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Government Decontamination Service

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): My hon. Friend the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, announced on 25 January 2005, Official Report, column WS165, that the Government were intending to set up a Government Decontamination Service (GDS), as an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The decision was part of cross-government work to ensure that the UK is prepared for a range of emergencies and has been developed as part of the CBRN Resilience Programme led by the Home Office.

The new service will be launched on 1 October 2005. Robert Bettley-Smith, a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, has been appointed as its chief executive.

The service will have four principal functions to ensure the UK has a highly effective decontamination capability.
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Firstly, the service will provide high quality advice and guidance to responsible authorities during their contingency planning for CBRN, significant HAZMAT incidents and during actual incidents, and regularly help validate and test the arrangements that are in place.

Secondly, the service will work hand in hand with specialist suppliers and advisers to rigorously assess the ability of companies in the private sector to carry out decontamination operations, and ensure that responsible authorities have ready access to those services if the need arises. If required, the GDS will also help co-ordinate decontamination operations.

Thirdly, the service will work with Government Departments, responsible authorities, specialist suppliers, research organisations and other nations to improve decontamination technologies and capabilities.

Finally, the service will be the Government's eyes and ears on the national capability for the decontamination of buildings, infrastructure, mobile transport assets and the open environment, will be a repository of information, and a source of expertise in the event of CBRN incident or major release of HAZMAT materials. The GDS will regularly review the United Kingdom's capability gaps.

The GDS will provide a service in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as in England. In Scotland CBRN resilience is devolved. Scottish Ministers decided that the GDS should be invited to provide a service in Scotland and the Scottish Executive has been actively involved in its establishment. A similar statement will therefore be made in the Scottish Parliament. The Welsh Assembly Government is not responsible for CBRN resilience under the terms of the devolved settlement in Wales but has been fully consulted and supports the development of the GDS.

The following key performance targets to deliver these functions have now been agreed for the Service's first six months of operation:

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Foot and Mouth Disease

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I have today laid before Parliament DEFRA's Exotic Animal Disease Generic Contingency Plan, in accordance with Section 18 of the Animal Health Act 2002 which came into force on 24 March 2003.

This plan sets out the operational arrangements DEFRA will put in place to deal with any occurrence of Foot and Mouth Disease, Avian Influenza, Newcastle Disease or Classical Swine Fever. It replaces DEFRA's Foot and Mouth Disease Contingency Plan and the Avian Influenza and Newcastle Disease Contingency Plan which were both laid before Parliament on 31 March 2004.

DEFRA's Contingency Plan is very much a "living document". It will be subject to ongoing revision taking on the latest scientific advice, developments in policy and comments from operational partners and stakeholders. To meet the provisions of the Animal Health Act, the plan will also be subject to formal annual review.

Home Energy Conservation Act

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): Data reported by energy conservation authorities in England under the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 in the period 1 April 1996 to 31 March 2004 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The data have also been published on the Department for Food and Rural Affairs website, at
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address Authorities have reported an overall improvement in domestic energy efficiency of approximately 14.7 per cent. as measured against a 1996 baseline.

Sustainable Waste Management

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): My colleague, the Minister for Housing and Planning, and I are today announcing our intention to publish shortly the final versions of three policy documents on waste strategies and planning on which we consulted earlier this year. These are:

Together these provide for a more integrated and effective framework in England for delivering the significant expansion in new waste management facilities needed to meet EU obligations and national policy. We have considered very carefully the responses to the consultation documents. While a number of detailed points were made, which have been addressed in finalising the documents, the approach set out received broad support. This includes:

The planning system is pivotal to the adequate and timely provision of the new facilities needed for all types of waste. The new PPS10 underlines the importance of planning for, and consenting, the necessary number and range of facilities to support sustainable waste management. Government expect development plans to be up-to-date and fit for purpose.

Government also expect all local authorities to have in place a fit for purpose and up-to-date Municipal Waste Management Strategy. In some areas this is a statutory requirement. The new guidance provides greater clarity on the role of strategies and the key requirements for developing and reviewing them.

Both this new guidance and the new PPS10 emphasise the need for effective community engagement and full appraisal of options. They will be accompanied by practice guidance which will provide further support and advice. Both sets of practice guidance are currently being finalised and we expect to publish them later in the summer.

The policy review, which informed the preparation of these documents, included, in response to concerns expressed by a number of stakeholders, the underpinning decision-making principles set out in Waste Strategy 2000 1 .

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The key aim of waste policy of moving waste management "up the waste hierarchy" 2 has not changed. However, the principles of "proximity" of waste disposal and "self sufficiency" (as set out in the EU Waste Framework Directive) have been re-formulated and are now set out as objectives to be delivered through the framework provided by development plans and strategies. The objectives are that communities should take more responsibility for their own waste (self-sufficiency), and that waste should disposed of in one of the nearest appropriate installations (proximity).

The role of the Best Practicable Environmental Option process in decision-making has also been reviewed. In future, the tenets that underlie BPEO will be delivered in spatial planning through plan-led strategies that drive waste management up the waste hierarchy. These strategies, at both the regional and local level, will be subject to Sustainability Appraisal and set within the community engagement that is central to the reformed planning system. Similarly, local authorities developing municipal waste management strategies should undertake Strategic Environmental Assessment, combined with a thorough assessment of social and economic factors 3 .

PPS10 also includes a requirement for regional spatial strategies to take account of any Government advice on waste arisings and recycling potential and any nationally identified need for waste management facilities. The Government consulted on both what this advice should be, and who should be responsible for both drawing up and disseminating it. The consultation was again broadly supportive of the proposed approach. Our intention is to provide more information centrally to help inform waste planning and publish this periodically. We expect to publish the first such advice before the end of this year.

The three documents that we intend to publish shortly will help deliver the Government's vision for sustainable waste management, as set out in the UK's strategy for sustainable development. This is to protect human health and the environment by producing less waste and by using it as a resource wherever possible. Through more sustainable waste management, moving the management of waste up the "waste hierarchy" of reduction, re-use, recycling and composting, using waste as a source of energy, and only disposing as a last resort the Government aim to break the link between economic growth and the environmental impact of waste.

Government recognise the size of the task and everyone has a role to play in managing waste more sustainably: manufacturers, waste managers, local communities and the authorities which serve them. The policy set out in these documents provides the clear, consistent, and integrated policy framework necessary to deliver a significant step-change in the delivery of new waste management facilities.

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