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Armed Forces Compensation Scheme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced last week in his Budget statement that there would be a change to the tax regime for the new compensation scheme which will commence on 6 April 2005.

I am pleased to confirm that because of the special demands of service in our armed forces, the Government have now decided that lump sums awarded to those who are able to remain in service after their injury or illness will be paid tax-free.

This change reflects the importance that this Government attach to our armed forces in the event of injury or disability.


Flood and Coastal Erosion (Government Strategy)

The Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): Over the autumn of 2004 the Government carried out a proactive consultation exercise on "Making space for water", a new Government strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management. There were 268 formal responses to that consultation, and overall they were very supportive of the proposed new strategic direction.

I am pleased to announce that I am today publishing a First Government response to the points made during the consultation. Copies of the response "Making space
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for water: Taking forward a new Government strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England, First Government response to the autumn 2004 Making space for water consultation exercise, March 2005", have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Government response confirms that strategic direction of travel on key issues, taking account of the points made during the consultation exercise.

The programme of work set out in the response will make a significant contribution to our ability to adapt to climate change, in line with the recently published UK sustainable development strategy, "Securing the future", and Defra's five-year strategy, "Delivering the Essentials of Life". The response considers how we should continue to incorporate allowances for climate change and build adaptability into our risk management measures.

The new strategy encompasses all types of flooding and a range of Government policies relevant to flooding and coastal erosion. We will be adopting a more holistic approach so as to achieve a better balance between the three pillars of sustainable development (economic, environmental and social). We will also make more use of a portfolio of measures so as to achieve multiple objectives from the way we identify and implement solutions. We will be seeking to make the involvement of stakeholders more effective at all levels of decision making.

To facilitate the new approach we will work towards extending the strategic role of the Environment Agency to cover all sources of flooding as well as coastal erosion.

The response covers a wide range of important issues. In relation to land use planning policies on development and flood risk, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Housing and Planning is today making a separate statement which supports the direction of travel and which I strongly welcome.

The response commits the Government to piloting a range of different approaches to improve the integration of the management of urban drainage, an area identified as a potential source of major future risk.

In response to the call for more attention to social impacts, we will be expanding our risk management tools to put greater emphasis on flood warning and flood awareness, and on developing measures to promote resistance and resilience to flooding, including the funding of a pilot scheme.

As far as coastal issues are concerned, the Government will take forward work both to improve the evidence base in relation to, and to investigate the practical implications of considering, a wider portfolio of coastal erosion risk management tools. We will also be exploring different models to ensure there is appropriate democratic input into future decision-making on the management of coastal risks.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the flood risk management programme takes proper account of the environmental impacts of our interventions. As a practical example of this I am pleased to announce that we shall be taking measures to offset damage occurring to the Ouse Washes Natura
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2000 site. This will allow the site to continue to protect people and property from flooding at the same time as addressing the environmental value it provides for birds.

We will be announcing shortly details of a new challenge fund to stimulate innovative approaches to achieving multiple objective schemes, and we are also developing broadly based performance measures to track the impact of our programme and to ensure our management of flood and coastal erosion risk contributes to sustainable development.

Our new strategy will provide an excellent basis for guiding how we spend the record levels of funding we will be making available for flood and coastal erosion risk management so as to maximise the social, economic and environmental benefits. Over the next three years this will be at £570 million per year compared with a total of £310 million in 1996–97.

Energy and Environment Ministerial Round Table

The Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): Last week the UK held an Energy and Environment Ministerial round table, attended by Ministers from 20 countries and representatives from international organisations, business and non-governmental organisations.

Participants welcomed the opportunity to consider the key practical approaches to climate change and energy policy in an informal and innovative forum and contributed positively to the discussions which identified areas of common interest around the issues of the accessibility and affordability of modern energy systems, security of energy supply and the need for local and global environmental protection. The discussions also identified a range of priorities for further working, both in terms of methodology and in relation to specific issues such as energy efficiency.

The wide and committed participation of all concerned enabled the round table to provide a real opportunity to build trust and to look for ways in which the international community might continue to work together in future.

A record of the discussion has been captured in the co-chairs summary, which can be found on the DEFRA website at:

British Waterways

The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality (Alun Michael): I am pleased to advise that DEFRA and the Scottish Executive have today published a joint report on the policy review of British Waterways.

The report confirms the prime purpose of British Waterways is to deliver public benefits and promote social inclusion. It provides a firm foundation for developing these objectives further as well as proposing a framework within which British Waterways can work towards its aim of become largely self sufficient.

DEFRA will now work with the Scottish Executive and British Waterways to consider how best to implement the review's recommendations and formalise a development plan for taking them forward.

A public consultation exercise formed part of the review.
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Copies of the report on the review and the report on the analysis of responses to the public consultation exercise will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The reports can also be viewed on DEFRA's website at:

G8 Environment and Development Ministerial

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): Under the UK's Presidency of the Group of Eight countries, the Secretary of State for International Development and I co-hosted a meeting of G8 Environment and Development Ministers in Breadsall, Derbyshire on 17 and 18 March. Also attending were Luxembourg Ministers (representing the EU Presidency) and senior officials from the World Bank, United Nations Environment Programme, United National Development Programme, the European Commission and the World Conservation Union. This was the first time that G8 Environment and Development Ministers have met in this formation.

Ministers discussed two main items, climate change in Africa and action to tackle illegal logging. On climate change in Africa, Ministers considered a report, commissioned by my Department and the Department for International Development which outlined the lack of African capacity to monitor and make effective use of climate information and what more needs to be done to improve the scientific basis for adaptation to help "climate proof" Africa's development.

Ministers agreed that African countries are particularly vulnerable to climate variability and climate change, and noted that like many developing countries, they are already experiencing more frequent dangerous climate effects. Ministers then discussed what more needed to be done, including assisting Africa in reducing vulnerability by building resilience to climate variability and by developing capacity to adapt to climate change. Ministers then identified the key elements needed for an effective international response as building scientific capacity and integrating measures to address the impact of climate change in international development assistance and regional and national development plans. The vulnerability of developing countries to climate change in Africa and throughout the developing world will be discussed by Heads of State and Government at the Gleneagles summit. This meeting helped to define the priorities and options for international responses to these issues.

In response to this, my Department announced a further £100,000 towards regional predictions of climate change for Africa and £400,000 over the next three years towards a new multi-country initiative on advancing knowledge, capacity and networks in support of climate change in Africa.

On illegal logging, G8 Ministers agreed what would be done by both producer and consumer countries to tackle the problem. Ministers looked at what more would be done by G8 countries to support timber producing countries to improve governance of their forest resources and tackle wildlife trafficking. Ministers also agreed what G8 countries as major consumers of timber, would do to tackle the demand for illegally logged timber, including action such as halting the import and marketing of such timber, and using public
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procurement policies. There was also agreement that illegal logging policy experts would meet to review progress towards these commitments in 2006.

To help tackle illegal logging, the Secretary of State for International Development and I, committed extra resources to support producer countries, particularly those in west and central Africa. We have allocated up to £500,000 over three years to extend my Department's central point of expertise on timber to encourage the wider public sector to procure legal timber; and undertook to share our knowledge on procurement with the G8 and other countries. My Department also announced additional spending of over £1 million for forestry biodiversity projects under the Darwin Initiative spread over three years.

Ministers agreed that the outcomes on illegal logging will be forwarded as a statement to the G8 Summit at Gleneagles, while the discussions on Africa and climate change will be forwarded as a Chair's Summary for further consideration.

In addition, Ministers had an interactive meeting with civil society representatives (non-Governmental organisations, industry representatives and research institutes). Ministers also had informal discussions on the Commission for Africa Report, which was widely welcomed, reform of humanitarian aid and the importance of biodiversity for sustainable livelihoods.

Copies of the report on "Climate Proofing Africa" and the outcome paper from the G8 Environment and Development Ministerial will be available in the Libraries of both Houses.

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