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3 Apr 2003 : Column 801W—continued

Lobsters

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects to introduce a statutory instrument to ban the landing of buried lobsters; and if she will make a statement. [106757]

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Mr. Morley: We have held a consultation exercise with the industry and there was broad consensus that, in the absence of an established European management regime,we should act to provide additional protection for lobster stocks. As soon as resources become available we will publish a draft Statutory Instrument to prevent the landing of buried lobsters. This will be subject to the normal consultation process.

Power Stations

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of the sulphur bubble she calculates arises from power stations operating during 1996 to 2000. [106466]

Alun Michael: I presume that this question refers to a sulphur dioxide 'bubble' in a national plan under the revised Large Combustion Plant Directive (2001/80/EC) for plants that were in existence in 1987. We have a choice whether to implement the revised Directive for these plants by the emission limits approach or by adopting the national plan approach. Measures under the Directive would apply to these plants from 2008. If we adopted the national plan approach, we expect power stations in the electricity supply industry to contribute about 66 per cent. to the calculation of the bubble, which would be about 177 kilo tonnes. This is based on current information about operation of these plants between 1996 and 2000.

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her estimate is of the quantity of coal to be burnt in UK power stations in 2010; and if she will make a statement. [106471]

Mr. Wilson: I have been asked to reply.

The most recent energy projections for the UK, published as Energy Paper 68 in November 2000, show an estimated range for coal demand in the major power stations of approximately nine to 20 million tonnes of oil equivalent in the year 2010. This corresponds to a coal tonnage of around 15 to 31 million tonnes. The estimated range is based on two different energy price assumptions, a working assumption for the means by which operators would react to the revised large combustion plant directive and a number of other assumptions.

As noted in supporting material published alongside the Energy White Paper, coal burn in electricity generation over the past couple of years has been higher than levels that might have been expected based on Energy Paper 68. In the light of recent market experience and policy developments we will be moving on to review the projections.

Illustrative figures in supporting material to the Energy White Paper indicate that coal can continue to make a significant contribution to the UK's future energy needs, but the White Paper acknowledges that coal may face increasing pressures from an environmental perspective.

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the terms of reference are of ENTEC to consider the New Large Combustion Plants Directive; and if she will make a statement. [106472]

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Alun Michael: ENTEC is undertaking consultancy work on the revised Large Combustion Plant Directive (2001/80/EC) for plant that were in existence in 1987. This work is primarily focussing on establishing the costs and benefits of the implementation options under the revised Directive. We have a choice whether to implement the revised Directive for these plants by the emission limits approach or by adopting the national plan approach, and results from the consultancy work will inform our decision. Measures under the Directive would apply to these plants from 2008.

Rural Payments Agency

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the reasons are for delays in payments to farmers by the Rural Payments Agency regarding set-aside land after grass crops; and what information the Rural Payments Agency may require in order to effect the payments as speedily as possible. [106847]

Alun Michael: The payments to farmers to which the hon. Member refers result from a decision of the European Court of Justice in a case concerning penalties imposed in the United Kingdom for set-aside following grass. That decision was subsequently clarified in a judgment of the High Court of England and Wales on 14 November 2002.

Defra lawyers are currently awaiting a response from the NFU lawyers in respect of those farmers in the group litigation. Of those 260 farmers affected by the judgment who are not in the group litigation, 188 have already been contacted for further information relating to the cultivation and harvesting of grass from the areas of land that had been the subject of penalties. 27 of these cases have been rejected as not meeting the relevant criteria for settlement.

Six-day Rule

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) farming unions and (b) organisers of rural fairs and festivals regarding the effect of the six-day rule. [106699]

Mr. Morley: Defra Ministers and officials regularly meet and correspond with farming union representatives and other stakeholders, including agricultural shows organisers, on a number of animal health matters.

Water Meters

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many water meters were installed in houses (a) in England and Wales and (b) in the Buckingham constituency in 2001–02. [106381]

Mr. Morley: The net increase in the number of household customers charged on the basis of metering for the year 2001–02, in England and Wales, was 230,915.

Information is not collected on a constituency basis.

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INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Aid Convoy Protection

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with aid agencies about protection for aid convoys being provided by the British military. [106961]

Clare Short: The UK military is working to establish safe and secure environments in the areas of Iraq it controls. This will allow humanitarian agencies to enter and provide humanitarian assistance where it is needed. It is likely that some areas will be made secure quickly; others will take longer.

NGOs based in Kuwait have been given passes to enter southern Iraq and are intending to enter soon. The UN is carrying out its own security assessment of parts of southern Iraq, the results of which will determine the timing of UN operations there.

Aid agencies prefer to operate within a 'humanitarian space' made secure by the controlling forces rather than being directly escorted by military forces. The latter could be seen to undermine the independence and impartiality the agencies require to gain access to those in need.

Hague Convention

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps her Department is taking to encourage countries to sign the Hague Convention. [106914]

Clare Short: Our objective is to support countries in their plans to eliminate poverty. Our discussions with them focus on the most effective way we can work in partnership with them to achieve this.

HIPC

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what mechanisms are in place to ensure the proper ownership of the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative by debtor nations. [106185]

Clare Short: The enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative was agreed by the international community at the Annual Meetings of the World bank and the IMF in September 1999. These institutions work jointly with the HIPC countries to assess the level of debt relief required to bring debt sustainability ratios down to the HIPC thresholds—150 per cent. debt to export earnings and 250 per cent. debt to government revenue. Linked to this process, countries are required to develop national poverty reduction strategies setting out how government resources, including savings from debt relief, will be spent. These strategies, which are produced in consultation with civil society and donors, are increasingly owned and led by the countries themselves, reflecting a fundamental change in the relationship between donors and developing country partners.

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Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she is taking, along with other donor country governments, to improve long-term debt sustainability in heavily indebted poor countries. [106191]

Clare Short: The UK, along with other donors, is committed to countries exiting the HIPC process with sustainable levels of debt. The World bank and the IMF have agreed to provide additional debt relief at Completion Point to those countries that have suffered a fundamental change in their economic circumstances due to external shocks. The UK is pressing these institutions to widen their approach to topping up, so that any HIPC eligible country facing unsustainable debts, that has demonstrated its commitment to poverty reduction and economic reform, should qualify for this additional relief. It is essential that countries take strong measures to improve their economic position in order to maintain long term debt sustainability. This means strengthening their debt management offices, taking out new borrowing on concessional terms only, and diversifying their export markets. Through the multi donor HIPC Capacity Building Programme, we are helping countries to learn to plan and manage their debt more effectively, and to negotiate with their creditors better terms on their external debts.


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