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Agriculture: Subsidies

Volume 483: debated on Tuesday 18 November 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the most recent inspection report of the Rural Payments Agency by the Office of the Surveillance Commissioner that is held by the Rural Payments Agency. (235065)

The last report on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) by the Office of Surveillance Commissioner (OSC) was in 2004. As the report includes sensitive information on the areas and use of covert investigation techniques under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), including the resources available, it would be inappropriate to place the report in the Library.

The Interception of Communications Commissioner, the Chief Surveillance Commissioner and the Intelligence Service Commissioner, who each have particular inspection and oversight responsibilities under RIPA, publish annual reports. The latest reports were laid before Parliament and copies placed in the House Library on 22 July. The figures provided in the reports for use of specific covert techniques are not broken down by individual public authority. The question of further disclosure for any particular public authority is a matter for the relevant commissioner.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effect of proposals under the CAP Health Check to remove cross-compliance rules which allow for a reduction in payments for claimants who permit their land to be used for illegal poisoning of birds of prey. (235937)

The protection of wild birds, their eggs and nests is currently subject to cross compliance rules. The CAP Health Check will not remove the requirement relating to the deliberate killing (including killing by poisoning) of wild birds. However, the requirements to prohibit the taking of wild birds' eggs, keeping wild birds and using non-selective means of hunting, capture or killing are likely to be removed. The Government accept that farmers are unlikely to take wild birds eggs or take birds from the wild for keeping in captivity, however, the Government have argued against the removal of the prohibition on non-selective means of hunting, capture or killing birds. My Department considers that this aspect may be beneficial in dealing with cases of illegal poisoning in addition to the main offence of deliberate killing. However, this is not a view widely held by other member states or the European Commission.

The UK has not yet conducted an impact assessment, but may do so when the Health Check concludes in December.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 the taking and killing of wild birds using poison remains an offence, with penalties of up to £5,000 and/or up to six months imprisonment.