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Environmental Improvements

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government are taking to reduce the level of (a) graffiti, (b) litter, (c) fly-posting and (d) the illegal dumping of waste; and if she will make a statement. [813]

Mr. Meacher: The Government place a high priority on improving the quality of the local environment.

(a) Graffiti—In addition to using the penalties available under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, the most effective way to tackle vandalism is through co-ordinated preventive action at local level involving all of the relevant agencies such as local authorities, schools and voluntary bodies as well as the police. The police and local authorities now have a statutory duty under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to develop crime reduction

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partnerships. Police school liaison officers cover vandalism during regular visits to primary and secondary schools. The Government support the idea of Youth Action Groups in England and Wales and many have tackled issues like vandalism and graffiti. The Government are working with Crime Concern, the DfEE and the Youth Justice Board to develop the concept of these groups into the wider community.

(b) Litter—The Government grant funds to the Tidy Britain Group (TBG) who are the Government's recognised agency for litter abatement. TBG provides local authorities and others with advice on effective litter control techniques including design, sitting and maintenance of bins.

In addition, the Local Government Act 1999 introduced the new "duty of best value" from 1 April 2000. This requires that local authorities seek continuous improvement in the way they carry out their functions such as dealing with litter.

In March I announced three new initiatives to address litter within a wider context:

(c) Fly-posting—In October 2000 we published a Good Practice Guide to help local planning authorities control fly-posting.

(d) Illegal dumping of waste—The action being taken by the Government on illegal waste disposal was set out most recently in the Government's response to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee's Report on the Environment Agency (CM 4832—paragraphs 55–60).

Carbon Sinks

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what role is played by carbon sinks in the Government's climate change strategy. [818]

Mr. Meacher: The UK already has policies in place which are consistent with its responsibilities under the United Nations framework convention on climate change to protect and enhance carbon sinks, such as forests. The Government continue to support the planting of new woodland. The total uptake by sinks from UK agriculture and forestry is projected to increase from around 1.7 per cent. of UK carbon dioxide emissions in 1990 to

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2 per cent. in 2010, although not all of this could be counted towards the UK's commitment under the Kyoto Protocol. If the present rate of increase in tree cover continues, afforestation since 1990 could save 0.6 MtC in 2010.

Adhesive Labels

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate she has made of the change in annual cost to the UK adhesive label manufacturing industry of the Environment Agency's reclassification of backing paper as packaging material; and if she will make a statement; [1241]

Mr. Meacher: The Environment Agency recently issued guidance clarifying that backing paper of labels should be treated as a packaging material. The Environment Agency has estimated that the cost in 2001 to the UK adhesive label manufacturing industry as a whole will be in the order of £430,000. The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997 (as amended) should not place UK business at a competitive disadvantage in the domestic market given that imported packaging is equally obligated. Similarly, packaging which is exported from the UK is not obligated under the UK packaging Regulations.

Aarhus Convention

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans the Government have to implement the 1998 Aarhus convention; and when they intend to introduce legislation to effect this; [817]

Mr. Meacher: The majority of the Aarhus convention's requirements (the UNECE convention of access to information, public participation in decision- making and access to justice in environmental matters) are already implemented in the UK. As with other international treaties, implementation of the convention is through a mixture of legislative measures and administrative actions.

The powers needed to amend existing legislation in order to deliver the remaining requirements of the convention have already been taken in England. For instance, section 74 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 contains a power to implement the convention's access to environmental information provisions. The Government intend to use these powers to replace the current Environmental Information Regulations (SI 1992/3240).

Implementation of the convention is a devolved matter. The Government intend to ratify the Aarhus convention as soon as all parts of the UK have implemented its requirements.

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The Government remain strongly committed to the Aarhus convention and its underlying principals.

Energy Efficiency Rating

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to ensure that (a) the energy efficiency rating of a home and (b) advice on how to improve it is made available to potential house purchasers at the point of sale; and if she will make a statement. [1318]

Ms Keeble: I have been asked to reply.

As set out in our manifesto, we are committed to making it easier for people buying and selling homes through a new seller's pack. Recognising that a real opportunity exists for improving the energy efficiency of a home when it is purchased, and fully supporting the provision of energy efficiency information to home buyers, we propose to include in the seller's pack an energy rating and advice on how the energy efficiency of the property might be improved. The necessary legislation will be introduced when parliamentary time allows.



Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his definition is of poverty. [1131]

Malcolm Wicks: Information relating to poverty can be found in the second "Opportunity For All" report; "One year on: making a difference", (CM4865). Our next report is due for publication in the autumn.

Benefits (Children)

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the cost of increasing Child Benefit and the Child Allowance in Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit for each child aged three or under by (a) £10, (b) £15 and (c) £20. [1569]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is in the table.

Proposed increase£ million


1. Expenditure is based on the caseload given by the February 2001 Child Benefit administrative data.

2. The cost is for one year.

3. The figure is rounded to the nearest £50 million.

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