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Dairy Industry

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of the UK's milk quota was used in the last period for which figures are available. [207481]

Alun Michael: The UK's milk quota for the current quota year, which runs from 1 April 2004 to 31 March 2005, is 14,186 million litres. The provisional figure for the volume of milk delivered to purchasers up to the end of December 2004 is 10,370 million litres, which when
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adjusted for butterfat content is 10,407.5 million litres. This is 2.19 per cent. below the butterfat adjusted quota profile for the year.

The figure for the amount of milk produced for direct sale will not be available until the 2005–06 quota year.

Departmental Events

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the (a) conferences, (b) seminars, (c) workshops, (d) exhibitions and (e) press conferences which have been sponsored by her Department and which took place on non-departmental premises in each of the last two years giving the (i) title, (ii) purpose, (iii) date and (iv) cost of each. [202367]

Alun Michael: Centrally held records of Defra funded third-party involvement indicate one conference held off departmental premises—the Ruralnet conference in Maidstone, Kent on 13 and 14 of October 2004.

Records for each directorate in Defra are not held centrally and could be collated only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Expenditure

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost of refurbishments in her Department was in each year since 1997; and what the planned expenditure is for 2005–06. [205666]

Alun Michael: Cost of refurbishment work undertaken in Defra and Executive Agencies for each year since formation is:
London, Ergon House (£ million)3.75
London, Cromwell House (£ million)1.3
Taunton, Quantock House (£000)40
London, 9 Millbank (£ million)2.5
London, 3–8 Whitehall (£ million)1.3
London, Nobel House (£ million)6.0
London, Nobel House (£ million)13.0
London, 55 Whitehall (£ million)3.3
Cambridge, Whitehouse Lane (£000)100
Sutton Bonington, VLA (£000)200
York, Kings Pool (£000)50
Thirsk, VLA (£000)50
Truro, Polwhele AHU (£000)130
Carmarthen, VLA (£000)410

Budgets for 2005–06 await approval. No refurbishment programme can be established at present.

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been spent by her Department on lighting in each year since 1997. [205744]

Alun Michael: No separate records for the cost of lighting provision on the Defra estate are kept.
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Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the running costs of the Department were in each year since 1997, broken down by (a) electricity, (b) water, (c) gas, (d) telephones, (e) mobile telephones and (f) televisions. [206670]

Alun Michael: The information shown in the table covers running costs for Defra from the time of its creation in 2001. It covers the central department (excluding Executive Agencies) and for utilities, only those buildings for which Defra has a contractual responsibility.

(a) Electricity1,190.2920.8979.0
(b) Water138.9103.8105.6
(c) Gas513.9381.9427.7
(d) telephones3,483.61,817.01,260.0
(e) mobile telephones2,527.5755.2473.1
(f) televisions1.61.90.9


Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on her Department's policy regarding the retention of e-mails in electronic form (a) after and (b) up to 1 January 2005; and what instructions have been given regarding the deletion of e-mails prior to 1 January 2005. [206960]

Alun Michael: E-mail messages that form part of the official record are saved for as long as business needs require and stored corporately in accordance with departmental record management procedures. Defra's guidance on e-mail management emphasises the importance of capturing all significant e-mail messages—this policy has not changed. Further e-mail guidance is available on the National Archives website at:

Environment Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Environment Council on 20 December; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [207059]

Mr. Morley: I attended the Environment Council on 20 December 2004, together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Council reached political agreement on two measures concerning the Aarhus Convention, both with the support of the UK. We agreed a draft Regulation on the application of provisions on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters to the Community institutions and bodies, with Belgium voting against. I intervened in the discussion to oppose a Commission suggestion that would have set a requirement that NGOs should be
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active at EU level to be entitled to use the access to justice provisions. Others took the same view and this proposal was not adopted.

There was unanimous agreement on a draft Decision to the effect that the European Community should ratify the Aarhus Convention. It is hoped that this will enable ratification by the EC to be concluded before the next meeting of the parties in May 2005. The Commission said it would enter a minutes statement concerning a declaration on external competence annexed to the decision.

We also reached political agreement on the proposed Directive on Batteries and Accumulators, following lengthy discussion of the main outstanding issues which were the extent of the partial ban on nickel cadmium batteries, and, particularly, the level and timing of collection targets. There was a wide range of views in Council, with strong pressure from a number of member states for tougher provisions on nickel cadmium and more ambitious collection targets. I argued for an evidence-based approach on nickel cadmium, and for achievable and proportionate collection targets, noting that the legal base used for this measure would not prevent member states that wished to go further from doing so. A compromise was reached after a difficult negotiation, involving targets of 25 per cent. after four years and 45 per cent. after eight years from the Directive coming into force. The exemption of cordless power tools from the nickel cadmium ban was maintained, with a Commission review after four years. Belgium abstained because the targets were too unambitious, Greece because they were too high, and Ireland because of the terms of the review of cordless power tools. Italy was also unable to support the political agreement.

We debated elements of the Regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH). The Secretary of State welcomed a recent workshop held by the Netherlands Presidency on the wide range of impact assessment work being done on this dossier, and pointed out that the UK proposal for 'one substance one registration' would help reduce duplication of information and therefore costs.

There was general support for prioritising registration of substances of greatest concern, particularly those that may be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. Some member states would like to go further and there was limited interest in developing a risk-based approach at the registration stage. Mrs. Beckett expressed UK concerns about the practicality of such an approach in the absence of the data that would only become available during the registration process itself. The Commission took a similar line.

There was broad agreement in Council that the treatment of substances in finished products (articles) was important to safeguard human health and the environment but could raise issues of workability. In addition we should avoid any danger of creating a competitive advantage for goods imported from outside the EU. Mrs. Beckett strongly supported the principle of regulating substances in articles under REACH, but put forward concerns over the workability of the current Commission proposal.
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There was no qualified majority for or against the Commission proposal for a Decision authorising placing an oilseed rape product (Brassica napus L,GT73 line), genetically modified for tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate, on the market. The UK abstained in this vote.

Council agreed a wide-ranging set of Conclusions on Climate Change: Medium and Long-term Strategies and Targets, following the 10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention in Buenos Aires, and as a contribution to the planned discussion at the Spring European Council. I spoke supporting the need for quantified targets but, with Germany and the Commission, suggested that these should follow rather than precede Commission work on cost benefits due in February.

Council also adopted Conclusions on the review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy, but was unable to do so on the Kok Report on the Lisbon Strategy. Some wished to widen the scope of the conclusions. For the UK, Mrs. Beckett strongly supported the succinct draft conclusions put forward by the Presidency. The Presidency concluded that Council should return to the discussion under the Luxembourg Presidency.

Council held a lengthy preliminary exchange of views on the proposed Regulation on the Financial instrument for the environment (LIFE+). Discussion focused on the need to ensure compatibility with the EU's overall budget. Views were expressed for and against the Commission's intention to focus funding from the new Regulation on policy support rather than implementation, which would be funded from other EU funding streams or by member states. A number of member states were concerned about possible gaps arising from this approach.

Council also exchanged views on the preparation for the 23rd Session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council, to be held in February 2005, and heard from UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Topfer. For the UK, the Secretary of State provided an opening intervention in response to a question on achieving complementarity between the Johannesburg outcomes and the Millennium Development Goals, and the role of UNEP in enhancing these synergies. This and subsequent interventions emphasised the need to recognise the links between the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the effective use of resources, underlining the necessity for all parties to make appropriate financial contributions to UNEP. The need for the Millennium Review summit to address environmental sustainability and climate change, and the importance of the Bali strategic plan for technology support and capacity building as a mechanism for implementation were also stressed.

Council adopted Conclusions on the Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment without further discussion, in which we looked forward to the
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publication by the Commission of the thematic strategy on the marine environment, due in 2005 under the 6th Environmental Action Programme.

Under Other Business, the Secretary of State raised the urgent need for concrete measures to address increasing greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, and our preference for action through the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Council was also briefed on the mercury strategy; a number of recent events organised by the Presidency covering legionella in Europe, exploring new approaches for the regulation of industrial installations (ENAP), energy in motion (i.e. sustainable transport), 25 years of the Directive on the conservation of wild birds, the soil thematic strategy and the Environment and Health Action Plan; Commission plans for the forthcoming thematic strategies; the UNECE and UNESCO high-level meeting in March 2005; and the management of biowaste.

Over lunch we also discussed Presidency ideas for a partnership between business stakeholders and governments to debate the delivery of a 'clean, clever and competitive' Europe.

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