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Rights of Way/Footpaths

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of (a) rights of way and (b) footpaths are (i) easy to use and (ii) in a good state of repair. [2428]

Jim Knight: The Best Value Performance Indicator figures for 2003–04 published by the Audit Commission show that an average of 69 per cent. of rights of way in England are easy to use. To qualify as easy to use the right of way should be in a good state of repair. The Best Value survey figures are for all types of rights of way and are not broken down to provide information on footpaths alone.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the sewer capacity in (a) Stroud, (b) Gloucestershire and (c) England. [2677]

Mr. Morley: The Office of Water Services (Ofwat) does not collect information on sewer capacity. It is the responsibility of water and sewerage companies to ensure their sewers have sufficient capacity. Ofwat set price limits in December 2004 which will allow the companies to maintain and invest in their assets.

In its final determinations Ofwat took account of the need for the companies to take action to safeguard homes against the risk of sewer flooding. This is set out in table 40 of Ofwat's 'Future water and sewerage charges 2005–10:Final determinations' which is in the Library of the House. Ofwat also allowed financing for companies to invest in upgrading their sewerage assets to meet rising demands particularly in relation to housing growth. This is set out in table 31 of the same document.

Single Payment Scheme

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on (a) the eligibility of short rotation coppice under the single payment scheme and (b) the implications for biomass production therefrom. [1500]

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Jim Knight: Land on which short rotation coppice is grown in 2005 or later years is eligible for the purpose of the single payment scheme if it meets one of the following criteria:

We are exploring the position further in respect of those growers who do not meet the qualifying criteria. The single payment scheme provides a clear option for diversification into biomass production to supply the markets which are now coming forward.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will establish an independent tribunal system to consider claims by farmers concerning alleged mishandling of single payment scheme applications by the Rural Payments Agency. [1509]

Jim Knight: Farmers have had access to an independent appeal procedure since 1 April 2002 which has enabled them to challenge decisions made by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on their subsidy scheme claims.

The single payment scheme Appeal Procedure was introduced in 2004 and is currently dealing with appeals from farmers relating to the introduction of the scheme. It will continue to be available to farmers who wish to challenge decisions made by RPA that will affect the amount of single payment that they will receive.

The independent appeal procedure is not a tribunal system but gives a farmer the opportunity to present their case to an independent panel made up of members who have been appointed in accordance with the Code of Practice on Public Appointments.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason it has been decided that farmers who do not submit applications under the single payment scheme by 10 June 2005 should lose all entitlements until 2012. [1510]

Jim Knight: 10 June 2005 was the final date provided for in the European regulations for the establishment of entitlements under the single payment scheme. Where establishment of entitlements took place after 16 May 2005 a reduction of 4 per cent. per working day will be applied to payments made in respect of those entitlements claimed in 2005.

Waste Management

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of household waste in (a) the East Riding of Yorkshire and (b) England was (i) recycled and (ii) composted in the last year for which figures are available; and what action her Department is taking to increase that percentage. [3600]

Mr. Bradshaw: Audited data show that the East Riding of Yorkshire Council achieved 14 per cent. for the recycling and composting of household waste against a target of 18 per cent. for 2003–04.
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The figure for England shows that householders are now recycling and composting 17.7 per cent. of their household waste against a national target of 17 per cent. for 2003–04.

Defra, and Government more widely, recognise the challenge local authorities in England face meeting their statutory performance standards in recycling and composting and the increase in costs as waste is diverted away from landfill. Accordingly, we are providing increased levels of support and funding to drive the management of household waste up the waste hierarchy.

Local authorities' main source of funding for waste management is the Environmental, Protective and Cultural Services (EPCS) block of the Revenue Support Grant distributed by central Government each year, supplemented by council tax. In last year's Spending Review (SR2004) the Government announced an increase in EPCS Formula Spending Share block of £888 million by 2007–08 over 2004–05.

Funding is also being provided from a variety of other sources to help authorities meet and exceed their targets. The Waste Performance and Efficiency Grant (WPEG) is providing unringfenced funding to local authorities worth £45 million in 2005–06 and £105 million and £110 million in the two following years. The grant is intended to underpin core funding, helping to put in place new and more efficient ways to reduce waste and increase recycling and diversion from landfill. Through the private finance initiative (PFI), credits worth £355 million have been made available in the three years to 2005–06 as an extra source of funding, with a further £535 million available in 2006–07 and 2007–08.

Alongside the additional funding, we are providing increased support to local authorities through a number of organisations who can offer both advice and funding. The Waste Implementation Programme (WIP) has devoted over £150 million over the three years to 2005–06 to strategic measures helping authorities to divert waste from landfill. It includes a Local Authority Support Unit aimed specifically at assisting local authorities to reach their targets and manage waste in a more sustainable fashion. The unit is providing help, where appropriate, in the form of best practice guidance, practical support and consultancy advice, including public awareness and education programmes.

On a national basis, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is a not-for-profit company supported by funding from Defra, the Department for Trade and Industry and the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is working to promote sustainable waste management by creating stable and efficient markets for recycled materials and products. It also runs the Recycling and Organics Technical Advisory Team which is available to all local authorities in England to provide support and advice on the separate collection of dry recyclables and organic wastes.

We are also engaging with the poorest performing local authorities, which has included meetings with the Minister of State for some of them, to ensure they receive the right support. If authorities continue to demonstrate no commitment to improvement the
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Secretary of State will use—as a last resort—the formal intervention powers under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999.

Water Pollution

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department is taking to define microbial public health standards for (a) water courses and (b) discharges into them. [2678]

Mr. Morley: The Surface Water Abstraction Directive specifies microbiological standards for waters that are abstracted for potable water supply. The quality of the abstracted water determines the level of treatment of raw water required for potable consumption.

The Bathing Waters Directive specifies mandatory and guideline standards for identified bathing waters. In the UK most are tidal waters not watercourses. The few inland bathing waters are all lakes or ponds. The Bathing Waters Directive is currently under review.

There are no microbial water quality standards that are generally applicable to all water courses or discharges. The microbiological quality of inland watercourses is highly variable, due to land runoff from livestock agriculture and from urban drainage after rainfall, as well as from continuous discharges of treated effluent from sewage works.

In England and Wales the Environment Agency is responsible for approving and regulating discharges to watercourses. Where a discharge to inland (or tidal) waters could impact upon the microbiological quality of a Bathing Water, (or a Shellfish Water, for which there are shellfish flesh standards) the Environment Agency's policies and procedures are intended to ensure that permitted discharges do not put compliance with the standards at risk.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions (a) she and (b) the Environment Agency have had with Local Agenda 21 groups about pollution of water courses. [2679]

Mr. Morley: Following the Earth Summit in 1992 and the Agenda 21 declaration, many local communities in the UK set up voluntary groups which worked on sustainable development activity. In many local authority areas, Agenda 21 strategies have been subsumed into statutory community strategies and some Agenda 21 groups disbanded.

There is no official list or register of these groups since they change as do the communities who set them up. There are no official communication channels with these groups and Defra has not received any requests for discussion about environmental water quality.

At the national level, Defra encourages stakeholder participation in water quality issues through stakeholder groups and consultations, for example the Water Framework Directive stakeholder group that considers issues relating to implementation of the Water Framework Directive in England and water policy generally. Its membership covers a wide range of interests, including the environment, the water industry, agriculture, the countryside, and industry.
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At the local level, the Environment Agency has worked for many years with Local Agenda 21 groups and the partnerships they have often developed into, for example Local Strategic Partnerships, on a number of environmental issues and objectives, including the pollution of watercourses.

The Environment Agency is currently involved with 284 Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) and the development and implementation of their Community Strategies.

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