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Departmental Policies

Mrs. Hodgson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will set out, with statistical evidence relating as closely as possible to Gateshead, East and Washington, West constituency, the effects in Gateshead, East and Washington, West of changes to her Department's policies since 1997. [22283]

Jim Knight: Since its establishment in 2001 Defra has put in place a comprehensive programme of action on issues including sustainable development, climate change and energy, sustainable consumption and production, natural resource protection, sustainable rural communities, and a sustainable farming and food sector. A summary of some our achievements to date can be found on the Defra website ( I am confident that the Gateshead, East and Washington, West constituency will have benefited from these.

For example, we are committed, through our national strategy for waste, to achieving a massive shift in sustainable waste management, including tough national targets to recycle or compost 25 per cent. of household waste in 2005–06. To help contribute towards this target, each local authority in England was set a statutory recycling target for household waste in 2003–04 and 2005–06. In 2002–03, the recycling rate for Gateshead and Sunderland was just 5 per cent. and 2 per cent. respectively. They are now both expected to reach or exceed their statutory targets set for them of 18 per cent. by the end of 2005–06. In total over the past three years, Defra has given Gateshead over £2.5 million and Sunderland over £2 million for waste management and recycling. Many north-east councils have recently made significant progress on recycling from historically low levels, through the support of Defra's Waste Implementation Programme and Waste and Resources Action Programme. Defra's Municipal Waste Management Survey 2003–04 records that the north-east region quadrupled the amount of household waste recycled from 3.8 per cent. in 1996–97 to 12.3 per cent. in 2003–04.

Through English Nature, we have provided £76,000 to Gateshead council for a 'Wildspace' project, including a community liaison officer, which has resulted in five new local nature reserves (LNRs) being designated in the east of the borough, and the project has involved local people in caring for and enjoying the sites. Regular litter removal and maintenance of entrances and paths has ensured they appear well managed and welcoming. Along with management plans for the sites, this is maximising biodiversity, and there is a strategy to secure long term gains for local people. Due to the success of the project, Gateshead council have continued to employ the officer to carry on the good work.
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We also provide grants through our agencies to voluntary groups such as the Friends of Princess Anne Park in Washington and have provided funding for a wildlife survey to identify potential for enhancing wildlife and creating habitats. This has drawn in additional funding from Sunderland city council for a park ranger. The park runs along the Oxclose and Biddick Burns, and Environment Agency field teams are carrying out targeted pollution prevention work with relevant local businesses, advising them on managing environmental risk, so improving water quality and associated habitats to prevent pollution through run off.

In my hon. Friend's constituency, forestry grants to the Woodland Trust, the local councils and a private company have created around 10 hectares of new woodland, including screening for Springwell Quarry. Altogether over £16,000 has come through the Forestry Commission for woodland maintenance and improved public access.

We have invested £10,000 in Durham Wildlife Trust, whose area includes Gateshead and Washington. The trust use this Environment Agency money to employ a community wildlife officer to work directly with communities in Washington, encouraging residents to prevent pollution in household drains and to recycle more, and speaking to schools and community groups around pollution hot spots. The aim is to reduce or prevent fly tipping and other contamination in watercourses, and enable other habitat improvements.

Defra provides comprehensive statistical information. The following web address will take my hon. Friend directly to the service:

Departmental Spending

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much her Department spent on items of art in 2004–05. [23472]

Jim Knight: The Department spent no money on items of art in 2004–05.

Environment Agency

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reasons the Environment Agency telephone helpline is unable to process calls without the name and address of callers. [24840]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency operates three main contact lines. All of these are able to process calls without the name and address of the caller except in the situations set out as follows:

1. Customer Contact Centre (08708 506506)

This centre receives most of the general telephone enquiries from external customers and delivers some specific business services.

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2. Floodline

This service provides flood warning information and flood risk awareness services.

Full address information is required in order to inform customers about flood risk related to their property, but not for general advice on flood awareness/protection.

3. Incident hotline

This service is used for recording pollution/flooding incidents. Although the name and address of the customer is requested so that the agency can update how the incident is being managed and resolved, it is however entirely acceptable for customers to report incidents anonymously.

Farm Plastic Collections

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what farm plastic collections are made in (a) Dacorum and (b) Hertfordshire; and if she will make a statement. [26379]

Mr. Bradshaw: At present I am aware of at least one specialist farm plastics collection service that can arrange collection from anywhere in the UK, and I know that there are other collection schemes being established.

The Environment Agency is currently completing an on-line Waste Recycling Directory that will allow businesses to identify recyclers, disposal sites and waste management companies that deal with specific wastes in their areas using a simple postcode search. The website will be available late November 2005.

Farming Co-operatives

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will take steps to encourage the creation of farming co-operatives; and if she will make a statement. [23923]

Jim Knight: Support and encouragement for collaboration and co-operation among farmers is one of the elements of the Government's Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food. As part of the Strategy we actively supported the establishment of English Farming and Food Partnerships (EFFP) which was set up to promote and encourage co-operation and collaboration between farmers and between farmers and the rest of the food chain, We have also undertaken to provide EFFP with funding of £0.5 million per annum for five years from 2004–05.
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In addition, co-operation and collaboration benefiting primary producers is one of the Government's stated priorities for the award of grants under the Agricultural Development Scheme. EFFP is one of the beneficiaries of this scheme having been awarded five grants totalling approximately £1.2 million for projects to support its mission. A number of other projects concerned with collaborative activity have also been awarded grant.

Grants for collaborative projects are also available under the Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme and the Rural Enterprise Scheme.

In 2004 Defra commissioned and funded research into possible legislative and fiscal barriers to the development of co-operatives. The report of this research was published earlier this year.

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