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4 Dec 2006 : Column 50W—continued

The Code of Practice on how to prevent the spread of Ragwort and Guidance on disposal options for Common Ragwort, provide comprehensive guidance on how to develop a strategic and more cost-effective approach to weed control. It is intended for use by all
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landowners and occupiers, but is particularly relevant for large-scale organisations managing significant land areas, including local authorities and public bodies. Further information, including the Code of Practice, is available on the DEFRA website at:

Under the Ragwort Control Act, the Code will be admissible in enforcement proceedings under the Weeds Act, which will make it easier to prosecute those who disregard the need to control ragwort. Similarly, those who have followed the guidance laid down in the code, would be able to use this in their defence in any court proceedings.


Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what average rainfall was in the Staffordshire area in each of the last 20 years. [107037]

Ian Pearson: The following table shows the annual rainfall in Staffordshire for each year from 1986 to 2005 inclusive.

Rainfall (mm)










































Stephen Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent estimate he has made of the percentage of plastic bags which is recycled. [103752]

Mr. Bradshaw: The UK currently recycles or recovers approximately 19 per cent. of all plastics consumed. No separate estimate has been made for plastic bags, which make up less than 1 per cent. of the household waste stream.

DEFRA and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) are working with retailers to reduce the consumption of plastic carrier bags and promote the message of reuse to the public.

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River Thames

Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the running costs were of the two bubbler boats used to oxygenate the Thames in the last year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement; [106717]

(2) what environmental criteria are used to trigger the use of bubbler boats to oxygenate the Thames; and if he will make a statement. [106718]

Ian Pearson [holding answer 30 November 2006]: The Thames estuary oxygenation vessels are operated and paid for by Thames Water on instruction from the Environment Agency (EA) London environment management team. The running costs of these vessels are therefore a matter for Thames Water.

The vessels are typically called out in response to reduced estuary dissolved oxygen levels caused by the breakdown of storm sewage (foul sewage and rainwater) discharged from the combined sewer overflows. This action is necessary to prevent environmental damage, with the most visible evidence being in the form of fish kills. Fish kills start to occur at dissolved oxygen levels below 20 per cent. saturation. Normal dissolved oxygen levels are over 70 per cent. in winter and over 50 per cent. in summer. The Operating Agreement between the EA and Thames Water specifies that the vessels may be called out when estuary dissolved oxygen levels fall below 30 per cent. saturation.

Dissolved oxygen levels are continuously monitored using a network of Automatic Water Quality Monitoring Stations along the estuary taking readings at 15-minute intervals. The vessels are used when the responsible EA officer considers that the estuary is at risk. Several criteria influence this judgement including water temperature, rainfall over the London sewerage catchments, freshwater flows to the estuary, tidal state, sewage works performance, recent dissolved oxygen levels and trends in the estuary. The relationship between these factors is complex, and a dynamic assessment is made of each event using real time monitoring, rainfall and flow information, to determine when bubbler boats should be used to oxygenate the Thames.

Single Farm Payments

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many complaints have been received about incorrect single farm payments in the last 12 months. [106206]

Barry Gardiner: The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) does not separately monitor official complaints made to its Customer Relations Unit that specifically relate to payments.

Since 1 January 2006, RPA has received 523 official complaints covering all areas of its business.

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the levels of single farm payment (SFP)
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awards across EU member states; and what steps he is taking to ensure that SFPs in England enable farmers to remain competitive. [105791]

Barry Gardiner: I believe all member states who operate the single payment scheme will be striving to ensure 2006 scheme payments are made in full early in the regulatory payment window and, where this is not possible, to consider the case for advance payments. The same applies in England, as explained by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his statement on 7 November, Official Report, column 715. However, the level and timing of payments under the SPS only affects the competitiveness of agricultural businesses to the extent that claimants do not treat those payments as fully decoupled from production.

Species Loss

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the loss of species in England in each of the last 10 years; and if he will make a statement. [103312]

Barry Gardiner: One species has become extinct in England since 1995. The starry Breck lichen appears to have been lost from its only site, in Suffolk, probably due to atmospheric pollution and changes in site management. However, the recent England Biodiversity Strategy report has shown that of the 309 Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species in England, 21 per cent. are declining; for example the corn bunting, grey partridge, juniper, heath fritillary and natterjack toad. This decline is slowing for 10 per cent. of species and more priority species are showing improved trends than in both 1999 and 2002.

The report also shows that 12 per cent. of the BAP species in England are increasing; for example the Adonis blue butterfly, lesser horseshoe bat, otter, field cricket and the cirl bunting.

Funding for conservation work is critical to the delivery of the objectives of the England Biodiversity Strategy. Over the last five years there has been a significant increase in public sector spending on biodiversity in England. By 2005, expenditure had increased by 54 per cent. compared with 2000.

Sugar Beet Farming (Shrewsbury)

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will provide financial support for sugar beet farmers in the Shrewsbury constituency following the closure of the British sugar factory in Shropshire. [105794]

Barry Gardiner: The decision by British Sugar to close their factory at Allscott at the end of the current processing campaign was a purely commercial one. A package of measures to help sugar beet growers adapt to this factory closure has been agreed between British Sugar and the National Farmers Union. It is not the role of Government to interfere in such commercial decisions.

At a more general level, all eligible sugar beet growers will benefit this year from an additional
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element in the 2006 Single Payment Scheme, negotiated during the UK Presidency as compensation for the EU sugar reforms.

Treasury Accounting Rules

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when his Department was first advised of the changes in Treasury accounting rules noted by the Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming on 25 October 2006; and if he will make a statement. [103073]

Barry Gardiner: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 8 November 2006, Official Report, column, 1591W.

Voluntary Modulation

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what response he has made to the recent EU vote against an early introduction of voluntary modulation; and if he will make a statement [104274]

Barry Gardiner: The European Parliament voted on 14 November to reject the draft European Council Voluntary Modulation regulation. This is disappointing. We have always made clear that implementation in England of our plans for the Rural Development Programme 2007-13, including commitments to agri-environment schemes, will depend on the availability of funds derived from voluntary modulation. Therefore, the UK Government hope that the remaining stages of the consultation procedure with the European Parliament on the regulation can be concluded as quickly as possible.

Warm Front

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the maximum grant is which is made available under the Warm Front regime in England; and what assessment he has made of the merits of increasing the maximum available grant. [106001]

Ian Pearson [holding answer 30 November 2006]: The original phase of the Warm Front Scheme provided two levels of assistance, with a grant of up to £1,500 for families and the disabled, and up to £2,500 for the over-60s for a range of specified insulation and heating measures.

The new Scheme, which commenced in June 2005, provides a grant of up to £2,700 for home heating and other energy efficiency measures (£4,000 where the work approved includes installation of an oil fired central heating system) for all eligible households. The revised grant levels were established taking account of experience under the first phase of the Warm Front Scheme, alongside the re-tender process for the Warm Front Scheme, which was completed in 2005.

White Young Green (the independent quality assurors for the Warm Front Scheme) are currently in the information gathering stage of a full Warm Front price review. While this review is looking specifically at prices charged under Warm Front compared to the
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open market, it will enable consideration to be given to the current grant maxima, and recommendations made for change, if required.

Waste Management

Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the recent growth of British recycling industries. [106236]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 30 November 2006]: The recent growth of British recycling markets and facilities is encouraging. It signals our increasing ability to derive value from waste on a domestic level and a move towards more self-sufficiency with regards to waste management.

As well as encouraging more sustainable resource use, increasing recycling rates helps divert waste from landfill and therefore contributes to our efforts to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The latest provisional statistics show that recycling and composting rates for household waste in England have reached 27 per cent.—this exceeds our 25 per cent. target and is a 4 per cent. increase on the previous year.

The Government intend to continue their funding of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to further stimulate domestic markets for recycled materials. One of WRAP's Business Plan targets, to be met by March 2008, is to deliver 10 per cent. sustainable growth in the specialist recycling and reprocessing sector. This is double the forecasted growth of Gross Domestic Product and will be worked towards by helping companies capitalise on opportunities so that recycling is economically viable, as well as environmentally sustainable. WRAP are also working to stimulate domestic markets for recyclate through new collection, processing options and capacity, setting standards for recycled materials, and promoting 'green' procurement.

DEFRA's Waste Implementation Development Programme (WIDP) was established to accelerate the building of the infrastructure needed to treat residual waste without compromising efforts to minimise waste and increase recycling. Only a combination of these activities will allow us to meet our obligations for biodegradable municipal waste under the Landfill Directive. A number of demonstrator projects are being funded through WIDP to increase processing capacity and increase availability of infrastructure able to process biodegradable waste. We expect that further investment by private companies in reprocessing technologies will follow.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) weight and (b) volume of all household waste was diverted to landfill in each of the last five years. [106403]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 30 November 2006]: Waste is measured by weight rather than by volume. Tonnages of municipal waste sent to landfill in each of the last five years for which statistics are available are provided in the following table:

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Weight (Thousand tonnes)











Municipal waste includes household waste and any other wastes collected by a Waste Collection Authority, or its agents.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Revised Waste Strategy will be published; and what he expects the role of waste minimisation to be in the strategy. [106404]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 30 November 2006]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 16 October 2006, Official Report, column 910W.

As it lessens waste production from the outset, waste minimisation is top of the waste hierarchy. The consultation on the Waste Strategy Review carried out earlier this year put forward proposals on the role of waste minimisation and prevention in England. The consultation document is available from the DEFRA website:

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