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Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment she has made of degradable plastic technology; and what plans she has to promote it; [47575]

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Mr. Meacher: We are aware that a number of companies are marketing degradable plastics technology and products manufactured from these materials. However these new technologies are based on modified plastics manufactured from mineral oil. I realise that there is a range of products and applications, for example in agriculture, where controlled degradability may be of benefit when considering disposal options, but it is not clear that this approach is a sustainable option to the general problem of managing plastics waste.

The waste strategy for England and Wales, Waste Strategy 2000, emphasises the need to gain more value from waste through re-use, recycling, composting and the recovery of energy. Degradable plastics based on fossil carbon resources, which are specifically designed for disposal with no beneficial recovery potential, run counter to this approach.

However I do support the development of biodegradable plastics from non-fossil sources. The Government Industry Forum on Non-Food Uses of Crops was set up in March 2001 to provide strategic advice to Government and industry on the development of non-food uses of crops.

The Forum has examined the UK potential to produce compostable packaging materials from mainstream agricultural crops and has concluded that there is a clear opportunity for both UK agriculture and industry to develop these materials. The Forum is developing a series of recommendations designed to encourage industry to respond and develop to supply an expanding market. These recommendations are likely to be published in the Forum's first Annual Report in the summer of 2002.

Air Quality Strategy

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress there has been in improving air quality in deprived areas to meet the objectives and targets prescribed in the Government's Air Quality Strategy; and whether the target the dates set out in the strategy have been met. [46606]

Mr. Meacher: The Government set out its targets for safeguarding people's health and protecting the environment from air pollution in the Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in January 2000. It includes health-based standards for the eight air pollutants of main concern and objectives for their achievement between 2003 and 2008. Good progress has been made towards achieving most of the targets as a result of the measures put in place by central Government and local authorities. We are, for example, broadly on track to meet our policy objectives for carbon monoxide, benzene, 1,3 butadiene, lead and sulphur dioxide, but more may need to be done in some areas to meet our targets for nitrogen dioxide, particles and ozone.

Local authorities have a duty to review and assess the local air quality in their area and to designate air quality management areas where it is likely that the air quality objectives will not be met by the relevant deadline. Out

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of the 88 deprived areas across England, 35 authorities have designated air quality management areas in respect of one or more pollutants. A full list of those authorities that have designated air quality management areas is available at html

The majority of the air quality management areas have been designated due to likely exceedences of the NO 2 and PM 1 0 objectives relating to pollution from traffic. These authorities have a duty to draw up an air quality action plan setting out those measures they intend to take in pursuit of the air quality objectives. They will also have to work closely with other local stakeholders, such as the Highways Agency, Environment Agency and local businesses, in order to deliver improvements in local air quality. The Government will continue to oversee this process to ensure that the objectives are met as far as possible in all parts of the country, including the most deprived areas, by the relevant target dates.

Risk Assessment

Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action the Government are taking to ensure that scientific risk assessments are carried out before EU legislation is introduced banning or restricting the use of well established chemicals or metals that in her view are used safely and responsibly; and if she will make a statement. [46970]

Mr. Meacher: The main route to EU based restrictions on well-established chemicals is through the European Community's Existing Substances Regulation (793/93/EEC). The Regulation requires that risk assessments are prepared before proposals for restrictions or bans can be considered. The UK plays an active role in the operation of the Regulation, including carrying out a number of the assessments. Should unacceptable uses be identified by the risk assessment, the Member State Rapporteur will prepare a risk reduction strategy. This will include an analysis of the advantages and drawbacks of potential risk reduction measures and lead to a recommendation in the Official Journal for further Community action as appropriate. A small number of chemicals are also subject to restrictions through discussions arising from Member State notifications under the Technical Standards Directive 98/34/EC, concerns identified by the European Commission's scientific committees or other international programmes. Whenever these are debated the UK presses for an appropriate risk assessment to be carried out.

Endangered Species

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what checks are made on illegal imports of products made from endangered species; what plans she has to extend the ban on the import of products made from endangered species; and if she will make a statement. [50470]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 16 April 2002]: The United Kingdom is a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which controls and monitors international trade in endangered species and products derived from them.

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CITES is implemented within the EU by Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 939/97.

HM Customs and Excise enforce the controls imposed by these Regulations, targeting their checks on the importation of items covered by the legislation on the basis of assessed risk, or as a direct result of intelligence received (including advice from my Department). Any offences detected would result in seizure of the goods concerned and may result in the prosecution of the individuals or company involved where appropriate.

CITES does not ban trade in all endangered species. Over 30,000 animals and plants are currently listed in the three Appendices to CITES, of which only around 800 are listed in Appendix I, effectively banning them and their derivatives from trade except under exceptional circumstances. We have no plans to seek to include more species in Appendix I.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will support the labelling of animal feeds containing or derived from genetically modified organisms in the forthcoming European negotiations on traceability and labelling. [29502]

Mr. Meacher: The Government supports the labelling of feed that consists of, or contains, genetically modified organisms (GMOs). However, enforcement of a requirement to label feed derived from GMOs which does not contain GM material at detectable levels would be at present extremely difficult, because it is impossible to test such feed to distinguish it from its non-GM counterpart, and hence not practical to apply appropriate validation and enforcement measures.

Hazardous Waste

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department is taking to ensure that the United Kingdom will be able to reduce discharges of hazardous substances into water supplies to the levels required by the EU Water Framework Directive. [43601]

Mr. Meacher: So far as UK drinking water supplies are concerned, standards are laid down in the EC Drinking Water Directive and enforced through UK Drinking Water Regulations. Water is treated as necessary by the water companes to meet these standards. The Water Framework Directive does not set standards for drinking water.

As for the aquatic environment, discharges of dangerous substances are controlled under the existing EC Dangerous Substances Directive and parallel regulations in the UK. These will be superseded in due course under the provisions of the Water Framework Directive. Standards for "priority" dangerous substances will be set in new Water Framework Directive "daughter" directives due to be proposed by the end of 2003.


Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the letters of 10 and 14 January from the hon. Member

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for Totnes about the (a) Totnes and District Show and (b) Kingsbridge Show regarding the range of measures put in place by her Department since the foot and mouth outbreak; and if she will make a statement. [43138]

Mr. Morley [holding reply 19 March 2002]: A reply was sent on 19 March covering both letters. I am sorry that the honourable member's Parliamentary Question was not answered as soon as the letter was sent.

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham's letters dated 30 January, 12 February and 14 March and the letters from the Shrewsbury Chronicle dated 11 January, 15 March and 22 March concerning the Bale Us Out campaign sent to the Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. [830]

Mr. Morley: We have been unable to trace copies of the correspondence referred to.

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