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Floods: Databases

John Penrose: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what proportion of the recent pilot mailings by the Environment Agency to households and businesses about the Floodline Warnings Direct service was sent to households or businesses which are not above the threshold level of flood risk; [140836]

(2) what the threshold level of flood risk is above which households and businesses are included in the Floodline Warnings Direct database; [140833]

(3) what estimate he has made of the number of households and businesses excluded from the Floodline Warnings Direct database in error which are above the threshold level of risk from floods; [140834]

(4) what estimate he has made of the number of households and businesses included in the Floodline Warnings Direct database in error which are below the threshold level of flood risk. [140835]

Ian Pearson: The Environment Agency (EA) incorrectly sent a letter about Floodline Warnings Direct to 50 households at moderate flood risk. This represents 0.1 per cent. of the recent Floodline Warnings Direct recruitment mailings that the EA has sent to households across England. The EA have confirmed this as an error isolated to Congresbury, North Somerset and has contacted the 50 householders concerned to apologise.

The EA takes into consideration the source, the risk and the impact of flooding on a community when evaluating where it provides a flood warning service and the method by which flood warnings are communicated to the public.

The EA offers Floodline Warnings Direct to those households and businesses with a high risk of flooding.
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We define high risk as flooding at, or greater than, the 1 in 100 year return period (1 per cent. probability of occurring in any year) for flooding from rivers and the 1 in 200 year return period (0.5 per cent. probability) for flooding from the sea.

However, in some locations the EA has offered the Floodline Warnings Direct service to households and businesses up to the Extreme Flood Outline which represents the 1 in 1,000 year flood (0.1 per cent. probability) due to the predicted impacts of flooding on the community.

The EA does not offer the flood warning service to properties outside the Extreme Flood Outline. Therefore, the EA has not excluded any households or businesses in error from Floodline Warnings Direct which are above the threshold level of risk from flooding.

In March 2007, the EA mailed 9,166 of the 195,000 properties registered with Floodline Warnings Direct in England who no longer require warnings as they are not within the Extreme Flood Outline. The EA has not included these 9,166 properties in Floodline Warnings Direct in error as since the properties were included their level of flood risk has been updated with more accurate information.

Gardens: Heating

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will estimate the (a) carbon dioxide and (b) greenhouse gas emissions created by outdoor patio heaters in (i) the most recent year for which information is available and (ii) the next 10 years; and if he will make a statement on the expected effect on the (A) use of and (B) volume of emissions from outdoor patio heaters resulting from changes to legislation related to smoking in public places from 1st July 2007. [140639]

Ian Pearson: Currently, only limited information is available about the number of outdoor patio heaters in use in the UK.

The market transformation programme (MTP) estimates that the number of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) patio heaters is around 630,000 in the domestic sector and between 3,000 and 12,500 in the hospitality sector (pubs, restaurants and hotels). This does not include electric outdoor heating appliances, however, which appear to be gaining market share.

The LPG Association has provided sales figures for LPG supplied in cylinders sized for outdoor heating appliances each year. From the association's 2005 figures, the MTP estimates that annual carbon dioxide emissions from patio heaters in the UK are around 22.2 thousand tonnes. No information on other greenhouse gas emissions from outdoor patio heaters is available.

The MTP estimates are not derived from surveys or detailed research, and should not be interpreted as accurate data on energy consumption and carbon emissions. Information about emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is not available for future years.

There is currently no information available on the expected effect on the use and volume of emissions from patio heaters resulting from changes to legislation
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related to smoking in public places from 1 July 2007. However, the MTP is currently updating its briefing note ‘Outdoor Heating for Comfort’ to look at the possible impacts of the smoking ban on UK carbon dioxide emissions. This is available on the MTP website.

This updates the information I gave in my answer to the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) on 14 May 2007, Official Report, column 474W.

GMOs: Crops

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to what use the residues produced by the processing of BASF’s GM starch altered potato (EU marketing application EH92-527-1) will be put. [140877]

Ian Pearson: No consent to cultivate or market this potato product has yet been granted. However, the conditions of the draft Commission decision on it require BASF to include a label informing operators and final users that products containing or consisting of potato tubers of line EH92-527-1 cannot be used for human or animal consumption. The draft decision also states that material should be exclusively used for industrial purposes or destroyed.

Hill Farming

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average age is of a hill farmer in England; and if he will make a statement. [140424]

Barry Gardiner: In 2005, the average (median) age of a holder in a less favoured area in England was 58 years. This excludes holdings where the holder is a legal entity, as well as group holdings where there is no single holder.

Japanese Knotweed

Andrew Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans he has to define standards for eradication of Japanese knotweed; and if he will make a statement. [141298]

Barry Gardiner: DEFRA partially funded, and fully supports, the guidance set out in the Environment Agency's “Knotweed Code of Practice: Managing Japanese Knotweed on Development Sites”, which was published in September 2006. This sets out advice on how to deal with Japanese knotweed to an acceptable standard of effectiveness. It also advises on relevant pesticide, environmental protection and controlled waste legislation and the offence under section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of planting or causing Japanese knotweed to grow in the wild.

The Secretary of State may approve any code of practice relating to species covered by section 14 of the 1981 Act. Any such code is then admissible in any court proceedings and must be taken into account by a court in any case in which it is deemed to be relevant. The Japanese knotweed code is one that we will be considering for such approval.


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National Parks: South Downs

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects to make an announcement on a National Park covering the South Downs. [140757]

Barry Gardiner: DEFRA will shortly be inviting further representations on matters that were not able to be addressed by the South Downs Inquiry. In the light of responses received, Ministers will consider whether it is appropriate for the inquiry to be re-opened. If the inquiry is re-opened, an announcement on the decision whether to create a South Downs National Park is expected no later than autumn 2008. If it is not re-opened, an announcement early in 2008 will be possible.

Waste Management

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many civil servants are working on policy on aerobic composting, broken down by grade; and if he will make a statement. [140637]

Barry Gardiner: No DEFRA officials work exclusively on aerobic composting. However, a number of officials in the Waste Strategy, Waste Management, Air and Environment Quality, Waste Implementation Programme, and Endemic Diseases divisions work on issues relating to aerobic composting. These issues include policy and targets, the regulatory system for the composting process and its outputs, the demonstration of new composting technologies and animal by-product processing.

Scotland

Employment

7. Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what the employment levels were in Scotland in each of the last four years; and if he will make a statement. [140958]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: In the final quarter of the last four years the employment levels in Scotland were:

11. Mr. Devine: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the most recent figures for overall employment levels in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [140964]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: In the first quarter of 2007 the employment level in Scotland stood at 2.53 million. This marks a record high for the number of people employed.


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Business Environment

8. Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps the Government are taking to ensure a long-term stable environment for Scottish business. [140959]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Scottish economy continues to benefit from the domestic stability delivered by the UK Government's strong macroeconomic framework, which has delivered sustained growth, low interest rates and stable inflation. This Government have facilitated the strongest Scottish labour market in decades with employment and unemployment around their historically best positions.

Civil Service Jobs

9. Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on numbers of civil service jobs in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [140960]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend on a range of issues.

Broadcasting

10. Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with Scottish Ministers on the further devolution of broadcasting powers. [140961]

David Cairns: Parliament decided in the Scotland Act 1998 that broadcasting should be a reserved issue and there are no plans to change that.

Carbon Capture: Peterhead Project

12. Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the future of the Peterhead carbon capture project. [140965]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: I discuss a wide range of subjects with ministerial colleagues on a regular basis.

Research and Development

13. Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent estimate he has made of the number of research and development projects being undertaken in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [140966]

David Cairns: The Scotland Office does not compile such estimates but I note that a survey for IBM last autumn showed Scotland's success in attracting 19 per cent. of all UK research and development projects in the UK—well above our population share.

Absent Voting

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will conduct an investigation into the postal ballot delays for the Scottish elections on 3 May. [136137]


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David Cairns [holding answer 8 May 2007]: The Electoral Commission has appointed Mr. Ron Gould to lead the statutory review of the May elections. The Electoral Commission published the terms of reference of this review on 21 May, confirming that Mr. Gould will consider the arrangements for postal voting.

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what his estimate is of the number of voters in Scotland who will be unable to cast their vote for the Scottish Parliamentary and local government elections as a result of the delay in sending out the postal ballots; and if he will make a statement. [136138]

David Cairns [holding answer 8 May 2007]: This information is not available because there is no way of knowing, from those who do not return their postal votes, how many simply chose not to return their ballot papers and how many were not able to return them for practical reasons, for example, being on holiday. I understand that the majority of postal votes were received by voters a week before polling day, or even earlier.

Devolution: Co-operation

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of processes in place to facilitate co-operation between the Scottish Executive and the Government. [140962]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: A memorandum of understanding sets out the over-arching principles that underpin relations between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations. The Government have no plans to revise this memorandum of understanding.

Drugs: Misuse

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what measures are being taken to combat illegal drug use in Scotland. [140963]

David Cairns: Operational responsibility for tackling illegal drug use in Scotland is devolved and is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive.

Elections

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland on what dates in (a) 2006 and (b) 2007 (i) Ministers and (ii) officials in his Department had meetings regarding the running of the Scottish elections on 3 May 2007. [136139]

David Cairns [holding answer 8 May 2007]: Scotland Office Ministers and officials had meetings every month since January 2006 about the Scottish Parliament elections on 3 May 2007. Ministers had 13 meetings and officials had 158.

Elections: Ballot Papers

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what role (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department played in the negotiation of the contracts with private companies to carry out the
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printing, collating and distribution of postal ballot papers for the elections in Scotland on 3 May. [136136]

David Cairns [holding answer 8 May 2007]: The responsibility for handling postal ballot papers rests with Returning Officers. The printing of postal ballot papers formed part of the contract to deliver an electronic counting service. This contract was negotiated through an electronic counting project board, consisting of representatives of Returning Officers, Scottish Executive and Scotland Office officials, and DRS. Decisions relating to the e-counting contract with DRS were taken by the electronic counting project board. The collation and distribution of postal ballot papers for the elections were handled through separate, individual, contracts between the Returning Officer and their suppliers.


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