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Marine Environment (Recreation)

12. Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): What proposals she is assessing in relation to resolving conflicting recreational activities in the marine environment. [10119]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has recently published a guide for local authorities on managing coastal activities, which has been widely welcomed by them, and by other users, as a valuable tool for overcoming potential conflicts through negotiation, with compulsion, through byelaws, as a last resort.

Huw Irranca-Davies: I welcome that guidance; the Minister will recognise that this is a busy island, both onshore and offshore. Will he undertake to meet a small delegation from one of the foremost areas of expertise in this area, the safety in leisure unit at Swansea institute, which has been examining the conflict of recreational uses in the offshore environment? Those people might have some interesting ideas for him to consider further, which would have an impact on constituencies throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, not least Bridgend and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James), which include very attractive parts of the south Wales coastline.

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, I would be happy to meet a delegation brought to me by my hon. Friend, and I am well aware of the problem, as I represent a near coastal seat myself.

Radioactive Waste (Consultation)

13. John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): What discussions she has had with the Chairman of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management on publication of the findings of its public consultation programme. [10120]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): None. Corwm will undertake a number of rounds of public and stakeholder engagement as part of its agreed work programme. It is for Corwm to decide precisely how it will publish its consultation findings in line with its guiding principles
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of openness, transparency and the provision of a full audit trail for the recommendations that it eventually delivers.

John Robertson: I thank my hon. Friend for his answer, but does he not agree that while we are waiting for Corwm to produce its solution, particularly for high-level waste, it is important for the people of this country to understand what is happening with that sort of waste and know that it is secure, so that we can go forward into the future with a balanced energy policy?

Mr. Morley: My hon. Friend is right. It is important that current waste storage facilities are properly regulated by the Health and Safety Executive, the nuclear installations inspectorate and the Environment Agency—and I can assure him that that is the case. We need a long-term strategy, particularly for high-level nuclear waste, and that is Corwm's remit. It will report in July next year.

"Securing the Benefits" Report

15. Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab): What consultations she will have with the fishing industry on implementing the "Securing the Benefits" report. [10122]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): My colleagues in the devolved administrations and I continue to hold regular meetings with representatives of the fishing industry and other interested parties as we implement the recommendations of the Prime Minister's strategy unit report.

Mrs. Humble: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. "Securing the Benefits" is a positive document, with references throughout to liaising with stakeholders. However, as many of the recommendations will be implemented through the regional advisory councils, which are so big and have so many sub-committees, can he reassure me that the voice of the fishing community will be heard all the way up to him, and all the way through to the Commission?

Mr. Bradshaw: I am sure that my hon. Friend will ensure that that happens; she, and other hon. Members who represent fishing communities, do an assiduous job on behalf of their fishermen. I can assure her that that will be the case. One of the huge benefits that the process has given us since the Prime Minister's strategy unit report was published is the bringing together for the first time in a new relationship of co-operation not just the fishing industry and my Department, but environmental groups and others, through the regionalisation of the common fisheries policy. That gives us an opportunity to move forward on the basis of consensus for the first time, in an industry where in the past, it has been quite difficult to get people round the table to agree to anything.

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) (Lab): I think that my hon. Friend will find that that consensus is already there to build on, and the industry is happy with the report—but will he agree to an earlier discussion?
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"Net Benefits" channelled the industry towards the regional development agencies, and Yorkshire Forward has set aside money to try to help fishing, but because of the restrictions on state aid, it now finds that it cannot give it to the industry, except to be spent on plastic safety helmets—the industry could have millions of those if it needed them. Will my hon. Friend receive a delegation from the fishing industry to discuss how we can get round that difficulty, and how the regional development agencies can help the industry?

Mr. Bradshaw: I am acutely aware of the issue to which my hon. Friend refers because it has been raised with me several times, most recently at the annual general meeting of the United Kingdom Association of Fish Producer Organisation. I am trying to resolve the situation to the satisfaction of my hon. Friend and the industry that he represents. I am happy to receive a delegation, but hope to have resolved the matter before I need to do so.

Toner Cartridge Waste

16. Paul Rowen (Rochdale) (LD): What steps she is taking to ensure that toner cartridge waste is properly disposed of. [10124]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): By law, those responsible for the management of waste, including toner cartridge waste, must take all reasonable steps to ensure safe disposal.

Paul Rowen: Is the Minister aware that there is a problem with the disposal of toner? Although it has been declassified, many landfill companies refuse to accept it, so the disposal of waste causes a major problem to the toner re-use industry.

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, I am aware of the problem. My officials are working closely with both the producers and the waste disposal industry to try to secure solutions to it.

Single Farm Payments

17. Sandra Gidley (Romsey) (LD): If she will make a statement on single farm payments. [10125]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jim Knight): It is hard to overstate the importance of the June 2003 reforms in transforming the core elements of the common agricultural policy and laying down a new direction for its future evolution. Crucially, with the introduction of the single payment scheme, the link between the subsidy paid to farmers and the level of production has been broken—that is the so-called decoupling process. That means that farmers' activities will no longer be dictated by what the subsidy regime requires them to produce, with all the costs and bureaucracy entailed, because they will be free to farm for what the market wants.
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Sandra Gidley: I listened with interest to the Minister's earlier reply. My farmers tell me that the problem appears to be the bureaucracy, so the way in which the Government lay the blame on a computer system going slightly wrong once again is not good enough. Why should farmers be made to pay because the Government still have not quite got their act together on the computer and information technology schemes to back up implementation?

Jim Knight: We are implementing a significant new scheme. As I said earlier, we made it clear back in February where in the payment window between December and June the payments would be made—they will be made in February next year. There have been problems, especially with the digitisation of maps, but we are doing everything that we can to overcome them.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I recently met farmers in my constituency who were complaining about the lack of clarity given and the confusion that comes out of the Government. They say that most things received via the Government are wrong and must be corrected. What is happening to improve the situation?

Jim Knight: Together with my noble Friend Lord Bach, I am meeting the Rural Payments Agency and other relevant officials to discuss as a matter of urgency how we can increase the RPA's capacity for processing the digitisation of maps. The problem is essentially one of capacity, so we are extending the hours worked to run the IT system both by adding an extra shift and by increasing the hours worked over the weekend.

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