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Ian Pearson: The date and venue for the first high-level officials meeting of the UK-Brazil Working Group on Climate Change, under the UK-Brazil High Level Dialogue on Sustainable Development, has yet to be confirmed.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consultation his Department has undertaken on the proposed changes to the opening of the Gloucester-Sharpness canal; and whether the changes have been precipitated by a reduction in funding to British Waterways. 
Barry Gardiner: This is an operational matter for British Waterways, which is consulting both users and trade unions. Its plans to change the operation of the locks and bridges on the Gloucester-Sharpness canal were in hand before any reduction in the 2006-07 grant was made.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when the Environment Agency's technical guidance on hazardous waste definition will be updated to take into account version 8 of the Health and Safety Executive's Approved Supply List; 
(2) if he will instruct the Environment Agency to update its technical guidance WM2 to include all compounds listed as hazardous in version 8 of the Health and Safety Executive's Approved Supply List. 
Guidance on the classification of hazardous waste is available from the EA's website and this also sets out its position regarding Approved Supply List 8. The advice can be found at: http://www.environment-agency.gov .uk/subjects/waste/1019330/1217981/1384307/1470188/?lang= e.
The advice states that the EA will not normally enforce the use of ASL version 8, in conjunction with WM2, until 1 November 2006. The EA intends to release a revised WM2 leading up to the 1 November 2006 deadline.
The EA has also produced a shorter guide to the classification of hazardous waste: HWR01 What is a hazardous waste. This document refers to ASL version 8 and is available from the EA's website at: http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/GEHO0506BKTR-e-e.pdf.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made with the process of considering the establishment of a national park for the South Downs; when he expects to be able to announce a decision; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner: The South Downs national park designation process is on hold, following the High Court judgment made last November on a challenge by Meyrick Estate Management Ltd. to the New Forest National Park Designation Order.
The judgment has implications for the proposed South Downs national park, as it potentially changes the way in which the statutory criteria for national park status have generally been understood and interpreted since the 1950s.
DEFRAs appeal against the judgment is due to be heard by the Court of Appeal on 1-2 November. Only when that is resolved will the Secretary of State be able to decide how to re-start the South Downs process, including whether or not to invite further representations.
Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the cost of establishing a national water grid to enable water to be piped across the UK to tackle different rainfall levels; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: The Environment Agency report Do we need large-scale water transfers for south east England? was published in September. It estimated that to build five pipelines carrying 1,100 megalitres of water per day from the northern Pennines to London would cost up to £15 billion, with a unit cost of £8-14 million per megalitre per day of supply capacity. This is at least four times the unit cost of building new reservoirs to increase supplies locally.
The report found no evidence for the need for such large scale transfers. These were considered to be more
expensive and environmentally damaging than the measures already in the south east water companies' water resources plans.
Mr. Bradshaw: Last year the Government launched the Courtauld commitment, a voluntary agreement between 13 major retailers and the waste and resources action programme (WRAP), to reduce packaging waste. There are three broad objectives to meet, which are:
i. to design out packaging waste growth by 2008;
ii. to deliver absolute reductions in packaging waste by March 2010; and
iii. to identify ways to tackle the problem of food waste.
I will shortly be meeting with the retailers and WRAP to assess progress against these objectives, and to agree next steps. I am also meeting retailers on 12 October to discuss ways in which we can take action to reduce the amount of plastic bags offered at the point of sale and encourage their reuse.
There are also two sets of regulations in place which address the environmental impact of packaging in the UK; both of which encourage producers (including retailers) to minimise packaging. The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2005 are intended to increase the recovery and recycling of packaging waste. The amount of packaging waste producers have to recover and recycle, and the cost of doing so, is determined, in part, by the amount of packaging they handle. Therefore businesses can save money if they reduce the amount of packaging they deal with.
The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 (as amended) place a number of requirements on all packaging placed on the market in the UK, including a requirement that packaging should be manufactured so that the volume and weight are limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain the necessary level of safety, hygiene and acceptance for the packed product and for the consumer.
Both regulations have led to decreases in packaging used around products. However, more still needs to be done to reduce the amount of packaging that is produced. We have asked the Advisory Committee on Packaging to work with industry to find solutions to this problem and recommend ways of encouraging businesses to further reduce the amount of packaging they use.
Mark Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans his Department has for (a) encouraging and (b) compelling (i) manufacturers and (ii) retailers to use less packaging. 
Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate his Department has made of the amount of commercial plastic used in England which could be recycled but that is currently not; what plans his Department has for the recycling of plastic other than bottles in England; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: According to the British Plastics Federation, an estimated 19-21 per cent. of the total plastics consumed in the UK in 2005-06 were recycled. The Government are taking action to support the reduction of plastic packaging in the waste stream and the recycling of plastics more generally.
There are numerous different types of plastics in use, which would require separate collection (or separation after collection) and treatment facilities to recycle. It inevitably takes time for that capacity to develop. Local authorities have understandably tended to focus their attention on waste streams that make a greater contribution to their targets and for which recycling infrastructure and markets are more developed. However, with targets for household waste recycling and composting becoming ever more demanding, all local authorities will have to start tackling the more difficult waste streams like plastics.
The waste and resources action programme (WRAP) is working to further develop efficient markets for recycled materials. WRAP'S targets for 2004-06 are to work with the plastics industry to increase the acceptance of recycled plastic throughout the supply chain, to deliver an additional 20,000 tonnes of domestic plastic bottle recycling capacity, and to ensure that an additional 11,000 tonnes of non-bottle plastics are recycled.
The Packaging Regulations set targets for recovery and recycling of packaging waste to be met by obligated businesses each year so that the UK can meet the relevant EU directive targets by the specified deadline. The directive requires the UK to recycle 22.5 per cent. of the plastic packaging waste entering the UK waste stream by 2008. Currently around 20 per cent. of plastic packaging is recycled in the UK.
Defra is working closely with the devolved administrations, WRAP, SWAG (Scottish Waste Awareness Group) and businesses to promote reusable bags and reduce the number of plastic bags entering the waste stream. More information is available on the Defra website at:
As a consequence of the Agricultural Waste Regulations coming into force, which ban agricultural plastics from being burnt or buried on farms, the Government are developing producer responsibility regulations for the collection and recovery of non-packaging farm plastics. It is envisaged that any collection scheme developed will collect both packaging and non-packaging farm plastics. The Secretary of State has allocated £1 million of the business resource efficiency and waste (BREW) funding to research this and other issues; provide
recommendations on the most economical way to collect plastic waste from farms; and how best to implement producer responsibility for non-packaging farm plastics.
Mr. Bradshaw: Waste is a devolved matter and, in Wales, it is dealt with by the National Assembly. However, recycling by UK businesses, according to the most recent Environment Agency report, showed waste recovery rates were at record levels in 2002, with 45 per cent. of all business waste recycled or re-used.
The landfill tax escalator gives businesses a strong financial incentive to re-use or recycle their waste. Revenue from the landfill tax escalator is recycled to businesses through the business resource efficiency and waste (BREW) programme, which provides funding to organisations who can offer support and advice to businesses who wish to improve their resource efficiency.
The revised Waste Strategy for England, which we will publish this winter, will outline what steps are being taken, and what more needs to be done, to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfill. The public, businesses and Government all have roles to play in following more sustainable waste management practices.
Mr. Bradshaw: The Government have no plans to reorganise refuse disposal in Greater Manchester. The Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority is responsible for waste disposal in the area. The authority is currently undertaking a procurement process for a new waste contract that will help them increase recycling and meet their landfill allowance trading scheme obligations.
Barry Gardiner: The Government have already assessed the viability of a policy of open access to rivers and waterways in England. We have no plans to provide a statutory right of access to water since research has shown that overall supply is roughly in balance with demand.
However, we recognise that there is some unmet demand for white water canoeing and canoe touring. Therefore, we are supporting the Environment Agency in its work with other stakeholders to develop regional strategies for water-related sport and recreation with
the aim of identifying exactly what is needed and where. Plans for two pilot regions will be in place in 2007-08.
In addition, Defra commissioned the Environment Agency to pilot four demonstration projects to develop best practice access agreements for canoeists on key stretches of English water. This not only improves access in the areas in question but also provides a template that can be used elsewhere.
Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many Rural Enterprise Scheme applications from the South West were (a) received and (b) granted in each of the last 18 months; and what the value of payments made to applicants from the South West was in (i) each of the last 18 months and (ii) over the life of the scheme. 
Barry Gardiner: The following table shows the number of applications received and approved in each month from April 2005 to September 2006, and the value of payments made under the Rural Enterprise Scheme for the same period.
It is important to note that there is no direct correlation between the number of applications received and approved in a particular month, due to the detailed appraisal process. Furthermore, as claims can be spread over months or years, the payments do not relate specifically to the applications listed in previous columns.
|Rural Enterprise Scheme Information, April 2005 to September 2006|
|Applications received||Applications approved||Value of payments made (£)|
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