Previous SectionIndexHome Page

EU Sugar Beet Regime

4. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): When she next expects to meet representatives of the National Farmers Union in Norfolk to discuss changes to the EU sugar beet regime. [198956]

The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality (Alun Michael): In the past three months my noble Friend Lord Whitty, who leads on these matters, has had discussions with the president of the National Farmers Union, Tim Bennett. He has also had discussions with Tate and Lyle and with representatives of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries that are affected by the present regime. There are no immediate plans for local NFU representative meetings.

Mr. Bellingham: Is the Minister aware that for every job that sugar beet supports on farms, there are probably six or seven more jobs in servicing and in the beet factories? That is a lot of jobs in a county such as Norfolk, which grows half the country's beet. Much of that beet is grown not on large farms, but on small farms and county council smallholdings. Given that the UK is a net importer of sugar, surely any cut in its beet quota, which would devastate small farms, would be grossly unfair?

Alun Michael: I hope the hon. Gentleman accepts that the current situation is unacceptable and that doing nothing is not an option. The EU price is three times the world level for sugar, and that is not sustainable. It is therefore important that we move as quickly as possible to the reforms that are needed, in order that everybody knows what they are doing and can plan their future business.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): If my right hon. Friend meets the farmers of Norfolk or any NFU representatives, will he politely suggest to them that there is a bigger agenda out there, which must include fairness to the developing world? Of all commodities, sugar is the biggest scandal. The way in which we treat the cane-producing countries is outrageous. Some of us met farmers from the third world this week, and they told us clearly what reforms they need and must have.

Alun Michael: Yes, I too have met representatives of countries affected in that way. I have also met farmers in the course of visits, which makes me aware of the problems of adjustment facing farmers in this country. The starting point for reform must clearly be the approach agreed by the European Council in June 2003. The findings of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were very similar to those of the Council, so we know the basis of the way forward, and change is vital.
18 Nov 2004 : Column 1454

Pest Control (Barnet)

5. Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): What assessment she has made of whether Barnet council's pest control service meets the council's statutory duties. [198957]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Since my hon. Friend first raised the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State back in July, we have been in communication with Barnet council to assess whether it is meeting its obligations under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949. Where a council is found not be meeting its obligations, the Government have powers under the Act to order it to do so.

Mr. Dismore: Since I first raised the matter, I have had a further 21 complaints from all over my constituency with rapidly increasing frequency, which is perhaps not surprising, bearing in mind that a single pair of rats can lead to 15,000 offspring in a year. Short of renaming Hendon "Hamelin" and my hon. Friend donning a pied piper outfit, can he do something to shake the Tory council out of its complacency? The default powers must be used to protect my constituents from the growing and breeding problem of the terrible rat infestation from which we are suffering.

Mr. Bradshaw: I take note of what my hon. Friend says. Since he became so energetically engaged in the issue, we have asked the Central Science Laboratory to give us its view as to whether his local Conservative council is carrying out its duties properly. It has asked the council a series of detailed questions, a copy of which I have passed on to him. I am sure he will hold his local council to account, as will we, if it does not answer those questions properly.

Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton) (Con) rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. Can the hon. Gentleman tie his question into Barnet council? If so, I call him.

Mr. Flook: Barnet, like all areas, has pests that need controlling, and for some parts of our country it is the number of deer that needs to be controlled. If the current method is to be banned, does the Minister really have a plan for a deer management scheme on Exmoor?

Mr. Bradshaw: You are being very generous in allowing me to answer this question, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government are working on a new deer management strategy, and it will not rely on stag hunting.

Waste Management

6. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): If she will make a statement on the role of energy from waste   in achieving the Government's waste reduction targets. [198958]
18 Nov 2004 : Column 1455

The Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): Energy from waste cannot contribute towards waste reduction, but does contribute towards more sustainable waste management and the UK's landfill directive targets. Energy from waste is a viable waste management option, as demonstrated by its position in the waste hierarchy—below minimisation, re-use, recycling and composting, but above disposal and landfill.

Mr. Amess: If incinerators are to be built, what is the Minister doing to encourage the construction of combined heat and power plants, which have the advantage of offering cheap power and heat to local communities, and the added advantage of reducing the amount of waste to be taken to landfill?

Mr. Morley: I accept that if there is to be an energy-from-waste plant, for which a number of designs exist, combined heat and power is to be encouraged, and the Government have programmes and procedures for doing that. Through the waste and resources action programme we have supported new technologies as thermal treatments, such as pyrolisis, which also gasify waste, capture the energy and often produce residue that can also be refuse-derived waste. We are interested in all forms of waste treatments and it is up to local authorities to choose the system that they think is most appropriate.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Does my hon. Friend agree that although the Government have done a great deal to stimulate energy-from-waste projects, it often becomes a matter of planning permission? Whether it is an incinerator or pyrolisis, or a different method of mechanical or biological treatments, so often a nimbyish attitude towards such a project prevents us from moving in a positive direction and the contribution that such technology could make is stilted.

Mr. Morley: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and on many occasions substantial investment in waste treatment facilities, which are not always thermal treatments or incineratory—it can be a range of facilities—is significantly delayed. Planning policy guidance 10 is under review, with consideration being given to waste disposal infrastructure, and we are keen to encourage a regional strategic approach. We do not want to ignore people's legitimate concerns, but nor do we want undue delays in terms of major investment, which is essential to a move towards sustainable waste management.

Sue Doughty (Guildford) (LD): The Minister is well aware of public concerns about the safety of incinerators, and studies show that results from biannual testing for dioxins in incinerators can be up to 50 times different from those provided by continuous monitoring. The matter was raised with the Minister some time ago and he said that he would look into continuous monitoring. Can he give us an update on the progress that is being made?
18 Nov 2004 : Column 1456

Mr. Morley: Yes, I can. It is a perfectly reasonable point to make that in relation to incineration capacity there should be regular monitoring of outputs. However, there is a huge difference between modern incinerators and some of the older ones in relation to their outputs and dioxin levels. The hon. Lady will also be aware that the Government have commissioned detailed research into the health effects of all methods of waste disposal, which also helps to inform this debate and the kind of choices that local authorities may want to make.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): I am rather sceptical about the Government's soft-shoe shuffle towards waste incineration, but at least one form is acceptable, which is in use in Leicestershire, where 20 farmers in a co-operative are using the waste products from timber processing to produce wood pellets for incineration and heating in schools. Does the Minister agree that that is an acceptable use, and will he visit the Orchard school in Castle Donington with me to have a look at its new boiler system, one of several in the county, which I switched on just weeks ago?

Mr. Morley: I am always interested in looking at boilers, and I shall certainly talk to my hon. Friend about that. I agree that that is an innovative and useful way of utilising waste wood in relation to energy capture. I am also impressed with the very large biodigester that has been located in Leicester—another alternative way of dealing with waste.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Will the Minister take this opportunity to explain the implications for energy from waste of the Waste and Emissions Trading Act 2003? Can he tell the House whether he is blowing hot and cold on combined heat and power? Will he seek to extend plants such as the SELCHIP—south-east London combined heat and power—energy from waste plant to combined heat and power, enabling that plant to live up to its name?

Mr. Morley: Large emitters will fall within the scope of the Waste and Emissions Trading Act 2003. In relation to combined heat and power, the Government have made it clear that we want to encourage a higher proportion of good-quality combined heat and power. There may be some small measures in relation to carbon trading that can help in expanding plants and giving them some encouragement, and I hope that that happens.

Next Section IndexHome Page