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23 Apr 2007 : Column 903W—continued

Land Drainage: Churches

Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether he is able to intervene to assist churches facing increased charges for surface water drainage; [132254]

(2) if he will discuss with Ofwat the impact of Northumbria Water’s decision to install water meters in some churches. [132255]

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Ian Pearson: In 2003, Ofwat carried out a review of Surface Water Drainage charges for non-household customers. This recommended a move from charging based on rateable values towards a site-area method. Ofwat considers that charging by site-area is the fairest method: it ensures that individual customers pay for the load which they impose on the drainage system.

Every year each water company proposes a charging scheme which Ofwat must approve. Non-household customers should pay for their water on the basis of the company’s charges scheme, or on the basis of a specific agreement between the customer and the company.

My right hon. friend the Secretary of State issued guidance in 2000 on matters that Ofwat must have regard to when exercising its power to approve charges schemes. This explains that it is inappropriate to charge all non-household customers as if they were businesses. If premises such as churches are charged on the same basis as the other non-household users, they can face disproportionately high costs. Such premises should be able to benefit from tariffs which reflect their relatively small demand on the water system.


Mr. Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will take steps to improve the performance of local authorities in removing litter from rural roads. [131230]

Mr. Bradshaw: Local authorities (LAs) have a duty to clear litter from public streets and other highways, including rural roads, and also have a range of enforcement powers to ensure areas remain clean. DEFRA is already taking steps to ensure that LAs comply with this duty and make full and effective use of their amended powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

DEFRA produced guidance for LAs covering the legislation on litter and refuse to coincide with the commencement of measures in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. This was distributed to all LAs and is available from DEFRA’s website. It is complemented by a ‘Knowledge Bank’ on litter, developed in partnership with Environmental Campaigns (ENCAMS), which offers further practical information for LAs as well as case studies on litter management.

DEFRA also published a revised code of practice on litter and refuse in April 2006. This provides statutory, practical guidance on the litter duty, and the standards that must be met by bodies responsible for discharging that duty. The code places an emphasis on the consistent and appropriate management of land to keep it clear of litter. It also sets recovery times for restoring local environmental standards for litter, refuse and detritus as a last resort, should they fall to an unacceptable level.

In addition, all LAs submit data on the cleanliness of their areas to central Government on an annual basis through Best Value Performance Indicator 199a. Members of the public can also use an interactive website to check the performance of any authority. Data are also collected through the Local Environmental Quality Survey of England run by ENCAMS. Collection of data allows Government to monitor performance and offer additional support and guidance to LAs where it is needed.

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Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of whether the targets set by supermarkets and food producers under the Courtauld Commitment have been met. [131732]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 16 April 200 7 ]: 13 major retailers (representing 92 per cent. of the UK grocery sector) signed up to the Courtauld Commitment in 2005. They agreed to work with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to design out packaging waste growth by 2008, deliver absolute reductions in packaging waste by 2010 and identify ways to tackle the problem of food waste.

Three major brands also signed the Commitment at the ‘One Year On’ event I chaired in November last year. At that event, WRAP reported that a great deal of preparatory progress had been made since the voluntary agreement was signed. However, more still needed to be done in order to achieve the required reductions in packaging.

Each signatory to the Commitment has been developing its own programme of work with WRAP to reduce packaging and packaging waste. A number of retailers have now made announcements setting their own specific performance targets on waste and other environmental issues.

WRAP is currently collating up-to-date information on achievements arising from the Commitment against its current business plan targets. These results will be included in WRAP’s 2006-07 achievements report due later this year.

Radioactive Wastes: Waste Management

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he plans to publish the report on handling waste from the decommissioning of nuclear establishments; and what the reasons are for the delay in its publication. [132806]

Ian Pearson: On 25 October 2006, the Secretary of State for DEFRA announced the Government response to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management's (CoRWM) recommendations on the best options for the long-term management of the UK's higher activity radioactive waste. The announcement accepted CoRWM's recommendation on geological disposal and its recommendations for safe and secure interim storage.

The UK Government and devolved Administrations are now working to prepare a public consultation document on the Government's framework for the implementation of geological disposal. Our aim is to publish this in the summer, and it will include proposals for a voluntarist/partnership approach to site selection, and an outline geological disposal delivery programme.

The UK policy for managing solid low-level radioactive waste (LLW) was announced on 26 March 2007. The new policy puts providing public safety at the forefront of dealing with LLW. It sets out a more flexible and pragmatic approach to its management,
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stressing the need to minimise the amount of waste created and recognising the need to involve the public in developing and authorising LLW management plans.

Copies of our response to CoRWM and the UK policy for managing LLW can be found in the Libraries of the House.

Ritual Slaughter

Mr. Walter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate he has made of the proportion of meat prepared according to shechita that is sold without labelling to this effect; [131315]

(2) if his Department will consider introducing mandatory labelling of all meat prepared according to halal and kosher rules. [131316]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 18 April 2007]: DEFRA has made no estimation of the proportion of meat prepared according to shechita that is sold without labelling to this effect.

Compulsory labelling of meat would require action at the European level, and this is not an area where the Government expects to see changes in labelling law in the foreseeable future. However, there is nothing to stop such information being provided voluntarily.

State Veterinary Service

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the cost of (a) marketing and (b) changes to stationery from the change of name of the State Veterinary Service to Animal Health. [132297]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 20 April 2007]: The information is as follows.

Waste Management: Greater London

Ms Butler: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what statutory powers the proposed London Waste and Recycling Forum will have to carry out its strategic waste management functions London-wide. [132992]

Mr. Bradshaw: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on 27 November 2006, Official Report , column 314W.

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Whales: Conservation

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many whales (a) Norway, (b) Iceland and (c) Japan have caught since the last meeting of the International Whaling Commission. [131323]

Mr. Bradshaw: For the 2005-06 period, the number of whales taken by species and by country, is shown in the following table. This is based on information reported to the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Minke Sei Bryde’s Fin Sperm











(1) Under Special Permit.

For the 2006-07 period, the following quotas, either under objection to the moratorium or as part of a special (“scientific”) permit, have been issued by the countries concerned.

Minke Sei Bryde’s Fin Sperm Humpback














(1) Under Special Permit.

However, for the first time, information on recent catches taken by commercial, aboriginal and scientific permit whaling will be reported in May, at this year’s annual meeting of the IWC.

Anne Moffat: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action he is taking to maintain a majority in the International Whaling Commission in favour of the moratorium on commercial whaling. [132060]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 19 April 2007]: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 8 March 2007, Official Report, column 2186W.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office


Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will prepare and place in the Library a progress report on the aims and timetable contained in the London Afghanistan Compact; and how long she estimates it would take to produce such a report. [132524]

Mr. McCartney: Officials are drafting a note on progress made against the Afghanistan Compact benchmarks. This will be completed by the Whitsun recess. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

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Afghanistan: Drugs

Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in the UK Government’s efforts to reduce the production of heroin in Afghanistan; and if she will make a statement. [133396]

Mr. McCartney: The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime estimates that 70 per cent. of the heroin produced from Afghan opium is now manufactured within Afghanistan itself. The UK is spending £270 million over the next three years to help the Afghan Government tackle all aspects of the heroin trade through their National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS).

The NDCS identifies targeting traffickers at the top end of the trade as the best way to deal with the production and trafficking of opiates. With our assistance, the Afghan authorities have convicted over 350 drug traffickers in the last 18 months. Reports from the United Nations Development Programme show that between March 2005 and March 2006 the authorities seized 70 tonnes of opiates and destroyed 245 laboratories. The UK is also contributing to the Afghan government’s efforts to stem the flow of chemicals used in the production of heroin into their country.

Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate she has made of drug cultivation levels in Afghanistan in 2007. [133473]

Mr. McCartney: Afghanistan may be facing another year of high poppy cultivation. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime’s Winter Assessment Survey (WAS), released in March, is a snapshot that tries to identify early trends in cultivation. The WAS shows a mixed picture. It suggests that cultivation is down in the north and stable in the centre and west. These are areas where there is better security, governance and development. It also suggests that cultivation is heading up in the south and east, including in Helmand, Kandahar and Nangarhar. In the south, security challenges, insurgent activity and the lack of extension of rule of law continue to present major obstacles to poppy elimination.

Burma: Human Rights

Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received on the treatment of four girls aged between 14 and 16 years in Putao District, Kachin State by members of the Burma Army and the subsequent imprisonment of the girls; what representations she has made to the Burmese Government on this case; and if she will take steps to press the Burmese authorities (a) to release the girls, (b) to investigate the case and (c) to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. [131129]

Mr. McCartney [holding answers 16 April 2007]: We are aware of reports in the Burmese media about the detention of four girls in Putao District and we are concerned about how their complaint has been treated by the authorities. I intend to raise this issue at a senior level with the Burmese authorities to demand a formal investigation into the alleged rapes at the earliest opportunity.

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