taskforce is currently considering how best to monitor and report on progress against the Roadmap targets and to this end had an initial discussion at its first plenary session since the Roadmap was published on 10 October.

Christmas

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many Christmas functions (a) he, (b) officials from his Department and (c) officials from its executive agencies (i) hosted and (ii) attended in 2007-08; what the cost to the public purse was; and if he will make a statement. (226954)

The Department does not hold a central record of Christmas functions, nor does its core financial system record a category for Christmas functions expenditure.

Council for Food Policy Advisers

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how the newly established Council for Food Policy Advisers will work with EU partners. (227010)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 6 October 2008 that he will be establishing a council of advisers on food policy. The Council will advise the Government on food affordability, security of supply and the environmental impact of food production.

Details of how the Council will work with EU and global partners will be discussed when the Council has been convened. The Council’s primary focus will be on food production, distribution and consumption in the UK, but it will also consider the impacts of global trends.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who the members are of the Council for Food Policy Advisers; and how they were selected. (227011)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 6 October 2008 that he will be establishing a council of advisers on food policy. The Council will advise the Government on food affordability, security of supply and the environmental impact of food production.

Further details including the membership of the Council will be announced in due course.

Departmental Air Travel

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer to the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) of 14 July 2008, Official Report, column 27W, on carbon emissions: Government departments, if he will place in the Library figures for the air mileage incurred through departmental travel reported to his Department in order to calculate each departmental payment to the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund, for each participating government department, public body and agency in each year since the establishment of the Offsetting Fund, broken down by (a) domestic, (b) short haul and (c) long haul flights. (222200)

I will place in the Library of the House the air mileage(s) incurred and reported to DEFRA in order to calculate each departmental payment to the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund (GCOF), for each participating Government Department, public body and agency for the financial year 2006-07. The figures are broken down to short haul and long haul flights as domestic flights were not captured. Figures for the financial year 2007-08 are close to completion, and I will place these figures in the Library of the House when they are available.

Departmental Civil Service Agencies

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many agencies were sponsored by his Department or its predecessors in (a) 2007-08 and (b) 1997-98. (228511)

The ‘Next Steps Report 1997’ (Cm3889) provides information on all executive agencies as at 31 December 1997. Copies are available from the Library of the House. The most up-to-date list of executive agencies is published in the Cabinet Office publication ‘The List of Ministerial Responsibilities’. The latest version, incorporating recent ministerial changes, will be published shortly. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Departmental Public Participation

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many citizens' juries his Department has held since 1 July 2007; what the cost was of each; what issues were discussed at each event; and how many (a) Ministers and (b) members of the public attended each event. (227474)

The Department has held one citizens' jury since 1 July 2007:

Citizens' jury

Date

Cost (£)

Issues discussed

Number of Ministers attended

Number of members of the public

Contemporary livestock farming and watercourse pollution: a citizens’ jury approach

November 2007

19,740 excluding VAT1

Responses were gauged in relation to the understandings of risk associated with the microbial pollution of water courses; public attitudes to culpability given the current scientific and policy evidence base, particularly as this relates to the role of livestock farming; and consideration of public priorities in terms of appropriate level and types of policy intervention and mitigation.

None present

15 people from Devon

1 This includes the whole contract cost, of which the jury was included.

Ducks

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make it his policy to regulate the farming of ducks. (227910)

The welfare of ducks is provided for in the general provisions of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007. DEFRA also has a welfare code. There are no specific EU wide standards for duck welfare.

Environment Protection

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made in implementing the conclusions of the review of enforcement in environmental regulation; and if he will make a statement. (228493)

[holding answer 20 October 2008]: DEFRA's Fairer and Better Environmental Enforcement Project is building on the conclusions of the review of Enforcement in Environmental Regulation. The project is exploring, in discussion with other Departments, the potential for environmental regulators to use the civil sanctions enabled by the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008, which implements key recommendations of the Macrory report, ‘Regulatory Justice: Making Sanctions Effective’. The project is also considering whether additional powers would assist the criminal courts in their role of sentencing serious environmental offenders proportionately and effectively. Any proposals that might result from this work will be the subject of full public consultation.

Environment Protection: Coastal Areas

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what sea defence projects are planned to be implemented in the next three years. (227849)

The major new defence, refurbishment and beach management projects in Environment Agency and Local Authority programmes that are expected to provide improved protection against coastal erosion or sea flooding within the next three years, include the following locations:

Bexhill beach, East Sussex;

Cleveleys, Lancashire;

Denge beach, Dungeness, Kent;

Dymchurch, Kent;

Felixstowe, Suffolk;

Jaywick, Essex;

Pevensey Bay, East Sussex;

Stannah, Wyre Estuary;

Weston Super Mare, North Somerset.

The Environment Agency will fund other sea defence projects in the next three years that will deliver improved protection when they are completed, in 2011-12 and thereafter.

Fireworks: Noise

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many local authority enforcement actions have been taken against excessive noise from fireworks on private property in the last three years. (227820)

The Department does not keep statistics on enforcement action taken by local authorities on statutory nuisance from noise under Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Statistics on local authority enforcement action for statutory nuisances under Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 are kept by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, who collect them on a voluntary basis from local authorities.

Fisheries

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he plans to introduce primary legislation to implement the recommendations of the Report of the Review of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Legislative Project 2006, as recommended in the report; which recommendations of the Review of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries 2000 have been implemented; and if he will make a statement. (228052)

The Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review 2000 made 195 recommendations, 49 of which require changes to existing primary legislation. The Government accepted the majority of these 49 recommendations and made a commitment to introduce new legislation when parliamentary time so permitted.

The subsequent Review of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Legislative Project identified that proposals to address obstructions to the free passage of fish in inland waters could be introduced through powers to implement the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC). A consultation on these proposals will be issued shortly.

Those recommendations, accepted by Government and identified as needing change to primary legislation and subsequently identified as critical by the Review of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Legislative Project 2006 informed chapter 3, part 7 of the draft Marine Bill, published in April this year. These remain an integral part of the Marine Bill, which will be introduced subject to the availability of parliamentary time.

Most of the recommendations which the Government accepted, and which do not require new primary legislation have been completed: for example, the introduction of wider range of payment methods for rod licences, and elver/eel catch returns. Others, while being addressed, will take longer to complete, such as addressing the problem of siltation arising from agriculture. A copy of the complete table will be made available in the House of Commons Library.

The Government are committed to ensuring that salmon, trout, eels and freshwater fish should be managed in a modern way; to protect stocks for sustainable fishing, to protect habitats and reflects the importance of angling to the rural economy in England and Wales.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the stock of native migratory and freshwater fish, broken down by species, in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. (228053)

Native stocks of migratory and freshwater fish are subject to extensive annual monitoring by the Environment Agency through the collection of catch statistics, programmes of river surveys, and other scientific sampling. These data are used to assess significant changes in stocks at the river catchment (or individual stillwater) level so that appropriate management interventions can be made. ‘Stock’ estimates are only collated at a national level for salmon (table 1).

The Environment Agency recently published a snapshot review of the status of the migratory and freshwater fisheries of England and Wales “Our Nations’ Fisheries”. This report concluded that numbers of coarse fish (which includes 21 species) are increasing in many of our rivers, and sea trout are also generally doing very well. However, stocks of salmon and eel are depleted and this is thought to be due, in part at least, to environmental changes affecting the fish during the marine phases of their life cycles.

For salmon, detailed stock monitoring data are published annually in a report on the status of stocks and fisheries in England and Wales. Catch data for salmon and migratory trout, for both net and rod fisheries, are also published annually (totals provided in table 1). Such data are not systematically recorded and collated for other migratory and freshwater fish species. The aforementioned reports are available on the Environment Agency website at:

http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/subjects/fish/569882/?version=1&lang=_e

Declared catches

Estimated number of spawning fish returning to England and Wales

Salmon (Number)1

Sea trout (Number)1

Eels, yellow and silver only (Weight in tonnes)1

1997

58,911

44,506

65,128

68

1998

57,017

42,288

75,468

58

1999

74,155

46,651

86,854

2000

101,713

68,594

87,344

2001

99,316

57,626

85,300

49

2002

88,925

53,561

86,814

24

2003

71,584

28,738

74,349

25

2004

87,575

43,917

62,155

10

2005

82,048

38,229

63,748

42

2006

74,464

33,087

49,580

36

2007

60,698

30,906

49,749

16

1 Catch statistics do not provide a reliable measure of changes in stock size unless changes in exploitation rates are taken into account.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what stock management plans he plans to implement to improve migratory and freshwater fish stock numbers; and if he will make a statement. (228054)

The Environment Agency (EA) has responsibility for regulating salmon and freshwater fisheries in England and Wales. The Agency is implementing a number of management plans to maintain, improve and develop fisheries. It is now implementing its overall strategy for fisheries for 2006 to 2011, 'Better Fisheries for our Nations' that includes among its four key outcomes, improved fish stocks and a better environment for wildlife and people.

At the next level, the EA is implementing the National Trout and Grayling Fisheries Strategy published in 2003 and, earlier this year, the Agency initiated its new strategy (2008 to 2021) for 'better sea trout and salmon fisheries'. The EA has in place salmon action plans for 64 principal salmon rivers.

As required by the new European Eel Regulation, eel management plans are being drawn up for each of the 11 river basin districts (as defined for the Water Framework Directive) in England and Wales. Such plans are required to be submitted to the European Commission by the end of this calendar year.

The Water Framework Directive requires the production of river basin management plans to tackle the major impacts on the whole water environment and to work towards achievement of good ecological status. The measures within these plans will be important in supporting improved fish stocks. The plans are now being drafted and must be finally approved by Ministers in December 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of whether the forthcoming Commons Fisheries Policy reform is likely to lead to further decommissioning within the UK fishing fleet; and if he will make a statement. (228062)

Discussions on the reform of the common fisheries policy are still at a very early stage. As such, no assessment has been made on whether the outcome of the reform will result in further decommissioning of the UK fleet.

One of the key challenges facing the EU fishing fleet at present is the need to achieve a proportionate balance between the available stocks and the size of the fleet that exploits them, and this is likely to feature heavily in proposals for reform. We will need to consider whether the UK fleet, which has already been significantly reduced in pursuit of achieving this balance, should be subjected to further capacity reductions.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the provisions of the Commission Communication Fishing Opportunities for 2009 Policy Statement from the European Commission (COM(2008) 331 final); and if he will make a statement. (228066)

The Communication was discussed at the June EU Council of Fisheries Ministers. The UK was generally supportive of its broad thrust. In particular, the emphasis on the desirability of long-term management plans for all stocks, focusing on achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY). However, we raised some concerns over the Commission's proposed approach, including in relation to their premise that a lack of quota uptake alone should provide sufficient justification for a future cut in total allowable catch (TAC).

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been allocated to research on improving the selectivity of fishing gears in each year since 1997; how much he plans to allocate to research on the selectivity of fishing gears in each of the next five years; and if he will make a statement. (228136)

DEFRA's Marine Fisheries Research and Development Programme has supported a range of research projects on improving the selectivity of fishing gears since 1997. The details of all projects funded since 1997, together with our planned spend in this area until 2013, are displayed in the following table.

Project code

Title

Start date

End date

Total cost (£)

MF0720

The biological and economic impacts of discarding by the UK east coast brown shrimp fishing fleet.

March 1997

September 1997

4,400

MF0615

An analysis of the selectivity processes within the beam trawl fisheries for Crangon crangon and identification of methods that could be used to improve their selectivity.

July 1997

December 1999

251,640

MF0706

Fishing gears with mitigating impacts.

January 2002

March 2005

379,913

MF0738

Gear technology, discard reduction, and environmentally friendly fishing studies.

April 2005

March 2008

539,987

MF1002

Practical steps towards reducing discards and developing more environmentally responsible fisheries.

April 2008

March 2013

1,185,871

In addition to the research funded through the Marine Fisheries R and D programme, DEFRA also acts as coordinator for the European Commission-funded MariFish ERA-NET (European Research Area Network) project which brings together the major European national funders of marine fisheries research to form an effective, working partnership. MariFish has recently launched a collaborative programme to address the problem of discarding in Europe. The collaborative programme has 14 European partners and 16 operators who have agreed to collaborate on their existing and planned discard projects. This may involve, for example, data sharing, exchange of staff and improved communication with, and involvement of, stakeholders at each stage of the programme plan.

The programme will cover technical aspects such as effort control, gear modification, real time closures and alternative fishing methods, but will also cover other important new areas such as survival of discards, use of cameras and new technologies and alternative management strategies.

The collaborative programme participants met for the first time in June 2008 to agree ways of working together, and are due to meet at the end of October 2008 to agree specific collaborative actions on how to bring their respective national research projects together to form a more cohesive programme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 3 June 2008, Official Report, columns 855-6W, on fisheries: Scotland, whether an assessment has been made of the effects of the decision of the Scottish Executive to implement a moratorium on licence and quota transfers; what legal advice he has received on the matter; and if he will make a statement. (228167)

Legal advice has shown the moratorium to be unlawful to the extent that it acts to prevent fishermen who re-register their boats to a different fisheries administration from taking their license and fixed quota allocations (FQAs) with them. Any vessel trying to re-register out of Scotland will therefore be treated in the same way as before the moratorium was announced. No formal assessments were carried out, as given our legal position, the moratorium cannot prevent the movement in licenses and FQA units.

Fisheries: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department and its predecessor gave to the Environment Agency in grant-in-aid for the Environment Agency's fisheries functions in England and Wales in each year since 1997; how much he plans to provide over the next five years; and if he will make a statement. (228055)

From 1997-8 to 2007-8, my Department provided grant-in-aid for the Environment Agency's fisheries functions as shown in the following table. Funding for fisheries functions in Wales has been the responsibility of the Welsh Assembly Government since 1999.

MAFF/DEFRA GIA (£ million)

1997-81

7.4

1998-91

7.9

1999-2000

4.9

2000-1

4.8

2001-2

3.2

2002-3

5.8

2003-4

6.3

2004-5

6.3

2005-6

6.3

2006-7

5.9

2007-8

5.9

1 Includes fisheries functions in Wales.

DEFRA's grant-in-aid for the Environment Agency's fisheries functions in England has been confirmed at £5.9 million for 2008-9 and 2009-10. The amount of grant-in-aid for 2010-11 and subsequent years will be subject to business planning decisions and the outcome of future Spending Reviews. The funding provided for the Environment Agency's activities in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government.

Fisheries: Quotas

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to the answer of 19 June 2007, Official Report, column 1660W, on fisheries: quotas; what his estimate is of the fish stocks in UK waters that are (a) outside safe biological limits, (b) within safe biological limits, (c) have no safe biological limits defined and (d) have had no scientific assessment made; and if he will make a statement. (228069)

In terms of EU fisheries and quotas, 47 finfish stocks are of most interest to the UK. The complete picture for 2008 will not be available until after the final instalment of the annual ICES’ advice is released in November.

The complete picture for 2007 can, however, be summarised as follows:

Of the 47 finfish stocks:

(a) 14 stocks are outside safe biological limits;

(b) 9 stocks are within safe biological limits;

(c) 6 stocks still have no safe biological limits defined; and

(d) 18 stocks have no scientific assessment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what quota swaps have been made in 2008; which cross-year swaps will affect UK quota in future years; and if he will make a statement. (228169)

On 15 October 2008, there have been 820 national quota swaps agreed by UK fisheries administrations between fishermens’ groups within the UK and 66 international quota swaps agreed between the UK and other member states. Fisheries Administrations will consider proposals for cross-year swaps on an individual basis. Most cross-year swaps between 2008 and 2009 will not occur until later this year or early in 2009.

Fishing Catches

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2008, Official Report, columns 1865-6W, on fishing catches, what progress has been made on the development of the EU Discard Atlas; and if he will make a statement. (228064)

In December 2007, the European Commission issued an open call for tenders in relation to Studies and pilot projects for carrying out the Common Fisheries Policy (Call No. FISH/2007/07). These studies included one which was intended to form the basis of the long-planned EU Discard Atlas. The study, which was lot four of the call for tenders, was required to provide a review of the current knowledge about discards in EU fisheries, and a feasibility study on a fisheries information system for these. Specifically, the aim of the project was given as:

To compile and analyse all the information collected so far by the discard sampling programmes under the Data Control Regulation (DCR) on both the discarded and the retained fractions of the catch, in order to reply to questions such as how much, what, where and why discards occur. The study shall cover all main fishing regions of the EU: (i) the Baltic, (ii) the North Sea, (iii) the North Western Atlantic Waters, (iv) the Southern Western Atlantic Waters and (v) the Mediterranean.

At the same time, to assess the feasibility of an information system offering easy and interactive access to fisheries data including information on fishing effort and catches. This feasibility study should consider, in addition to the geographical areas mentioned above, the Black Sea once data from that area is available through the DCR.

The study would have required extensive work and co-operation between all European marine fisheries research institutes, in order to achieve these aims. However, the finances on offer to perform the study were relatively limited, and as far as we are aware, no bids to do the work were submitted before the deadline of 25 February 2008.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much of European Fisheries Fund money will be available for projects to reduce discards and bycatch in the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (228067)

In accordance with Commission Regulation (EC) No 498/2007, the UK EFF funds have been distributed across the priority axes and years of the Programme. Details can be found in Section 6 of the UK Operational Programme which is available via the DEFRA website.

Priority Axis 1 (measures for adaptation of the Community fishing fleet), and Axis 3 (measures of common interest) are linked with a number of objectives, including reducing discards and by-catch. We cannot pre-empt decisions as to which projects will receive EFF funding, but can confirm that projects which seek to reduce discards and by-catch will be considered a high priority.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the (a) number and (b) percentage of UK fish stocks that have been discarded in each of the last three years, broken down by species; and if he will make a statement. (228071)

Quantities of discards are estimated quarterly using data collected by scientific observers aboard commercial fishing vessels. They are required to record the quantity landed and discarded, and the species and size composition of the discards each time the fishing gear is hauled. Deploying scientific observers in this manner is expensive and time consuming, with the result that it is usually only possible to sample a small proportion of the overall fishing trips in a given area. As a result, it is necessary to extrapolate from the limited sampling to provide estimates for the entire fleet. Although the sampling is intended to cover a representative sample of the fleet, this does mean that the estimates of total discards are subject to uncertainty.

Estimated annual figures for discards of some important commercial species over 2005 to 2007 are given in the following table. The figures given are as follows:

Country

Area

Species

Type

2005

2006

2007

English and Welsh registered vessels

North Sea ICES sub-area IV

Cod

ND

2,082

2,083

641

DR

47.7

62.1

40.6

Haddock

ND

665

1,837

1,471

DR

14.8

71.6

38.0

Plaice

ND

1,900

1,975

1,102

DR

70.4

36.3

74.7

Sole

ND

13

351

373

DR

5.1

26.8

30.1

Whiting

ND

4,422

9,002

3,628

DR

33.3

53.3

31.9

Scottish registered vessels

North Sea ICES Sub-area IV

Cod

ND

3,709

3,273

2,952

DR

57.4

73.5

83.6

Haddock

ND

84,038

59,314

48,735

DR

28.0

65.4

72.9

Whiting

ND

17,563

23,905

26,249

DR

65.0

50.9

45.3

Saithe

ND

3,930

4,169

4,389

DR

64.2

57.6

75.3

Scottish registered vessels

West of Scotland ICES Division VIa

Cod

ND

170

144

145

DR

62.3

86.7

89.8

Haddock

ND

5,165

9,856

5,765

DR

78.2

69.8

74.0

Whiting

ND

452

489

1,114

DR

96.7

95.8

75.1

Saithe

ND

764

1226

511

DR

64.2

62.0

52.5

Note:

DN: Estimated number discarded (thousand)

DR: Discard rate (percentage of total catch in numbers that is discarded)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what reports he has received on allegations that the fishing vessel Prolific discarded in UK waters fish that were caught in the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone; and if he will make a statement. (228132)

The Norwegians have made their concerns known to me. We are now working with them, the Commission and other member states to deliver a package of measures which will make our fisheries more sustainable in the future and significantly reduce the scale of discarding.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the amount of fish caught within the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone by UK vessels and discarded in UK and other EU member state waters in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. (228133)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 12 December 2007, Official Report, column 708W, on fishing: catches, whether there has been an improvement in the discard data received by the European Commission; whether the provisions of Council Regulation 1543/2000 in relation to collecting discard data are now being met by all member states; whether the Commission has taken any action against those member states not providing discard data; and if he will make a statement. (228137)

The answer of 12 December 2007 refers to a report by the Subgroup of the Commission's Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) on the Assessment of the EU's Fishing Effort Regime. This group has met again during 2008, but its final report is not yet available. However, I understand that there have been improvements in the provision of discard data in the interim, with information provided to the 2008 meetings by Belgium, France and Denmark for the first time. Some countries, including Ireland, collect discard data, but this is not used by the Subgroup for technical reasons.

I am not aware of whether the Commission is taking action against member states that are still not providing the requisite information.

Flood Control: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Environment Agency has spent on building flood defences in 2008. (227768)

The following table identifies the capital, revenue and local levy expenditure from the start of the financial year to the end of September 2008. The figures are in line with the Environment Agency's expenditure forecast.

Flood defence grant in aid expenditure—year to date

£ million

Regions

Capital (Actual)

Revenue (Actual)

Local levy (Actual)

Total expenditure

Anglian

37.9

17.3

2.4

57.6

Midlands

9.7

11.2

0.5

21.4

North-east

9

10.4

1.2

20.6

North-west

9.3

12.4

1.7

23.4

Southern

5.8

11.8

0.4

18.0

South-west

11.5

12.7

3.2

27.4

Thames

11.6

20.8

6.0

38.4

Total English regions

94.8

96.6

15.4

206.8

Head office

10.4

25.2

35.6

Total FDGiA expenditure

105.2

121.8

227.0

The Environment Agency has also paid out £19.5 million of grant to local authorities and internal drainage boards for coastal and non main river projects that they are delivering.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much was spent per head on flood protection in (a) rural and (b) urban areas in 2007-08. (227915)

The Environment Agency directs flood risk expenditure into areas which are most at risk of flooding, it does not make a distinction between urban and rural when defining flood risk.

In the 2007-08 financial year, the Government provided approximately £600 million funding for effective management of flood and coastal erosion protection in England.

Floods: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what funding is available from (a) his Department and (b) the Environment Agency for communities for solutions to their flooding problems; and what the reasons were for the rejection of the Water 21 bid from Gloucestershire by his Department. (225436)

The Environment Agency's flood alleviation schemes are funded either through DEFRA grant in aid or from a local levy on councils by the Regional Flood Defence Committee (RFDC).

The Environment Agency aims to work with communities at risk of flooding to devise technically and environmentally feasible schemes which can be put forward to the RFDC for local levy funding.

In the Midlands region the Environment Agency is currently putting 22 candidate local levy schemes forward to the RFDC. The decision on which ones will be funded lies with the RFDC members and will include consideration of relative costs and benefits.

A number of communities have also raised their own funding towards the cost of flood defence schemes and contributions may also be available from public authority departments (such as highways), increases to parish council precepts, local fundraising events and individuals.

The Water 21 bid is promoted by the Gloucestershire Local Strategic Partnership and while the Environment Agency was a consultee it was not a funding decision maker.

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the reasons are for reducing the budget for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee in 2009-10 compared to 2008-09. (228049)

The overall budget for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee in 2009-10 has yet to be finalised.

Koi Herpesvirus

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to prevent the spread of koi herpesvirus outbreaks; what estimate he has made of the number of koi herpesvirus outbreaks in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. (228134)

The Government make a significant contribution to protecting fish against disease. Legislation was introduced in April 2007 which brought in for the first time domestic controls of koi herpesvirus (KHV) and made it a notifiable disease in the UK. We will be bringing in shortly broad legislation to implement Council Directive 2006/88 and to provide further protective measures against spread of disease. These notably will include the requirement for fish farms and importers of ornamental fish to be authorised and for angling clubs to be registered. Prior to KHV disease becoming notifiable in April 2007, outbreak numbers were not officially recorded and so are unreliable. Since April 2007 there have been 22 confirmed outbreaks, 10 cases in 2007 and 12 new outbreaks confirmed so far this year.

Marine Animals: Biodiversity

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his latest assessment is of the effect that non-native species are having on the UK’s marine environment and freshwater fisheries; and if he will make a statement. (228076)

Novel alien species continue to appear in UK waters. Pathways include entry via commercial shipping (e.g. hull fouling, ballast water transfers) and the pet trade (aquarium and garden pond plants and animals released by the general public to open waters). The complexity of the aquatic environment means the impact of non-native fish introductions on our freshwater fisheries is often difficult to detect.

It has long been recognised that the spread of non-native species can have far-reaching and undesirable ecological consequences for animal and plant communities in the marine environment and freshwater fisheries. Introduced non-native fish can have direct effects on native species, for example by predation, competition (for space and food) hybridisation (inter-breeding), or can upset the natural balance that operates between native species. Non-native species can also introduce and spread novel diseases and parasites to which our native species may have little or no resistance.

Once established it can be extremely difficult and costly, and in some cases impossible, to control or eradicate an invasive species. While not all introduced non-native species will become invasive, they can still have adverse impacts. Given this, and the fact that their precise impact can be unpredictable, a precautionary approach is appropriate for managing the keeping and release of such species.

My Department recognises the threats that non-native species can pose to marine and freshwater environments and has supported the development of risk analysis protocols to identify introduced species of potentially high risk, and where possible to assess in advance the impacts posed by these species. Following on from the DEFRA review of non-native species policy, a body has now been established, the GB Non-native Species Mechanism, to review the problems posed by non-native species and, as appropriate, to co-ordinate control and eradication measures by the appropriate agencies.

The key measure in controlling the spread of non-native fish has been the Import of Live Fish Act (ILFA). Under the ILFA Orders it is illegal to keep or release any of the listed species in any water (including tanks and ponds) without a licence. Any person wishing to hold, keep or release any of the listed species is required to be in possession of a licence before obtaining the fish. Some introductions of species already present in England and Wales are allowed, where there is demonstrable benefits and there is no risk to the wider environment. But, there is a presumption against approving consents for the introduction of new non-native populations.

In Wales the Welsh Assembly Government are looking into reintroducing consents under the Molluscan Shellfish (Control of Deposit) Order 1974 to attempt to prevent accidental introductions and the countryside council for Wales along with the main mussel producers in the Menai Straits have produced a code of good practice to avoid introductions. The countryside council for Wales have also distributed ‘wanted cards’ to help identify 8 marine non-native invasive species.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to (a) prevent non-native invasive species entering the UK and (b) remove non-native invasive species already present in the UK; and if he will make a statement. (228077)

DEFRA and the devolved administrations operate regimes which aim to prevent the entry of certain non-native species into the UK, such as inspections under plant health legislation. In the course of their work DEFRA’s plant health and seeds inspectors and their equivalents in the devolved administrations inspect consignments of plants and plant products to ensure that they are free of non-native plant pests and diseases of concern.

However some non-native species legitimately used, for example in horticulture, as pets or in research can also have the potential to become invasive. It is important therefore to prevent their introduction into the wild. In May, jointly with the Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly Government, my Department published the Invasive Non-Native Species Framework Strategy for Great Britain. This sets out our proposals for more effective and better co-ordinated action to tackle invasive non-native species. Prevention of the introduction of such species into the wild is one of the key themes to which other parts of the strategy will also contribute. In addition to existing measures such as legislative controls under wildlife and fisheries legislation we plan to implement a structured programme of work on raising awareness and education both generally and in a targeted way, developing effective risk analysis capacity, implementing online reporting with improved surveillance and monitoring, and to develop capacity to respond quickly to future threats.

Management of invasive species already established in the UK must be considered on a case by case approach which will take into account the feasibility and scale at which action could effectively be taken. The Strategy offers a framework for such decision-making at a national scale. Control options will vary from national, regional or local eradication to management or containment.

Northern Ireland is working with the Republic of Ireland on a similarly strategic approach.

Marine Bill: Draft

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which organisations and interests will be represented on the proposed Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities under the Marine Bill, if enacted; and if he will make a statement. (228048)

The maximum size of each Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) shall be 21 members. The organisations and interests to be represented on each IFCA, and their relative split, include:

One Marine Management Organisation member;

One Environment Agency member;

One Natural England member;

Maximum seven local authority members;

Maximum 11 persons acquainted with the needs and opinions of the fishing community, and persons with knowledge of, or expertise, in marine environmental matters.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many marine conservation zones he plans to establish under the provisions of the Marine Bill if enacted; what sea areas this will cover; and if he will make a statement. (228068)

It is too early to predict the number, size or location of marine conservation zones (MCZs) that will be designated under the proposed Marine Bill. This will depend on the outcome of work which will be undertaken with involvement from stakeholders over the next three years.

Our intention is that the Bill should provide for MCZs to be designated in those areas of the sea over which the UK Government have responsibility, that is English territorial waters and all UK offshore waters. The Welsh Ministers are also seeking powers, through the Bill, to designate MCZs in Welsh territorial waters.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he plans to retain the provisions relating to coastal access in the Draft Marine Bill in the Marine Bill; and if he will make a statement. (228078)

Moorings

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many residential moorings his Department has registered; and what the location of each is. (227616)

The information requested is not held by this Department. The practice for the registration of residential moorings varies between navigation authorities and it is not possible to produce a consistent list of all residential moorings.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to him on 9 October 2008, Official Report, column 737W, regarding British Waterways licensed residential moorings in England.

Oil: Waste Disposal

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects the Waste Oils Protocol project to be complete. (226131)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects the Waste Oil Protocol project to be complete. (226464)

The public consultation on the Waste Oils Protocol was launched on 28 July 2008 by the Environment Agency and the Government funded Waste and Resources Action Programme, and will close on 20 October. It is anticipated that a post-consultation draft of the protocol will be submitted to the European Commission in January 2009 for notification as a technical regulation in accordance with the Technical Standards Directive (98/34/EC). Subject to no substantial difficulties arising from this notification, the final protocol will then be published in August 2009.

Oil: Waste Management

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Treasury as to whether the rate of duty to be applied to waste-derived fuel oil from 1 November 2008 is consistent with Government obligations under the Waste Framework Directive to encourage the recovery and reuse of waste. (226817)

The Waste Oil Directive requires member states to ensure the collection and correct management of waste oil and to take measures to give priority to the regeneration of waste oil above combustion. As a specific measure applying to waste oil, the Waste Oil Directive takes precedence over the Waste Framework Directive.

It is the view of the Government that the duty regime applicable to waste derived fuel oil from 1 November 2008 should have no adverse effects on the volume of waste oil collected, as correct management of hazardous waste is a legal requirement. Waste oil has a value and there will continue to be a demand for waste-derived fuel. A higher duty rate for waste-derived fuel could also encourage the provision of regeneration of waste oil in preference to combustion.

I have not held discussions on this issue with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but officials in my Department are in regular contact with officials in HM Revenue and Customs on this issue.

Primates: Pets

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will bring forward legislation to prohibit the keeping, selling, buying and training of primates as pets. (228353)

There are no proposals to introduce legislation to prohibit the keeping, selling, buying and training of primates as pets.

However, as a result of concerns raised during the passage of the Animal Welfare Act through Parliament, the Government intend to introduce a code of practice on the keeping of primates as pets. We are in the process of setting up a working group of experts to consider the standards that should be included in the code. Members include representatives of zoos, primate sanctuaries, specialist vets and private keepers.

The code is intended to help owners and keepers to meet their statutory duty to provide for the welfare needs of their animals. While it will not be a specific offence to fail to comply with the code, it could be used in court as evidence to support a prosecution brought under the Animal Welfare Act. The code will be subject to consultation and approved by Parliament. We hope that the code will come into force next year.

Rabbits

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make it his policy to regulate the farming of rabbits. (227376)

The welfare of rabbits is provided for in the general provisions of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 has a specific schedule relating to rabbit welfare. DEFRA also has a welfare code for rabbits. There are no specific EU wide standards for rabbit welfare.

Rats

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of (a) the size of the UK rat population and (b) the areas most affected by rat infestation. (228011)

DEFRA does not have data on the size of the UK rat population.

Data on rodent infestation in domestic dwellings are obtained from the English House Condition Survey (EHCS). The detailed findings for 2001 are summarised in the report ‘Rodent infestations in domestic properties in England, 2001’. The EHCS only provides an estimate of the proportion of dwellings with rat infestations inside or outside. It does not provide definitive data on numbers of rats.

The 2001 report indicated that there may be a higher occurrence of rats within urban and rural areas when compared to suburban areas.

In May, DEFRA published an interim report on rodent presence in domestic properties from the EHCS data for 2002-03 and 2003-04. The key findings were that the occurrences of rats in these years are not significantly different from those observed in 2001.

A further detailed report is anticipated for publication in spring 2009.

Rural Areas

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government is taking to protect and support the sustainability of village life in England. (227916)

The Government are committed to supporting the sustainability of all communities, including those in rural areas. Evidence shows that, overall, rural areas are performing well in comparison to their urban counterparts, although there are some problems around housing and local economies.

The Government welcome Matthew Taylor MP’s recent report on housing and planning in rural areas, which makes a number of important recommendations on the sustainability of rural communities, and will be producing a formal response to that report in due course.

The Government’s policies to promote stronger, more sustainable communities through enhancing the quality of life, increasing affordable housing, tackling crime, raising educational standards, developing economic potential and improving local accountability apply equally in rural and urban areas.

Seas and Oceans: Biodiversity

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 12 December 2007, Official Report, column 712W, on seas and oceans: biodiversity, whether he has finalised the network of Natura 2000 marine area sites; and if he will make a statement. (228050)

Our programme of data collection and survey work is continuing to identify further sites to complete the UK Natura 2000 network. We hope to have the network substantially complete by 2012.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the provisions of the communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the role of the CFP in implementing an ecosystem approach to marine management (COM(2008) 0187 final); and if he will make a statement. (228065)

The UK remain fully committed to the ecosystem approach to fisheries management and is fully supportive of the draft Council Conclusions on the Commission's Communication, which are to be agreed at a forthcoming EU Council of Ministers.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 12 December 2007, Official Report, column 712W, on seas and oceans: biodiversity, what reports he has received on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee on offshore sites being damaged by fishing activities; and if he will make a statement. (228164)

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), our scientific advisers, have not indicated that potential offshore sites are being damaged by fishing activities. If the JNCC did indicate that such damage was occurring, we would approach the Commission to ask them to consider proposing protective measures.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 12 December 2007, Official Report, column 712W, on seas and oceans: biodiversity, whether he has submitted an initial tranche of candidate offshore special areas to the European Commission; and if he will make a statement. (228165)

An initial tranche of candidate offshore special areas of conservation (cSAC) were submitted to the European Commission on 29 August 2008. These included the sites at Braemar Pockmarks, Darwin Mounds, Haig Fras, Scanner Pockmark and Stanton Banks.

Two sites have been delayed pending resolution of issues arising during public consultation: North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reefs, and Wyville Thomson Ridge. DEFRA officials are working to resolve these issues and these sites will be considered for submission to the Commission at the earliest opportunity.

Sheep: Ear Tagging

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effects of implementing the proposals for electronic identification of sheep on (a) the sheep industry and (b) hill farmers. (227533)

A Regulatory Impact Assessment has been produced for England, a copy of which is available on the DEFRA website. An updated version to take account of changes to Council Regulation 21/2004 that were negotiated over the summer and more detailed implementation options will accompany the consultation that is planned for the spring.

Electronic identification of sheep is an EU requirement, but the administration and implementation of it is an issue for devolved administrations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the European Commission on the effects of electronic identification on the UK sheep industry. (227537)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met with Commissioner Vassiliou on 29 September to press for a review of Council Regulation 21/2004, which provides for the mandatory implementation of electronic identification (EID).

The Commissioner indicated that there were no plans for a review of the Regulation before 31 December 2009 when EID is due to be implemented.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what meetings he has had with farmers' representatives from (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Northern Ireland and (d) Wales on the European Commission's plans for electronic identification of sheep. (227538)

The implementation and administration of electronic identification (EID) of sheep in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is an issue for the devolved administrations.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State did however meet with representatives of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Wales, National Sheep Association, British Meat processors Association, Livestock Auctioneers Association and the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers on 30 June to discuss EID.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what meetings he has had with his counterparts in each of the devolved administrations on the European Commission's plans for electronic identification of sheep. (227539)

As part of the normal course of business, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State talks to his devolved counterparts on a variety of issues, including electronic identification (EID). DEFRA officials also meet with their devolved counterparts to discuss EID on a regular basis.

A UK EID Project Board has also been established, which includes representatives of the devolved administrations, to take decisions on EID on a UK basis.

Special Areas of Conservation

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 10 December 2007, Official Report, column 41W, on special areas of conservation, whether Natural England has identified further sites that should be selected as special areas of conservation; and if he will make a statement. (228166)

Further to the reply of 10 December 2007, Natural England is developing proposals for eight special areas of conservation (SACs) in inshore waters following survey work last summer. It is at the stage of considering potential boundaries for the areas of qualifying habitat that they have identified. Once the proposed boundaries have been identified, they will be agreed by Natural England's board before being forwarded to DEFRA. The areas involved are:

Inner Dowsing, Race bank and North Ridge (Outer Wash);

Haisborough, Hammoond and Winterton (Outer Wash);

Margate Sands and Long Sands (Outer Thames);

Lyme Bay to Poole Bay Reefs;

Prawl Point to Plymouth Sound and Eddystone Reefs;

Lizard Point;

Lands End and Cape Bank; and

Shell Flats and& Lune Deep (Morecambe Bay).

Water Supply

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government have taken to ensure water companies maintain pipe work and mains to high standards. (227813)

Each water company is required to maintain its assets so that it can provide services to consumers over the long-term, while protecting the environment. In its role as the independent economic regulator for the water industry, Ofwat monitors how well each company is maintaining its assets in its annual serviceability assessments. Serviceability is the capability of a system of assets to deliver the right level of service to consumers now and in the future.

During price reviews, Ofwat assesses each company's outputs and its plans for future maintenance. Price limits are set at a level that allows for sufficient maintenance of the asset systems.

Companies that have had a deteriorating assessment have been required to produce action plans to deliver stable serviceability.

In February 2006, Ofwat wrote to all water and sewerage companies (MD212, 'Asset Management Planning to Maintain Serviceability'). This signalled Ofwat's intention that if a company cannot demonstrate stable serviceability at the price review in 2009 it will treat this as a shortfall in delivery. Shortfalls are where a company fails to deliver outputs, targets or service levels specified in price limits. Ofwat recovers the money set aside for these, on behalf of customers, when it next sets price limits.

A further letter (PR09/06, 'Setting Price Limits—Logging Down and Shortfalling' in November 2007) sets out how shortfalls would be applied in respect of failure to deliver serviceability outputs (section 2.1). This has focused the attention of the water and sewerage companies on the issue.

Ofwat's work over the last few years has culminated in its ability to report a marked improvement in serviceability for 2007-08. Details of these and other regulatory actions are set out in Ofwat's set of reports on company performance which can be found on the Ofwat website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government has taken to ensure water companies provide safe and clean water. (227814)

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) was formed in 1990 and acts as the independent regulator of the quality and safety of the public water supply in England and Wales.

The powers and duties of the inspectorate set out in the Water Industry Act 1991 were strengthened by the Water Act 2003.

Scrutiny of the water companies by the inspectorate has resulted in improved compliance with European drinking water standards from 95 per cent. in 1991 to 99.96 per cent. in 2007. On the advice of the inspectorate, the drinking water regulations were amended in 2007. These changes introduced a requirement for water companies to implement a risk management approach to water safety.

Water: Low Incomes

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps the Government have taken to assist low income families with paying their water bills; (227811)

(2) what steps the Government have taken to assist low income families in reducing water bills.

The Government are aware of concerns about the level of water charges and the issue of affordability is one which the Government take very seriously. The cross-Government review of water affordability in December 2004 recommended:

the vulnerable groups regulations should be extended to increase eligibility. Since publication the regulations have been extended to include children under 19 and in full-time education and a more inclusive list of qualifying medical conditions;

a local pilot scheme on water affordability should be carried out. The pilot study is complete and the results are available on DEFRA's website;

companies should spread and deliver best practice. DEFRA has worked closely with the Consumer Council for Water and other stakeholders to encourage best practice by companies in administrating the vulnerable groups tariff; and

studying the effects of the charging system. DEFRA has been working closely with water companies and Ofwat to look at the likely distributional consequences of a range of tariffs for water consumers and will report to Ministers later this year.

In August 2008 DEFRA launched an independent review of water charging and metering, which is led by Anna Walker and will look in particular at social, economic and environmental concerns. The review is due to conclude in spring 2009.

Whales: International Cooperation

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will (a) update and re-issue the Protecting Whales—A Global Responsibility document and (b) send the document to all governments intending to attend the 61st annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Portugal between 22 and 26 June 2009; when he next plans to discuss whaling with his foreign counterparts; and if he will make a statement. (228072)

The UK has led efforts to recruit more conservation-minded countries to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) through our publication “Protecting Whales—A Global Responsibility” (endorsed by the Prime Minister and Sir David Attenborough), which has already been sent to over 60 countries urging nations to protect these species worldwide.

It will be sent to any countries that have recently, or could potentially, join before the 61st meeting of the IWC (IWC61) in Portugal. There is no need to update the publication at this time.

The UK has also recently circulated a document to members of the IWC entitled “The International Whaling Commission—the way forward”. This document encourages countries participating in the current discussions over the future of the Commission, to ensure the conservation of cetaceans remains the highest priority.

Along with colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, DEFRA will continue to engage in discussions with our counterparts on whaling at every appropriate opportunity.

Defence

Armed Forces: Deployment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost of deploying troops abroad was in each year since 1997. (219850)

The costs of deploying troops on military operations are calculated on a net additional basis and audited figures are published each year in the MOD’s Annual Report and Accounts. Costs of peacekeeping operations for financial years 1997-98 to 2006-07 were:

Military Operations - Costs: 1997 to 2007

Current prices (£ million)

Total Outturn

Total Peacekeeping Costs: 2006-07

1,754

Of which:

Balkans (Bosnia/Kosovo)

56

Afghanistan

742

Iraq

956

Total Peacekeeping Costs: 2005-06

1,220

Of which:

Balkans (Bosnia/Kosovo)

63

Afghanistan

199

Iraq

958

Total Peacekeeping Costs: 2004-05

1,064

Of which:

Balkans (Bosnia/Kosovo)

87

Afghanistan

67

Iraq

910

Total Peacekeeping Costs: 2003-04

1,462

Of which:

Balkans (Bosnia/Kosovo)

103

Democratic Republic of the Congo

1

Afghanistan

46

Iraq

1,311

Sierra Leone

1

EUFYROM

1

Total Peacekeeping Costs: 2002-03

1,390

Of which:

Kosovo

105

Bosnia

81

Gulf

45

Afghanistan

311

Iraq

848

Total Peacekeeping Costs: 2001-02

557

Of which:

Kosovo

142

Bosnia

93

Gulf

61

Sierra Leone

40

Afghanistan

221

Total Peacekeeping Costs: 2000-011

382

Of which:

Kosovo

220

Bosnia

120

Gulf

25

Sierra Leone

17

Total Peacekeeping Costs: 1999-2000

461

Of which:

Kosovo

325

Bosnia

108

Gulf

28

Total Peacekeeping Costs: 1998-99

196

Of which:

Kosovo

14

Bosnia

147

Gulf

35

Total Peacekeeping Costs: 1997-98

402

Of which:

Bosnia

386

Gulf

16

1 Prior to Financial Year 2001-02 costs were recorded on a cash accounting basis and therefore are on a different basis to subsequent years where recourse accounting costs are included.

The following estimated costs for operations in 2007-08 were included in Spring Supplementary Estimates published in February:

£ million

Afghanistan

1,582

Iraq

1,648

Balkans

31

Final figures will be published shortly in the MOD’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2007-08.

Armed Forces: Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons the 20 per cent. threshold for war disablement pensions was set at that level. (222530)

Since World War 1, the nature and amount of awards under the War Pension Scheme has depended on the assessed degree of disablement due to service.

Assessment of the degree of disablement is by comparing the condition of the individual as disabled by service with the condition of a normal healthy person of the same age and sex. From this time a distinction has always been drawn between assessments of under 20 per cent. and those of 20 per cent. or more. The reason why the threshold was originally set at 20 per cent. is not known.

Before 1 April 1962, awards to “other ranks” with an assessment of less than 20 per cent. were in the form of a weekly allowance for a prescribed period followed in some cases by a terminal lump sum gratuity. For officers only gratuities were paid. A change in 1962 aligned the treatment of all members of the armed forces, so that since that date, all awards for disablement assessed at less than 20 per cent. have been in the form of a one off gratuity, regardless of rank.

Assessments of 20 per cent. or more have always given rise to a continuing pension for all ranks. As part of a periodic review of the War Pension Scheme one of the options under consideration is to raise the 20 per cent. assessment level at which a pension becomes payable for new claims.

Armed Forces: Recruitment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review the appropriateness of the minimum age at which people can join the armed forces; and if he will (a) make it his policy that those under the age of 18 years may not take a direct part in hostilities in any circumstances and (b) renew the Government's declaration on the UN optional protocol on the Convention on the Rights of the Child in relation to armed conflict. (228800)

The Government made clear in their interpretive declaration when ratifying the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict that the armed forces would continue to recruit from age 16, but made a clear commitment to take all feasible measures to ensure that those who had not yet reached the age of 18 years old did not take a direct part in hostilities. The Government remain committed to meeting their obligations under the protocol and there are no plans to change the interpretive declaration.

Armed Forces: Reserve Forces

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members and what percentage of the (a) Territorial Army, (b) Royal Navy Reserve, (c) Royal Marine Reserve and (d) Royal Auxiliary Air Force were available for deployment at the most recent date for which figures are available. (227878)

Availability for mobilisation is dependant on a number of factors, in particular which section of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 is being used to make a Call-Out Order. Therefore, while reservists may be unavailable for mobilisation under one section of the Act, they will be available under another. This effectively means that nearly all reservists remain available for mobilisation.

As at 30 September 2008 the following Volunteer Reserve personnel were available for mobilisation:

Royal Navy Reserve: 2,077

Royal Marines Reserve: 858

Territorial Army: 28,920

Royal Auxiliary Air Force: 1,599

These figures exclude those serving on full time reserve service and members of the sponsored reserve.

Armed Forces: Resignations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel opted not to extend their service in each year since 2003. (227875)

The number of trained UK regular forces service personnel who opted not to extend their service is recorded in tables 1-8 of TSP5 (UK Regular Forces Outflow From Trained Strength to Civil Life) as outflow type “Time Expiry”. Statistics are available for each service and on a tri service basis.

TSP5 is published monthly. The current September 2008 publication includes time series back to 1998/99 and can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/applications/newWeb/www/index.php?page==48&pubType=l&thiscontent=60&PublishTime =09:30:004www.dasa.mod.uk/applications/newWeb/www/index.php?page=48&pubType=l&thiscontent=60&PublishTime =09:30:00&date=2008-10-14&disText=l%20Sep%202008&

Copies of TSP 5 are also available in the Library of the House.

Departmental Civil Service Agencies

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many agencies were sponsored by his Department in (a) 2007-08 and (b) 1997-98. (228510)

The “Next Steps Report 1997” (Cm3889) provides information on all Executive Agencies as at 31 December 1997. Copies are available in the Library of the House. The most up-to-date list of Executive Agencies is published in the Cabinet Office publication "The List of Ministerial Responsibilities". The latest version, incorporating recent ministerial changes, will be published shortly and I will place a copy in the Library of the House.

Departmental Cleaning Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which contractors his Department uses to undertake cleaning duties; and what the hourly rates of pay are for cleaners working in the Department. (223279)

[holding answer 10 September 2008]: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

This is due to the number of locations the MOD operates from across the UK and overseas. Also, for a number of sites cleaning is part of a wider building services contract and could not be split out as a separate cost.

Departmental Data Protection

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) computers and (b) hard drives in his Department contain non-encrypted data. (227438)

[holding answer 16 October 2008]: The MOD does not currently hold this information centrally and it could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Under the terms of the Burton and Hannigan reviews the MOD is conducting a census of all removable media, which will include removable hard drives and this work is due to complete in March 2009.

We have encrypted 20,000 laptops that are used outside MOD secure sites. Some laptops are not encrypted for technical reasons, such as those running automated test equipment, but are protected by other physical means. The MOD is reviewing its policy on the protection, including encryption, of equipment that is designed to be retained within our secure buildings.

Departmental Information and Communications Technology

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department spent on upgrading its IT in each of the last three financial years. (228418)

The spend incurred in upgrading the Ministry of Defence's IT in each of the last three financial years varied from purchasing single computers and software licences to undertaking major IT programmes, such as the defence information infrastructure. The spend on all individual Departmental IT upgrades, and separating these upgrade costs from ongoing IT support expenditure, in each of the last three financial years could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Procurement

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of the names and addresses of each organisation that supplied goods and services to his Department in 2007-08, based on the purchase order data held in the Department's financial database. (221942)

The Ministry of Defence purchases goods and services from a large number suppliers every year and information in the format requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Lists of the organisations paid £5 million or more are published annually in UK Defence Statistics. I am arranging for copies of these lists for 2007-08 from UK Defence Statistics 2008 to be placed in the Library of the House. It is also available online at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk

(UKDS2008/chapter1.html see table 1.18 and 1.18a)

The addresses of these companies are available from Companies House:

http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk

Departmental Sick Leave

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 7 October 2008, Official Report, column 610W, on departmental sick leave, what estimate he has made of the cost of providing the requested information. (227380)

The Department does not have a separate category of staff on “gardening leave”, as those without permanent posts are actively managed by their line management and where possible deployed on temporary work. There will be occasions when such temporary work isn't available, but that situation is continuously changing and is not recorded centrally. It would cost around £2,000 to survey all relevant management areas to estimate the level of such “gardening leave” at a point in time, and substantially more to monitor it continuously.

Housing: Low Incomes

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for increasing the supply of affordable housing for local people to rent or buy in rural areas. (227979)

I have been asked to reply.

The Housing Corporation has been set a national target to provide 10,300 affordable homes in smaller rural communities from 2008-09 to 2010-11. Grant will be allocated to those schemes which meet the needs of local people, the regional strategy and demonstrate strong value for money from the £8.4 billion National Affordable Housing Programme.

The Prime Minister commissioned a report from the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell on how land use and planning can better support rural business and deliver affordable housing in rural communities. His report, published in July, provides a comprehensive review of the issues that our rural communities face, and provides a number of practical recommendations. We are looking at the report in detail and will publish a full response later this year.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many reservists have been (a) mobilised for service and (b) discharged due to injury in Iraq in each year since March 2003. (227877)

The number of Reservists mobilised for Service in Iraq by year is as follows:

Number

2003

8,284

2004

2,370

2005

1,198

2006

949

2007

721

Figures for 2008 are not yet available.

Information on discharges due to injuries on operations in Iraq are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate-cost as it would involve trawling individual personnel files.

Military Aircraft: Helicopters

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many helicopters there are in the helicopter fleet of the UK armed services; how many of them are due to be taken out of service by (a) 2015 and (b) 2020; and if he will make a statement. (227036)

There are 594 aircraft in the military helicopter fleet, excluding helicopters which the Ministry of Defence operates but does not own. Given that the majority of the helicopters in our current fleets have out of service dates prior to 2015, and that investment decisions are yet to be taken regarding the extension of the service life of existing airframes and the procurement of new helicopters, it is not possible to predict with any certainty the number and type of helicopters which will be in service in 2015 or 2020.

Northern Ireland Security Guard Service

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made with the review of the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service; and when he expects the review to be completed. (228886)

The review of the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service is currently under consideration in Headquarters Northern Ireland and 38 (Irish) Brigade and will be completed by the end of the year. The trade unions will be consulted on the findings and recommendations of the review.

Piracy

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether there are plans to create a European Union-led naval task force to combat piracy. (226837)

Ministers from the Departments responsible for countering piracy have recently agreed that HMG should take a more proactive stance on dealing with this issue, recognising that this will be best achieved with international partners including NATO, the EU and coalition forces already in the Gulf of Aden.

We continue to work with our EU partners on measures to implement UNSCRs 1816 and 1838. In September we supported the establishment of an EU cell that aims to co-ordinate military escorts to World Food Programme shipping. We have also supported EU planning for a counter-piracy naval operation off the coast of Somalia, and on 14 October the EU Political and Security Committee decided to accept the offer made by the UK to provide the Operation Commander (Rear Admiral Phil Jones) and the Operation HQ (the Multinational Headquarters at Northwood).

A formal decision from the EU member states to allow planning for the operation to proceed to the next stage is expected in the next ten days. We have made it clear that the UK offer is conditional on sufficient forces being generated for the mission to be effective. Current estimates are for the operation to be launched towards the end of 2008, probably in December, once force generation and detailed planning is complete.

The key task of the operation will be to ensure the safe delivery of World Food Programme and other vital humanitarian deliveries to Somalia, but also to deter attacks on European and other shipping. EU partners are agreed that the ESDP operation is closely co-ordinated with other actors in the region, including Combined Task Force150 and NATO.

The ESDP operation will not solve the long-term problems of Somalia which are the root causes of piracy, and we will continue working with our international partners to restore governance.

RAF Menwith Hill: Security

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost to the Ministry of Defence Police was of the policing of the area around RAF Menwith Hill by the Armed Response Team and the Counter Terrorist Unit in each year from 2001 to 2007. (228386)

I am withholding the cost of the Ministry of Defence police (MDP) deployed at RAF Menwith Hill for the purpose of safeguarding national security.

Taxis

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much was claimed in expenses for taxi travel by officials from (a) his Department and (b) its executive agencies in (i) 2006-07, (ii) 2005-06, (iii) 2004-05, (iv) 2003-04 and (v) 2002-03; and if he will make a statement. (227052)

Staff may use taxis where it is the most cost-effective and economical way of conducting business travel. Because of the way expense data are recorded, the Department is not able to identify expense claims for taxi travel without disproportionate cost.

Wales

Departmental Pay

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many non-pensionable bonuses were awarded to members of staff in his Department in the last 12 months; and at what total cost. (226433)

During the last year my Department has awarded a total of six non-pensionable bonuses to staff at a cost of £5,250.00

Scotland

Departmental Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many (a) e-mails, (b) telephone calls and (c) letters from members of the public his Department has responded to since May 2007. (227643)

Since 1 May 2007 the Scotland Office has received over 2,200 pieces of correspondence for reply. The office also deals with an average of 3,000 other pieces of correspondence each year. The office does not record separately how each piece of correspondence was received or responded to. Separate records of telephone calls are not kept.

Departmental Freedom of Information

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests have been responded to by the Department since May 2007; and in how many cases (a) information was wholly exempted, (b) information was partly exempted and (c) the requests were answered in full. (227662)

The Ministry of Justice publish Freedom of Information statistics for all Central Government Departments on a quarterly and annual basis. The information requested can be found on the following web pages:

January-December 2007:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/7851.htm

January-June 2008:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/freedomofinformationquarterly.htm

The MoJ plan to publish the statistics for the quarter 3 monitoring period in December 2008.

Departmental Marketing

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Department has spent on (a) advertising and (b) external consultants and advisers since March 2008. (227637)

The Scotland Office incurred no expenditure on advertising and external consultants between 1 April and 30 September 2008.

Departmental Official Visits

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much was spent on overnight accommodation by his Department's civil servants in the last 12 months. (228780)

The Scotland Office does not separately record expenditure on overnight accommodation from other forms of subsistence such as meal allowances, day subsistence, incidental expenses and motor mileage. The total expenditure on all forms of subsistence for staff in 2007-08 was £38,053.

Departmental Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what the cost of pension contributions incurred by his Department was in each of the last three financial years; and what the planned expenditure is for 2008-09. (227661)

The pension contributions incurred by the Scotland Office in each of the last three years were:

Cost (£)

2005-06

270,533

2006-07

287,273

2007-08

345,063

The planned expenditure for 2008-09 is £375,000.

Departmental Press Releases

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many press releases have been issued by his Department since May 2007. (227642)

The Scotland Office press office has a wide-ranging role within the Department which goes beyond the issuing of press releases. It is involved in planning and executing media plans on behalf of Ministers and the Office and daily contact with the media.

Since May 2007, the Department has issued 185 press releases. This figure does not include information issued orally in response to media inquiries, articles, operational and diary notes, nor does it include the Office’s collaborative work with other Government Departments regarding press and media activity in Scotland.

Departmental Public Participation

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many meetings Ministers in his Department have had with members of the public since May 2007. (228117)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have frequent meetings with members of the public on a wide range of issues. Records of these meetings are not normally kept.

Departmental Secondment

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many of his Department's staff are seconded from each other Government Departments. (227639)