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5 Apr 2005 : Column 1363W—continued


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will make a statement on her proposals to transfer ownership of private sewers and lateral drains from property owners to local water companies; [224365]

(2) what arrangements are being made for the transfer of ownership of sewers and drains; and whether necessary repairs will be carried out before that transfer. [224367]

Mr. Morley: The Government published a response to their consultation—Review of Existing Private Sewers and Drains in England and Wales—in October 2004. 81 per cent. of respondents favoured a change of ownership, and of these, 90 per cent. held the view that sewerage undertakers should take over responsibility. The Government acknowledged the strength of support for this solution and undertook to look into it in more depth.

The Department also recently held a seminar with stakeholders to look at sustainable options for a potential transfer. Further information on the seminar is available on the Department's website.

The Government intend to publish a decision paper this summer, but do not rule out the need to consult further on the scope and form of a potential transfer.
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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the condition of sewers; and what the impact on household water bills is estimated to be of carrying out necessary repairs. [224366]

Mr. Morley: The Director General of Water Services sets price limits for the water and sewerage companies in England and Wales. He published his decisions on 2 December 2004. In arriving at his decisions he assessed the state of Companies' sewers to be 'stable'.

'Future water and sewerage charges 2005–10: Final determinations', which is available from the Library of the House of Commons, sets out for each water and sewerage company Ofwat's assessment of what contribution capital maintenance will make to the changes in each company's bills over the period 2005–10. However it is for each company to make decisions on what proportion of customers' bills they will spend on maintaining their sewers.

Ofwat reviewed each company's proposals to maintain all of its water and sewerage assets and concluded that, within a total of £8.4 billion, the companies would need to invest around £1.0 billion to maintain their sewerage infrastructure over the period 2005–10. This is a 17 per cent. increase on what Ofwat estimates the companies will have spent on sewerage infrastructure in the period 2000–05.

TB (Badgers)

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will introduce field trials of devices for detecting biological warfare agents used on the battlefield to detect levels of TB in badgers in the west country. [224236]

Mr. Bradshaw: The application of portable laboratories developed by the Ministry of Defence for detection of biological warfare agents, to detect bovine tuberculosis (TB) in badgers in the field is not yet at the stage appropriate for field evaluation.

This technology is based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Research using conventional laboratory-based PCR has shown that the technique is not yet able to perform as well as conventional bacterial culture in the detection of Mycobacterium bovis (M.bovis) in diseased animals.

A collaboration between the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down is evaluating a prototype portable machine for diseases other than bovine TB (Bovine Diarrhoea Virus and Foot and Mouth Disease). There are plans to evaluate it for use in detecting M.bovis in the field in the future.

Defra is currently assessing research applications for projects that will conduct a review of all current PCR assays available for Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex identification and assess their cost benefit analysis for incorporation into routine TB testing.

Mark Tami: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what strains of bovine TB in infected livestock have been isolated; and whether the same strains have been isolated in badgers killed in road traffic accidents. [224717]

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Mr. Bradshaw: Strains of Mycobacterium bovis (M.bovis) isolated from cattle or badgers infected by bovine tuberculosis are routinely determined by spoligotyping.

A total of 705 isolates of M. bovis from badgers killed in road traffic accidents have been typed by this method since November 1988, resulting in identification of 17 different strains. Of 25,120 isolates of M. bovis from cattle typed since November 1988, 46 strains have been found.

16 of the M. bovis strains have been found in both badgers and cattle. These accounted for 99.9 per cent. of badger isolates and 99.3 per cent. of cattle isolates.

TB Tests

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what powers she has to enforce tuberculosis tests on dairy farmers; and how many times these powers have been used in the last three years. [220766]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 9 March 2005]: The bovine tuberculosis testing regime is executed by officers of Defra in England. Prosecutions for non-compliance are brought by local authorities as the body responsible for enforcement. If the person responsible for the animal fails to co-operate to enable his animals to be tested the appropriate officer may take all necessary steps to enable the test to be done.

There have been no prosecutions by local authorities during the last three years to enforce tuberculosis tests on dairy farmers. Where, for whatever reason, tuberculosis tests are not carried out on time, the Department and the local authority endeavour to resolve the matter without recourse to the Courts.

Waste Management

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of responses received to the Waste Management (England and Wales) Regulations 2005 (Agricultural waste regulations consultations); and what plans she has to publish her conclusions. [224681]

Mr. Morley: I announced on 9 December 2004, Official Report, column 106WS, that the Government had published a draft of the Regulations for consultation. The consultation paper confirmed that the exercise is being carried out in compliance with the Cabinet Office's Code of Practice on Consultation" which is available at:

The consultation's closing date was 18 March 2005 and we are now considering the responses which have been received. The next step will be the publication of a summary of those responses and our analysis of them. Criterion 4 of the Code of Practice provides that this summary should be published, as far as possible, within three months of the consultation's closing date.

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research has been carried out to investigate possible links
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between emissions from landfill and hazardous waste sites and health problems, with particular reference to birth defects; and if she will make a statement. [221625]

Mr. Morley: Last year my Department published an independent review of environmental and health effects of waste management. This brought together the available evidence on the health and environmental effects of different waste management facilities for treating municipal solid waste and similar wastes. It is available on the Defra website at: Later this year there will be a follow up study to extend the review to cover non-municipal waste management processes.


Social Work

Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister for Women if she willmake a statement on female employment in social care. [223419]

Ms Hewitt: As at 30 September 2003, women represented over 80 per cent. of the total whole-time equivalent employees in social service departments. On a headcount basis, women accounted for 230,700 employees in a directly employed council workforce of 277,000. There are another estimated 650,000 social care workers employed in the private and voluntary sectors, mostly in residential and domiciliary provision, and it is estimated that around 90 per cent. of that workforce is female.

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