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29 Oct 2002 : Column 729W—continued

Fuel Poverty

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) single pensioners, (b) older couples and (c) families with children are recognised as fuel poor; and what the figures were in each year since 1997. [77450]

Mr. Wilson: I have been asked to reply.

The numbers in fuel poverty in England in 1998 were published jointly by DTI and DEFRA in August 2001 and in the UK Fuel Poverty Strategy published in November 2001. They are available on the DTI website at: http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy/consumers/fuel—poverty/1998estimates—england.pdf

It is estimated that in 1998 there were (a) 1.2 million households containing a single person over the age of 60, (b) 0.7 million households with older couples, and (c) 0.5 million households containing children in fuel poverty in England (based on income including Housing Benefit and Income Support for Mortgage Interest). When Housing Benefit and Income Support for Mortgage Interest are excluded from the definition of income, the figures become (a) 1.5 million households containing a single person over the age of 60, (b) 0.8 million households with older couples, and (c) 0.9 million households containing children in fuel poverty in England in 1998.

The 2001 English House Condition Survey will update this information and the information on the extent of fuel poverty in England generally. Results from this will be published in the update of the UK Fuel Poverty Strategy which should be published early in 2003.

Fuel poverty is a devolved matter and therefore it is for the respective Assemblies and Parliament to report on the situation in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

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Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what procedures are in place to monitor the number of (a) single pensioners, (b) older couples and (c) families with children who are fuel poor. [77451]

Mr. Wilson: I have been asked to reply.

The Government's Fuel Poverty Strategy was published in November 2001 and sets out the proposals for monitoring the numbers in fuel poverty.

The monitoring of progress in tackling fuel poverty will be taken forward in two ways. Firstly the actual number of households in fuel poverty will be monitored, in particular for vulnerable groups such as pensioner households and households with children. Secondly, progress on the factors that affect fuel poverty (income, fuel prices and housing) will be monitored. These factors are referred to as indicators of fuel poverty and they include background information on issues relevant to those in fuel poverty. Together these two approaches should enable progress on tackling fuel poverty to be monitored.

In England, the monitoring of the actual number of households in fuel poverty will be carried out using information collected through the English House Condition Survey. Fuel poverty is a devolved matter and therefore it is for the respective Assemblies and Parliament to report on the situation in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Import Controls

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assistance she proposes to support local councils with the additional expense of the increased regulations relating to the testing of food of non-animal origin at ports of entry. [75919]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

I am advised by the Food Standards Agency that financing of import controls, including for the testing of food of non-animal origin, will be covered by a European Commission proposal for a regulation on official feed and food controls. This is expected in late November 2002. The Agency will consult on it with all its stakeholders. It will, in particular, work closely with local and port health authorities in considering the charging arrangements for import controls, including the option of full cost recovery.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost was to the UK for each of the past five years of the inspection of imports of food of non-animal origin. [75923]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

I am advised by the Food Standards Agency that the information requested on the costs to the United Kingdom of inspection of food of non-animal origin is not held centrally. Local authorities have responsibility for the inspection of imports of food of non-animal origin.

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Male Fish

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the answer of 23April 2002, Official Report, column 133W, on male fish, if she will make a statement on the outcome of discussions with the Environment Agency and the water industry regarding gender change in male fish. [77374]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 28 October 2002]: Officials from Defra, the Environment Agency, and the water industry met over the summer to discuss implications of the jointly funded research published by the Agency on 26 March for sewage treatment processes. It was agreed that a joint programme of work, now under way, was needed to:





Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the answer of 23 April 2002, Official Report, columns 133–34W, on male fish, if she will publish the findings of research into endocrine disruption in marine life; and if she will make a statement. [77375]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 28 October 2002]: A summary report of the 3-year research programme on endocrine disruption in the marine environment (EDMAR) is due to be published in November. I will place a copy of this and the full report of the programme in the House Library.

Some of the research outcomes from this programme, which was funded by DEFRA, the Environment Agency, the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research and the European Chemical Industry Association, have already been published in the scientific press and were presented at two seminars and in a series of newsletters.

The main achievements/findings of EDMAR are as follows:






DEFRA will be discussing with other Government Departments and Agencies how to take forward the recommendations for further research resulting from the EDMAR programme.

Market and Coastal Towns

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will make

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a statement on the funds made available by the Government for the Market and Coastal Towns initiative. [77531]

Alun Michael: As announced in the Rural White Paper, the Government made available #37million over three years for the revitalisation of small rural towns under the Market Towns initiative (referred to in the south west as the Market and Coastal Towns initiative). #32 million of this was channelled via the regional development agencies and #5 million via the Countryside agency.

It is for local town partnerships, using the Countryside agency's Healthcheck process, to draw up and agree action plans and for regional development agencies to approve individual projects. Detailed information on grants awarded is not collected centrally.

Organic Food

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what recent discussions she has had with the US Department of Agriculture over the US National Organic Programme and its implementation; [76252]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 23 October 2002]: The Department has been in close touch with the USDA since the submission last year of an application for a determination that UKROFS' standards meet the requirements of the NOP. The USDA has now written to UKROFS to confirm that it accepts the UKROFS control system as sufficient to secure conformity with the NOP. This means that the UK organic inspection bodies are able to certify product for the purposes of the NOP but it does not affect the standards required to be met by products sold as organic in the UK. The Department has also been in close touch with organic certifiers in the US to ensure that the introduction of the NOP does not invalidate authorisations previously issued to import US organic produce into the UK. Discussions are also taking place between the European Commission and the USDA to ensure that disruption to trade between the Community and the US is kept to a minimum. We have received a number of representations about the introduction of the NOP from the UK organic inspection bodies and from companies concerned about the effect of the NOP on their ability to export to the US.


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