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Energy Crops

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures she is taking to encourage the planting of energy crops; and if she will make a statement. [51990]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 23 April 2002]: My Department has allocated support of £29 million to solid biomass crops through the Energy Crops Scheme, part of the England Rural Development Programme. Working with other Departments we are putting in place schemes with funding of £70 million which will develop markets for biomass, including purpose grown energy crops and material from forests, in heat, combined heat and power and electricity generation. We are also working closely with the Countryside Agency which has launched the Community Renewables Initiative to help local communities develop renewable energy projects. The Renewables Obligation permits the co-firing of energy crops with fossil fuels. In the Budget my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, confirmed the new duty rate for biodiesel set at 20 pence per litre below the rate for Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel. The Government are considering carefully the recommendation of the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food that duty on biofuels should be reduced to the rates applied to other clean fuels. The Government have also welcomed the publication of the Energy Review by the Performance and Innovation Unit, which draws attention to the key role of renewable energy sources, including energy crops, in moving to a low carbon economy. The Government plan a public consultation on the key recommendations of the report leading to a White Paper in the autumn.

Fly Tipping

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to increase the penalties for fly tipping. [51993]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 23 April 2002]: The penalties available for those convicted of fly tipping are severe. For non-special waste, the maximum penalty for conviction in Crown Court is an unlimited fine and/or up to two years imprisonment. For special waste, the maximum prison sentence is increased to five years. There are no plans to raise these penalties further.

In March 2000, the Sentencing Advisory Panel advised the Court of Appeal to issue a sentencing guideline on environmental offences, including flytipping. The court of Appeal has not yet issued such a guideline. In September 2000, the Magistrates' Association issued new Sentencing Guidelines for offences under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, including flytipping. The Government are now considering whether further awareness raising activities, in partnership with regulators would be helpful.

Contaminated Land

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what

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arrangements she has made for the contaminated land exposure assessment and guidance to be made available to local authorities. [51985]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 23 April 2002]: The Contaminated Land Exposure Assessment (CLEA) Model and associated guidance reports are available to local authorities, and any other interested parties, in hard copy from the Environment Agency Research & Development Dissemination Centre at Swindon. They are also available on the Department's website.

Recycled Ash

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the health implications of using recycled ash in building materials. [18546]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 27 November 2001]: We have no evidence that the use of recycled incinerator bottom ash (IBA) in building materials is a significant source of human exposure to any substance, but we are undertaking research in order to make further quantitative estimates of exposures by this route.

As regards exposure to dioxins, latest industry figures for IBA going into the construction industry indicate dioxin levels of less than 25ng/kg I-TEQ (1999 AEAT figures for normal urban soils in the UK show a mean of 28ng/kg I-TEQ). There is limited information available on the levels that may be found in other construction materials, and there are no recommended acceptable levels. However we are awaiting the results of independent research into the health and environmental implications of using IBA in construction (including roads and the manufacture of building blocks). Initial indications are that exposure to dioxins from roads constructed with material incorporating IBA is negligible.

The Environment Agency is currently carrying out a full investigation into the destination of ash from incinerators, the environmental implications of its use and what steps may be needed in the light of these findings. The results of the investigation will be made public and any necessary action will be taken.

Rio Earth Summit (Implementation)

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps have been taken by the Government since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to (a) set goals on environmental protection and (b) improve eco-efficiency and resource productivity relating to biodiversity issues; and what these (i) goals and (ii) improvements have been. [44340]

Mr. Meacher: Biodiversity: The UK Action Plan, was published in 1994 as the UK Government's strategy for implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed at Rio as part of the Earth Summit in 1992. S74 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 placed a duty on Ministers and Government Departments to have regard to the purpose of conserving biological diversity in accordance with the Convention. 436 action plans have been published for individual priority species and habitat types. Each of the Action Plans contains goals and targets for the conservation, enhancement and sustainable management of these habitats and species within their eco-systems in the UK. A report, "Sustaining the variety

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of life: 5 years of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan" was published by the UK Biodiversity Group in March 2001, and shows the progress that has been made. The 1994 UK Action Plan is in the House libraries and other relevant documentation and the March 2001 report can be found on ""

Plastic Bags

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans the Government have to introduce a levy on plastic shopping bags; [51601]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 22 April 2002]: I am aware that the Irish Government have recently introduced a levy on plastic shopping bags. I have asked officials for a full assessment of the effects of this measure on litter and waste reduction and on consumer behaviour.

Meanwhile, measures imposed under the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997 (as amended) include cost incentives both to reduce the amount of packaging handled and to re-use packaging as far as possible.

In addition, the Envirowise programme has undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at companies in the retail sector to encourage resource minimization and re-use.


Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if radioactive technetium is stored in the Sellafield B30 nuclear waste storage facility. [51963]

Margaret Beckett: The B30 facility at Sellafield was commissioned in the 1960s for interim storage of spent Magnox fuel in water-filled concrete ponds and the subsequent removal of cladding from the fuel prior to it being reprocessed. The facility no longer undertakes these operations and is now undergoing post-operational clean out. However, several hundred tonnes of spent fuel remain in the B30 storage ponds. The spent fuel contains a range of fission products including technetium-99.

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received on the Sellafield MOX plant since the decision to endorse the go-ahead for the Sellafield MOX plant. [15574]

Margaret Beckett: Since the decision on 3 October that MOX manufacture was "justified", my Department has received approximately 70 oral or written representations from hon. Members or others in the UK, and from Governments or others abroad, seeking information or expressing concerns about the implications of the decision. This compares with around 7,000 responses to our final consultation on MOX held in July-August 2001.

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Home Energy Efficiency

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of pensioners in each region are eligible for HEES Plus, within the Warm Front programme; and how many HEES Plus grants have been made in each social services local authority area since the commencement of the scheme. [42955]

Mr. Meacher: At the time of the announcement of the New Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) it was estimated around 3.7 million households in England were eligible for New HEES Plus.

In total, 172,102 HEES Plus Grants were awarded between June 2000 and the end of March 2002.

The information requested could not be provided in the format requested without incurring disproportionate costs. I have previously written to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) and placed data in the Library of the House in respect of grants awarded under the scheme, by postcode, from June 2000 to March 2001.

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