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Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what powers exist for local authorities to take legal action against sewage disposal companies on grounds of public nuisance. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 16 May 2002]: Local authorities have no statutory nuisance powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to deal with nuisance from sewage treatment works. However, it is possible for local authorities or the public to take common law action. My Department is currently exploring the available legislation and existing controls as a possible means to address the problem of nuisance from sewage treatment works in the future.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the Advisory Committee on the management of the research programme for management and storage of radioactive waste and management of the community plan of action in the field of radioactive waste is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if she will list the items currently under its consideration; if she will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: The Advisory Committee on Programme Management for the Management and Storage of Radioactive Waste was established under European Council Resolution 77/C 192/01 of 18 July 1977. The committee advises the European Commission on the Community Plan of Action in the field of radioactive waste which was last renewed by Council Resolution 92/C 158/02 of 15 June 1992. This plan expired at the end of 1999. However, as an interim arrangement the committee continue to advise the Commission on the aspects of the plan.
The committee has met once in the past 12 months. Its annual cost to public funds is negligible. The UK is represented by officials from my Department and the Scottish Executive.
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The committee is currently advising the Commission on preparation of the fifth report regarding the situation and prospects of radioactive waste management in member states of the European Commission. Previous reports are publicly available from the Commission of the European Communities.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the Advisory Committee on Waste Management is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if she will list the items currently under its consideration; if she will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: The committee's mandate is to assist the European Commission to adapt aspects of wastes directives. It tends to be strategic/thematic in nature.
The committee generally meets twice per year and last met on 21 March 2002. The UK's representation is determined by the agenda for each meeting but the basic representation is usually two officials. The cost to public funds comprise travel and subsistence costs incurred in attending a one day meeting in Brussels (approximately £650 per meeting) and staff costs (around £700 per meeting). The Commission reimburses the travelling costs for one official's attendance at each meeting.
The meeting on 21 March focused on the development of thematic strategies on resources and on recycling and the planned EC Communication on Waste Prevention Targets.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the EU Committee for the adaptation to technical and scientific progress of the Directive on the protection of the environment is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; when it is next due to meet; what the United Kingdom representation on it is; whether experts nominated by the Scottish Executive (a) have been and (b) are members of it; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: The question does not specify which Directive is being referred to. Many Directives have as their objective the protection of the environment, and many of them have committees for the adaptation to technical and scientific progress.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Harrow, West, on 16 May 2002, Official Report, column 830W on the Water Framework Directive, what measures the Government are (a) taking and (b) intending to implement prior to 2012 to prevent deterioration of water quality in the United Kingdom. 
Mr. Meacher: The information is as follows:
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It is too soon to say what additional water quality protective measures might need to be implemented prior to 2012. To the extent that new regulatory powers are needed, they will be included in proposed regulations on which we plan to consult next year.
Implementation of the Directive in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and with respect to the devolved functions in Wales, are matters for the Scottish Executive, the Northern Ireland Executive and the National Assembly for Wales.
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 land use issues; and what these (i) goals and (ii) improvements have been. 
Mr. Meacher: We have put in place a range of planning guidance to promote a sustainable pattern of physical development and land and property use. Sound planning policies and an effective and efficient planning system are central to the Government's policies to improve eco-efficiency and resource productivity. Our policies concentrate the majority of new development within existing urban areas and in doing so help to reduce the need to travel and safeguard the countryside from unnecessary development. We have a target to provide 60 per cent. of additional dwellings on previously developed land by 2008 which, as a result of our policy changes, has been met.
Planning policy is also supported by a number of fiscal measures aimed at improving environmental outcomes; by encouraging better use of existing property to reduce new build, through a 150 per cent. tax credit for cleaning up contaminated land, and through taxes introduced on landfill in 1996, and on the quarrying of aggregates in 2002. Legislation to apply modern standards of conditions to old mineral workings was extended in 1995 to apply to all such sites, and tougher environmental tests before opencast coal sites can be opened or enlarged were introduced in 1999. Action, both statutory and voluntary, has commenced to limit or remove the more damaging existing planning permissions which threaten the integrity of the sites proposed or designated under the EU's Natura 2000 network. This includes a major voluntary purchase by English Nature of the most important and vulnerable lowland peat bogs in England.
The Department and its agencies have a variety of mechanisms to protect and enhance the rural environment. These include nearly £1 billion for agri-environment schemes under the England Rural Development Programme, and further support by English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Environment Agency. DEFRA also provides 75 per cent. of funding for national
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parks for the same purpose. These mechanisms are making a significant contribution to a number of the Government's PSA targets, including those to reverse the decline in farmland birds by 2020, and bring 95 per cent. of all nationally important wildlife sites into favourable condition by 2010. They also contribute to meeting the targets for maintaining/restoring priority habitats and species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan which was drawn up to meet commitments flowing from the Rio Earth Summit.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the length of time needed to clear the backlog of refrigerators and freezers stored by local authorities. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 18 June 2002]: Information given by companies investing, or intending to invest, in treatment plant suggest that sufficient plant should be in place by the end of the year to ensure that the backlog of fridges does not increase further and that the backlog of appliances will be dealt with during 2003.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed), of 15 January 2002, Official Report, column 270W, on waste refrigeration equipment, when the new recycling plants will come online; and what their capacity will be. 
Mr. Meacher: New recycling plant are already coming online in the UK. Two mobile plant with annual capacities of 150,000 each are operating in Lewes and Northampton, the former since April and the latter since May. Three static plant, with annual capacities of 300,000 each, are due to be operating by the end of July. Further plant will be installed by the end of the year.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to provide funding to local authorities to assist with the disposal of refrigerators, beyond the £6 million allocated for the last financial year. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 18 June 2002]: I will make an announcement shortly setting out my proposals for additional funding for waste disposal authorities.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many refrigerators and freezers are being stored by local authorities pending disposal or recycling. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 18 June 2002]: Current estimates are that there are more than 900,000 units awaiting treatment.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on her estimate of the extra costs to local authorities in 200203 as a result of the EU Directive on the recycling of refrigerators and freezers. 
Mr. Meacher: Although the initial annual cost is likely to be around £40 million this will decrease as plant are commissioned, competition becomes established and more fridges that do not need treatment enter the waste stream.
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