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The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alistair Darling): Further to the statement that I made to the House on the financing framework for Royal Mail letters business on 8 February this year I am pleased to confirm that this has now been completed and put in place. The legal documentation was finalised last Friday, 23 March, in line with the timetable I set out.
The Minister for Science and Innovation (Malcolm Wicks): Producer responsibility under the UK WEEE Regulations will begin from1 July 2007. Non-statutory Guidance to assist business affected by the regulations to understand their obligations and identify the most appropriate method to discharge them was published in February 2007. This document will be reviewed and amended on a regular basis to ensure clarity in light of experience.
In the early part of 2007 the DTI held a series of road-shows for producers and distributors across the UK. In addition the environment authorities arranged seminars for prospective Producer Compliance Schemes and the Distributor Take-back Scheme (DTS) operator held workshops to raise awareness of the opportunities the regulations offer Local Authorities. This awareness raising activity was supplemented by a number of placed articles and features in the trade press.
The environment authorities in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have approved 37 Producer Compliance Schemes to help producers of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) discharge their obligations under the Regulations,
There is evidence of increased investment by the waste management and treatment sector to increase the existing capacity to deal with WEEE as it arises; and
Distributors and local authorities are working with the DTS operator to develop a network of designated collection facilities using the existing local authority waste collection infrastructure.
A public awareness campaign will begin in the coming months to inform consumers of the regulations and the positive role they can play in ensuring WEEE is separately collected, treated and reprocessed to the standards required by the regulations to secure the environmental benefits the WEEE system will offer.
At the time of laying the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations (WEEE) 2006 (SI 3289), the Government indicated that they were considering introducing partial producer responsibility from 1 April 2007. However, following extensive discussions with industry, the Government have decided not to take this forward.
Officials within my Department will continue direct dialogue with trade associations and other representative bodies to ensure a practical, effective and workable WEEE system is established within the UK.
I would like to update the House about the grants to increase walking to school that I announced on 22 November 2006. I have today placed in the House
Libraries the grant determination under Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 in respect of this grant.
Funds will go to a total of 3,231 schools. The grant is targeted mainly at primary schools, and more than one in six primary schools across the country will receive this funding. 1,903 schools will receive grants to start or significantly expand walking buses, and another 1,328 will receive grants to set up other walking initiatives. This new investment is expected to see the number of walking buses across England triple.
These payments are being made as part of the Government's Travelling to School project to reduce car use for journeys to school. DFT is providing the money and is working closely with the Department for Education and Skills (DFES) and the Department of Health to integrate walking buses and other walking initiatives into the Healthy Schools initiative and promote healthier lifestyles.
The grants will be paid through DFES to Local Authorities (LAs) for onward transmission to the successful school through the DFES Standards Fund. This has been identified as the grant mechanism that is simplest to administer.
The grant determination sets out the amount each LA will receive. The amount distributed to each LA is based on the number of schools in their area that have made the required commitment and demonstrated a reasonable expectation of saving five return trips per school day for a walking bus, which will receive £1,000 a year. Other walking initiatives must save 2.5 return trips on average and will receive £500 a year.
The required number of car trips to be saved is based on an assessment of the number needed to ensure that the scheme represents high value for money, taking account of the environmental, health and other benefits from the walking buses and other walking initiatives.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): The Depleted Uranium Oversight Board (DUOB) was established in 2001 to oversee a screening programme for veterans of the 1991 Gulf conflict and subsequent Balkans operations concerned about possible exposure to depleted uranium. Testing based on the analysis of urine samples for trace quantities of uranium isotopes was offered between 2004 and 2006. A total of 496 applicants completed the test.
The final report of the DUOB is now available and can be accessed from the website www.duob.org.uk
The board was unable to achieve complete consensus on the interpretation and significance of the test results. However, no evidence of the excretion of depleted uranium was found in the urine of any of the test participants. According to mainstream scientific and medical opinion, this means that none had suffered an exposure to DU of sufficient magnitude likely to cause a risk to their health.