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21 Feb 2007 : Column 722W—continued

The significant increase in the number of birds tested during the second quarter of 2006 is linked to the finding of H5N1 in a dead swan in Cellardyke, Scotland.

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Avian Influenza: Disease Control

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the potential for the rapid spreading of the H5N1 virus between birds in sealed containment sheds used for factory farming poultry. [121152]

Mr. Bradshaw: Infected birds shed avian influenza viruses in their saliva, nasal secretions, and faeces. Susceptible birds become infected when they have direct contact with other infected birds, or through contact with surfaces (such as dirt or cages) or materials (such as water or feed) that have been contaminated with the virus. Once within a sealed containment shed the avian influenza virus is likely to be very contagious among other birds that are present.

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the vulnerability of poultry sheds to incursion by wild birds via ventilation systems. [121162]

Mr. Bradshaw: Our bio-security guidance to farmers has consistently highlighted the need to limit and control access to poultry flocks wherever possible, and to prevent incursion by wild birds and rodents. Access to poultry sheds via ventilation systems should be regularly inspected as a routine part of good bio-security practice.

It is crucial that keepers follow these measures at all times, and not just during a disease outbreak.

On 16 February 2006, Defra issued an interim epidemiological report into the source of the recent outbreak of avian influenza infection in Suffolk. It concludes that there is little evidence to support the hypothesis of transmission from a wild bird source. However, we are yet to reach a final conclusion and investigations will continue to be all-embracing in respect of possible means of introduction of the virus.

Biodiversity: Local Area Agreements

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many agreed local area agreements have incorporated biodiversity requirements. [120941]

Barry Gardiner: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 18 December 2006, Official Report, column 1433W.

Nature Conservation

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure that his Department’s guidance on local site systems is implemented. [120942]

Barry Gardiner: The Department published “Local Sites: Guidance on their Identification, Selection and Management” in April last year, with the aim of promoting more transparent and consistent approaches in the operation of local sites systems. Defra also organised a seminar in Birmingham on 25 January 2007, designed
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to promote the guidance further and enable interested parties to share good practice. The seminar was well attended and feedback from the event was very positive. We are currently considering, with partners, how to take forward the outcomes from this event.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure the full implementation of his Department’s guidance on local site systems within local area agreements. [120943]

Barry Gardiner: The Government are committed to ensuring that environmental issues, including biodiversity, are effectively addressed at all levels and in partnership between local bodies. Where local area agreements can contribute to the delivery of the Government’s and local areas’ environmental objectives, they do so. Many local areas have already chosen to include targets relating to environmental issues in their local area agreements.

Pollution Control: Local Authorities

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his Department’s policy is on whether local authorities should be compensated under the New Burdens directive for the cost of new or higher environmental taxes or levies introduced by central Government under the Pollutor Pays principle. [119585]

Mr. Woolas: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 6 February 2007, Official Report, columns 782-83W.


Mr. Malik: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the merits of introducing compulsory minimum levels for recycling of household waste which must be met by local councils. [120917]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government have already set statutory performance standards for recycling and composting for all local authorities in England.

261 authorities (66 per cent.) in England met or exceeded their individual targets in 2005-06, with households recycling 26.7 per cent. of their waste. This exceeded the Government target of 25 per cent. and was a 4 per cent. increase from the previous year.

However, we still have more to do to increase our recycling and composting rates, which is why we have raised local authorities’ existing ‘floor level’ target from 18 to 20 per cent. for 2007-08. This higher baseline target will ensure a more even level of service provision across the country and help close the gap between the lowest and the highest performing local authorities.

In October 2006, the Government published the Local Government White Paper, “Strong and Prosperous Communities”. In the new local government framework, the new generation of local area agreements (LAA) will include a single set of targets for improvement (a maximum of 35 out of the 200 mandatory indicators), tailored to local needs and
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agreed between Government and local partners. There will be a duty for local authorities and other local partners to work together to agree the priorities in the LAA. Once agreed with Government, local partners would be required to have regard to these priorities for improvement. In this way central government is focusing its action on the things that really matter to people everywhere, guaranteeing national minimum standards, but also leaving room for local innovation and local priorities. We are developing proposals for how waste should feature in this new framework.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the amount and proportion of material collected by local authorities for recycling that is subsequently rejected because of (a) co-mingling and (b) other contamination; and if he will make a statement. [121086]

Mr. Bradshaw: In 2005-06, an estimated 6.8 million tonnes of the household waste collected by local authorities in England was recycled. The small proportion of this waste that did not meet the standard for recycling was sent for energy recovery or landfilled, depending on the availability and cost of local facilities. An Environment Agency survey last year suggested reject rates typically varied from 5-10 per cent. although these can be higher.

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made by the Waste and Resources Action Programme of the effectiveness of local authorities in preventing the co-mingling of glass with other recyclables; and if he will publish statistics relating to each authority’s effectiveness in this area. [121259]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 19 February 2007]: It is the responsibility of each local authority (LA) to decide how best to collect and manage their waste; DEFRA does not assess LA performances on the collection of specific materials.

However, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) report, “Realising the value of recovered glass”, published in January 2007, included an assessment of current collection processes and the impact this has had on the market for recovered glass.

WRAP’s report found that, although almost all LAs now operate kerbside dry recyclable collection schemes, only around two-thirds of them collect glass, Very few materials recovery facilities currently accept glass, which makes it difficult for it to be collected when co-mingled with other recyclables. Collecting glass separately from other dry recyclable materials can be expensive.

Nevertheless, the report found that the amount of glass collected by LAs via the municipal waste stream has increased in recent years. In 2005-06, local LAs in England recovered 377 thousand tonnes of glass from kerbside collections, with a further 382 thousand tonnes from bring/civic amenity sites. This compares to around 160 thousand tonnes from kerbside collections, with another 390 thousand tonnes from bring sites in 2004-05.

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In 2002, only 84 LAs had kerbside glass collection schemes, compared to the estimated 300 authorities by mid 2006. The number of LAs operating such schemes is expected to increase further over the next few years as LA’s targets for recycling and composting become even more demanding.

WRAP will also shortly be initiating a project to improve LA’s understanding Of the quality Standards required for the different uses of recycled glass, how to achieve those standards and the relative environmental benefits of different end uses.

Dr. Blackman-Woods: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans he has to encourage local authorities to improve their recycling rates; [121549]

(2) what plans he has to encourage local authorities to provide kerbside collection for the recycling of (a) glass, (b) plastic, (c) paper, (d) compostable waste and (e) tins. [121550]

Mr. Bradshaw: Recycling is strongly promoted by a range of Government policies and we have set demanding targets, both nationally and locally, for household waste recycling and composting.

Recycling and composting of household waste has doubled in the last four years and almost quadrupled since 1997. Our consultation on the Waste Strategy review, carried out last year, also included proposals to set much more ambitious household waste recycling and composting targets, to reach 40 per cent. by 2010 and 50 per cent. by 2020. The targets are not material-specific, but we expect the range of materials collected by local authorities to increase further as recycling and composting targets become more demanding and as collection and treatment capacity increases.

Expanding kerbside collection service is one way to help drive up recycling rates and under the Household Waste Recycling Act 2003, all local authorities in England are required to collect at least two types of recyclable waste from all households in their area by the end of 2010. Most households already receive this, or a better level of service.

Government support for, and engagement with, the poorest performing authorities will help close the gap between the poorest and the best performing local authorities and ensure a more even level of service provision across the country. Local authorities’ ever diminishing landfill allowances, allocated under the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme, also provide a strong incentive to divert greater amounts of biodegradable waste (including compostable garden and kitchen waste), from landfill, as does the escalating landfill tax.

On a national basis, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), funded by DEFRA and the devolved Administrations, is working to promote sustainable waste management by creating stable and efficient markets for recycled materials and products. WRAP also runs the Recycling and Organics Technical Advisory Team (ROTATE), which provides support and advice available to all local authorities in England on the separate
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collection of dry recyclables and organic wastes. This includes advice to those authorities planning to introduce a new scheme or the collection of new materials.

Veterinary Laboratories Agency: Institute for Animal Health

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the policy reasons are for his decision to keep the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Institute for Animal Health as separate agencies. [120924]

Mr. Bradshaw: On 29 January, Defra welcomed Professor John Preston’s report into the working relationship between the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) and the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC)-sponsored Institute for Animal Health (IAH).

The report, which presents options for future relations, follows extensive consultation between the VLA, IAH, their sponsor Departments and across Government. It was produced in partnership with the BBSRC and was subsequently reviewed by the Defra Management board and BBSRC council on 23 November 2006 and 5 December 2006 respectively.

The report provides a comprehensive overview of the VLA and IAH and recognises the essential services the two institutes provide to the UK in the field of animal and public health. It also acknowledges their research and surveillance activities, which provide cutting edge science for application in the field and highlights that there is much to be gained through closer co-operation between the two institutes.

Based on their scientific activities and provision of services to the UK, the report provides a reasoned case for the option for merger to be considered further. Further analysis to identify suitable governance arrangements and work to build an agreed business case would be required before this could happen. Therefore, Defra, in agreement with the BBSRC, considers that the VLA and IAH should remain separate organisations while actively continuing to explore opportunities for greater collaboration, in line with option A of the Preston report.

Veterinary Medicine

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if he will review the ability of veterinary surgeons to prescribe for animals medicines otherwise used for humans; [121144]

(2) what assessment he has made of the impact of the cost of drugs on the affordability of care for sick domestic animals. [121145]

Mr. Bradshaw: The regulation of veterinary medicines is controlled by EC directive 2001/82 as amended by directive 2004/28/EC. The Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2006 (VMR) implement this directive in the UK.

The directive and the VMR permit veterinary surgeons to use other medicines where no authorised veterinary medicinal product exists for the condition in the animal being treated. This is called the Prescribing
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Cascade and allows, among other options, for a human medicine to be prescribed where there is a clinical need.

Veterinary medicine is private medicine and there is no specific legislation governing the cost of veterinary medicines. The Competition Commission (CC) reported on the Supply of Prescription Only Medicines in April 2003. They made a number of recommendations to improve the competitiveness of the veterinary medicines market and these are being implemented. No assessment has been made of the cost of drugs or the affordability of care for sick domestic animals although this is, of course, only one element in the total cost of treatment.

Veterinary Surgeons

Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his objective justification is under the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 for terminating the local veterinary inspector status for veterinary surgeons when they become 65 years old. [114838]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 15 January 2007]: The appointment of local veterinary inspectors (LVIs) by the state veterinary service (SVS) is covered in ‘General Procedures for Local Veterinary Inspectors’ (chapter 58A of the SVS instructions). The chapter has been agreed with the British Veterinary Association and a copy is held by each veterinary practice that provides LVI resource to the SVS.

LVI appointments are approved on the basis that they will operate within the specifics of the ‘Memorandum of Conditions of Appointment’. This Memorandum states that

The ‘General Procedures for Local Veterinary Inspectors’ also make clear that LVI’s are not employees of the SVS or DEFRA.

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 specifically exclude the provision of goods and services and DEFRA, therefore, does not consider the Memorandum of Conditions of Appointment of LVIs to be in breach of this legislation.

The SVS is currently reviewing the LVI arrangements, the details of which will be available later in 2007.


Armed Forces: Age

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel are under the age of 18 years. [121505]

Derek Twigg: At 1 January 2007, 4,340(1) UK regular forces were under the age of 18 years.

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