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8 Jan 2004 : Column 434W—continued

Traffic Calming

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much he has spent on installing traffic calming measures in each of the last three years. [145826]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 7 January 2004]: Installing traffic calming on local roads is the responsibility of the local highway authorities which fund them from block allocations provided by the Department in support of their Local Transport Plans or equivalents. The Department has, however, given local authorities grants totalling £4.6 million in 2002–03 and £5.5 million in 2003–04 for specific local transport schemes that include traffic calming measures.

Measures that may be described as traffic calming would generally form part of the Highways Agency's programme of small safety schemes on trunk roads. The Highways Agency's opening budgets for safety schemes over the last three years, as published in the Business Plan, are as follows: 2001–02—£47 million, 2002–03—£45 million and 2003–04—£41 million.


Fishing Industry

19. Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she next intends to visit Scotland to meet representatives of the fishing industry to discuss the fishing industry in Scotland. [146387]

Mr. Bradshaw: I have no plans for further meetings at present, but would expect to discuss the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit Report on the future of the fishing industry when it is published soon.

Mr. Alex Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when she last met representatives of the Scottish fishing industry to discuss the fishing industry in Scotland. [146385]

Mr. Bradshaw: I met representatives of the Scottish industry at the Council of Ministers meeting last month.

Nuclear Decommissioning Agency

20. Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry regarding the establishment of the nuclear decommissioning agency. [146389]

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Mr. Morley: There are regular meetings and discussions between Ministers in the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and in the Department of Trade and Industry. These cover all issues of current mutual interest, including the establishment of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Toxic Waste Convention

21. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how the Government will implement the Stockholm convention on international trade in toxic waste; and what implications this has for such trade between industrialised nations. [146390]

Mr. Morley: The Stockholm Convention controls the production and use of 12 chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Controls on the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes are covered by a separate international agreement, the Basel Convention.

Current Community legislation covers most Party obligations under the Stockholm Convention, and the European Commission has proposed a Regulation on persistent organic pollutants to give effect to those provisions which are not sufficiently covered. The UK will ratify the Convention during 2004 when this proposed Regulation is in place.

The Stockholm Convention prevents the import or export of persistent organic pollutants unless for environmentally sound disposal or for a few exceptional uses. Most industrialised nations have already banned the use of the 12 chemicals listed so the impact on trade between them will be negligible.

Animal Welfare

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her policy is on introducing changes to the law concerning cruelty to animals. [146356]

Mr. Bradshaw: The department is currently undertaking a review of legislation relating to the welfare of captive and domestic animals with a view to introducing an Animal Welfare Bill. Any proposed changes to existing legislation will be based on science and good practice.

Civil Servants (Disabilities)

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made in meeting targets for the proportion of people with disabilities in senior posts in her Department. [145993]

Alun Michael: Statistical information about senior civil servants with disabilities is available on the Civil Service website at:

The data shows that one per cent. of senior civil servants in my Department have a disability. As there are less than five members of the senior civil service in my Department with a disability, the actual number is

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not published in order to protect the privacy of the individual in line with exemption 12 of the Code of Practice on access to Government Information.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to purchase Geodesign Pallet Barriers to prevent flood damage in (a) the Vale of York and (b) elsewhere; and what assessment she has made of their effectiveness. [143879]

Mr. Morley: We have no plans to purchase such barriers. Purchase would be a matter for the operating authorities to decide.

The Environment Agency are currently trialling pallet barriers and other temporary, moveable defences on the River Severn. Once these trails are completed the Agency's assessment will be made available to other operating authorities. The usefulness of such moveable defences will be a matter for the Agency and local authorities to determine in light of local conditions.

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which agency is responsible for ground water flooding. [146225]

Mr. Morley: No agency has direct responsibility for groundwater flooding and any remedial action would generally fall to the relevant landowner. The Environment Agency has powers to undertake works in relation to flooding from main rivers and the sea and also exercises a general supervisory duty over all flood defence matters. For ordinary watercourses these powers rest with local authorities and the internal drainage boards. However, the Environment Agency may, depending on the circumstances, be in a position to offer advice.

As part of the Department's on-going work to develop a new Government-wide strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management for England, a project is currently underway to scope the extent of groundwater flooding events and the present administrative arrangements.

Further information on the strategy is available via

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what account planning authorities are required to take of the risk of ground water flooding; and whether planning permission can be refused in areas where ground water flooding is known to have occurred. [146226]

Keith Hill: I have been asked to reply.

Planning Policy Guidance Note (PPG) 25 Development and flood risk advises that "the susceptibility of land to flooding is a material planning consideration". It advises the use of a risk-based approach based on a sequential test that gives priority to development in lower-risk zones.

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PPG 25 advises specifically that the flood zones in its sequential test cover only river, tidal and coastal flooding but that locally an assessment may be needed of the risk of groundwater flooding in any of the zones. Such an assessment should be given appropriate weight alongside other material considerations by local planning authorities in determining applications. A high risk of groundwater flooding or failure to provide an assessment of flood risk that is appropriate to the scale and nature of the development and the risks involved can be reasons for refusal of permission.

Sudden Oak Death

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action she is taking to prevent the importation of plant material that may act as a host to sudden oak death infection; and if she will make a statement. [146456]

Mr. Bradshaw: All plants entering the UK from third countries must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate and are subject to inspection at import. For a wide range of known hosts of the sudden oak death fungus (Phytophthora ramorum is its scientific name), specific measures must be followed before the authorities in the exporting country can issue the certificate. For trade within the EU, specific disease control measures are applied at the place of production to rhododendrons and viburnums, the two types of plant which have been most often found to be infected in Europe. Plant passports are then issued that travel with consignments allowing their free movement between member states.

Findings of P ramorum in imported and UK origin plants are of concern and inspections at UK nurseries and ports of entry are to be stepped up to ensure that all consignments of plants moved into and within the UK are free from P ramorum and meet plant passport requirements. Any consignment found to be infected, or not to have the correct documentation, will, as now, be destroyed. The UK will support extension of specific measures against P ramorum to additional types of plant when these are shown to present a significant risk.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what additional resources are being made available to the Plant Health Inspectorate in connection with sudden oak death; and if she will make a statement. [146457]

Mr. Bradshaw: Defra's 75 Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors (PHSI) are already employed for around 20 per cent. of their time on inspection and surveillance duties related to Phytophthora ramorum, which is known in the USA as sudden oak death. However, in response to the increasing number of findings of this pathogen in England and Wales, the plant health service is to employ at least 20 additional staff to cover the increased rate of inspections at production nurseries, wild planting areas and ports of entry. This is part of a package of measures announced on 4 December. Wherever possible, suitably qualified field staff will be transferred from elsewhere in the Department. These will be supplemented by recruitment of a small number of staff with appropriate experience and qualifications (e.g. ex-PHSI staff). Transfer and recruitment will start in January.

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Defra are also funding a substantial increase in sample diagnoses undertaken by the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) which is estimated to cost in excess of £750,000 to the end of 2004–05. CSL are also involved in on-going research into Phytophthora ramorum to the value of £370,000.

The Forestry Commission has redirected about 23 staff onto a woodland survey in England and Wales, to be completed by April 2004, which will help us to assess whether Phytophthora ramorum is present in the wider environment. Resource has also been redirected within the Forest Research Agency into projects designed to help us better understand the disease.

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