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Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what contingencies are in place for the rapid relaying of flood warnings by the Environment Agency in the event of the sustained breakdown of the BBC digital signal on radio and television broadcasts; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency uses a range of methods for communicating flood warnings, which include automated telephone warnings. Radio and television broadcasts are also used and in the event of the sustained breakdown of these, the Environment Agency will use loudhailers (speakers mounted on Environment Agency vehicles) that can broadcast a pre-recorded warning message in the affected areas.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many properties will be protected each year by the recently announced additional proposed expenditure for flood defences. 
Mr. Woolas: DEFRA introduced new outcome measures for flood and coastal erosion risk management and will be setting targets using them shortly. This will include the number of properties moving between probability bands. In setting targets, we will consider the funding levels we are able to set following the announcement of the Department's formal comprehensive spending review settlement. It is not yet known how many extra properties will be protected.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when the last inspection of the effluent pipes at Pirbright took place; and if he will list the dates of the effluent pipe inspections at Pirbright since 2001; 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 17 September 2007]: The drainage systems of laboratories licensed by the Department to handle specified animal pathogens under the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) 1998 are not routinely inspected. The responsibility for the integrity of the buildings and infrastructure rests with the licensee and the owners of the site. No specific concerns that would have suggested that the integrity of the effluent pipe system at Pirbright was at risk, were raised with DEFRA as licensor and regulator. DEFRA was not asked by the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) for money to replace or renew the drainage system because of concerns about the risk of effluent leakage. Any issues relating to funding of the effluent drainage system, whether remedial or replacement, would be a matter for the IAH and Merial (as the occupants of the Pirbright site), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) (which owns the land and buildings on the Pirbright site) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) (as the IAH's and BBSRC's sponsoring Department).
Until the investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into potential biosecurity breaches at Pirbright was under way, there was no indication that there was a risk of effluent escaping from the drainage system; although there had been some concerns over the possibility of water leaking into the drains via the manhole covers, that was brought to DEFRA's attention. However, it had been recognised that the system was old. The HSE informed DEFRA Ministers, on 17 August, that leaks could have occurred from the system. On the same day, DEFRA contacted the IAH, which that afternoon put into effect a plan controlling access and strengthening biosecurity measures for movement of people and vehicles. The report from the HSE investigation contains a detailed inspection of the drainage system, and is available from the DEFRA website and the Libraries of the House.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice Ministers received about the implications for bio security of the decision not to fund the repair of deficient pipework at the Pirbright Institute for Animal Health site. 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 17 September 2007]: DEFRA is the licensor and regulator of the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) under the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) 1998. Prior to the Health and Safety Executive's advice in August 2007, neither the IAH, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), as owners of the site, nor anyone else raised concerns with DEFRA about possible biosecurity issues relating to the effluent drainage system.
Any issues relating to funding of the effluent drainage system, whether remedial or replacement, would be a matter for the IAH and Merial (as the occupants of the Pirbright site), BBSRC (as the IAH's funding body) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) (as the IAH's and BBSRC's sponsoring Department). In its role as licensor and regulator, DEFRA was consulted about the requirements and specifications
of a replacement effluent drainage system to meet extra capacity demand and to address concerns about water getting into the drains via the manhole covers, and was kept informed of progress in relation to instigation of the work. At no stage was any indication given to DEFRA, that there might be possible implications for biosecurity resulting from delays in agreeing funding between the parties concerned.
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of differences in recent trends in charges by energy companies to customers with prepayment meters compared to those paying by direct debit on the achievement of fuel poverty targets. 
The amount a customer is paying for their energy is one of the key determinants of whether such a household might be in fuel poverty, and we acknowledged in the Energy White Paper that the gap between direct debit and other payment methods has been increasing. I am encouraged by the work of Ofgem to highlight the savings prepayment customers can make by switching to a cheaper supplier. However, use of prepayment meters is not wholly synonymous with fuel poverty, and the majority of fuel poor customers pay for their gas and electricity by direct debit or standard credit. We will publish shortly our annual Fuel Poverty Progress Report which will include the latest data and projections on fuel poverty levels and a full examination of the factors driving the levels of fuel poverty, including energy market issues.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions officials in his Office have held with officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office regarding supporting of conflict resolution programmes overseas. 
Mr. Woodward: The Government are always ready to share their experience of the Northern Ireland peace process where this might be of assistance to others. My officials have from time to time discussed with the FCO where such assistance might be offered, although no central record is kept of this.
I can, however, confirm a number of recent instances of engagement by former NIO Ministers and officials in supporting conflict resolution. One of my predecessors as Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), accompanied by a senior official in the Northern Ireland Office, visited Sri Lanka from 14-16 November 2006. One of my officials visited Tanzania from 5-8 July 2007 to share lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process which might help efforts to address political polarisation in Zanzibar. An NIO official also met with representatives of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo at a private
conference in New York in April 2007 organised by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In each case these engagements were discussed in advance with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people in Northern Ireland who were released from prison after serving a sentence for drug-related offences subsequently re-offended in each of the last five years. 
The following table gives the number of offenders that were released from prison for drug-related offences who were subsequently reconvicted for any offence within a two year period. Data are collated on the principal offence rule; thus only the most serious offence with which an offender is charged is included.
|Reconviction rates for those who were discharged from custody after serving sentences for drug offences (2001-03) and who were reconvicted for any offence within a two year period|
|Number discharged from prison for drug offences||Number reconvicted for any offence within a two year period|
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average sentence handed down by the courts in Northern Ireland for (a) possession of and (b) dealing in drugs was in each of the last five years. 
|Table 1: Disposals given to those convicted of unlawful possession of drugs and the average sentence given by the courts for the years 2001-05|
| = Not applicable.|
(1) Data include those sentenced to prison, Young Offenders Centre and those given Custody Probation Orders.
(2) Average immediate custodial sentence length for 2002 excludes one sentenced to juvenile justice centre order; 2003 excludes one sentenced to a juvenile justice centre order and one sentenced to detention at the Secretary of States pleasure; 2005 excludes two sentenced to a juvenile justice centre order.
(3) Data are not available for the average probation period (months) and the average community service period (hours) for Combination Orders for 2001 and 2002.
(4) Average sentence lengths are not given for Youth Conference Orders.
(5) Other includes Absolute discharge and Recognisance.
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