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Sustainable Development

Peter Law: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been conducted by her Department of the (a) energy, (b) economic and (c) environmental effects of the production of biofuels from (i) energy crops and (ii) waste straw. [41533]

Mr. Morley: The effects of biofuels have been assessed under studies commissioned by DEFRA and DTI from Sheffield Hallam University and the Central Science Laboratory. These found that:

(a) Biodiesel and bioethanol from energy crops can deliver greenhouse gas savings of at least 55 per cent. compared to fossil fuels. This can be increased to 80 per cent. if the energy used in production is from renewable sources. The technology to convert straw into bioethanol is at an early development stage but offers the potential for greenhouse gas savings of around 85 per cent. compared to conventional diesel.

(b) The production of biofuels from UK biomass has a net beneficial impact on the UK economy due to the incomes that are generated in the agricultural, manufacturing, engineering construction, retail distribution and transport haulage sectors. There is additional employment where energy crops are grown on set-aside land as more labour is invested in crop production than in maintenance of set-aside. For oilseed rape, about two farming jobs are created (or sustained where crops substitute for other cultivation) for each1,000 tonnes of biodiesel produced. Bioethanol production from wheat and sugar beet would generate around 5.5 jobs/1,000 tonnes of bioethanol production. For both energy crops and straw feedstocks, additional
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jobs would be created in biofuel processing. A 100,000 tonne biodiesel plant would employ around 62 staff in processing and blending industries. A similar sized bioethanol plant would employ 50–55 staff, plus a further 16–28 in fuel blending and transport. Cambridge University is currently carrying out a review of the farm level economic impacts of energy crop production, including the use of oilseed rape, sugar beet, wheat and straw for biofuel production.

(c) The crop management of energy crops for biofuel use is broadly the same as that for food crops. Biofuels production from a mix of feedstocks and replacing crops for food would have a neutral effect on biodiversity.

Any replacement of spring sown break crops with winter oilseed rape would have negative effect on crop diversity and farmland birds. If arable crops replaced natural-regeneration set-aside, this would reduce habitat diversity. The use of straw as a biofuel feedstock would not affect the environment significantly.

WTO (Hong Kong)

Peter Law: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will (a) place in the Library and (b) post on her Department's website documents prepared by her Department for the trade negotiations meeting in Hong Kong; which departmental officials accompanied her to the meeting; and what carbon offset measures were established to cover the Department's delegation. [41568]

Jim Knight: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's briefing for the WTO ministerial conference in December contains a number of items of personal information which it would not be appropriate to reveal. It also contains sensitive information which it would not be in UK interests to divulge more widely. The Secretary of State therefore does not plan to make it publicly available.

Six DEFRA officials were included in the UK Government's delegation to the WTO Ministerial conference in Hong Kong.

Defra is offsetting carbon emissions that arise from department official and Ministerial air travel in 2005–06 including emissions associated with DEFRA's WTO delegation. Carbon offsets will be purchased through the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund, which is being set up to meet the Government commitment to offset all departmental air travel emissions from April 2006



Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much the Highways Agency has spent on renovating properties purchased under compulsory purchase order along the A21 in East Sussex. [43107]

Dr. Ladyman: Draft Orders for the A21 schemes have not yet been published, so no properties are currently subject to compulsory purchase. Three properties in East Sussex were acquired by discretionary purchase under sections 246/248 of the Highways Act 1980, and
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two were acquired under the statutory blight provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. A total of £90,542.00 plus vat has been spent on refurbishing these properties.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to hold further public consultations on the proposed A21 Upgrade in East Sussex; and whether he has received a report on previous public consultations. [43110]

Dr. Ladyman: The Highways Agency will continue to meet and have discussions with those individuals or groups, as requested. The details of the meeting held in December 2005 will be reported back to me shortly and I will write to the hon. Member with further information.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received following the public consultation held in Hurst Green, East Sussex, in 2005 on the proposed A21 upgrade. [43059]

Dr. Ladyman: The details of the meeting held in December 2005 will be reported back to me shortly and I will write to the hon. Member with further information.

Aircraft (Contaminated Air)

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if his Department will work with the United States' Federal Aviation Administration on its research into (a) possible contaminants present in aircraft cabin air and (b) the medical effects on passengers and cabin crew of exposure to contaminated air. [41982]

Ms Buck: We are in touch with the research team and will monitor their progress. We have requested an evidence review of documentation submitted by BALPA on this matter by the independent Committee on Toxicity; and this is in hand. The Committee's conclusions should help us to identify future research needs.

Aviation Policy/Safety

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment the Government have made of the effect of its aviation policy; and if he will make a statement. [42652]

Ms Buck: The Government are committed to the monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness and impact of the policies of the White Paper. We will report by the end of 2006 on progress.

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment the Government have made of the effect of its aviation policy on the welfare of people who live (a) under and (b) close to flight paths; and if he will make a statement. [42653]

Ms Buck: The main impact on people living under or close to flight paths around airports relates to aircraft noise. There can also be impacts on local air quality around major airports as a result of air traffic and associated activities, such as road traffic travelling to and from the airport.

A noise level of 57 dBA Leq (equivalent continuous noise level) over a 16 hour period is regarded as the threshold for the approximate onset of significant
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community annoyance. This figure was derived from government sponsored research in the 1980s, in particular The United Kingdom Aircraft Noise Index Study" published by the Civil Aviation Authority in 1985.

The Department publishes annual daytime noise contours covering 57 to 72 dBA Leq for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports. These show the geographical area and estimated population numbers affected by this range of noise levels. Elsewhere it is the responsibility of individual airports to produce aircraft noise contours and a number of major airports do so.

The Government have also sponsored research into the impact of aircraft noise on sleep. The former Department of Transport published in 1992, the Report of a Field Study of Aircraft Noise and Sleep Disturbance". This study was and remains to date the largest survey of its kind in the United Kingdom. It was found that noise events below 90 dBA SEL (equivalent to about 80 dBA Lmax) were unlikely to affect average sleep disturbance rates, while events noisier than this gave a mean probability of disturbance of about 1 in 75, with a range of individual sensitivities around this average.

Subsequent government sponsored research resulted in three reports concerning aircraft noise and sleep:

Having considered these reports the Government decided—in 2001—to commission a major new study that would concentrate on subjective responses to annoyance to aircraft noise. This study is reassessing attitudes to aircraft noise—including re-assessment of the association between the Leq index and reported annoyance—as well as attempting to examine subjective valuation of the nuisance from aircraft noise. It is due to report later this year.

The Future of Air Transport" also sets out the impact of the Government's policies on air quality standards around airports, with further information contained in one of the supporting documents, Air Quality Assessments Supporting the Government's White Paper". Although on a national scale the contribution of air transport and associated activities to local air quality problems are small, locally their effect can be significant. This is especially so at Heathrow and the reason why the Department has set up technical panels to review air quality issues at the airport as part of the Project for the Sustainable Development of Heathrow.

Copies of reports referred to are available in the House Library and many can be accessed electronically on the Department's website at

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will make a statement on the progress of standardisation of aviation safety standards across the EU; [42753]
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(2) when he expects that the European Aviation Safety Agency Standardisation Regulation will be implemented. [42754]

Ms Buck: Regulation (EC) No. 1592/2002 provides for the Agency to assist the Commission in monitoring the application of the Regulation by conducting standardisation inspections of member states national aviation authorities. This provides for a more effective standardisation of aviation safety standards across Europe than was possible under the mechanisms put in place by the Joint Aviation Authorities which had no legal force.

However, the Agency cannot put in place its standardisation processes until the European Commission has adopted the necessary implementing measures. The draft text of the Standardisation Regulation was agreed in December 2005 by the committee of member states representatives which assists the Commission in drawing up the various implementing regulations it is required to develop. The draft has to complete formal Commission processes before its adoption which we expect within the next month.

We consider the effective monitoring and standardisation of standards in member states to be one of the most important aspects of the new EASA system. We hope that the Standardisation Regulation can be adopted soon, so that the Agency can devote the necessary resources yet to this work.

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