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Water Framework Directive

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the extent to which the proposals set out in the draft Water Bill are necessary in order to meet environmental objectives under the Water Framework Directive. [56430]

Mr. Meacher: The draft Water Bill is not being used specifically to transpose the directive but certain provisions in the Bill in respect of water abstraction and efficient use of water by water companies will help deliver the directive's requirements.

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The main transposing provisions for England will be contained in regulations made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 and other appropriate enabling powers. Consultation on draft regulations should take place in 2003, following further consultation this year on possible approaches to transposition.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to produce a new Regulatory Impact Assessment of the Water Framework Directive. [56428]

Mr. Meacher: An updated Regulatory Impact Assessment will form part of a third consultation paper on implementation of the directive in England and Wales, which is due to be published in 2003.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, implementation of the directive and the assessment of its costs and benefits are being managed wholly by the Scottish Executive and the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to implement the no deterioration duty under the Water Framework Directive. [56429]

Mr. Meacher: Article 4 of the directive says that, in making operational programmes of measures in the river basin management plans, member states have to implement the necessary measures to prevent deterioration in the status of water bodies.

As with all other obligations in the directive, my Department will ensure that this obligation is complied with. To the extent that new regulatory powers are needed, they will included in proposed regulations on which we plan to consult next year.

We are required to take the necessary legal and other steps to transpose the directive by December 2003.


Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the amount of environmental damage likely to occur in areas which would be excluded from nitrate vulnerable zones under Option 2 of the consultation paper on implementing the Nitrates Directive. [56431]

Mr. Meacher: Areas of England would be excluded from the discrete NVZ area under the Option 2 approach because they drain into waters for which monitoring data do not exceed the specific criteria laid down in the Nitrates Directive.

However, we recognised the potential wider environmental effects of manure spreading in these areas in the partial Regulatory Impact Assessment annexed to our recent consultation paper 'How should England implement the 1991 Nitrates Directive?'.

We are currently considering all responses received to the consultation before announcing a decision in due course on which implementation option will be pursued in England.

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Warm Front Scheme

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many contractors under the Warm Front scheme are based in each county in the south of England. [52447]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 25 April 2002]: Installers are appointed by the Warm Front scheme managers to work in specific areas of England, which do not necessarily follow county boundaries. Installers working in areas of Berkshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Kent, Hampshire, Somerset, Sussex, Wiltshire and Greater London, have 49 main offices in those areas.

Illegal Meat Imports

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the findings of investigations carried out by her Department on the risks posed to animal health by illegal consignments of meat imported into the UK. [54496]

Mr. Morley: A risk assessment has been commissioned by DEFRA to quantify the probability of an outbreak of exotic disease linked to illegal imports. The work will seek to identify the pathways virus might travel and what are the critical control points along those pathways.

The risk assessment is being carried out by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) and will facilitate the identification of effective control strategies and efficient and effective resource allocation to reduce risks to animal health from exotic diseases. The work commenced in March 2002 and is scheduled to run for six months. It is therefore too early to reach any conclusions.

Common Land (Access)

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will lay draft regulations before Parliament under section 68 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 relating to vehicular access over common land. [57613]

Alun Michael: Draft regulations have been laid in both Houses, together with a regulatory impact assessment and an analysis of the responses made to the draft regulations circulated in July 2001. The Government's objective has been to strike a fair balance between the owners of common land, and those who have, for many years, driven across the land to get to their homes.

The major change in the regulations is in relation to the compensation payable. This reflects the Government's view that the compensation payable in respect of older premises, already in existence when it became an offence to drive on common land, should be a relatively small amount. Owners of premises in existence on or before 31 December 1905 will pay 0.25 per cent. of the value of the premises. Owners of those built between 1 January 1906 and 30 November 1930 will pay 0.5 per cent. Compensation in respect of all other premises remains at 2 per cent.

We hope that the regulations will be considered by both Houses before the summer recess, and will then come into force as soon as possible.

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Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations she has received on the impact climate change will have on flooding in the United Kingdom. [55139]

Mr. Morley: While we have received no recent representations, we have recognised for some time that increased flood risk is one of the significant issues arising from climate change. Indeed the Government have issued guidance on expected sea level rise since the 1980's. Last year we published an assessment that showed that without present adaptation policies, such as formal defences, managed realignment, wetland creation etc., average annual flood damage from rivers could increase by some 60 per cent. and on the coast by around 400 per cent. This emphasised the need for an appropriate precautionary response.

On 26 April 2002 DEFRA published "Climate Change Scenarios for the United Kingdom", a new set of scenarios prepared by the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Tyndell Centre for Climate Change Research and University of East Anglia. These largely confirm the general trend of previous predictions but provide additional detail and increased spatial resolution.

We will be reviewing all policy areas, including flood management, in the light of these scenarios over the coming months and will consider carefully the need for any consequent adjustment to our guidance.

Wildlife Crime

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on what her Department is doing to tackle crime relating to wildlife. [55136]

Mr. Meacher: The Department is determined to tackle wildlife crime and we have a number of relevant initiatives under way. For example I launched the National Wildlife Crime Intelligence Unit, and we are about to begin a review of COTES, which will include an assessment of the level of penalties and police powers of arrest.


Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps she has taken to ensure that there is no contamination of drinking water from the leaks from the sludge storage tanks in Building B241 at Sellafield; [53660]

Margaret Beckett: Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution, then part of the Department of the Environment, became aware of the suspected leakage from B241 around 1993.

I understand that BNFL has confirmed that technetium-99 (Tc-99) has been detected in groundwater from boreholes in and around the Sellafield site which

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probably originate from the leaks from the B24l sludge storage tanks. Having carried out an assessment of the radiological impact, the Environment Agency is satisfied that this would be insignificant. The groundwater at Sellafield is not used for drinking water supplies. The agency has carried out additional monitoring of local surface waters and has not detected Tc-99

Remedial action to eliminate the leaks is the responsibility of BNFL. The Environment Agency has requested BNFL to undertake monitoring to confirm the point of leakage and will work with the Health and Safety Executive's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to consider any regulatory action.

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