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25 Nov 2002 : Column 56W—continued

Sniffer Dogs

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the pilot scheme for sniffer dogs at Heathrow will (a) start and (b) finish. [80462]

Margaret Beckett: A pilot using two detector dogs to trace products of animal origin began at Heathrow on 16 September 2002 and will last for six months.

Social Exclusion Projects

Andrew George : To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much was spent by her Department and agencies on social exclusion projects in (a) 2000–01, (b) 2001–02 and (c) 2002–03 to date; and if she will break down the spending by (i) category and (ii) region in each year. [81143]

Alun Michael: This Department is not directly responsible for spending on social exclusion. However, various programmes administered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and its agencies make a significant contribution.

The Market Town Initiative is being taken forward on Defra's behalf by the regional development agencies, working with the Countryside Agency and local partners, and using £37 million of Government funding announced in the Rural White Paper in November 2000 plus such match funding as can be secured from other public and private sources. Expenditure on the initiative in 2001–02 is estimated at some £2.9 million by the regional development agencies and some £2.5 million by the Countryside Agency. Information for the current financial year is not yet available but as most towns have now completed their action plans this should result in a substantial increase in project expenditure by rural development agencies and other partners.

The following table shows amounts (in £) spent on vital villages projects which address social exclusion. The Countryside Agency does not have a Xsocial exclusion" label for its projects. The table picks up projects which target groups which can be social excluded (youth, unemployed, ethnic minorities, elderly).

Parish transport grant
North east012,044.2113,552.50
North west07,882.507,687.50
Yorkshire and Humber08,447.5040,125.00
East Midlands010,048.5512,128.22
West Midlands034,359.8927,234.06
East of England015,172.8172,295.00
South east016,722.135,172.50
South west010,384.7859,009.28
Parish plans grant
North east018,359.5517,144.75
North west035,056.9240,268.72
Yorkshire and Humber041,709.0510,428.00
East Midlands015,154.0022,723.02
West Midlands073,521.5663,282.48
East of England067,779.6653,367.56
South east068,400.0033,435.37
South west072,331.1063,803.98
Community service grants
North east0141,495.00167,714.90
North west0174,842.40138,371.70
Yorkshire and Humber0126,605.4071,385.59
East Midlands0278,272.2055,686.99
West Midlands0269,418.70169,568.70
East of England0460,042.40338,675.80
South east0238,094.80160,791.60
South west2,990.90360,381.50315,091.10
Regional transport partnership grants
North east158,123.53408,026.90167,714.90
North west225,173.34619,335.50138,371.70
Yorkshire and Humber355,350.80404,558.8071,385.59
East Midlands270,180.92524,587.5055,686.99
West Midlands405,339.671,207,526.00169,568.70
East of England13,182,309.48612,624.30338,675.80
South east719,663.511,138,787.00160,791.60
South west502,164.97503,172.20315,091.10
Overall total770,678.101,596,134.001,976,342.00

(6) Please note 2002–03 figures are incomplete. Figures only reflect the grants awarded before 15 November 2002.

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The English Rural Development Programme's Rural Enterprise Scheme provides, among other measures, support towards basic services for the rural economy and population and support towards the renovation and development of villages.

The basic services measure can include assistance towards setting up costs and initial operating costs for the provision of small scale transport e.g. mini-bus links, voluntary carer schemes, Xout of school" child care schemes and projects that provide information and communication technology links as well as other infrastructure provision benefiting rural communities and businesses. The renovation and development of villages measure can include assistance towards the renovation of dilapidated buildings for commercial or community use or multi-functional village halls which combine both social and economic facilities.

Committed 1 expenditure under the Rural Enterprise Scheme through measures that can contribute to the alleviation of social exclusion:

East Midlands0305,164.00170,870.00
North east0037,157.00
North west081,578.0023,825.00
South east081,312.004,808.00
South west0142,236.00504,131
West Midlands0349,340.0082,647.00
Yorks and Humber035,522.00189,191.00

Staff Numbers

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many staff the Environment Agency employs; and how many it employed in 1997–98. [81018]

Mr. Meacher: On 31 October 2002, the Environment Agency employed 10,949 staff (10,683 full-time equivalents). On 1 April 1997, the Agency employed 9,123 staff (circa 8,904 full-time equivalents).

Sudden Oak Death

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cases of Sudden Oak Death have so far been reported to her Department; what (a) preventative and (b) remedial

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action she (i) has taken and (ii) will take in regard to Sudden Oak Death; and what treatments are available for Sudden Oak Death. [83033]

Mr. Meacher: There have been no reported cases of Sudden Oak Death in Europe.

A strain of Phytophthora ramorum, the pathogen which has caused Sudden Oak Death in parts of California, has been found on rhododendron and viburnum plants in a number of European countries in recent years. There have been 122 findings in England and Wales since the first one in April this year. In each case infected plants and those adjacent have been destroyed. Plants in a surrounding cordon sanitaire have been held for further monitoring. In response to a UK initiative, EU measures came into force on 1 November. These require member states to survey for the disease and apply precautionary measures through the plant passport system to prevent spread on nursery stock. Defra inspectors will continue to monitor the effectiveness of these measures.

Defra and the Forestry Commission are funding research to address uncertainties in the risk assessment for the European strain of the pathogen, in particular to determine whether native European trees are susceptible. No effective eradicatory fungicides are known at present, but Defra and Forestry Commission scientists are closely following research into treatments in the affected areas of the USA. Further information is available on the Defra website at defraweb/planth/what.htm.

Toxic Ash

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what controls exist on the use of toxic ash from incinerators as an ingredient in breeze block manufacture; and if she will make a statement on the steps taken by her Department on the construction of such breeze blocks by Ballast Phoenix, using material from the London waste incinerator at Edmonton. [81582]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 20 November 2002]: It is considered by this department and the Environment Agency that the controls for the management of waste, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994, extend to the use of incinerator ash until it has been incorporated into a manufactured product (such as breeze blocks). These controls include a duty of care to manage waste safely through the prevention of harm to human health and the environment and through the prevention of the escape of waste. Furthermore, waste disposal and recovery operations are only permitted to take place under the terms of a waste management licence or an exemption from licensing.

Until August 2000, the Edmonton incinerator was mixing bottom ash with fly ash. Following concerns about the levels of dioxins in this material, the Environment Agency launched an investigation into the destination and use of incinerator ash. The investigation found, among other details, that about 15,000 tonnes of mixed ash from Edmonton was supplied by Ballast Phoenix for the manufacture of construction blocks between 1998 and 2000. The investigation included

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research into the release of dioxins from construction blocks made using mixed ash from the Edmonton incinerator. The Agency found that mixed ash construction blocks do not release measurable levels of dioxins into the air, and that any dust from drilling the blocks is likely to contribute very little to typical overall exposures to dioxins.

The Agency also recommended that subject to guidance and appropriate specifications, bottom ash could be a valuable secondary aggregate. Air Pollution Control residues and fly ash, on the other hand, are hazardous wastes and as such are subject to special controls and should be consigned to sites licensed or permitted to dispose of hazardous wastes.

The Government commissioned the independent environmental consultants AEA Technology to produce a report on the use of incinerator bottom ash in road construction, and this is expected to be published shortly. The Agency's investigation is summarised in their report XSolid Residues from Municipal Waste Incinerators in England and Wales". Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of the House, and it can also be found at: pdf4.pdf

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