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David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 5 July 2005, Official Report, column 255W, on taxis, what estimate she has made of the cost of providing the information requested. 
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether her Department's procurement policy includes timber used on and in the construction of departmental building projects; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: Defra seeks to purchase the timber used on and in its projects for building works from legal and sustainable sources. This policy applies equally to timber used for temporary site works and timber incorporated into the fabric of buildings or retained for Defra's use.
Procurement centres in Defra and its executive agencies have been issued with guidance, including a model specification clause and contract condition, which explains how to seek to acquire timber and wood products from legal and sustainable sources. Building site supervisors are instructed to monitor compliance with these contract requirements.
Defra's Estates Division is responsible for all major works and estate management on the Defra estate and that of the Pesticides Safety Directorate, the Rural Payments Agency, the State Veterinary Service, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. Adherence to the timber policy for the Department and these executive agencies falls to this central body of staff, which is fully appraised of the timber purchase policy.
The Central Science Laboratory and Centre for Environmental Fisheries and Aquaculture are responsible for their own buildings and maintenance. They have also been made aware of the policy and have systems in place to ensure observance.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list her Department's refurbishment projects that (a) are in progress and (b) will start in the next six months; what action is being taken to ensure that these will procure timber from legal and sustainable sources; and if she will issue guidance to contractors on each of these projects to ensure that the timber used on site during refurbishment also comes from legal and sustainable sources. 
Jim Knight: The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and its executive agencies are (a) undertaking, or (b) proposing to undertake within the next six months, the following refurbishment projects valued at over £100,000.
Procurement centres in Defra and its executive agencies have been issued with guidance, including a model specification clause and contract condition, which explains to contractors how to seek to acquire timber and wood products from legal and sustainable sources. Contractors for the projects listed are required to supply timber from legal and sustainable sources. Building site supervisors are instructed to monitor compliance with these contract requirements.
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Mr. Morley: The question asks various Government Ministers what plans they have to fund the maintenance of the Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET). CPET is the responsibility of the Department and so I am replying on behalf of the Government.
Defra has made an agreement with consultants ProForest to begin operating the CPET helpline and other services that will help UK public sector bodies andtheir suppliers to purchase their timber from legal and sustainable sources. It is possible that Defra will be able to meet the full cost of operating CPET from within its own financial resources. We will be able to forecast this more accurately in the light of the demands made on the CPET over the coming months. As a contingency measure Defra would be able to call on contributions agreed with some other Government Departments to help with any shortfall during the first three years of operation.
Mr. Bradshaw: The future of the four US ships at Teesside is primarily a matter for the US Marine Administration, as owners of the vessels, and Able UK, who are seeking the necessary permissions for dismantling the vessels at their Teesside facility.
The four US ships are currently docked in Able UK's Graythorp dock on Teesside. Able UK submitted applications for planning permission in January 2005. These applications, which include proposals for the construction and refurbishment of quays, the construction of a cofferdam and new dock gates, are being determined by the relevant planning authority, Hartlepool borough council. The council is currently waiting for Able UK to resubmit the environment statement in support of their applications before they determine the application. Able UK made an application for a waste management licence to the Environment Agency in February 2005. This application also cannot be determined until Able UK's environment statement is completed.
In the meantime, dismantling work is prevented by a condition in the existing waste management licence. The dock facility itself is subject to regular inspection by the Environment Agency in liaison with the Health and Safety Executive. Environmental monitoring indicates that storage of the four US naval ships at Able UK's Graythorp dock has not had a detrimental impact on the environment.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many video conferencing units are installed in her Department and
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in each agency of the Department; what percentage of offices have these facilities in each case; and what plans there are to increase the number. 
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make it her policy to provide financial assistance to people on low incomes in Essex to pay their water charges. 
Mr. Morley: The Government takes the issue of water affordability very seriously but believes that solutions must be explored from a national, rather than a regional, perspective. A steering group was set up last year to look into water affordability issues. The Steering Group reported to Ministers in autumn 2004 and the Government's report into affordability was published in December 2004.
Financial support for families and for pensioners on low and moderate incomes has risen significantly in recent years. The Government will press on with its policy of promoting fairness and using changes to the tax and benefit system to tackle poverty but is not minded to introduce an explicit linkage between the tax and benefit system and water charges.
The Government have already taken action, through legislation, to provide protection in the form of a capped bill for vulnerable, low income groups in receipt of a metered supply who might otherwise cut back on water that they could not afford.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 4 July 2005, Official Report, column 13W, on water leaks, if she will meet Thames Water to discuss steps to reduce the rate of increase in water leakage across the company's area of supply. 
Mr. Morley: Thames Water have taken steps to reduce the rate of leakage across its area of supply. During 200405 the company reduced overall leakage for the first time since 19992000. However, they still failed to meet their overall leakage target of 905 Megalitres/day by 10 Megalitres/day (1.1 per cent.). Reported leakage was 915 Megalitres/day in 200405.
Despite not meeting their overall target, the leakage targets were met in the area outside of London and in South London. It is the North London area where Thames Water continues to have real problems with the control of leakage and this area remains the main challenge.
Ofwat continue to require Thames Water to provide quarterly reports on the progress the company is making with its plan, agreed with the regulator, to restore leakage to its target level and achieve adequate security of supplies. These reports indicate that they are continuing to reduce leakage in line with their current targets. Ofwat has set Thames Water the target of reducing leakage to 725MI/d by 200910.
My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, and Ministers are kept informed of water company performance on leakage and have raised concerns over Thames Water's previous performance on leakage. The Secretary of State has no plans to meet with Thames Water to discuss leakage while the company continues to make progress in line with targets.
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