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Energy Efficiency

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many households in the Isle of Wight spent over 10 per cent. of their household income on fuel and were living in fuel poverty in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999, (d) 2000 and (e) 2001. [16123]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 19 November 2001]: The estimates of the number of fuel poor in England are based on data from the English house condition survey. Due to the nature of the survey, it is not possible to estimate the number of fuel poor within individual areas such as the Isle of Wight. The latest available information suggests that for the whole south-east Government office region, there were an estimated 270,000 households in fuel poverty in 1998.

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Rural Businesses

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what was the turnover of businesses based in rural areas in the United Kingdom in (a) 1996, (b) 1997, (c) 1998, (d) 1999, (e) 2000 and (f) 2001. [16542]

Alun Michael: The turnover (£000) of VAT-based enterprises in rural areas (districts/unitary authorities as classified by the Countryside Agency) in England is as follows:



Office for National Statistics

It is not possible to provide figures for earlier years because of changes in geographical boundaries.

Air Quality

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many air quality incidents have been recorded (a) in the UK, (b) in the north-east and (c) in Teesside; and what was the cause of the most potentially dangerous of those incidents in the last 12 months. [16425]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 20 November 2001]: We usually consider a "pollution incident" as an event in which high or very high air pollution has been monitored. The Department of Health's Committee on the effects of air pollution (COMEAP) has defined levels of high air pollution. They advise that during such episodes significant effects may be noticed by sensitive individuals and action to avoid or reduce these effects may be needed (e.g. reducing exposure by spending less time in polluted areas outdoors). During episodes of very high pollution the effects on sensitive individuals described for high levels of pollution may worsen. The pollution thresholds adopted by COMEAP are shown as follows.

Sulphur dioxideNitrogen dioxideOzoneParticles (PM(4))Carbon monoxide
ug/m(6) (micrograms per cubic metre)Index15 minutes1 hourRunning 8 hoursRunning 24 hoursRunning 8 hours
Very High 10(4)400(4)400(4),(5)180(4)100(4)20

(4) Greater than

(5) One hour concentration

(6) Less than

The national automatic monitoring network currently includes 120 sites. Data are produced continuously on an hourly basis. Ratified data is available up to 30 June 2001. After this date care must be taken in interpretation of the pollution levels recorded since high measurements may be the result of instrument error that is still to be identified. Levels recorded at each monitoring site are defined according to the pollutant that is in the highest band during the day.

Across the UK there were 10 days on which pollution levels for ozone were measured as high at one or more sites. For ozone, there were no episodes of high pollution in the north-east or Teeside. Ozone episodes are caused by a combination of sunlight reacting on volatile organic compounds and nitrogen dioxide. These pollutants can be transported long distances and a proportion of the ozone measured during these episodes is likely to have originated from continental sources.

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For sulphur dioxide there was only one incident of high pollution recorded, at Grangemouth on 24 August. This is likely to have been caused by an industrial source. A second episode measured in London is unratified data and likely to be instrument error.

For PM 1 0 there were 50 days on which pollution levels were high or very high at one or more sites. The highest pollution was recorded at Bexley (190 ug/m 3 ) on 3 November. The episode arose from the combination of calm weather conditions across south-east England and bonfire night celebrations. This was one of the highest measurements of PM 1 0 recorded in the UK since 1992 when monitoring commenced. The second highest measurement was recorded in Manchester and arose due to cutting of concrete slabs adjacent to the monitoring station; this probably did not reflect wider air pollution.

In the north-east there were 10 days of high or very high pollution at Scunthorpe (all for PM 1 0 ). Local industrial sources are likely to have contributed to these episodes. In Leeds, there was one day on which pollution levels for PM 1 0 were high. There were no episodes of high pollution for PM 1 0 recorded at the Middlesbrough monitoring site in Teesside.

No episodes of high or very high pollution have been recorded in the UK during 2001 for carbon monoxide or nitrogen dioxide.

Departmental Costs

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will provide a breakdown of the cost of (a) settling the dispute between her Department and the Public and Commercial Services Union and (b) charges by the European Union for not meeting (i) foot and mouth compensation and (ii) other support payments. [16588]

Mr. Morley: (a) A breakdown of the cost of settling the dispute between the Department and the Public and Commercial Services Union cannot be given because this depends on funding and the outcome of negotiations with the union.

(b) (i) There should be no charge by the European Union in respect of foot and mouth compensation as there are no deadlines for payment. The dispute has not delayed foot and mouth payments.

(ii) The main impact of the industrial action so far on other CAP support payments is that many of them will be made later in the regulatory payment 'window' than would otherwise have been the case. The extent to which payments may fall outside of the window cannot be predicted since it depends on the course which the industrial action takes and the success of mitigating action being taken by my Department to ensure that delays are kept to the minimum. To date no charges have been imposed by the European Union as a result of delays caused by the industrial action.

Flooding (Insurance)

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with insurance companies about the provision of services to people who live on flood plains; and if she will make a statement. [17722]

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Mr. Morley: The Government maintain close links with the insurance industry to help ensure continued availability of affordable flood cover. There is an agreement among Association of British Insurers (ABI) member companies that they will continue to provide flood cover, except in exceptional circumstances, for domestic properties and small businesses which they currently insure, during 2001 and 2002. Cases where there is an alleged breach of this agreement have been referred by DEFRA to the ABI for investigation. However, it must be recognised that insurance companies need to take a commercial decision as to what risk they will cover and on what terms. Also, the insurance industry is a competitive one and customers may need to shop around to obtain the best deal.

My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and I met the ABI on 5 September to discuss our mutual aim of ensuring that affordable flood insurance cover continues to be generally available after December 2002. Further discussions between officials have taken place.

Together with the flood defence operating authorities, we are reducing the risk of flooding and are communicating this to the insurance industry. We are reducing the risk through substantial increases in investment in flood and coastal defences (which now totals over £400 million a year). Flood defences are being repaired, renewed, maintained and improved. Flood warning arrangements are continually being improved. The Government have issued strengthened guidance to local planning authorities on control of development in flood risk areas, and are reviewing the financial and institutional arrangements under which the flood defence service is delivered.

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