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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): There is nothing wrong with the export of recyclable waste, provided that the strict rules applying to this trade are adhered to. The growing international market for recyclables helps to boost recycling in Britain and the more sustainable use of the world's resources.
Andrew Rosindell: The Minister will be aware that, according to the Environment Agency, half the 8 million tonnes of green bin material thrown away in the UK is sent overseas, often to third-world countries that have great difficulty in managing their own waste. How does he intend to reassure people in this country that it is worth continuing recycling if we cannot even cope with the situation here?
Mr. Bradshaw: It is not the case that we cannot cope. As I said, there is a legitimate trade in recyclable materials and in the growing economies of China and India, in particular, there is huge demand for paper and plastic. We should welcome that, as it means that trees are not being cut down instead, but very strict rules apply to the export of such material. They are important, and the Environment Agency has an enforcement role: it has already taken out prosecutions and is investigating a number of other cases. It is important to reassure householders so that they continue to recycle. They are doing much better than they have ever done, but need to do a lot better yet, safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of what they put aside is genuinely recycled in a sustainable way.
Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): Large amounts of recyclable waste are not being recycled, but is not one reason for that the fact that the system of Government targets encourages councils to collect small amounts of such waste from large numbers of households? In contrast, a great deal of trade wastefrom florists, or paper from offices, for exampleis not being collected and does not count against the targets.
It does not count against certain targets, but the hon. Gentleman will know that we are doing better on recycling business and commercial waste than on recycling domestic waste. The Government will look carefully at all those matters in the waste review that we intend to begin early in the new year, with the aim of developing a new waste strategy by
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next summer. He is right that there are a number of what some people might call perverse incentives in the system and we hope to tackle them in the review.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jim Knight): It is difficult to predict when a final decision on the application to give protected geographical indication status to the Colchester oyster will be made. The application is at an early stage and there are several more steps to go through before the European Commission can take a decision on the application.
Bob Russell: I am grateful to the Minister for the progress that is being made and urge him to keep the pressure on. He will be aware that oysters from Colchester were shipped to the eateries of Rome a good 2,000 years before the treaty of Rome.
Jim Knight: I am certainly aware of the excellence of the Colchester oyster. I am sure that the whole House will celebrate Christmas with top-quality British food, of which Colchester oysters are a fine example. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's great strength in advocating his constituency is informed by his consumption of Colchester oysters.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jim Knight): The Government's sustainable farming and food strategy aims to create a framework that will encourage all farmers to improve their business performance while managing their land and natural resources in a sustainable way, and to contribute to strong, healthy communities by producing safe, quality food that consumers want to eat. Within that framework, support is provided to help farm businesses of all sizes adapt to the opportunities and challenges of the future.
I was going to ask about the recommendation from the Public Accounts Committee in favour of a farm advisory service, but does the Minister agree that that would be a mere palliative for the crisis facing our smaller farmers? Is it not absurd that one absentee landlord in my constituency, who allows people no access to his land, receives £2 million a year from taxpayers, while other small family concerns that have farmed 100 or 200 acres in my area for generations are in dire poverty? What is he doing to argue the case for shifting subsidies away from production and acreage and towards incomesfor instance, through a working farmer tax credit?
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Jim Knight: We are ensuring that the farming industry becomes productive and competitive, and that means that we do not want to differentiate between the size of farms, as we need to reward those who are growing properly for the market. That said, we are considering the next round of the England rural development programme, which will include measures to support the farmers to whom the hon. Gentleman referred, along with many others.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): We provide significant help to local authorities' recycling through the Waste and Resources Action Programme. In addition, the Household Waste Recycling Act 2003 requires waste collection authorities to provide kerbside collection of at least two recyclable materials by 2010.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: How is my hon. Friend assisting local authorities to dispose of certain items, especially electrical items such as refrigerators? There are many dumps around the country, but there does not seem to be any movement towards getting rid of them.
Significant grants are available through the programmes to which I referred in my answer to help local authorities both develop facilities for recycling and receiving such electrical waste and provide a collection service. Some charge a small fee.
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That is better than people being tempted either to fly-tip or to use rogue operators to fly-tip, for which they are now liable to significant fines under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I met the Kennel Club in the summer to discuss the issue of electric shock training collars in the context of the Animal Welfare Bill.
Tony Baldry: I am sure that the Minister will have heard from the Kennel Club, representing responsible breeders, that there is no justification at any time for electric shock training collars. We will have before us the Animal Welfare Bill in the new year. Can he give a simple commitment that this form of cruelty of electric shock training collars for dogs will be abolished?
Mr. Bradshaw: I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that commitment. Some contest the claims made against such training collars. Some trainers and individual owners say, for example, that they have used such a collar once and it has prevented their dog from chasing sheep and they have never had to use it again, so they have helped themselves and farmers. There is a debate to be had. We have committed the Government to conducting some research because I am not in favour of banning things unless there is good evidence for so doing.
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