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Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act

5. Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): If she will issue guidance making clear which parts of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 are in force and which have yet to come into force. [10110]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Guidance was issued on 6 June and is available on DEFRA's website.

Tony Baldry: Many articles were placed by the Government before the general election indicating that they were tackling all sorts of environmental crime, including litter, chewing gum on the pavements, people repairing cars on the streets and other such stuff. Expectations were raised and people expected local authorities to act. The only problem is that most of the really sexy stuff—the stuff with teeth—does not take effect until 2006 or 2007, so people are getting very frustrated and they are blaming local authorities, which are also getting frustrated. Will Ministers make clear which bits of the 2005 Act are in force today and which bits will come into force in 2006 and 2007, so that people do not have frustrated expectations about which bits of environmental crime will be tackled?

Mr. Bradshaw: It might take me rather a long time to read out the whole list of which bits come in when. I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his idea about 2007, as all the provisions will have commenced by April next year. The provisions that have already commenced include those on litter, adverts, waste and noise. In October, there will be further commencements on abandoned vehicles, and more on waste and crime and disorder. As I said, the rest of the measures will all have commenced by April 2006.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): I welcomed the passing of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, unlike certain people in this Chamber, but I am concerned about the speed of implementation and about what is being implemented. I asked a written question about section 2 of the Act and it was transferred to the Home Office. I am unclear as to which parts of the legislation are the responsibility of DEFRA and which are not, and I ask whether clarification might be made available to ensure that implementation across the board can proceed in an orderly fashion.

Mr. Bradshaw: I would be happy to provide my hon. Friend with the clarification for which he asks, but I say to him and to other hon. Members that it it is not unique that some of the provisions of Bills passed in this House have to be implemented through regulation or secondary legislation. That process requires proper consultation, as I think hon. Members would expect. The details of the provisions of the excellent 2005 Act extend across a number of Departments—the Home Office, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and local government—and it will involve consultation with other Departments. I hope that he will join me in applauding the provisions of the Act. As I am sure he will agree, local environment issues are high on people's agenda.
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Biscuit Industry

6. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): What steps she is taking to support the biscuit industry in relation to the new EU sugar regime. [10111]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): The UK biscuit industry needs to be able to buy its raw materials at similar prices to others on the world market. We will therefore be looking for substantial price cuts and increased competition as key elements in an EU sugar reform agreement.

Mr. Prentice: My right hon. Friend will know that in Pendle we have a celebrated biscuit maker, Farmhouse Biscuits, which exports its tasty biscuits throughout the world. It does so, however, with one hand tied behind its back, as it has to pay £450 a tonne for EU sugar, while it could buy world sugar at £150 a tonne. Even with the proposed changes in the EU sugar regime, Farmhouse Biscuits will still be paying more for EU sugar than it could get on the world market. I press my right hon. Friend to do something about this matter, because we are now importing more biscuits, cakes and confectionary into the United Kingdom than we are exporting—and that is not very good.

Margaret Beckett: I am grateful to my hon. Friend because he not only makes a very powerful point, but gives a perfect example of why the issue of sugar reform is important much more widely than among groups that are usually quoted in respect of their views and understandable concern about the impacts of potential reform. He is right that even if the reforms went through entirely as proposed by the Commission, EU sugar prices would still be twice the world price. That gives a clear picture of why the regime is unsustainable and has to be reformed. I realise that it will be only a crumb of comfort to him to know that the price comes down by a third.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): I entirely endorse what the Secretary of State has just said and I welcome very much the reform of the EU sugar regime. Can she guarantee to the House that that reform will include, at the very least, an end to the export subsidies on sugar, so that where we do export sugar, it is not putting third world farmers out of business?

Margaret Beckett: I am grateful to the hon. Lady. It is very much part of our goal and our wish to see export subsidies as a whole phased out. She is right to identify that one of the areas of concern is the impact of long-needed reform on growers in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the least-developed countries. She will probably know that, alongside proposals for the sugar regime, there were proposals for an action plan to help those countries. During our presidency of the European Union, discussions on sugar reform will be on the agenda of every meeting of the Agriculture Council. One of those meetings will indeed hear from ACP and other such producers that are affected.
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Flooding (North Yorkshire)

7. Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale) (Con): What assistance her Department is providing for areas of North Yorkshire recently affected by flooding. [10112]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): We will assist farmers by applying animal health rules sensibly and considering reinstatement of walls and fencing necessary to maintain environmental objectives. The North York Moors national park authority is proposing to submit a specific bid to DEFRA for funding for the flood damage, and that will be discussed when we receive it in more detail. The Bellwin formula is also available for those who qualify.

Mr. Greenway: I am grateful to the Minister for that encouraging reply. Areas around Snilesworth moor and Arden moor, north-west of Helmsley, have suffered utter devastation. Trees have been uprooted and up to 50 miles of walls and fences have basically been destroyed. Much of that was paid for by Government grants, so Ministers have an investment. The hill farmers cannot afford to pay to put right the damage. We have established an emergency fund locally, and I hope that the Government will make a significant contribution to it.

Mr. Morley: I express my sincere condolences to all the people who were affected by the recent floods in north Yorkshire. We are trying to be as sympathetic as we can in relation to the response. As I have outlined, the Rural Development Service will be talking to the national parks and the farmers, and we will be looking at the force majeure rules to see what we can do to assist.

Mr. Michael Foster (Worcester) (Lab): My hon. Friend will know that properties in north Yorkshire and elsewhere that are at risk of flooding will be listed on the Environment Agency flood map and other maps produced by organisations such as Norwich Union. At a meeting that I attended yesterday in my capacity as chair of the all-party flood prevention group yesterday, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister informed me that in home information packs for home sellers, flood risk does not have to be declared whereas risk of mining subsidence does. May I urge my hon. Friend—I know that it is a controversial and difficult subject affecting 2 million properties—to urge the ODPM to give flood risk and mining subsidence equal treatment?

Mr. Morley: My hon. Friend makes a good and important point. We talk to the ODPM on these issues at regular intervals. Flood risk maps are publicly available, and I recommend that people see whether their home is in a flood risk area. I understand my hon. Friend's point, which is a serious one, and we will certainly give it thought.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): The Minister will be aware that the flood damage not only caused devastation in villages in the Vale of York but affected properties in Thirsk that were flooded less that four years ago. Will the hon. Gentleman bring forward the flood alleviation scheme for Thirsk? As regards
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properties such as the dental practice that has been told that it is simply uninsurable, what help can the Department give with the insurance industry?

Mr. Morley: Again, I express my condolences to people who are affected in Thirsk. The hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Rydale (Mr. Greenway) have asked to have a meeting with me, and I shall be only too pleased to arrange that. We will then be able to discuss some of these matters in more detail. The schemes are brought forward not by DEFRA but by either local authorities or the regional flood committees. I understand that there are proposals for a scheme in Thirsk, and I shall be happy to discuss that in more detail.

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