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Special Advisers

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many special advisers there were in his Department; and what their salaries were in each of the last five years. [46959]

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Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 10 April 2002]: Two. I refer the hon. Member to the answer my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave on 10 April 2002, Official Report, column 11W.

Yasser Arafat

Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made since 18 March to the (a) Israeli Government and (b) US Administration about Yasser Arafat's attendance at and return from the forthcoming Arab Summit in Beirut. [46645]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 10 April 2002]: In the months leading up to the Arab League Summit in Beirut, we repeatedly called on the Israeli government to release the restrictions on Arafat's freedom of movement. We were also in close contact with our US colleagues who were working to achieve the same goal.

Gibraltar

Mr. Laxton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the report by the International Monetary Fund on 19 March. [48309]

Peter Hain: We welcome the report, which recognises progress that Gibraltar has made in the regulation and supervision of its developing financial services industry.

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the legal basis of his claim that the integration of Gibraltar into the UK would contravene the Treaty of Utrecht. [47565]

Peter Hain: I did not say that the integration of Gibraltar into the UK would contravene the Treaty of Utrecht. I said that it was not this Government's policy to integrate Gibraltar. I reminded the Committee that the Treaty of Utrecht gave Spain first refusal in the event that Britain ever relinquished sovereignty over Gibraltar; and that the position of Gibraltar was therefore different from that of Ceuta and Melilla.

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Refrigerators

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the risk of food being stored in ineffective refrigeration systems because refurbishment has been delayed because of the inability to recycle redundant refrigerators. [25722]

Mr. Meacher There is no reason why refurbishment should be delayed. Ineffective refrigeration systems can already be disposed of in the UK via mobile fridge recycling plant or high temperature incineration, they can be exported for recycling in other Member States, or they are stored pending treatment in the UK. There is sufficient capacity in the UK to store waste refrigeration equipment for up to one year. The risk of food being stored in ineffective systems for this reason is therefore negligible.

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Waste Disposal

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the proportion of waste sent to landfill which could be converted to biofuel through the anaerobic digestion process; and if she will make a statement. [37702]

Mr. Meacher: We have not carried out such an assessment. Experience has shown that although anaerobic digestion is an appropriate treatment for a wide range of biodegradable wastes there are doubts about its commercial viability.

The Government support the development of anaerobic digestion through mechanisms such as eligibility for the Renewable Obligation Certificates. The waste management industry is reviewing the role of anaerobic digestion, along with other treatment options, to achieve the reduction in the biodegradable content of MSW sent to landfill as required by the Landfill Directive.

In these circumstances it is considered to be premature to make a realistic assessment of the quantities of wastes that will be treated by this option.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which Government Departments participated in the waste strategy summit. [46791]

Mr. Meacher: The Waste Summit was held on 21 November 2001 and was hosted by the Secretary of State. Government officials who attended represented the Departments for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Trade and Industry and Transport, Local Government and the Regions and Her Majesty's Treasury. Other officials represented No. 10's Policy Unit, the Cabinet Office Performance and Innovation Unit and the Devolved Administrations.

EU Directives

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the action she took in response to the formal notice and the reasoned opinion on UK compliance with EU law relating to the (a) Drinking Water Directive, (b) Hazardous Waste Directive, and (c) Waste Framework Directive. [40647]

Mr. Meacher: Cabinet Office rules require that details of relations between the Commission and Member States on inspection proceedings are confidential. However, I can confirm that the Government is dealing with the points made by the Commission in its letters of formal notice and reasoned opinions addressed to the United Kingdom in relation to the implementation of the three Directives.

Manure

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proposals she has to permit the spreading of organic manure on light to sandy soils in August, September and October under licence under the regulations contained in the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone Directive; and what assessment she has

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made of the effectiveness of (a) cover crops and (b) catch crops in reducing nitrate leaching during autumn and winter months. [46388]

Mr. Meacher: The Action Programme measures required by the Nitrates Directive 1991 which apply in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) detail closed periods prohibiting the application of manures containing a higher proportion of available nitrogen (slurries, poultry manures and liquid digested sewage sludges) on to sandy or shallow soils which are more prone to nitrate leaching. Relaxation of these measures would entail a high risk of increased nitrate leaching so there are no plans to allow exemptions under licence.

The Action Programme measures take account of information produced by the Government funded research programme on nitrates and experiences gained during operation of the Nitrate Sensitive Areas Scheme. For further information about cover and catch crops please refer to MAFF Booklet PB3578 "The Pilot Nitrate Sensitive Areas Scheme: Final Report" available from DEFRA publications (08459 556000).

Cover crops and also catch crops, used late in the year, can help to reduce nitrate loss compared with both uncropped land and land sown with autumn sown cereals. This benefit is recognised in the Action Programme measures with the shorter closed period for manure applications for land sown with a cover crop before 1 October and not removed before 1 December of the same year.

Advice on using cover or catch crops to reduce nitrate leaching in fields that would otherwise be bare over the autumn and winter months is also given in the DEFRA Booklet PB5505 "Guidelines for Farmers in NVZs".

Environmental Impact Assessment

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the answer of 28 January, Official Report, columns 92–3W, which FTSE companies reported upon their environmental impacts; which mentioned environmental issues; and which did not submit an environmental response to the Government. [46263]

Mr. Meacher: Since my answer of 28 January we have been reviewing the response to the Prime Minister's challenge to FTSE350 companies to report on their environmental performance.

Not all companies have yet published their reports for 2001, but at present we estimate 76 of the top 350 companies have produced a stand alone environmental report, including quantified environmental performance data, or otherwise published this information.

A further 88 have also taken at least one step towards meeting the Prime Minister's challenge such as publishing an environmental policy or environmental performance targets. We are writing to FTSE350 companies to check our estimates and will make the final tally public as soon as possible.

A list of FTSE 350 companies with our latest estimates of their respective reporting performance has been made available in the Library of the House.

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Water and Industrial Accidents Conventions

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what role her Department has played in discussions relating to the UNECE Water and Industrial Accidents Conventions. [46555]

Mr. Meacher: These Conventions were adopted in 1992 and the UK is a signatory to both of them. My department has been involved in discussions in the past year on a possible liability protocol under both Conventions in a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe working group.

The protocol would provide compensation for damage to transboundary waters from accidents covered by the industrial accidents Convention. The aim is for the protocol to be adopted at the conference of European Environment Ministers next year.


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