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Food Labelling (GMOs)

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will support the European proposal not to label foods that contain up to one per cent. of an unapproved GM variety in the forthcoming European negotiations on traceability and labelling. [29503]

Mr. Meacher: While recognising that zero presence of non-EU approved GMOs may be impractical, the Government have reservations about the approach proposed by the European Commission for addressing the issue. Other options need to be explored. The best means of overcoming the problem of non-approved GMOs is to clear the backlog of decisions required on outstanding applications for approval within the EU, subject to labelling and traceability conditions being required in each case.

Packaging Waste

Mr. Shaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what monitoring is taking place for the application of revenues from packaging waste exports. [29726]

Mr. Meacher: The revenues from packaging waste exports come from two sources. The money received for the packaging waste from overseas reprocessors and the money received for the PERNs (Packaging Waste Export

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Notes) which are provided to compliance schemes and individual compliers to show that recycling of packaging waste has been undertaken on their behalf.

The Environment Agency collects information on the use of the PERN revenue. Accredited exporters and reprocessors are required to provide information on the amounts of PERN income spent on enhancing capacity, collection and end use markets.

Mr. Shaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what controls are being applied to monitor the quality of packaging waste exports. [29725]

Mr. Meacher: Information about overseas exports of packaging waste and quantities of such waste shipped is held at the Environment Agency's National Waste Registration Unit (NWRU).

The NWRU receives applications from potential exporters of UK-sourced packaging waste and accredits those which have suitable information systems showing the places of packaging waste generation through to reprocessing facilities overseas. Information from accredited exporters about sources of packaging waste and destinations for export has to be provided to the NWRU.

Radioactive Waste

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if it is her policy to ensure that radioactive waste arising from the reprocessing of spent fuel for overseas customers under contracts signed since 1976 will be returned to countries of origin without any element of substitution. [15898]

Mr. Meacher: This is one of the issues on which we have invited public comments in our 12 September consultation paper "Managing radioactive waste safely". A copy is in the Library. Pages 25–26 of the paper say that British Nuclear Fuels plc wishes to substitute a small volume of high level waste in place of larger volumes of intermediate or low level waste returned to overseas customers, but that is dependent on how high or intermediate level waste should be managed in the UK in the long term—the main issue addressed in the consultation paper. No decision has been taken. The paper invites views on the link between "waste substitution" and the availability of a long-term management strategy. The consultation period closes on 12 March.

Nitrate Pollution

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of research results which have shown that nitrate does not cause eutrophication in rivers and estuaries; and if she will make a statement on the source of the research upon which her Department's policy is based. [29084]

Mr. Meacher: The Department's current proposals to reduce nitrate pollution from agriculture arise from the requirement to comply with the European Court of Justice judgment that implementation of the Nitrates Directive is currently incomplete in the UK.

The Department is aware of many sources of research relevant to eutrophication in rivers and estuaries. Two fundamental reports which have shaped both UK and

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world wide opinion are those published by the OECD: "Scientific Fundamentals of the Eutrophication of Lakes and Flowing Waters" published in 1968 and "Eutrophication of waters: Monitoring, assessment and Control" published in 1982. Other recent reports are the Environment Agency's publications: "An environmental strategy for the millennium and beyond" published in 1997 and "Aquatic eutrophication in England and Wales: a proposed management strategy" published in 1998.

The Department's assessment of this body of scientific information is that it supports the view that in the UK's freshwater systems, phosphorus is generally the key nutrient limiting the eutrophication process, although nitrates may also contribute to eutrophication. In marine waters, nitrate is generally the key limiting nutrient.

Farming and Food Report

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Government expects the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food to publish its report. [31571]

Margaret Beckett: The Policy Commission will publish its report to Government on 29 January. Copies of the report will be available from the Libraries of the House and from the Vote Office [PPO for Lords] at 10am that day. It will also be available in electronic form from the Policy Commission website, www.cabinet-office/ gov.uk/farming.

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Environment Agency

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will consult on revised statutory guidance to the Environment Agency. [31572]

Mr. Meacher: On Friday 25 January 2002 I published for consultation draft revised statutory guidance to the Environment Agency under section 4 of the Environment Act 1995. The guidance concerns the agency's activities in England. It states the statutory objectives which the agency should pursue over the next few years, identifies its roles in contributing to the achievement of sustainable development, and sets out the principles it should follow in deciding its priorities. The document has been developed following the first financial management and policy review of the agency, which my Department carried out last year. Copies of the consultation draft have been placed in the House Library. I would welcome responses from interested organisations and individuals, by 18 April 2002. Following public consultation, I will lay proposed statutory guidance before Parliament.

Home Energy Conservation Bill

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will propose amendments to the Home Energy Conservation Bill to give powers to the National Assembly for Wales for the provisions of the Bill to apply to Wales; and if she will make a statement. [29280]

Mr. Meacher: The Government have tabled amendments to this Bill giving powers to the National Assembly for Wales in respect of Wales. These are consistent with the wishes of the National Assembly for Wales. Similar amendments were also tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) and others.

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EDUCATION AND SKILLS

Individual Learning Accounts

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many investigations there have been to date into fraud by individual learning account holders. [27160]

John Healey: There have been no investigations into individual learning account holders. The Department's Special Investigation Unit has had 86 learning providers referred to it: four learning providers did not require investigation and 82 learning providers are in the process of being investigated. Of these the SIU are discussing 42 with the police, a further 12 are being investigated by the police and another has been charged.

Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when access to the ILA website for providers of ILA courses will be restored. [29258]

John Healey: The Department is currently looking closely into the operation of the ILA Centre system. The system will not be reopened to providers until we are satisfied on the robustness of the control and security arrangements. We are working with Capita to assess the control and security arrangements that were in place in the ILA system and we have engaged Cap Gemini Ernst and Young Consultants to support that process.

Theft and Fraud

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate her Department has made of the cost to its budget since 1 May 1997 of fraud; and if she will make a statement. [27290]

Estelle Morris: Cases of fraud and irregularity involving staff and direct contractors are reported annually to the Treasury for inclusion in the Treasury Fraud Report which is laid before Parliament. From 1 April 1997 to date the number of cases reported were as follows:

£

NumberEstimated Cost
Internal171,694
Direct contractors4416,405,635

The above figures do not include NDPBs or sub-contractors, eg training providers operating under contracts with Training and Enterprise Councils.

The number of training providers investigated by the Department from 1 April 1997 to date was 112 and the estimated cost of the fraud/irregularity was £15 million.

The above figures represent 0.14 per cent. of the relevant expenditure lines, and 0.05 per cent. of total departmental spend over the last four years.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her estimate is of the cost of theft and fraud to (a) her Department, (b) its agencies and (c) non-departmental public bodies in each of the last four years. [27973]

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Estelle Morris: An estimate of cost to the Department of cases involving potential fraud and irregularity for the last four financial years is as follows:

£000
1997–983,816
1998–995,716
1999–20004,548
2000–0117,327
Total31,407

The figure for 2000–01 includes one specific direct contractor fraud valued at £7.9 million.

The figures represent 0.14 per cent. of the relevant expenditure lines, and 0.05 per cent. of total departmental spend over the last four years.

Details of fraud cases reported by the Employment Service are being included in DWP's response to this PQ. Information on NDPBs is not collected centrally.


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