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Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects a specific defence option to protect the salt marshes of Lymington from erosion to be approved; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: Defra has overall policy responsibility for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England. Defra funds most of the Environment Agency's flood management activities in England and provides grant aid on a project by project basis to the other flood and coastal defence operating authorities (local authorities and internal drainage boards) to support their investment in improvement projects to manage flood and coastal erosion risk. To qualify for Defra funding proposals must satisfy essential technical, economic and environmental criteria and achieve the relevant priority score" for the year in which work is programmed to start.
The Government encourages operating authorities to take a strategic approach to the provision of flood and coastal defences and they are required to consider a range of defence options. New Forest district council (NFDC), the local coast protection authority, is currently undertaking the West Solent Strategy Study and the area covered extends from Hurst Spit to Calshot Spit including the Lymington salt marsh. NFDC is, I understand, carrying out a public consultation exercise that will inform the options to be evaluated in the study.
NFDC's medium term plan includes work planned in Lymington where the council propose to reduce the rate of salt marsh erosion but I hope you understand that, until the West Solent Strategy Study is complete and until the council has submitted proposals for coast protection work in Lymington, I cannot comment on options for work.
Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the US based Sustainable Forest Initiative has been endorsed by the Central Point of Expertise on Timber. 
Mr. Morley: The Sustainable Forest Initiative was assessed in October 2004 to determine if its certification scheme provides assurance of legal and sustainable timber as defined in the Government's model contract terms and conditions.
The Government has concluded that SFI's forest management standards and chain of custody system do meet the Government's contract criteria for assurance of legal harvesting but do not provide the required assurance of Sustainable forest management. The issue for the Government is not with SFI's forest management standards, which were found to be adequate, but with the chain of custody system which does not enable the consumer to determine the percentage of certified timber in the finished product. The Government could accept a combination of an SFI certificate and additional verification of the certified timber element but, as matters stand, a certificate alone would not suffice. Action to Implement this assessment will be effective from May 2005.
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The full report on the five main certification schemes assessed can be found on the sustainable development in Government website at: http://www.sustainable-development.gov.uk/sdig/improving/pdf/f-cpet.pdf
In circumstances where the Environment Agency has taken a reasoned decision in accordance with (iii) above, the agency shall serve a closure notice on the operator of the landfill setting out its reasons for requiring closure. Clearly, adverse impact on the local environment/residents may constitute one of those reasons.
Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave her on 24 January 2005, Official Report, column 9W. The local authority representation on the Yorkshire Regional Flood Defence Committee remains as stated.
Mr. Morley: Defra's priority is to maximise the protection of people and assets in relation to the funding available. While there is no bias in the priority score system against rural projects, it is however true that projects are less likely to go ahead in sparsely populated areas as these will tend to score less highly than projects which protect larger numbers of people or higher asset values for a given cost. Most of the components making up the priority score of a given project are compared to cost so the crucial measurement is on benefits per unit cost and not on the absolute benefits of proposals. This ensures smaller projects are considered on an equal footing to larger ones.
We do not classify projects by urban or rural location and often the distinction will not be clear. We could not seek to gather this information without incurring disproportionate cost. As explained in my letter of 11 February to the hon. Member, I have placed in the House Library a list of improvement projects in England approved since May 1997, or which were approved earlier but received funding after that date.
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Mr. Mullin: We have made it clear that we look to Zimbabwe to comply in full with the South African Development Council electoral principles. We are concerned that the environment still falls woefully short of meeting this. Media, opposition and civil society in Zimbabwe need to be able to operate without fear of violence and intimidation. The intimidation of media and the break-up of an MDC training session earlier this month suggests otherwise.
Mr. Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the political situation in Sri Lanka with the President and Foreign Minister in the course of last year. He is looking looking forward to meeting the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister again in London this month.
Mr. MacShane: The Government's objective remains the reunification of Cyprus, and we continue to support all efforts to achieve this aim in a manner that is fair, viable and lasting for the benefit of all Cypriots. It is in this context that we welcome the continued strong support for settlement and re-unification among Turkish Cypriots as reflected in the outcome of their elections on 20 February.
Mr. Rammell: We believe this outcome reflects the Turkish Cypriot Community's on-going desire to work for a comprehensive settlement on the basis of the Annan Plan and to realise in full the benefits of EU membership.
17. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his counterpart in Pakistan concerning the situation in Kashmir. 
Mr. Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the issue of Kashmir with his Pakistani and Indian counterparts during his visit to both countries earlier this month. More broadly, they discussed progress in the on-going composite dialogue between India and Pakistan. The Foreign Secretary particularly welcomed the announcement that was made on 16 February of a bus link between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar.
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