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Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the letter to her dated 23 January from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, with regard to Mr. G. Sherriff. 
Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the letter dated 31 January from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, with regard to Mr. S. Serayet. 
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the letter dated 31 January from the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan regarding a constituent Mr. K. C. Sandison of Aberchirder. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate she has made of the rat population in (a) Southend, (b) Essex and (c) England in each of the last 15 years for which information is available; 
The Environmental Health Group at Southend-on-Sea borough council provides a free service for the treatment of rats. An appointment for a Pest Control Officer to visit can be made by ringing (01702) 215811.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many and what proportion of (a) staff and (b) new staff employed in (i) her Department and (ii) each of the agencies for which she has responsibility were registered as disabled in each of the last three years for which data are available. 
Jim Knight: The Cabinet Office collects and publishes annually statistical information on the civil service by Department. These include data on the number of staff in Departments who have declared a disability.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her Department's policy is on citizens being fined for placing small quantities of domestic rubbish in municipal rubbish bins; and what the Government's definition is of domestic rubbish. 
Mr. Bradshaw: There is a range of powers available to local authorities to ensure waste is dealt with legitimately and not illegally dumped. Government are encouraging authorities to make best use of the 'toolkit' of powers available to them but local authority enforcement policies will also be based on local priorities.
Sections 46 and 47 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 enable local authorities to serve notices on occupiers of domestic premises and business prescribing the kind and number of waste receptacles where the waste needs to be placed. The notice can specify, for example, the size of the receptacles or where the receptacles must be placed to facilitate waste collection. The notice could also be used to prescribe that household waste be placed in receptacles provided by the council.
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People who fail to comply with a notice issued under sections 46 and 47 can be prosecuted through the courts, facing a maximum fine of £1,000. From 6 April 2006 local authorities will be able to issue £100 fixed penalty notices to householders and businesses that do not comply with such a notice.
There is no legal definition of 'domestic rubbish' but section 75 of the 1990 Act sets out the meaning of controlled waste and defines household waste" as waste froma domestic property; a caravan, a residential home; premises forming part of a university or school; and premises forming part of a hospital or nursing home etc.
Shona McIsaac: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research her Department has undertaken into the use of electric shock collars on animals in the UK; and if she will make a statement. 
In August 2005 we published an open call for research proposals to examine the effects of electronic and non-electronic training aids on the welfare of dogs, including the use of static pulse training systems and citronella sprays. We received one proposal, but this was rejected after formal peer review.
The Department is currently re-examining the position, and it is possible that new evidence in this area may soon be available to inform our thinking. We will then decide whether to re-advertise our research call through a different process, or if the specification should be redesigned. Any research we do commission will be detailed on the Defra website.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) other Government departments and (b) other public authorities on reducing the heating of publicly-owned buildings to save energy. 
Mr. Morley: The Cabinet Sub-Committee of Ministers responsible for sustainable development on the Government Estate has had recent discussions on actions that can be taken, within their own Departments and wider estates, on reducing demand and improving energy efficiency including the management of building controls for heating and ventilation.
Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to increase energy efficiency within her Department; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: Energy consumption at all Defra and Executive agency sites is continually monitored against benchmarks to drive down consumption and facilitate appropriate reaction to increases. Defra has signed an agreement with the Carbon Trust to run a Carbon Management Programme, which will identify the scope for significant savings in energy consumption and related carbon emissions. Funding has been made available for capital investments that will improve energy efficiency.
An energy efficiency campaignthe Big Switchis running throughout the department and its Executive Agencies during January, February and March, to focus attention on energy saving actions by building managers and by staff. This work on awareness raising will be reinforced as part of the Carbon Management Programme.
The Framework for Sustainable Development on the Government Estate is the main vehicle for systematically assessing, reporting and improving Government performance in managing its own land and buildings sustainably. It sets cross-Government targets in all key operational areas including energy. The Framework is currently under review and challenging energy targets are being developed.
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