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8 Oct 2007 : Column 115Wcontinued
Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many press officers are employed by the Countryside Agency. 
Jonathan Shaw: The Countryside Agency employed two media and parliamentary officers (nearest equivalent) until it was dissolved by Act of Parliament (Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006) on 30 September 2006. The successor body created on 1 October 2006 from the merger of English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service-Natural England currently employs 6 six full-time press officers.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations he has received about access to Vixen Tor for climbers. 
Jonathan Shaw: I have received no recent representations about Vixen Tor.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations he has received about damage caused by deer to forestry. 
Joan Ruddock: My Department received a number of representations about the damage caused by deer, including forestry damage, during the consultation on a proposed Deer Regulatory Reform Order that took place last year.
Following this consultation, and in response to problems associated with deer damage, the Regulatory Reform (Deer) (England and Wales) Order SI 2007/2183 was made on 25 July 2007. The Order, which comes into force on 1 October 2007, amends the Deer Act 1991 to increase the number of management options available to land managers so that they are better equipped to mitigate the damage caused by deer.
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made by (a) the Environment Agency and (b) his Department on the level of burning of domestic waste by households in England. 
Joan Ruddock: No specific assessment has been made by my Department or the Environment Agency on the level of burning of domestic waste by households in England.
Complaints about statutory smoke nuisance from domestic bonfires, or the burning of other materials, are made at the local authority level. Statistics are not held centrally by my Department.
DEFRA carried out research into emissions of dioxins from the burning of domestic waste in 2006. The review recommended that further work should be done to establish what practical measures could be taken to reduce dioxin emissions from bonfires and domestic combustion and, consequently, exposure to dioxins. Further work in estimating dioxin emissions from domestic burning is due to start in October 2007.
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what funding the waste and resource action programme provided to each local authority in (a) Wales, (b) Scotland and (c) Northern Ireland in each of the last three years. 
Joan Ruddock: Any funding allocated to local authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.
Martin Salter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the effect on the recycling rates of local authorities of introducing an alternate weekly bin collection scheme. 
Joan Ruddock: My Department has not commissioned or evaluated research into the effects on recycling performance of local authority decisions to move away from weekly collections of residual waste. However, of the top 20 highest recycling local authorities in England in 2005-06, 19 were operating an alternate weekly collection scheme for residual waste.
Recent research into kerbside systems in Scotland, by Remade Scotland(1), reported that the factors influencing high recovery rates for dry recyclate collections were found to be collection frequency, collection capacity, number of materials collected, and collection frequency of residual waste. One of the findings of the report was that dry recyclate schemes operated in conjunction with a fortnightly residual waste collection produced 65 per cent higher recovery rates than those associated with a weekly residual collection.
(1) http://www.remade.org.uk/documents/reports/Kerbside%20 Collection%20-20Factors%20for%20Success_14112Q2570. pdf
Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the Energy Efficiency Commitment will include ring-fenced funding to assist hard to reach rural households. 
Mr. Woolas: The Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC) is an obligation on electricity and gas suppliers in Britain to promote and deliver improvements in energy efficiency in households.
While it does not have a specific fuel poverty objective, the EEC does require suppliers to direct 50
per cent. of energy savings towards a priority group of low-income customers. Energy suppliers are free to find the most cost-effective ways to meet their obligations.
DEFRA held a statutory consultation on the third phase of EEC (to be renamed the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target) over the summer. Final proposals for the relevant legislation are expected to be put to Parliament this winter.
The consultation proposals suggested new flexibilities in the way that energy suppliers could meet their priority group obligations, encouraging them to work with customers in particularly hard to treat houses, such as those off the gas grid or with solid walls.
Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps his Department is taking to provide energy efficiency measures suitable for rural consumers in hard to heat homes that do not respond to traditional energy efficiency measures; 
(2) what (a) steps his Department is taking and (b) advice and support is available to encourage rural consumers to become more energy efficient. 
Mr. Woolas: The Government are committed to improving the energy efficiency of homes across England in both rural and urban areas.
Our fuel poverty policies also aim to improve the energy efficiency of homes of the fuel poor. For those eligible clients, including rural customers who do not have access to mains gas, Warm Front has looked to widen the support it can offer by considering alternative (often low carbon) technologies for inclusion within the scheme. Further pilot schemes are now being instigated to test other technology for Warm Front suitability, including solar thermal and air source heat pumps.
The Warm Front scheme not only offers the installation of heating systems and insulation for eligible households, but also provides advice on improving the efficiency of the dwelling. Eaga Plc, the Warm Front scheme manager, has worked in conjunction with other organisations such as Age Concern, Farm Crisis Network and the Pension Service in rural communities across England to promote energy efficiency and other key support services.
We continue to fund the Energy Saving Trust, which provides information and advice to individuals and householders, including rural households. We have launched the Act on CO2 brand, including an advertising campaign and on-line carbon calculator to raise awareness of the link between personal behaviour and climate change.
Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many press officers are employed by English Nature. 
English Nature employed four full-time press officers. In October 2006, English Nature merged with part of the Countryside Agency (which employed two full-time press officers) and part of the Rural Development Service (which was covered
by DEFRAs press officers) to form Natural England. The number of press officers employed by Natural England is six.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consideration is being given to making changes to the Environment Agency's budget in the light of this summer's floods. 
Mr. Woolas: My Department's formal Comprehensive Spending Review settlement for 2008-09 to 2010-11 is expected to be announced later this month. This will be followed by the Department's own financial allocation process, during which the Environment Agency's budget will be determined. This process will be based on careful prioritisation across the Department and all its sponsored bodies. The Secretary of State has already announced an overall increase of £200 million to £800 million in 2010-11 for Government spending on flood and coastal erosion risk management. Allocations between operating authorities will be confirmed following the medium term planning exercise for capital projects later this year.
Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many press officers are employed by the Environment Agency. 
Mr. Woolas: The information that we have from the Environment Agency is that it currently employs 24 press officers across eight regions. They maintain a 24 hour service providing media information in the event of an environmental incident.
Mr. Vaizey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been allocated for maintenance to the Environment Agencys Thames Valley West region in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agencys maintenance expenditure for the West Area of Thames Region in each of the last three years is as follows:
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the current specific heads of expenditure are for maintenance work carried out by the Environment Agency; what proportion is being spent on (a) dredging, (b) weeding and (c) other environmental measures in 2007-08; and if he will list the measures. 
Mr. Woolas: The current Environment Agency headings for flood risk management maintenance expenditure include channel maintenance, structure maintenance, defence maintenance, operation, MEICA (mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, control and automation), buildings and ground maintenance, incident response, and non-recurring maintenance.
In 2006-07, the proportion of maintenance expenditure on each of the following headings was as follows:
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the policy of the Environment Agency is for handling river surges following heavy rainfall; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency uses the latest technologies to monitor rainfall, river levels and sea conditions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Once potential flooding is detected, flood warnings are issued to people and organisations in the areas at risk.
During flood events, the Environment Agency attends Gold and Silver Commands to advise on the current and forecast flooding situation. They participate in the co-ordinated response to major incidents along with the emergency services, local authorities and other bodies.
After flooding has subsided, the agency undertakes reviews of the event. These include mapping the depth and extent the water reached to improve flood risk mapping, flood forecasting and responses to town and country planning proposals. Repairs are carried out on the agency's assets and blockages that might increase the risk of flooding are removed. Drop-in centres are held for the public to share their experience and obtain advice.
The agency is investing some £436 million this year in the maintenance and improvement of river flood management measures which reduce the risks from high flood levels.
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of flood defences supervised by the Environment Agency and owned by third parties were classed as in good or better condition in April 2007. 
Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency monitors the condition of those flood defence assets on Main River and the coast that are maintained by third parties.
The proportion (by length) of flood defences such as raised walls and embankments, maintained by third parties, that were in good or better condition in April 2007 was 46 per cent., with a further 49 per cent. in fair condition.
The proportion (by number) of flood defence structures, such as sluices and outfalls, maintained by third parties, that were in good or better condition in April 2007 was 59 per cent., with a further 33 per cent. in fair condition.
These assessments are based on visual inspections.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who is responsible for surface water drainage in (a) Scotland and (b) England. 
Mr. Woolas: This is a devolved issue, and in Scotland is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD).
In England, the responsibility for managing surface water drainage is shared by several different authorities. The Environment Agency has a general supervisory duty over all matters relating to flood management and permissive powers to manage flood risk from main rivers and the sea. Local authorities are responsible for surface drainage from roads and public spaces, and the operation of highway drains; they also have permissive land drainage responsibilities for non-main rivers. Water and sewerage companies have a statutory duty to ensure the effective drainage of premises in their area, including any piped surface water arising from them. Internal drainage boards have permissive powers to undertake work to secure drainage and water level management within their districts, which cover 10 per cent. of the country's land area (mostly rural areas currently). The Highways Agency covers drainage from trunk roads.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria he will use when deciding how to spend his Department's additional budget for flood defences for 2010-11; whether the money will apply to planned projects or additional projects; and how the money will be shared between capital expenditure and maintenance expenditure. 
Mr. Woolas: Subject to the Department's formal comprehensive spending review settlement for 2008-09 to 2010-11, allocations between operating authorities will be confirmed following the medium-term planning exercise for capital projects later this year using the prioritisation process.
At any one time, there are numerous projects at a variety of stages of development and the additional funding announced will be used to bring forward those schemes which address the highest risk from flooding and coastal erosion.
DEFRA does not fund maintenance expenditure by local authorities or internal drainage boards. While DEFRA funds the majority of the overall flood risk management activity of the Environment Agency, we look to them to decide the most appropriate balance between capital expenditure and maintaining existing defences.
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