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Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act

9. Mr. Neil Turner (Wigan) (Lab): What monitoring his Department has put in place to ensure that the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 is fully implemented by local authorities. [98808]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): We have a number of ways of monitoring the Act’s implementation, and I am pleased to be able to inform the House that figures published today show a 5 per cent. decrease in litter, a massive 32 per cent. fall in the number of abandoned vehicles and a 45 per cent. increase in the number of local authorities issuing fines for litter, as well as an improved collection rate for fines.

Mr. Turner: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, which shows the effectiveness of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government introduced a White Paper last week, which proposed drastic reductions in a number of targets. Will my hon. Friend have discussions with the
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Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ensure that implementation of the Act forms part of local strategic plans for local authorities.

Mr. Bradshaw: I will certainly do that, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on his great work in championing local environmental quality. ENCAMS, the main organisation responsible, is based in his constituency. He is right that not only his constituents but the public across the country take the issue extremely seriously. I welcome the proposals in the local government White Paper to allow more flexibility at local authority level. We may find local authorities wanting to do even more on local environmental quality, and I hope that that will be the case.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): I am delighted that the Act is beginning to work. Does the Minister agree, however, that litter and graffiti are still problems, and that the behaviour of those who discharge chewing gum on to pavements and other areas is extremely offensive? The main pedestrian shopping area in my constituency is littered with chewing gum. What can we do to prevent people from indulging in such antisocial behaviour? Do we need stiffer penalties, better education or both? What does he believe is the right way of tackling it?

Mr. Bradshaw: As the hon. Gentleman suggests, both approaches are required. I very much welcome his support for the Clean Neighbourhoods and Local Environment Act. I gently remind him, however, that the Conservatives voted against it on Second Reading, which they now live to regret. He is right about chewing gum. It is a major problem in towns and cities up and down the country, and it costs local authorities millions of pounds to clean it off pavements. The new provisions enable local authorities to levy on-the-spot fines for the dropping of chewing gum for the first time. In several pilot cities, where we have worked with local authorities on special education and publicity schemes on chewing gum, we have seen a 37 per cent. reduction in chewing gum litter. That shows that things can be done, and I hope that local authorities will use the powers in the Act not only to clean up the chewing gum on the streets but to address the other problems to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Inland Waterways

10. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): If he will make a statement on the future of British inland waterways. [98809]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The Government’s policy on inland waterways was set out in our policy document, “Waterways for Tomorrow”. Public funding for Britain’s inland waterways has increased substantially since Labour came to power.

Michael Fabricant: I know that the Minister shares my belief that our inland waterways not only provide a marvellous resource for tourists but generate income,
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including overseas income from the many people from abroad who use our canals. How can he reconcile that with cutting 180 staff from British Waterways?

Mr. Bradshaw: As my colleagues and I have indicated, the Department is having to make difficult and painful decisions, and very few parts of our Department or its delivery agencies are unaffected. The budget cuts made to British Waterways this year pale into insignificance, however, when set against its overall increase in funding in recent years. I am somewhat surprised by the hon. Gentleman’s advocating British Waterways having money, as I think that I am right in saying that he was one of a number of Conservative Members who opposed British Waterways making money from commercial development last year at Wood Wharf in London.

Mr. Bob Laxton (Derby, North) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend assure me that any future savings in grant aid to British Waterways in the financial year 2007-08 and beyond will not use as a baseline the 15 per cent. budget reduction undertaken halfway through this financial year?

Mr. Bradshaw: All decisions about next year will be made in due course, but I assure my hon. Friend that we will listen to representations, both from him, as chairman of the all-party group on waterways, and from other hon. Members. I recognise that they feel strongly about the wonderful contribution that our inland waterways make, and thanks to extra funding provided by the Government, we have managed to restore 200 miles of derelict canals, thereby providing a great resource. However, all decisions must be considered in the round and balanced against other demands on our budget.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): I begin by paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), who I know is an ardent canal enthusiast and an active member of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust. Will the Minister explain why British Waterways’ budget was cut this year?

Mr. Bradshaw: As has been explained on many occasions in the House, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs needed to find just over £200 million in savings this year, for a number of reasons, so all our Department’s budgets have had to be examined, and most of them have had to be reduced. However, as I said earlier, that is against a backdrop of a massive increase in spending and investment on all the issues mentioned—spending that was opposed, in every Budget, by the Opposition.

Mr. Ainsworth: It is the reasons that I am after, because it is bad enough that cuts of £200 million are being made, but it is even worse that Ministers do not seem to know why. On 25 October, the Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food told Radio 4 listeners that the “biggest chunk of it”—that is, the cut—

and that the problems at the Rural Payments Agency accounted for considerably less than a quarter of the
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cuts. The very next day, the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment explained to Radio 4 that the cuts were

So what lies behind the budget cuts that we heard about today—one dead swan, the shambles at the Rural Payments Agency, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Or is it just business as usual at a Department that has become a byword for incompetence?

Mr. Bradshaw: About £10 million of the money that we had to find arises from the very good work that we have done in preventing outbreaks of avian flu, and containing outbreaks that have occurred. I thinkthat I am right in saying that about £23 million of the £200 million-plus that is needed is a result of issues connected with the RPA. The rest is needed for other reasons that have already been made plain in numerous answers to questions from hon. Members.

Water Supplies and Sewerage

11. Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): What assessment he has made of the need for new reservoirs, water treatment plants and sewage systems. [98810]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): Water companies have identified the need for five new and three extended reservoirs in their 25-year water resources plans. Sewerage infrastructure is planned in response to specific proposals in development plans. Water resources plans are due to become a statutory requirement in April 2007.

Stephen Hammond: In Wimbledon this year, my constituents experienced a water shortage and faced a potential drought order from Thames Water Utilities. That underlies the long-term supply problems in south-east London. Last month, the Minister in the other place suggested that people should move further north to solve their water shortages. Can the Minister tell me today that that is not the Government’s only policy on such long-term shortages, or does he have another idea?

Ian Pearson: Lord Rooker said what he did, and I certainly echo his words about Birmingham and the west midlands being a fantastic place to live, but that is not the sum total of Government policy on the subject. Water companies are required, under the Water Act 2003, which the Conservative party opposed, to produce 25-year water resources plans. The plans are available for public consultation, and the Government will monitor them closely when they become a statutory requirement next April. Thames Water has plans for a new reservoir at Abingdon, and there are other plans to ensure that there is sufficient water to meet demand. There has been a drought as a result of exceptionally dry weather over an 18-month period. That is receding, but it is still not over. I certainly want to continue to encourage people to use water wisely in the Thames area.

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Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): A constituency with dozens of reservoirs does not need any new ones, but as my hon. Friend mentioned the resources plan, will he check that all the available powers have been used to monitor the filling of reservoirs, as I have a collection of photographs showing that culverts in my area are full of vegetation, animal matter and boulders, which means that the reservoirs have not been filled to capacity? That waste of resources should be discouraged very strongly.

Ian Pearson: I agree with my hon. Friend. If she provides me with details, I will make sure that they are passed on to the appropriate individuals so that any action that is required is taken.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): Given the Government’s plans to build in the Thames Gateway, what assessment has the Minister made of water needs in the region?

Ian Pearson: My Department, along with the Environment Agency, works closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government on all the Thames Gateway plans, and we have worked with DCLG very closely indeed on the new growth point announcements. It is important that we ensure close co-operation between the Government and the relevant agencies so that appropriate action is taken if there is a risk of flooding or water shortages. Those measures have been put in place by the Government, and we will continue to scrutinise any proposed new developments to make sure that a water supply is available and to minimise the flood risk.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Whether with flooding in East Anglia, urban biodiversity or the need for water supplies, particularly in the south-east, we have to grapple with adaptation if we are to deal with the effects of climate change—a subject about which, as my hon. Friend knows, I am concerned. Can he assure the House that the issue of new reservoirs, for example, will be referred to the UK climate impact programme research team in Oxford to determine whether we need even more new reservoirs in the south-east as a result of the effects of climate change?

Ian Pearson: I know that my hon. Friend takes a great interest in adaptation and climate change issues. I can certainly confirm that the UK climate impact programme takes into account the fact that, as a result of climate change, wetter winters, far drier summers and more extreme weather events are likely to have an impact on the water supply. That means, I think, that new reservoirs are required in certain areas, but those proposals must be closely scrutinised by the normal channels to make sure that they are needed and deliver value for money in our water bills.


13. Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): What steps he is taking to encourage Government Departments and local government to specify the use of reused and recycled material in capital procurement projects for which they are responsible. [98812]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The new sustainable targets for the Government estate require construction projects and capital procurement to achieve a high standard of reused and recycled material. The waste and resources action programme works to embed sustainable procurement practices in construction and refurbishment projects, such as hospitals, schools, and other buildings. We are shortly to publish the Government’s response to the sustainable procurement task force’s report of June this year.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend accept that part of the problem of sustainable procurement relates to protocols for the development of consistent recycled materials in the building trade? Will he investigate further how such protocols could be developed so that there is an available supply of materials containing recycled materials when those projects take place?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, I can certainly give my hon. Friend that reassurance. We are looking carefully at the protocols to which he referred, not just in our response to Neville Simms’s sustainable procurement task force report, but in the review of our waste strategy.

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Bird Flu

14. Sandra Gidley (Romsey) (LD): What steps his Department has taken to prevent an outbreak of avian influenza. [98813]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The key to effective disease control is good surveillance, early detection and rapid response. Our contingency plans were tested by the Cellardyke and Norfolk cases earlier this year, and they coped well. Given the impending autumn migration of wild birds to Britain, we have this week added more than 300 nature reserves, parks and reservoirs to the list of sites where wild birds are tested for signs of avian influenza.

Sandra Gidley: Will the Minister also tell us what lessons have been learnt from the outbreaks earlier this year, and what additional measures have been taken to train and equip state veterinary service staff to deal with any future outbreak?

Mr. Bradshaw: We are always trying to learnlessons from both the outbreak in Cellardyke and the outbreak in Norfolk, and we update our contingency plans regularly. The hon. Lady may be interested to learn that the overall budget of the state veterinary service has increased by £16 million this year, of which £3 million is being provided specifically for avian influenza preparedness.

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Speaker’s Statement

Mr. Speaker: I have to inform the House of an error in the results as reported to the House of one of the Divisions last night.

In the Division on the motion relating to notice for amendments in Public Bill Committees, the Tellers reported 223 Ayes rather than 323 Ayes. I have ordered a correction to be made to the Journal.

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Business of the House

11.31 am

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): May I ask the Leader of the House to give us the business for next week?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Jack Straw): The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 6 November—Consideration of Lords messages to the NHS Redress Bill [Lords], proceedings on the National Health Service Bill [Lords], followed by proceedings on the National Health Service (Consequential Provisions) Bill [Lords], followed by proceedings on the National Health Service (Wales) Bill [Lords], followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Animal Welfare Bill, followed by consideration of Lords message to the Police and Justice Bill, followed by consideration of Lords message to the Road Safety Bill [Lords], consideration of Lords message to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords], followed by, if necessary, consideration of other Lords messages.

Tuesday 7 November—If necessary, consideration of Lords messages followed by a motion to approve a ways and means resolution on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Armed Forces Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords messages.

Wednesday 8 November—If necessary, consideration of Lords messages

The House will be prorogued when Royal Assent to all Acts has been signified.

I am pleased to be able to announce the Commons calendar until October 2007. We plan to rise for the Easter recess on Thursday 29 March and return on Monday 16 April. For the Whitsun recess, the House will rise on Thursday 24 May and return on Monday4 June. For the summer recess, the House will rise on Thursday 26 July and return on Monday 8 October. That is, of course, subject to the progress of business.

Mrs. May: I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business for next week and the calendar for next year. That was very helpful.

The Stern report, published last week, was the subject of a statement in the House. Members normally have access to such reports immediately, but I understand that the Vote Office will only print copies on request. The report may be an environmental measure, but will the Leader of the House tell us whether that rule will apply in future to reports that are the subject of statements in the House?

It has been reported that the 2012 Olympics are already way over budget, and that the Government are considering a windfall land tax in east London to cover the increase. Will the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport come to the House to make an urgent statement on the Olympics, on their current projected costs and on who will pay for the overrun?

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