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18 Mar 2005 : Column 493W—continued


Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of whether the proposed EU Constitutional Treaty takes account of fisheries provisions negotiated by those member states that joined the EU in 1995. [222416]

Mr. Bradshaw: No assessment has been made of the fisheries provisions relating to the member states which joined the EU in 1995 in the context of the EU Constitution.

Flood Defences (Sheerness)

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) who is responsible for making sure the floodgates in the sea wall are closed properly when there is an exceptional tide at Sheerness; [222709]

(2) who is responsible for the floodgates in the sea wall at Sheerness. [222710]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency and its predecessors constructed the flood defences along the Sheerness frontage on the Isle of Sheppey and retains overall responsibility for the floodgates and floodwalls. The Agency is responsible for issuing tidal flood warnings and ensuring the floodgates are closed as necessary.

The Environment Agency operates the Queenborough tidal flood barrier, located across the Queenborough Creek, but there are local agreements in place with Swale borough council and private landowners to operate all other floodgates along the Sheerness frontage.

Visual inspection to confirm the integrity of the sea defences, and the closure of all the floodgates on the Sheerness frontage, is also undertaken by the Agency during exceptional tides.

Full details of which floodgates are operated by Swale borough council and local landowners are as follows:

Swale borough council is responsible for closing floodgates at:

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Local landowners are responsible for closing floodgates at:

Additionally, the Environment Agency undertakes routine maintenance inspections of all the floodgates every two months, and carries out the actions arising from these inspections that may include capital expenditure—for example to replace worn out gates.

Fuel Poverty

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been spent on alleviating fuel poverty in the boroughs of (a) Southend-on-Sea and (b) Thurrock in each year from 1995 to 2004. [221955]

Mr. Morley: The Warm Front Scheme, the major programme to tackle the problem of fuel poverty in the private sector in England, was launched in June 2000. Between June 2000 and the end of December 2004 expenditure in Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock in each financial year was:


(6) June to March.
(7) April to December 2004

The annual estimated expenditure under the previous Home Energy Efficiency Scheme from April 1995 to May 2000 for Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock was:


(8) To May 2000.

Pet Animals

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she plans (a) to sign and (b) to ratify the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. [221674]

Mr. Bradshaw: We intend to review further the UK's position on the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals once the Animal Welfare Bill has become law.
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Radiation Risks

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what changes her Department plans to its (a) policies and (b) regulatory practices following the recommendations of the Report of the Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters, with particular reference to risk estimates. [220591]

Mr. Morley: I have considered the Report of the Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters (CERRIE), along with the report of its parent body, the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE).

On matters to do with radiation and health, we would take advice from COMARE, the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and the Department of Health (DH). DH, as well as Defra, co-sponsored CERRIE. DH, through its radiation research programme, will respond to COMARE's recommendation that further work is required to address the uncertainties associated with determining the risk from internal emitters. We look forward to any further practical advice from COMARE or DH as to how uncertainty should be addressed either through policy or the regulatory regime. In the meantime, we shall be encouraging consideration of uncertainty whenever radiation risk is calculated.

Radioactive Waste

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans her Department has to review low level radioactive waste management policy. [222126]

Mr. Morley: I have agreed with ministerial colleagues within UK Government and the devolved administrations that a review of policy for the long-term management of the UK's low level radioactive waste (LLW) should be carried out.

LLW is generated by a wide range of activities involving the use of radioactive substances. They include the operation of nuclear reactors, the operation of other nuclear processing facilities, the decommissioning and clean up of nuclear sites, non-nuclear industrial activities, the medical use of radioactive materials, and research and educational activities.

While relatively low, the level of radioactivity in LLW can span a very wide range (about five orders of magnitude). Not least because of this, it has been managed in a number of ways in the past: using the national disposal facility at Drigg in Cumbria, using various forms of disposal on the nuclear site on which the waste was generated, using controlled burial to landfill and, for small quantities of very low level waste, through disposal with other ordinary refuse.

What has now changed is that with many nuclear sites and facilities moving into their decommissioning phase, and with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) being set up to deal with this, it has been increasingly recognised that there will be a very large volume of LLW to be dealt with. Potentially this could fill the Drigg disposal facility a number of times over.
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The kinds of issue that are going to have to be addressed in the review are as follows. Should we use up existing capacity in the Drigg facility—which is a relatively expensive management option—on very low activity wastes (i.e. how do we best use the Drigg facility as a national asset?). Does it make sense to dig up very large quantities of very low activity waste and transport it around the country to bury at some other site? Is controlled burial to landfill off-site appropriate for nuclear waste, or should we be looking to a greater use of on-site burial under suitably controlled and regulated conditions? For whatever approach is identified, what is the likely timing of the existing Drigg facility becoming full, and what need for action does this imply?

The proposed policy review is intended to consider these kinds of issues. The aim is to identify a policy framework, which will update that set out in the 1995 White Paper "Review of Radioactive Waste Management Policy: Final Conclusions" (Cm2919) to cover the future management of LLW, notably by the NDA. The aim of such a policy statement is not to address the detail of the individual LLW management decisions that have to be made, but rather to define the high level framework—requirements and principles—within which such decisions must be made.

The initial stages are being overseen by a Steering Group drawn from the Government's Radioactive Waste Policy Group (RWPG). RWPG is made up of UK Government, devolved administrations and regulatory body representatives and meets regularly, several times a year, to discuss radioactive waste management policy and regulatory issues. The Steering Group is organising two national stakeholder workshops during the course of 2005 to support consideration of the issues and possible solutions. This work will contribute to the preparation and issue of a Government consultation on the revised policy proposals to be issued around the turn of the year.

The LLW long-term management policy review will be carried out in parallel with the work of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), which is assessing options for the long-term management of the UK's higher activity wastes. In contrast to CoRWM's work the issue for LLW is not that of identifying the best long-term management option itself, but rather how best to apply those forms of long-term management that already exist.

Clearly there may be some interdependencies between the LLW management policy review and the work of CoRWM. These will be kept under review and managed by RWPG Committee as the work proceeds.

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