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16 Apr 2007 : Column 86Wcontinued
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he plans to introduce a floodplain development charge following the findings of the Flood and Coastal Defence Funding Review. 
Ian Pearson: As part of the 2002 Flood and Coastal Defence Funding Review, DEFRA consulted publicly on the idea of a floodplain development charge. This is an initial charge on developers in flood risk areas to cover the costs to the public purse of wider measures to protect proposed developments from flooding, beyond those covered by developer payments under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Further public consultation on the idea was undertaken in 2004 as part of development of the new cross-Government strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management Making space for water.
Responses to the consultations indicated some limited support for a floodplain development charge. However, there would be some adverse effects and a number of difficult practical issues to resolve before such a charge could be introduced. There are no current plans to introduce a floodplain development charge. The Government remain committed to an effective and properly resourced flood and coastal erosion risk management service and will continue to explore options for meeting long-term funding needs.
Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the implications for the UK field trials of BASF genetically-modified blight-resistant potatoes of the Dutch Court ruling requiring field trials in the Netherlands of the same GM variety to be destroyed due to insufficient environmental risk assessment; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: Decisions on research trials of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are made at a national level. We have our own procedures to consider applications for GM crop trials in England. This includes making sure that there is an appropriate risk assessment in accordance with Directive 2001/18/EC.
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what studies his Department has (a) carried out and (b) supported on the possible effects on human health of pollen produced by the starched-altered GM potato EHG92-527-1. 
Ian Pearson: My Department has not commissioned or supported any studies on the possible effects on human health of pollen produced by GM potato EH92-527-1. As with all dossiers for the commercial release of a genetically modified organism under Directive 2001/18/EC applicants are required to provide information on risks to human health and the environment as part of their submitted dossier. This information is assessed by panels of independent expert scientists in all member states. In the UK this is the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment. If we or ACRE were not satisfied with the information provided further evidence would be requested.
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether his Department has supported further research on the same topics covered by the earlier research which was supported by his Department on genetically modified potatoes conducted by Dr. Arpad Pusztai; 
(2) if he will commission research to review the findings of Dr. Arpad Pusztai on genetically modified potatoes, to include consideration of the findings of the 1998 feeding study of the Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. 
Ian Pearson: The research study on genetically modified (GM) potatoes conducted by Dr. Pusztai was published in 1999 and was funded by the then Scottish Office Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Department. DEFRA has not supported any research in this area, the reported findings of both the study by Dr. Pusztai and the 1998 feeding study in Russia relate to the issue of GM food safety, which, in the UK, is the responsibility of the Food Standards Agency.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many complaints he has received about the operation of the Warm Front scheme; and how many have concerned the company Blue Flag, operating in the North West. 
Ian Pearson: Since June 2005, there have been 4,418 complaints logged by Eaga plc regarding the Warm Front scheme overall, with 1,760 being upheld. This represents 0.51 per cent. of all households assisted over the period.
During that period, 2,963 complaints were received regarding installer companies, with 1,390 of these complaints having been upheld. This reflects 0.41 per cent. of all households assisted.
Over the same time scales, 33 complaints were received relating to Blue Flag activities in the North Westof which 15 were upheld and seven currently being investigated. This represents less than 1 per cent. of their activity under Warm Front.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many households (a) connected and (b) not connected to the gas mains were helped to improve their energy efficiency by (i) Warmfront, (ii) the Energy Efficiency Commitment and (iii) other publicly funded schemes in each of the last 10 years. 
Ian Pearson: The data are not available to establish precisely how many households have been helped by Warm Front and the Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC) that are not connected to the mains gas supply. However, since June 2005, 93,687 households that do not have gas as their main source of heating have been assisted with a range of energy efficiency and heating measures.
In addition, 2,600 households received a gas supply funded by Warm Front that enabled them to benefit from the installation of either gas wall heaters or a gas fired central heating system.
Since Warm Fronts inception, in 2000, over 1.2 million households have received assistance from the scheme.
During the first phase of the Energy Efficiency Commitment (2002-05), suppliers installed a range of insulation, heating and lighting measures and appliances which helped an estimated 40 million households to improve their energy efficiency.
Mr. Binley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many consumer complaints were made about the quality of service provided by independently contracted firms in the Warm Front scheme in each of the last three years. 
Ian Pearson: The number of consumer complaints about the quality of service provided by firms contracted to the Warm Front Scheme in the areas managed by the Eaga Partnership, between January 2004 and December 2006, are set out in the following table.
|Households assisted||Number of complaints||Number of complaints (percentage of households assisted)|
Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of effective maintenance of the UKs canals on (a) regeneration and (b) tourism. 
Barry Gardiner [holding answer 27 March 2007]: The contribution of the waterways to urban and rural regeneration is acknowledged. They act as a catalyst for economic and social regeneration, having the potential to generate jobs and development. There is reckoned to be around a 20 per cent. uplift in land values along a canal corridor. Their contribution to tourism is also significant given the opportunities they provide for leisure and recreation.
Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the effect of the reduction in British Waterways' grant on the planned maintenance of canals. 
Barry Gardiner [holding answer 27 March 2007]: This is an operational matter for British Waterways. I understand it announced deferral of major engineering works to the value of £5.6 million following the in-year cut of £3.9 million for 2006-07.
Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations he has received about roadside litter in England; what steps the Highways Agency takes against roadside litter along trunk roads; what assessment he has made of the change in volume of roadside litter in England; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: I have received various representations on litter from members of the public and members of both Houses.
The Highways Agency has a duty under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to clear litter and refuse from the strategic road network, which includes all motorways and some A-roads and trunk roads. The cleansing duty on other roads is the responsibility of the relevant local authority. To ensure satisfactory standards, cleansing is undertaken in accordance with the Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse.
Data from the Local Environmental Quality Survey of England 2005-06 show that there has been a steady improvement in cleansing performance over the last three years. However, the survey indicated a rise in levels of detritus on rural roads and other highways.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the potential of the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe directive to harmonise and regulate cadastral data. 
Barry Gardiner: Cadastral data are covered by the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE) Directive and will be subject to the interoperability requirements that INSPIRE will lay down.
INSPIRE will create a European Spatial Data Infrastructure by improving the interoperability of spatial information (a term often used interchangeably
with geographic information) across the European Union at a local, regional, national and international level.
A series of technical implementing rules will accompany the Directive. These are currently being developed by several drafting teams under the auspices of the European Commission. They include implementing rules on the interoperability and, where practicable, harmonisation of spatial data sets.
The implementing rules will be subject to expert and public review. DEFRA and other government organisations are participating in this process. In addition, as part of the process for developing the interoperability implementing rules, the Commission (with input from member states) will undertake analyses to ensure that the rules are feasible and proportionate in terms of their likely costs and benefits.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate he has made of the total cost of the re-naming of the Marine Fisheries Agency; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) whether consultants were hired to advise (a) his Department and (b) its non-departmental public bodies on the re-naming of the Marine Fisheries Agency; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The company Daniel West and Associates (DWA) were commissioned to update the existing Marine Fisheries Agency logo and associated guidelines. The cost is in the region of £5,000 which is to be spent on signs for the offices and document templates. All costs are being met from within the existing Marine Fisheries Agency budget.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the sources of funding are for the costs of renaming the Marine Fisheries Agency. 
Mr. Bradshaw: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 23 March 2007, Official Report, column 1167W.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what support he is making available to farmers who wish to convert to organic milk production. 
Barry Gardiner: It is up to individual producers to decide if they want to produce milk organically.
Aid for converting to organic farming is available under Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS). Under this scheme, organic farmers are now paid £60 per hectare (ha) per annum (twice that of the comparable rate of aid for conventional farmers). This is recognition of the inherent environmental benefits delivered by farming organically.
Since the launch of OELS in March 2005, some 212,452 ha of land has been entered into the Scheme(1),
which is 62.5 per cent. of the target of 340,000 by the end of 2007. However, while OELS is stimulating conversion, we have yet to see how far this will contribute to the sector attaining the 70 per cent. target for indigenous produce set by the Action Plan to development organic food and farming.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department has taken to introduce mandatory targets for the reduction of excess packaging by retailers and food producers. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 (as amended) require that all packaging should be manufactured so that volume and weight are limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain necessary levels of safety, hygiene and consumer acceptance.
These Regulations are enforced by Trading Standards officers and a number of companies have already been prosecuted for using excess packaging.
The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 also encourage businesses to reduce the amount of packaging they use. In addition, the Government are encouraging supermarkets to take greater responsibility, in terms of waste, for the packaging and products they place on the market. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is currently working with retailers through the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary agreement which aims to halt packaging growth by 2008 and make absolute reductions in packaging waste by 2010. 13 major retailers, representing 92 per cent. of the UK grocery sector, have already signed the agreement as well as three major brands.
In addition, DEFRA, working with WRAP and the devolved administrations, has recently secured the agreement of UK retailers to reduce the overall environmental impact of their carrier bags by 25 per cent. by the end of 2008.
Consumers also have a part to play in encouraging producers to reduce unnecessary waste by choosing goods that are not heavily packaged, buying loose (rather than pre-packaged) food and re-using their own bags.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of biofuels used in the UK is made from palm oil; and what assessment he has made of the carbon dioxide emissions from palm oil production. 
Ian Pearson: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 26 Jan 2007:Column 2112W.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice his Department has issued to local authorities on whether
shredded paper is suitable for collection as part of domestic doorstep recycling collections. 
Mr. Bradshaw: My Department has not issued guidance to local authorities on collecting shredded paper as part of their domestic doorstep recycling service.
Although shredded paper can be recycled, some paper mills may not be able to accept it as it can be difficult to re-process. A lack of facilities accepting such material may affect a local authoritys decision on whether to include shredded paper in its domestic doorstep recycling collection service.
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