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Biodiversity Ministerial Group

Colin Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what role the Inter-departmental Ministerial Group on Bio-diversity will play in the research into the impacts of internationally sourced commodity production on bio-diversity. [35074]

Mr. Morley: DEFRA have commissioned research work into the impacts of internationally sourced commodities on global biodiversity. This work will seek to identify the range of commodities with the largest effects on global biodiversity and identify gaps in the evidence base; palm oil will be one of the commodities investigated. We hope that the outcomes of this work will inform future policy development in the UK and internationally.

This project is one aspect of DEFRA's work on Business and Biodiversity, in the context of DEFRA's WSSD Delivery Plan on International Biodiversity. The Inter-departmental Ministerial Group on Biodiversity are monitoring implementation of the delivery plan.

Biomass Industry

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the suitability for use as biomass fuel of forestry waste from local government owned land. [22209]

Mr. Morley: No separate assessment has been made of the suitability of wood for fuel from local government owned woodland but this is not expected to be materially different from woodland on comparable land in any other ownership. The potential volume of woodfuel production from any single ownership, other than Forestry Commission land, has not been forecast.

Botulinum Toxin

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will introduce a requirement that the pharmaceutical industry use a completely non-animal method to confirm the potency of finished products containing botulinum toxin; and if she will make a statement. [34766]

Jane Kennedy: I have been asked to reply.
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Botox is the trade name for one of the products containing botulinum toxin which is approved for the treatment of a number of serious and disabling conditions. International and United Kingdom regulations concerning safety and efficacy of medicines require testing for botulinum toxin products at various stages of their processing, from harvesting through to marketing as a finished product for use as a prescription only medicine.

The European Pharmacopoeia, which sets legal standards for many medicines, requires the product to be looked at in either a mouse test called an LD50 or with another test that has been shown to give similar information. Unfortunately, currently there are no tests that have been shown to be reliable enough to measure the product's strength.

Tests are being developed but at the moment they can only be used during the early stages of the manufacturing process. However, an acceptable assay in an animal model still remains a requirement to test the finished product before it can be released for use. Research work is ongoing in both the product companies and elsewhere to try and develop a reliable equivalent test that could replace the animal test but as yet no test has been approved by the Pharmacopoeia.

Coastal Erosion

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the effects of (a) erosion on the coastline and (b) rising sea levels in the East Riding of Yorkshire; what assessment she has made of the effect on local communities; and if she will make a statement. [36713]

Mr. Morley: DEFRA has policy responsibility for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England but operational responsibility falls to the various flood and coastal defence operating authorities who are expected to assess local risk and possible impacts and solutions. The Environment Agency is the principal operating authority responsible for flood risk management in England and this includes the risk of flooding from the sea. Measures to reduce coastal erosion risk fall to maritime district councils under the Coast Protection Act 1949.

The Holderness coastline is subject to erosion, management of which is principally the responsibility of East Riding of Yorkshire council. At the southern end of the coastline the land is more low-lying and subject to both erosion and coastal flooding; the Environment Agency therefore also has responsibilities.

Rising water levels in the Humber estuary have been the main driver for development by the Environment Agency of the Humber Estuary Flood Risk Management Strategy (HFRMS) which was published in draft form for public consultation in August 2005.

The HFRMS highlighted the serious issue of coastal erosion at Kilnsea where it is estimated that within two years erosion could lead to the loss of a flood defence
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embankment that protects eight houses to the south and east of Kilnsea village. At Easington, the HFRMS noted that the combination of erosion and wave overtopping is damaging the Easington Lagoons designated habitat site. The Environment Agency is also considering the potential, impacts for the coast and estuary from future serious breaches of Spurn point and a joint study is being set up with other stakeholders.

Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) around the English coast are currently being revised. These provide large-scale assessments of the risks associated with coastal processes and present a long-term policy framework to manage them in a sustainable manner. East Riding of Yorkshire council will lead on the review of the Flamborough Head to Gibraltar Point" SMP.

Current coastal research and development projects include one to consider the significance of the lowering by erosion of clay 'platforms' on the foreshore.

Contaminated Soil

Peter Law: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria she uses in deciding whether additional security measures may be needed to protect road or rail shipments of radioactively contaminated soils from remediated sites. [35788]

Dr. Ladyman: I have been asked to reply.

Anyone wanting to transport radioactive material by road or rail will need to take into account the security measures required by The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment (Amendment) Regulations 2005.

These security requirements are based on international agreements—the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road and the Regulations concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail—and include measures such as only offering the goods to carriers that have been appropriately identified, and fitting devices to stop the theft of the vehicle or its load.

Peter Law: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria she uses in deciding whether to include upland farms covered by restrictions due to Chernobyl radioactive fall-out in areas to be designated under the revised radioactive land contamination regime. [35789]

Mr. Morley: I do not intend to provide separate criteria for upland farms in England.

Informed by the recent public consultation, I shall decide upon generic criteria to protect human health from land contaminated by radioactivity which is giving rise to lasting radiation exposure resulting from the after effects of a radiological emergency or a past or old practice or work activity.

Peter Law: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many sites have been identified as radioactively contaminated within the scope of Part IIA of the Environment Act 1990. [35839]

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Mr. Morley: None. Radioactivity does not currently fall within the scope of Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Regulations are to be laid before Parliament in the new year to extend the regime to include radioactivity in England.

Departmental Building

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) building and (b) refurbishment projects are planned by her Department in (i) 2005–06 and (ii) 2006–07; and what the expected costs are of each project. [34752]

Jim Knight: DEFRA has the following building and refurbishment projects planned in 2005–06 and 2006–07:
£ million
(i) 2005–06
(a) Building Projects
VLA Weybridge: Energy Centre3.3
VLA Weybridge: HV building3.6
VLA Weybridge: ASU Building5.3
VLA Weybridge: New Laboratories43.7
Carmarthen: SVS Building1.0
(b) Refurbishment Projects
VLA Weybridge: Building 3327.0
VLA Weybridge: HV supply1.7
Reading: Northgate House1.6
York: Kings Pool17.5
London: Ashdown House4.7
London: Nobel House33.9
London: Eastbury House Ph II0.5
London: 55 Whitehall4.5
Scarborough: MFA offices0.4
(ii) 2006–07
(a) Building Projects
VLA Weybridge: Stores Building6.0
Alnwick: Reprovision of Offices3.0
Norwich: Reprovision of Offices2.0
(b) Refurbishment Projects
London: Eastbury House Ph III1.0

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