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4. Mrs. Siân C. James (Swansea, East) (Lab): What steps he is taking to reduce the amount of packaging used by supermarkets for fresh produce. [137586]

The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Legislation requiring an increasing proportion of packaging to be recycled and outlawing excessive packaging is helping to reduce packaging. The supermarkets have agreed voluntary measures to reduce packaging. We will announce further measures shortly when we publish our new waste strategy.

Mrs. James: I thank the Minister for his answer. I have received correspondence from a constituent, Chris James, who has recently come back from a family holiday in America, where he compared shopping in Wal-mart in America with shopping in his local supermarket in Swansea. He was particularly struck by the fact that in America there was so little packaging and that all the fresh produce was displayed with a minimum of packaging. When he got back home, he noticed a significant difference in the amount that he had to dispose of or recycle. Will the Minister speak to the supermarkets with a view to reaching an agreement on some kind of standardisation for packaging? We need to encourage them to take these steps.

Mr. Bradshaw: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend: the experience of her constituent in the United States mirrors that of many people who travel to other countries and find that produce is not so heavily packaged as they are used to here. We are in constant touch with the supermarkets on this issue, and we have
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seen a new will on their part to address the problem. One or two of them have not only signed up to the agreement to which I referred, but are going further in reducing and minimising packaging. We shall pay close attention to that issue when we publish our new waste strategy shortly.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): The Minister will know, however, that supermarkets are not exactly forthcoming in dealing with regulations: we need only think of the way that they are hammering the dairy industry and the farming industry generally. The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James) raises an important point, because we do suffer from far too much packaging. I commend to the House the initiative of Waitrose in not handing out plastic bags for the next week or two. That is a good start, because our streets are littered with totally unnecessary plastic bags.

Mr. Bradshaw: Personally, I would rather that Waitrose never handed out a disposable bag again, and I think that all other retailers should adopt the same policy. Those in this country that have adopted the policy have seen a dramatic fall in the issue of one-way disposable bags—not just plastic but other bags. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the fact that, a couple of months ago, we got the supermarkets to sign up to an agreement to reduce the environmental impact of all disposable bags by 25 per cent. over the next two years. Consumers also have a role, and he and other Members may like to reflect on their behaviour as consumers in relation to packaging and bags, to complain to retailers and to make it clear that packaging is sometimes excessive.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): The issue is reducing not just the amount of packaging but the materials used in that packaging. Many councils will not recycle much plastic packaging. Is there pressure on supermarkets to think about using the type of packaging that can be easily recycled in preference to that which cannot?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, there is. A slight misconception exists, because the vast majority of plastics used by supermarkets are recyclable, but the recycling of plastics around the country, from local authority to local authority, is patchy. Some local authorities that got the recycling bug later have concentrated on other materials that help them improve their figures more quickly. We are mindful of the issue, and we will consider it closely when we publish our new waste strategy.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): As well as wanting the physical volume of packaging reduced, consumers want to know the carbon footprint of packaged products that they buy. So far, however, that approach seems totally beyond the ambition of the Government. Part of the problem, as the Green Alliance has noted, is that no single body is driving progress in this area. Will the Minister therefore consider constructively the submission of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment to the Conservative quality of life policy review— [Interruption.] It would be helpful if the Minister calmed down a little and listened to the question; it is Question Time, after all. Can that submission calling for an
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independent packaging watchdog be considered constructively, so that real progress can be made in this area?

Mr. Bradshaw: I always want to consider interesting and constructive ideas. It may have passed the hon. Gentleman’s notice, although not that of the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) who chairs the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made such an announcement at the Oxford farming conference earlier this year. The difficulty in relation to the carbon footprint of different foodstuffs is that we simply do not have the evidence base yet to introduce a credible system that would be adopted by all the retailers. Retailers are also interested in the issue, and we are working with all of them to try to agree a standard measurement, so that we avoid the problem, which was mentioned earlier, of having a plethora of carbon offsetting schemes but no real standard in which consumers can have confidence. We have wanted to introduce such a scheme for a long time, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has now jumped on the bandwagon.

Gregory Barker: Standards are one thing—and I welcome what the Secretary of State said in his Oxford speech—but we still need an independent regulator with real teeth. We have the Waste and Resources Action Programme, for example, but that is working with the industry, not policing it. Currently, responsibility is split between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Who will be responsible for enforcement and making sure that progress happens?

Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Gentleman is calling for more red tape. We are confident that, just as we have used independent advice to come up with a standard for carbon offsetting, it would be perfectly possible to use independent advice, based on independent research, to come up with a good carbon footprint scheme for foodstuffs. However, we do not need a new independent regulatory body to police it. That is a ludicrous idea. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman have a word with his right hon. Friend the Member for—

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Miliband): Suffolk, Coastal?

Mr. Bradshaw: No, not the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer). I have forgotten the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and I am not allowed to use his name in the Chamber. Anyway, I think he would be very concerned about the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that we need yet another regulatory body to regulate something that—[Hon. Members: “Wokingham!] Yes, I meant the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). He would be very concerned about the idea of establishing yet another regulatory body to regulate something that we are perfectly capable of regulating ourselves.

Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): May I declare an interest, as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the packaging manufacturing industry? I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that
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there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the requirements and needs for some of the packaging that we use. I agree with my hon. Friends that fresh produce should not need packaging—except, of course, when consumers want to shop weekly at a supermarket, and want the produce that they buy to last for more than two or three days. Therefore, there is a requirement for certain types of packaging for the purposes of hygiene and labelling, and to keep produce fresh. Will my hon. Friend use his good offices and try to find time for a full-scale debate in the House, in Government time, so that some of these issues can be discussed and we can avoid some of the recent campaigns in, for instance, the Daily Mail

Mr. Speaker: Order. It sounds as though we are having a full debate now.

Mr. Bradshaw: You have made very well the point that I was about to make, Mr. Speaker. We have spent a considerable amount of time on the subject of packaging, and quite right too.

My hon. Friend is right to remind the House, and some in the media, that some packaging is good for the environment. Food does not go to waste that would otherwise go to waste, which in itself would be wasteful. However, other Members are right to say that there needs to be a balance. Enough of us come across enough examples of produce that is over-packaged to make it important for retailers and legislators to address the issue.

Climate Change (Air Travel)

5. Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the impact of VAT on air travel as part of the Government's climate change strategy. [137587]

13. Mr. Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the impact of VAT on air travel as part of the Government's climate change strategy. [137598]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): The best way available in which to tackle the climate-change impact of aviation is to bring it within the EU emissions trading scheme. However, we continue to explore and discuss the use of other economic instruments, within Government, with stakeholders and with other countries.

Mr. Evennett: Let me say first that I am very sad that the Secretary of State decided not to stand for the leadership of his party. [Interruption.] I think there are other members of the Labour party who think the same, but let me turn to more substantive issues. Does the Minister agree that emissions from aviation are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, rising potentially from 5 per cent. today to a possible 25 per cent. by 2030? What changes does he think should be introduced to make aviation play its part in helping to tackle rising carbon dioxide emissions?

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Ian Pearson: I agree that aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions, but it is not just a question of carbon dioxide emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the non-carbon dioxide impact of aviation is two to four times as great as the carbon dioxide impact. That is why the Government have been leading the way in bringing aviation into the EU emissions trading scheme, and why we strongly back the proposals that have emerged from the European Commission, which by 2020 could save 183 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Mr. Adam Holloway: I think that it will be the Labour movement that, in time, will be sad that the Secretary of State did not stand for the leadership of the Labour party.

In February this year the Government increased air passenger duty, but it has been described by one of the Government’s own members as

Can the Minister tell us when the Government will tackle the issue properly?

Ian Pearson: I accept that air passenger duty may not be the most effective policy instrument when it comes to influencing environmental behaviour, but it is one of the best we have. It is certainly far better than the Tory proposal to impose VAT on domestic flights. The simple fact is that the rise in APD announced in the last pre-Budget report will produce more carbon savings in a month than the Conservative proposals will in a year.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): The growth in air travel has had a very good impact on the economy of such places as Greater Manchester, which has a rapidly expanding international airport, but has also had a massive impact on carbon emissions. The Minister briefly mentioned the UK’s efforts to have air transport included in the EU emissions trading scheme. Could he update the House as to where the Government are on this?

Ian Pearson: My hon. Friend is right about the importance of aviation to the UK economy and he gives a good example of the growth and success of Manchester airport. As a Government, we must have a sustainable policy on aviation. We should not be against aviation any more than we are against the cement industry, aggregates, construction, telecommunications or chemicals. Clearly it is important for aviation, like other sectors of the economy, to take responsibility for reducing its carbon emissions, which is why putting aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme is the best way forward. We have been responding to the European Commission’s proposals on aviation and we hope to see significant progress later this year, in accordance with the timetable laid out by the Commission.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Irrespective of whether the Government choose—I hope they will—to use other policy instruments in advance of the EU emissions trading scheme, which is still some years off, and given that the UK already submits information on emissions from international
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bunker fuels under the Kyoto provisions, should not emissions from both aviation and shipping be included in the Climate Change Bill from the beginning?

Ian Pearson: Domestic aviation is included in the UK’s greenhouse gas inventory. International aviation and shipping are not, because there is no international agreement on definitions. There is scope to amend the Climate Change Bill to allow the introduction of aviation and shipping, but we need international agreement on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from aviation and shipping. In the meantime, putting aviation into the EU ETS—the UK would support the inclusion of shipping—has to be the next best step. If we can achieve agreement through the International Civil Aviation Organisation to get global action on aviation, that would be much the best for everyone.

Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): There is broad agreement that green taxes do help to change behaviour and I very much welcome the Government’s announcement of their intention that we enter the emissions trading scheme. However, there is also deep suspicion that green taxes are being used to raise the overall level of taxation, rather than simply to combat climate change or to change behaviour. Will the Minister confirm that if Britain does enter the emissions trading scheme, air passenger duty and many other green taxes affecting aviation will be reduced to offset those new taxes?

Ian Pearson: It is incredible that Opposition Members oppose the climate change levy, which will have more of an impact in a week in terms of reducing carbon emissions than the current Conservative proposal to put VAT on domestic aviation would do in a year, while also opposing the increase in air passenger duty, which will save 2.75 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2010-11—more in one month than putting VAT on domestic flights, as the original question suggests, will do in a year. This is a nonsense of a Conservative policy—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I call Mr. Ellwood.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): May I add my condolences to the Secretary of State on his decision not to stand in the Labour leadership race—although there is another hour to go before the period for nominations ends? His campaign to be Prime Minister might be dead, but his ideas on climate change live on in the form of his mini-manifesto, a detailed letter written to the Chancellor in which he calls for increasing passenger awareness of the impact of flights, raising air passenger duty and making flights subject to VAT, which the Minister has just condemned. If we all agree that aviation must play its role in combating climate change and if the Secretary of State believes that that is the way forward, when will we get the opportunity to debate those ideas in this House?

Ian Pearson: We shall have plenty of opportunities to discuss climate change in the future, particularly in relation to the Climate Change Bill. I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box and congratulate him
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on his debut performance; it is just a shame that his task is to defend the Opposition’s shabby policy on aviation—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am not going to allow that.

Single Farm Payments

6. Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): How many farmers in the north-west are awaiting payments under the single farm payment scheme; and if he will make a statement. [137588]

7. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): What percentage of applications for single farm payments complied with eligibility criteria in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [137590]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Miliband): As I confirmed in my written ministerial statement on Tuesday of this week, at 11 May a total of £1.229 billion, representing about 80 per cent. of the estimated total fund of the 2006 single payment scheme, had been paid in either full or partial payments to about 92 per cent. of claimants—some 100,599 farmers. Eligibility penalties—the subject of Question 7—have been applied to about 10 per cent. of 2006 single payment scheme claims. Further detailed analysis of payments made under the SPS is not yet available.

Mr. Hoyle: Obviously, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way that he has got on with dealing with this problem. He inherited a chaotic mess—there are no two ways about that—and at least he has ensured that the farmers are starting to get the money. However, 8 per cent. are still waiting for payments. Will he consider helping them by means of compensation if that continues over a longer period? Will he also come up to Chorley and meet the farmers there who think he is doing a very good job?

David Miliband: An invitation to meet some farmers who think that I am doing a particularly good job is an invitation not to be refused. I am sure that there are a large and growing number of them, in Chorley and elsewhere.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Last year, for those payments delayed beyond 30 June interest payments were available. We are not yet at the stage where we have to consider that again, but I can assure him that we are trying to get as many payments out as soon as possible; I reaffirmed our commitment to make payments as fast as possible in my statement on Tuesday. Obviously, we take our responsibilities very seriously towards those who have not received payments.

Miss McIntosh: I commend the Secretary of State for the work that he is doing. However, he amusingly stated in his written statement that the Rural Payments Agency

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