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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 13 January 2004

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Agricultural Chemicals

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking following the meeting on 6 January between her Department's Ministers and industry and other representatives to ensure compatibility of chemicals used in agriculture and horticulture with the regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH); what consultation has taken place with farming organisations; and if she will make a statement. [147177]

Alun Michael: To ensure compatibility of regulation, the REACH proposal allows for certain substances to be exempt or considered as automatically registered where environmental or human health protection is already adequately covered by existing regimes such as for pesticides, biocides and veterinary medicines. Discussions have therefore focused on those industry sectors and uses most likely to be affected by the proposals, such as manufacturers of industrial chemicals, and we have not been approached by farming organisations to discuss REACH.

We will shortly issue a public consultation paper, which will offer all interested parties, including farming organisations, a further opportunity to provide us with their views. There are also plans to hold a stakeholder conference during the consultation period.

Chemical Regulation

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which Council of Ministers formation her Department has called on to lead the debate on the forthcoming EU chemical regulation. [147230]

Alun Michael: Given the wide-ranging nature of the forthcoming EU chemical regulation, the Government have always considered it essential that the expertise of both the Competitiveness Council and the Environment Council would be needed in coming to decisions on the regulation on registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals.

Following the decision of the Italian presidency to ask the Competitiveness Council to lead this debate, we welcome the formation of an ad-hoc working group between the two as a way to enable this wide input to detailed policy discussions. Such an approach is essential if we are to make good progress with this long awaited legislation. I recently visited Brussels to discuss the issues with parliamentarians and the Environment Commission's team and in the UK Ministers at Defra and DTI are working closely with each other and with

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both industry and non-governmental organisations to give the Commission's latest proposals the best possible scrutiny from all perspectives.

Departmental Relocation

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many staff in her Department work in (a) the West Midlands and (b) North Staffordshire. [146908]

Alun Michael: The information is as follows:

(a) Defra has 734 staff working in the West Midlands. A further 147 Defra Executive Agency staff work in this Region.

(b) Neither Defra nor any of its Agencies has offices in North Staffordshire.

Fisheries

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which other European Union member states' fishing vessels will have to comply with the restricted areas in EU waters due to commence on 1 February. [146682]

Mr. Bradshaw: All those which choose to fish in the restricted areas using the specified gears.

Information Campaigns

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Department spent on information campaigns and advertising in 2002–03. [145248]

Alun Michael: The Department does not maintain records of its expenditure on marketing separately. The expenditure for publicity by Defra's Communications Directorate, which includes advertising, publications, events, shows and direct information literature mailings, in the financial year 2002–03 was £4.7 million.

This included communication on a very wide range of matters, much of it necessary or beneficial to the public and the wide range of industries in which Defra has an interest, together with local government, voluntary organisations and other bodies.

Teesside Power Station

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has carried out into the health implications of allowing the burning of animal fat from cattle at the Teesside power station, Witton. [147403]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency is currently determining a permit application under the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 from SembCorp Utilities Teesside Limited who operate the Teesside power station. The company plans to burn tallow that is currently held in storage as a result of the Over Thirty Month (Slaughter) Scheme (OTMS).

The Agency has produced an OTMS Tallow Protocol that provides guidance to Agency Officers and operators on the determination procedure for applications to burn OTMS tallow. The Protocol states that the Operator

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must provide an environmental risk assessment of their proposals, including the risks of burning, handling, filtration, and any other pathways by which potential BSE infectivity might affect human health or the environment.

As required by the Regulations, the Agency sent a copy of the operator's application to the local Primary Care Trust. The Agency has received a response on their behalf by the Tees Local Health Protection Unit. The response stated that the information from the application had been considered, together with additional information provided in a report by the European Commission's Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) entitled "The Safety of Tallow Obtained from Ruminant Slaughter By-products" and a "Risk Assessment for the Transport and Combustion of OTMS Tallow" by Det Norske Veritas Limited (DNV). Information had also been provided to the Health Protection Unit by a representative of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC).

The Tees Local Health Protection Unit response included the conclusions that, on the basis of the information supplied, the risks to individuals contracting vCJD 1 as a result of the transportation to and combustion of the tallow at the power station can be described as being negligible.

The Environment Agency is considering this response and the additional information provided by the SSC and DNV as part of its determination of the application.

The Agency is also taking into account UK and European air quality standards and objectives in its determination These are set at levels which are unlikely to cause harm to human health.


Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason pesticides still hold provisional approval after five years; what the longest period is for which a pesticide has held provisional approval; and what she estimates the total tonnage used in the UK of pesticides provisionally approved in each category to be in the most recent year for which figures are available. [145176]

Alun Michael: All pesticides must meet a minimum standard of safety and efficacy before any approval is given, provisional or otherwise. Provisional approvals are given in order for confirmatory data to be provided for example in areas such as efficacy. The precise requirements and time allowed for the generation of those data vary depending on individual products.

The product that has held provisional approval status for the longest time was first given that status in 1988. Safe use of the product was established, but confirmatory efficacy data were required for full approval. Consequently, a series of different provisional approvals were issued in response to separate applications for approval concerning changes to the product label and its intended uses.

The most recent estimates of the total tonnage of all provisionally approved pesticides used in the UK (in 2002) are as follows.

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CategoryTonnage (active ingredient)
Fungicides1,285
Growth regulators394
Herbicides3,029
Insecticides59
Molluscicides87
Others<1
Total4,854

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether local authorities will be fully compensated for costs incurred under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive; [146980]

Mr. Timms: I have been asked to reply.

The implications of the EU Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) for local authorities, manufacturers, retailers and others are set out in a consultation paper which the Government published on 25 November 2003. This is available at or may be downloaded from the Department's website at http://www.dti.gov.uk/sustainability/weee/index.htm. Copies are available in the House Library.

This consultation paper invites views on the Government's preferred approach to implementing the Directive. It includes proposals for implementation of the Directive's provisions on producer responsibility and retailer take-back.

The WEEE Directive places no obligations on local authorities. The Government have made it clear that there will be no new unfinanced burdens on local authorities as a result of the Directive. However, the Government aims to encourage increased separate collection of WEEE in line with the Directive's objectives and, in this context, it makes sense to build on existing collection activity at civic amenity sites. The Government wishes to encourage local authorities to consider upgrading and/or introducing WEEE collection facilities at their amenity sites. It is proposed that money will be made available, via a fund, into which local authorities may bid to finance improved or greater separate collection of WEEE at their civic amenity sites.

The consultation suggests that this fund would be provided through a retailer take-back compliance scheme. The Government propose that the retailer scheme should provide funding initially of at least £5 million for civic amenity site upgrades in each of the five financial years between 2005–10, with an interim review in 2008, when the Directive is expected to be revised. It is expected that most of the early expenditure would relate to capital costs and any initial operating costs.

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The Government have included in its consultation package a report by consultants Network Recycling on the scope for upgrading and expanding WEEE collection at civic amenity sites around the UK. In summary, this report indicates that over half of civic amenity sites currently collect some WEEE and that there is significant scope for expanding this on the basis of site space available. It suggests that the baseline costs of such upgrades are in the region of £6-£12 million, depending on the approach taken; and that on-going staffing and training costs could be in the region of £4–£9 million per annum.


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