|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Dr. Jack Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) guns and (b) gun barrels used for the test firing of depleted uranium shells at Eskmeals have been removed to another range not licensed for the testing
23 Nov 2001 : Column: 516W
of depleted uranium; who authorised such transfers; whether this complied with health and safety regulations; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Moonie: I believe my right hon. Friend may be referring to two Challenger 2 tank gun barrels used for test firing depleted uranium (DU) ammunition at the Kirkcudbright training area, but stored at the QinetiQ Eskmeals range. These were transferred on 6 November to the firing range at Shoeburyness, for test firing of non-DU ammunition, to support a Challenger 2 tank safety trial to determine acceptable limits of gun barrel erosion. The transfer was carried out by QinetiQ. A risk assessment by the radiation protection adviser showed that the levels of DU in the two barrels were so low and the DU so inaccessible that the material is not a radioactive substance within the meaning of the Ionising Radiation Regulations. These are the regulations that protect workers and members of the public who maybe exposed to ionising radiation and radioactive material from work activities.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she last met representatives of (a) Greenpeace and (b) Friends of the Earth; and what matters were discussed. 
Margaret Beckett: Representatives from both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth attended the Waste Summit which I hosted on Wednesday 21 November. Various issues relating to the future direction of the UK's waste strategy were discussed.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list those agencies or laboratories which have conducted scientific research on behalf of her Department in the past year which are not accredited by the UK Accreditation Service. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 26 October 2001]: DEFRA commissions research with several hundred contractors, and through them many sub-contractors. The UK Accreditation Service standard is just one of a number of quality standards which such contractors may apply and meet. My Department does not hold information on its hundreds of contractors and it could not be provided except at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by what means she is monitoring the types of visits people undertook to the countryside in the 12 months since November 2000. 
Alun Michael: The English Tourism Council undertakes a survey of tourism by residents of the United Kingdom. The survey provides information on visits to the countryside and results for 2001 will be available in early 2002.
23 Nov 2001 : Column: 517W
In addition, the Countryside Agency will be undertaking its leisure day visits survey in January 2002 to report back in 2003.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to review the statutory rights of utilities; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 5 November 2001]: This Department has responsibility only for the water companies. The Government published the draft Water Bill in November 2000, which includes proposals for certain changes to the statutory rights and responsibilities of water companies. These include duties to conserve water and to maintain up-to-date drought plans.
The draft Water Bill would also require companies to disclose any links between their directors' pay and performance standards to ensure greater accountability by the companies.
Changes to the statutory rights and responsibilities of water companies are also possible as part of the Government's on-going consideration of competition in the water industry.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she will take to protect potential organic farms from the effects of wind-blown contamination from nearby GM crop trials; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 6 November 2001]: The farm scale evaluation (FSE) trials of GM crops are separated from neighbouring compatible crops to protect them from the effects of wind-blown pollen. The separation distances depend on the type of crop and should ensure that, at the closest separation, cross- pollination does not exceed a maximum of 1 per cent. In practice, it will generally be below that level. The separation distances are greater in relation to organic crops than they are for ordinary, conventional crops. I am not aware of any instance where an FSE trial has affected the status of an organic crop. We want to maintain that position for the remainder of the FSE programme and are therefore keeping the separation distances under review. The general issue of the terms on which GM and non-GM crops might co-exist is one that the Government want to resolve before there is any question of commercial GM planting. This is not just a scientific issue, but one of public acceptability.
Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the (a) issues discussed at and (b) outcome of the seventh meeting of the subsidiary bodies for scientific, technical and technological advice of the convention on biodiversity. 
Mr. Meacher: The subsidiary body on scientific, technical and technological advice (SBSTTA) met in Montreal from 12 to 16 November. The meeting made recommendations on a number of issues to the sixth
23 Nov 2001 : Column: 518W
meeting of the conference of the parties (COP6) to the convention on biological diversity, to be held in April 2002 in The Hague.
Most attention was focused on forest biological diversity, where SBSTTA proposed a comprehensive programme of further work. This will cover the status and trends of forest biodiversity, options for its conservation and sustainable use, and the role of the socio-economic enabling environment. It will include the impact of the unsustainable harvesting of non-timber forest resources, such as bushmeat.
Other recommendations included proposals for a global strategy for plant conservation and an international initiative for the conservation and sustainable use of pollinators. Technical advice was prepared on the use of incentive measures to secure the objectives of the convention; incorporating biodiversity considerations into environmental impact assessment; and designing monitoring programmes and indicators to measure the state of biodiversity. SBSTTA also welcomed publication of the global biodiversity outlook, a comprehensive stocktaking that will help guide further implementation of the convention.
The UK looks forward to making the best use of SBSTTA's advice, on these and other issues, including by working to ensure a successful outcome at COP6, particularly on the priority issues of forest biodiversity, alien species, access and benefit-sharing; and agreement of a strategic plan for the convention.
Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent estimate she has made of the benefits to the environment of capturing coal mine methane and using it to generate electricity. 
Mr. Meacher: A report produced for the Department earlier this year estimated that current UK emissions from abandoned coal mines are likely to be in the range of 20 to 300 kilo tonnes. The upper end of this range is equivalent to around 11 per cent. of the UK's total current methane emissions, or about 1 per cent. of UK greenhouse gas emissions as a whole. The emissions estimate is highly uncertain and we plan to carry out further work to gain a better understanding of the estimate, including the amount of gas that is in practice emitted and the potential for reducing these emissions by, for example, using the methane for electricity generation. I am aware that this Department, the Department for Trade and Industry and HM Treasury have been in discussion with the Association of Coal Mine Methane Operators about how the Government could help projects that use coal mine methane to generate electricity.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of rivers were (a) good, (b) fair and (c) poor quality in (i) 1996, (ii) 1997, (iii) 1998, (iv) 1999, (v) 2000 and (vi) 2001. 
23 Nov 2001 : Column: 519W
Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of rivers in England were in (a) good, (b) fair and (c) poor quality in (i) 1996, (ii) 1997, (iii) 1998, (iv) 1999, (v) 2000 and (vi) 2001. 
Mr. Meacher: In England, the Environment Agency's general quality assessment (GQA) scheme classifies water quality in rivers and canals. Chemical quality, the most widely used measure, is assessed on the basis of biochemical oxygen demand and concentrations of dissolved oxygen and ammonia. Stretches of rivers and canals are assigned as good, fair, poor or bad based on different degrees of chemical quality. Results from 1996 until 2000, the latest year for which figures are available, are as follows:
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|