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13 Dec 2004 : Column 807W—continued


Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether (a) Ministers and (b) officials were (i) consulted about and (ii) shown the article written by the hon. Member for the Wrekin, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Rural Affairs, published in the Sunday Telegraph on 21 November, prior to its publication. [201671]

Alun Michael: Parliamentary Private Secretaries are not obliged to clear anything they write in a personal capacity with Ministers or officials. Indeed this would be wholly inappropriate when matters are the subject of a free vote. As a courtesy, my hon. Friend sent me a draft copy of his article but he did not invite approval of it,
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and I offered no comments on it prior to publication. No officials were consulted about or shown the article before its publication.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairsif she will estimate the UK (a) fly, (b) mosquito and (c) cockroach population; and what the predicted numbers are in the event of a (i) 1 per cent., (ii) 2 per cent. and (iii) 3 per cent. increase in current average temperatures due to climate change. [200913]

Mr. Bradshaw: I am not aware that any estimate for this information is available.

Landfill Allowances Trading Scheme

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the amount to be raised in fines from local authorities under the Landfill Allowances Trading Scheme once it is in operation. [204492]

Mr. Morley: The scheme is designed as a tool to help local authorities meet the required reductions in landfill in the most cost effective way. Although a penalty system is necessary to act as a disincentive to local authorities exceeding their allowances, the Government believes that the flexibility offered in the scheme means that no authority should ever need to pay a penalty.

Oil Deliveries

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made by the Environment Agency towards developing a voluntary code of practice with the oil industry on raising standards for delivering oil to domestic heating tanks; and if she will make a statement. [203409]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 8 December 2004]: Raising delivery standards is a very important element in tackling inland oil pollution. The Environment Agency is fully supportive of the two main schemes run by industry and is looking at ways it can formalise this support and improve environmental performance. The agency is actively encouraging delivery companies to adopt the principles of the voluntary schemes on deliveries that it has helped to create with the major oil companies.

Oil Pollution

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the trend in oil pollution incidents since the publication of the Environment Agency's Position Statement on oil pollution of inland waters in February. [203411]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 8 December 2004]: The Environment Agency's Position Statement showed a decline in the overall number of oil pollution incidents from 6,215 in 2000 to 5,217 in 2002, a reduction of 16 per cent. Since publication, the figures for 2003 have become available and show a further welcome decline of over 10 per cent. to 4,656. This fall is across all categories of
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incident, maintaining the reduction in the most serious incidents and, importantly, also seeing a reduction in minor incidents.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to reduce the incidence of pollution caused by leakage from domestic oil tanks. [203412]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 8 December 2004]: New and replacement oil tanks on domestic premises are subject to Building Regulations, which require a risk assessment to be undertaken and a bunded tank to be used if the risk is high, for example if the tank is within 10 metres of a watercourse. All tanks over 2,500 litres must be bunded.

Domestic oil storage tanks over 3,500 litres are subject to The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 which already apply to new facilities and existing facilities at significant risk and will apply to all remaining existing oil stores by 1 September 2005. In addition, the Agency has powers under the Water Resources Act 1991 to require improvements of installations where pollution of controlled waters is likely to occur.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the recommendations made by the Environment Agency in its Position Statement on oil pollution of inland waters published in February. [203413]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 8 December 2004]: The Department is in regular contact with the Environment Agency about the prevention of oil pollution generally and the recommendations in the Position Statement.


Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what regulations are in place to protect raptor bird populations; and what plans she has to amend this legislation. [199544]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects all wild birds. This fulfils Great Britain's obligations under the EC wild birds directive. The Act's provisions provide a powerful framework for the conservation of wild birds, their eggs, nests and habitats. It is an offence to kill or take any wild bird and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 implemented penalties of a fine of up to £5,000 per specimen and/or six months custodial sentence.

There are no plans to amend this legislation.

Recycling Targets

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will introduce recycling targets for local authorities to cover (a) the recycling of commercial waste and (b) home composting; and if she will make a statement. [202179]

Mr. Morley: Local authorities are only required by section 45 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to collect commercial waste if they are requested to do so by the producer of the waste. At present, those
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producing commercial waste can arrange for its collection with either a local authority or a suitably licensed private waste management firm.

A statutory duty to collect commercial waste would have to be placed on local authorities if a recycling target for the collection of commercial waste were to be set for them. We have no plans to introduce such a duty and so have no plans to introduce recycling targets for local authorities to cover the recycling of commercial waste.

There is as yet no auditable methodology for determining how much waste is treated through home composting. But the Environment Agency and the Waste and Resources Action Programme are currently working to develop more robust techniques for using operational statistics to assess the diversion effects of home composting. If an auditable methodology is developed we will consider including home composting within existing composting targets.

Statutory Nuisance Complaints

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) requirement and (b) statutory guidance is (i) in place and (ii) planned for a borough council to have an established procedure for dealing with complaints about a statutory nuisance. [202538]

Alun Michael: Local authorities have a statutory duty under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to take reasonable steps to investigate complaints of statutory nuisance. It is for local authorities to decide how best to meet this duty. There is no provision in legislation for statutory guidance in relation to statutory nuisance.

Sustainable Development

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress by her Department since 1997 in (a) developing energy efficiency, (b) increasing biodiversity, (c) encouraging sustainable development and (d) supporting agriculture. [201090]

Alun Michael: Defra was created in June 2001 both to act as a "champion" within Government for sustainable development and with specific responsibility for environmental protection, the renewal of rural areas and the future of the farming industry. Defra reports annually on its progress in delivering these objectives through its departmental reports. We also report progress against any outstanding PSA targets in our Autumn Performance reports.

Detailed below are some of the key highlights setting out the Department's progress since its creation in the areas of: (1) sustainable development; (2) developing energy efficiency; (3) increasing biodiversity; (4) the renewal of rural areas; and (5) supporting agriculture.

(1) Encouraging sustainable development

Sustainable development involves integrating and balancing social, economic and environmental considerations and is described by the Government as achieving "a better quality of life for everyone, now and
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for generations to come". Achieving it requires the following objectives to be met at the same time, in the UK and the world as a whole:

To reflect the Government's commitment to achieving meaningful change, Defra's target for embedding sustainable development following the 2004 Spending Review has been expanded to incorporate international sustainable development and climate change elements.

Defra has improved its organisational and administrative processes to help deliver sustainable development in three main ways:

Although Defra is making progress across the three pillars (economic, social and environmental) of sustainable development, Defra recognises that there is still much more to be done. Evidence from the Strategy consultation and the Sustainable Development Commission's report on progress (Shows Promise. Must Try Harder) broadly supports this assessment.

(2) Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is an integral element of the UK's strong domestic programme to address climate change. The 2003 Energy White Paper identified energy efficiency as the most cost-effective way to deliver all four of our energy policy goals. Energy Efficiency: The Government's Plan for Action was published in April 2004, setting out a clear framework for improving energy efficiency at an unprecedented level.

The policies and measures in the action plan will save over 12 million tonnes of carbon per year by 2010—more than half the UK's overall carbon saving target for 2010 and will save households and businesses £3 billion per year on their energy bills. The plan stands as an up-to-date compilation of the Government's delivery plans to make a step change in the rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

We already have a substantial package of action but we intend to do more to ensure we see a step change in the rate of improvement of energy efficiency and successfully deliver the transition to a low carbon economy.
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We continue to look for ways to further strengthen energy efficiency as part of the Climate Change Programme review and will publish an updated programme in the first half of next year.

(3) Biodiversity

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan established clear biological targets for habitats and species. Progress since 1997 has been encouraging; for example, the 2002 reporting round revealed positive trends for more than a third of the UK BAP species and nearly 60 per cent. of the habitats. This year's figures for wild bird populations show some encouraging signs that our policies for biodiversity are resulting in positive outcomes for birds, but there is no room for complacency and more remains to be done.

In 2002 the Government published "Working with the grain of nature: a Biodiversity Strategy for England" which sets out a programme of activity to ensure the integration of biodiversity into policymaking and practice. The strategy sets out five key policy areas where integration needs to be achieved: agriculture, water, woodland, marine/coastal management and urban. It also includes four areas where cross-cutting improvement is needed: driving local and regional action; the economics and funding of biodiversity; the engagement of business and promoting education and public understanding.

We have put in place other measures including our extensive network of protected sites and the development of agri-environment schemes. We have also set challenging PSA targets to bring into favourable condition by 2010 95 per cent. of all nationally important wildlife sites; and to reverse the long-term decline in the number of farmland birds by 2020. The UK BAP is about to embark on its 2005 reporting round which we hope will provide more evidence to show that our work on policy integration is resulting in further biodiversity gains.

(4) The renewal of rural areas

As part of the Rural Strategy 2004, we announced that we would establish an integrated agency comprising (a) English Nature, (b) the access, recreation and landscape elements of the Countryside Agency and (c) most of the Rural Development Service. This single independent non-departmental public body (NDPB) will build on the world-class strengths and scientific expertise of the existing organisations. It will be a champion of integrated resource management, nature conservation, biodiversity, landscape, access and recreation. Working in close partnership with the Environment Agency, it will lead on the delivery of Government targets for biodiversity to produce improvements for biodiversity across rural, urban, marine and coastal England.

We also promised to establish a new Countryside Agency. The New Countryside Agency, initially to be set up as a distinctive body within the legal framework of the Countryside Agency, will in due course be an independent NDPB in its own right. It will be a strong voice for rural people and communities, acting as expert adviser, watchdog and advocate. Its priority will be rural disadvantage. It will act as a think-tank and futures body drawing on best practice to suggest innovative solutions to Government and monitoring
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and reporting on progress in delivery. It will fit within a sustainable development umbrella to ensure that in championing people, the relationship between people, their communities and their environment is enhanced and not weakened.

(5) Supporting agriculture

In March 2000 the Government launched the Action Plan for Farming, which was developed in partnership with industry to support industry restructuring and adaptation in response to very low income levels. In August 2001, the Government set up the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food to advise the Government on how to create a sustainable, competitive and diverse farming and food sector. The Policy Commission produced its report in December 2001, containing 105 recommendations around the theme of reconnecting farmers with the market and aligning their activities with the needs of society and with the market.

The Government incorporated the vast majority of the Policy Commission's recommendations in its Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food—Facing the Future in England, which was launched on 12 December 2002. The strategy outlines how industry, Government and consumers can work together to secure a sustainable future for our farming and food industries, as viable industries contributing to a better environment and healthy and prosperous communities. An independent Implementation Group, chaired by Sir Don Curry, has been established to oversee delivery of the strategy.

The strategy sets out the basis for a new relationship between Government and the farming industry in England. At its heart is a drive to make farmers more market, and less subsidy, focused while managing their businesses in more environmentally and socially responsible ways. The Government pay £1.8 billion in direct support to agriculture each year through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Last June's CAP reform deal, which has allowed member states to decouple CAP subsidies from production, is crucial to delivering the strategy.

The England Rural Development Programme provides a framework for the operation of 10 separate but integrated schemes which provide new opportunities to protect and improve the countryside, to develop sustainable enterprises and to help rural communities to thrive. The Government have spent £825.3 million under these schemes since the programme was launched in 2000.

Further information

More detailed information on the Department's performance can be found in Defra's Departmental and Autumn Performance Reports. Copies are available in the House of Commons Library and can be found online at

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