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Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Most paper and paper products used by Government Departments contain some recycled paper. A growing proportion is 100 per cent. recycled.

Mr. Bruce : Does the Minister acknowledge that one of the brakes on the expansion of the use of recycled paper is that, in general, it is more expensive than freshly produced paper? Would not a considerable expansion of purchasing by a major purchaser such as the Government ensure that manufacturers had the volume to reduce prices and so extend the use of recycled paper? Are the Government prepared to expand the figures that the hon. Lady has given to the House?

Mrs. Bottomley : Government Departments are responsible for their own purchasing policies, but Her Majesty's Stationery Office is able and willing actively to explain to Departments the qualities of the paper that are available at an economically viable price which offer good value for money. All Department of the Environment ministerial correspondence uses fully recycled paper. A great deal of the Department's other paper is fully recycled. In other areas, a proportion of the paper has been recycled. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins) co-ordinates a group of Ministers who are trying to encourage and promote recycling. Other Government Departments are looking again at the issue.

Mr. Paice : Does my hon. Friend agree that most paper is made from coniferous soft woods that are grown in many parts of the northern hemisphere as a crop, just like a conventional agricultural crop? In attempting to protect the overall quantity of paper that is used, we must ensure that we maintain an adequate level of afforestation in the northern hemisphere.

Mrs. Bottomley : As my hon. Friend has said, the wood used for paper production is a managed crop. However, the Government recognise that recycled paper has a very important part to play. The majority of the input into the mills is recycled. We are the fourth largest user of waste paper in the world.

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Ms. Walley : Does the Minister agree that there is far more to a comprehensive waste policy in the United Kingdom than bagging, binning and winning it? Does she not agree that 70 per cent. of domestic waste consists of packaging and newsprint and that currently--this is what concerns the Opposition--less than 30 per cent. of our total consumption of paper and board is recycled? When will the Government introduce an integrated waste management policy that takes full account of the need to recycle? When will the Minister put her own house in order and say why all my previous requests that recycled paper should be used in the Palace of Westminster have fallen on the deaf ears of the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is sitting next to her?

Mrs. Bottomley : The hon. Lady must know that her last point is a matter for the Services Committee. The Government fully recognise the importance of recycling in helping to minimise waste and conserve resources and energy, whenever it makes economic sense and the proper quality can be provided. There are many remarkable initiatives to promote recycling. Only this week I launched Sheffield's recycling city initiative. Where it makes economic sense, Sheffield hopes to recycle a great number of products. It is important to work with the private sector. The way in which the private sector in Sheffield is working with the voluntary bodies and the local authority is a good example.

Mr. Redwood : Has my hon. Friend had a chance to work out how many trees have had to be cut down to provide material for all the press releases, letters and motions put forward by the Liberal party, claiming credit for other people's good ideas and hard work?

Mrs. Bottomley : I have not had the opportunity to work that out, but, rather than bagging and binning them, I hope that they will bag them, bin them and send them off to the City of Westminster where I know that the waste paper will be recycled and put to good use.

Urban Development Corporations

10. Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of each urban development corporation's budget in both 1988-89 and 1989-90 is allocated for community projects and voluntary sector initiatives.

Mr. Trippier : The percentages of UDC budgets allocated for community projects and voluntary sector initiatives for each of the years specified are as follows :



Black Country      |1.3    |1.8            

Bristol            |0      |1.0            

Central Manchester |1.4    |1.6            

Leeds              |0.9    |0.1            

London docklands   |3.3    |6.5            

Merseyside         |4.5    |3.1            

Sheffield          |0.4    |0.7            

Teesside           |2.4    |0.3            

Trafford Park      |0.1    |0.3            

Tyne and Wear      |0.3    |0.9            

Mr. Michie : Obviously the figures are not as high as we should like them to be, and we are disappointed. Does the Minister agree that it is essential that priority should be

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given to community projects, such as sports, open space parks and social housing? What advice is he giving to the chairmen of the UDCs to discuss these issues with the local authorities and the voluntary sector, both of which have vast experience of these matters?

Mr. Trippier : I certainly have no quarrel with the last point that the hon. Gentleman made. Sheffield development corporation is anxious to work with the local authority. As the hon. Gentleman knows, a number of local councillors are on the board. Among the initiatives supported by the development corporation are ethnic minority, social, educational and recreational projects, which is impressive. There are statutory responsibilities of Sheffield city council that have not passed to the urban development corporation. Those powers are retained by the city council. I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman would wish us to transfer those powers to the UDC.

Mr. Patnick : I thank my hon. Friend for the answer that he gave to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) who, as a former Sheffield city councillor, will probably recollect that the powers are there. The local authority has power to do such things. Various leaders of Sheffield city council are members of the UDC and I am sure that the two bodies talk to each other. Furthermore, Sheffield city council is the planning authority or assists with planning for the development corporation.

Mr. Trippier : Indeed. We have an agreement with Sheffield development corporation and the city council that the council should be the agency for planning. That is a step forward. I detected in the substantive question on the Order Paper some antagonism. Contrary to what I expected, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) was not antagonistic in his supplementary--in stark contrast to his contributions in the past.

Mr. George Howarth : I welcome the revitalisation work that is being carried out on the waterfront in Liverpool and the work of the Merseyside development corporation. The Minister will be aware of the widespread concern because some of the voluntary sector and community initiatives that are desperately needed in the area have not got off the ground. Will the Minister give continued attention to trying to find ways of using resources to benefit the local people rather than just tourists and businesses?

Mr. Trippier : I shall consider the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised. The main point is that a development corporation should not in any way supplant work that could be done by a borough council or, as in Liverpool, a city council. I recognise that development corporations can in some cases act as a catalyst. There is a good example in the Merseyside development corporation with regard to training and the support that it gives to Merseyside Education Training Enterprise Limited.

Paper Conservation

11. Mr. Nicholas Baker : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce environmental measures to stop the excessive use of paper so as to save depletion of timber resources.

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Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Government promote recycling of paper wherever it is economically viable to do so. The use of recycled paper is increasing and already the United Kingdom is the fourth largest user of waste paper in the world. There are no plans for compulsory restrictions on the use of paper.

Mr. Baker : Is my hon. Friend aware that efforts on recycling will be welcome on both sides of the House, as will efforts to encourage the planting of trees? Will my hon. Friend join me in a campaign against the excessive use of paper by mindless lobby campaigns, oversized and unreadable Sunday newspapers, junk mail and unnecessary photocopying, the waste of paper in Whitehall and, last but not least, the waste of paper in the House of Commons?

Mrs. Bottomley : I endorse the points made by my hon. Friend. I think that most hon. Members and members of the Government agree that there is far too much paper in Whitehall. The only difficulty is that it has to go through Ministers' boxes on its way to being recycled by the City of Westminster. The only redeeming feature of junk mail is that if it has been through the Post Office in the last month it has at least arrived with "We love unleaded petrol" franked on it.

Mr. Haynes : Does the Minister agree that there is a shocking waste of paper? I cannot agree with her reply. The Secretary of State at her side is responsible for the environment. Why do we keep finding confidential Government documents on landfill sites? That shows clearly that the Government are wasting paper because the documents do not tell us anything. I suggest that we should recycle the Secretary of State.

Mrs. Bottomley : That was an uncharacteristically ungenerous remark from the hon. Gentleman about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who has pioneered many achievements for the environment. I shall not respond in kind as, although I should like many Opposition Members to be recycled, I would not apply that insult to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Burns : Is my hon. Friend aware that enough litter and waste paper is deposited illegally in Britain each year to reforest an area the size of Wales? Does she accept that any initiatives taken by her and the Department to encourage the recycling of paper and, therefore, saving the timber stock, are to be warmly applauded?

Mrs. Bottomley : I thank my hon. Friend who has done a great deal to promote activity and interest in the war on litter. Litter is offensive and needless and, as my hon. Friend well knows, the Government are determined to tackle the problem of litter once and for all. Not only is it a waste of resources, but it is unsightly and offensive and there is no place for it in a modern Britain.

River Quality

14. Mr. Colin Shepherd : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of rivers in the United Kingdom were in good or fair condition at the latest date for which figures are available.

Mr. Howard : The 1985 river quality surveys for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland indicated that about 95 per cent. of river lengths in the

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United Kingdom were classified as good quality or fair quality ; that is the latest year for which comprehensive figures are available.

Mr. Shepherd : Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that the River Wye in my constituency is up to the mark, as it should be? Secondly, will he confirm that he is bringing the greatest possible pressure to bear on rivers in the United Kingdom which are not yet up to the top mark and that he is sustaining the greatest possible pressure on the rivers in the remainder of the European Community countries so that British industry is not disadvantaged in such an important area of trade?

Mr. Howard : Yes. No other member state in the European Community has a higher proportion of its river length in the top two grades of river quality than the United Kingdom. The River Wye has consistently been of class 1 quality for a considerable time.

Mr. Barron : Will the Minister tell us the exact class of the River Rother from which my constituency gets its name? When are we going to start cleaning up that river?

Mr. Howard : Unfortunately the River Rother is not in either of the top two grades of river quality, but the hon. Gentleman should appreciate that its present condition is the result of activities that have continued for generations. The clean-up has started and its pace will quicken when the water industry is in the private sector.

Sir Giles Shaw : I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend's comment about the River Rother. Does he accept that the River Aire, which also suffers from excessive industrial effluent, will likewise take a considerable time to reach the proper grade? In that regard, will he confirm that the National Rivers Authority will not be slow to set up regional operations within the Yorkshire Water region so that a proper plan can be developed and adhered to in the new-found capacity of the plcs to borrow and spend money?

Mr. Howard : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The National Rivers Authority will take precisely the action that he has identified. The attitude of Opposition Members on this, as on so many other matters, is that things are absolutely dreadful as they are, so let us keep them exactly as they are.

Mr. Blunkett : Will the Minister comment--as there has not been a statement on the subject in this House--on the decision, announced in the other place, that £5.5 billion will be written off the debt of the water authorities to make their flotation a success? Is he aware that it will not be the sale of our water industry but a daylight giveaway?

Mr. Howard : The hon. Gentleman's comments are entirely incorrect, and I refer him to the Hansard of what my noble Friend Lord Caithness said in the other place. The write-off of the £5.5 billion refers only to the debt to the national loans fund which takes place on every privatisation. It will be replaced by securities with which each company will enter the private sector, and we shall announce our decisions on those securities at the appropriate time. If Opposition Members are really interested in these matters, I suggest that they read in Hansard precisely what was said in the other place, rather than relying on totally inaccurate reports of what was said by my noble Friend.

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Mr. Allason : How far into river estuaries is testing conducted? Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that recent tests undertaken just off the coast of south Devon displayed figures of six times the acceptable rate of viral contamination?

Mr. Howard : I am aware that those recent tests showed results which left a good deal to be desired, and those matters are being considered by the South West water authority.

Bottle-nosed Dolphin

15. Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to ensure that marine nature reserves are able to provide effective protection for the two remaining resident populations of the bottle-nosed dolphin in Cardigan bay and Moray firth.

Mr. Ridley : My scientific advisers, the Nature Conservancy Council, have no proposals for the designation of Cardigan bay or the Moray firth as marine nature reserves. They have no evidence to suggest that such action would be an effective measure to conserve the bottle-nosed dolphin. This species of dolphin is, of course, already protected by virtue of its listing in schedule 5 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Mr. Home Robertson : Is it not time that we had more than one solitary marine nature reserve in this country? Indeed, is it not time that the Nature Conservancy Council was given power to prevent toxic pollution of marine nature reserves in addition to other coastal waters? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that dolphins and other species are literally being driven to extinction in the seas around Britain because of the Government's determination to assert Britannia's right to foul the waves? Is he further aware that it is time that we surrendered some of that sovereignty to more responsible authorities in Europe?

Mr. Ridley : The hon. Gentleman must know that it is for the Nature Conservancy Council to suggest marine reserves, and I can only consider proposals put forward by that council. The hon. Gentleman is under a typical delusion in thinking that the death of the seals last year was due to pollution, whereas it is now known that it was due to virus diseases. It might help if the hon. Gentleman got his facts right, which is what I want to do before I propose any solutions concerned with dolphins.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing : Is the Secretary of State aware that the highly respected organisation Greenpeace will early next month be undertaking a survey of marine life in the Moray firth? Should Greenpeace produce evidence showing that steps need to be taken to protect the dolphin, the porpoise and other species, will the right hon. Gentleman act on it?

Mr. Ridley : I am glad to say that I am not responsible for the activities of Greenpeace. The Natural Environment Research Council considers it inconceivable that there are only two remaining groups in United Kingdom waters of the bottle-nosed dolphin, which is what Greenpeace has apparently alleged.

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Rural Enterprise and Development

16. Mr. Key : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will revise and reissue his Department's planning policy guidance note number seven, dated January 1988, on rural enterprise and development.

Mr. Howard : We hope to do so later this year.

Mr. Key : I am glad to hear that. My hon. and learned Friend will be aware that there is great concern in rural parts of Britain about inappropriate levels of development, particularly by parish councils. Does he agree that the circular was way ahead of most planning authorities, that district councillors tend not to read circulars, that they then do not agree with the advice of their professional officers and that events end up with the matter going on appeal to the Secretary of State?

Mr. Howard : I agree with my hon. Friend and I wish that our circulars were more widely read. Indeed, I sometimes wish that a local authority controlled by the Labour party would take action to ban some of our circulars, as that would no doubt ensure that they received much wider circulation.

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Residential Property

17. Mrs. Clwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he takes to ensure that his Department is making the best use of its residential property.

Mr. Chope : Where empty residential properties are not required for further Government use they are sold. If they cannot be sold because of legal restrictions, or sold within six months, they are offered first to the local housing authority and then to a housing association.

Mrs. Clwyd : How does the Minister explain that, at a time of record homelessness, 5.5 per cent. of residential properties owned by his Department have been empty for more than a year--twice the national average for local authorities? Instead of admonishing local authorities to put their house in order, why does the Minister not do so?

Mr. Chope : I welcome the hon. Lady's interest in the 38 vacant residential properties which is the total number owned by my Department. I hope that she is not trying to divert attention from over 100,000 properties owned by local authorities.

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