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Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the merits of natural peatlands as net absorbers of carbon dioxide; and what measures are in place to protect peatlands to combat greenhouse gas emissions. 
Mr. Woolas: Peatlands are a significant store of carbon in the UK and require protection. A substantial proportion of these are found in Scotland. However, in terms of absorbing carbon dioxide, the potential is limited, due to their slow growth.
DEFRA is currently seeking to develop its understanding of the risks to this carbon store and to investigate the best means of protecting peatlands and the biodiversity they support. The Department is in the process of setting up a cross-governmental project that is intended to form part of DEFRA's new soil strategy for England. This will ensure that DEFRA and its agencies co-ordinate their activity on peat soils and liaise effectively with the devolved Administrations as well as identifying best practice for protecting peatlands and putting in place the appropriate measures.
However, to a large extent, land managers are already protecting peatlands for their biodiversity value under agri-environment schemes and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Around 230,000 hectares of peatlands are currently managed under agri-environment agreements in England.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on progress towards a cattle vaccine for (a) foot and mouth disease, (b) blue tongue and (c) bovine TB. 
Jonathan Shaw: A large number of foot and mouth vaccines for a range of different strains are already held in the UK vaccine bank at the Merial production facility in Pirbright This is the only facility licensed to produce foot and mouth disease vaccines in the UK. As soon as we identified the precise strain of the circulating virus we ordered 300,000 doses to be made ready for use. This vaccine is licensed for use in cattle and other species and the production was cleared by the Health and Safety Executive and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.
However, DEFRA has decided not to vaccinate at this time as the epidemiological evidence concludes that the risk of the infection spreading out of Surrey is very low. Therefore, the slaughter of animals on infected premises and dangerous contacts remains the most effective way of eradicating the disease.
There is currently no suitable vaccine for the bluetongue serotype 8 available; as this serotype only emerged in Europe last year. However, we are aware of several companies who are developing such a vaccine for use in cattle and sheep and we are in urgent discussions with them to do what we can to encourage this work. We are also developing a plan with the industry as to how a vaccination campaign would work once a vaccine becomes available, is licensed, safe and effective for use; we hope this will be next year.
While progress is being made on the development of a TB vaccine for cattle, vaccination as a practical TB control measure is still some way off. DEFRA-funded research has successfully identified lead candidate vaccines and we are now starting to look at delivery protocols. Research is also continuing on tests to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals (DIVA tests). It is important to note that development of a successful TB vaccine cannot be guaranteed, and that if a vaccine can be developed it will only form one part of a balanced package of measures to control the disease.
Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with Ministry of Defence Ministers or officials on restrictions on civilian leisure activities on Ministry of Defence land as a result of foot and mouth disease. 
Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA is in regular contact with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and, during the recent foot and mouth outbreaks, we have had a range of discussions. During the initial outbreaks, DEFRA was in daily contact with the MoD to clarify public access arrangements and countryside activities in high risk areas.
During the initial outbreaks in August, at the request of DEFRA, officials from Defence Estates, the relevant MoD organisation, assisted Surrey county council in closing MoD public land within the protection zone.
Dan Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what contingency preparations his Department made for the possibility of a general election in autumn 2007; and what the costs were of those preparations. 
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance (a) his Department and (b) the Waste and Resources Action Programme has produced or commissioned on the use of radio frequency identification chips in rubbish bins. 
Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the level of public satisfaction with local authority waste collection services in areas with (a) alternate weekly collections and (b) weekly collections. 
Joan Ruddock: DEFRA does not carry out its own monitoring of satisfaction with waste services. It is the responsibility of local authorities to do this at. At present, they are required under the local government performance framework to carry out a survey every three years as part of the best value performance indicators. Further information about these indicators is available from the local government performance website at:
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what guidance (a) his Department and (b) the Waste and Resources Action Programme has given to local authorities on the size of wheelie bins for household rubbish collection; 
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) issued guidance on alternate weekly collection (Alternate Weekly Collections: Guidance for Local Authorities) which has a short section on the size of wheelie bins. WRAP has issued no other guidance on this issue.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 25 June 2007, Official Report, columns 156-7W on domestic wastes: waste disposal, to my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), what estimate has been made of the proportion of household rubbish collected for recycling that is not recycled in local authorities which do not have material recycling facilities. 
Joan Ruddock: No specific assessment has been made by my Department on the proportion of household rubbish collected for recycling not recycled in local authorities which do not have material recycling facilities.
The challenging recycling and composting targets set for all local authorities in England mean that it is in the authoritys interest to recycle or compost as much of the viable material collected. Local authorities without local facilities may either use facilities in other areas, or send recyclables for reprocessing outside the UK.
When reporting data to WasteDataFlow, local authorities should specify the amount of waste collected for recycling that is subsequently rejected at the point of collection, at a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF), or at the gate of the reprocessor. The data reported to WasteDataFlow are used by the Environment Agency and DEFRA to monitor the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research, advice or guidance the consultancy Eunomia has produced at public expense on levying charges on households for providing containers which will hold domestic rubbish. 
Joan Ruddock: Eunomia Research and Consulting Ltd. have conducted research for DEFRA through the project Modelling the Impact of Household Charging for Waste in England. This report contains a literature review and modelling work, which includes sack-based schemes and bin volume schemes. Both of these involve charging households for containers which will hold domestic rubbish.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice or guidance (a) the Waste and Resources Action Programme and (b) his Department has provided to councils on levying charges on households for providing containers which will hold domestic rubbish. 
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether, under his Departments proposals to allow local authorities to charge for the collection of household waste, waste collection authorities will remain under an obligation to collect rubbish from households which did not pay the charges. 
Joan Ruddock: DEFRA is considering responses to a recent consultation on the issue of whether local authorities should be given a new legal power to introduce non income-raising (revenue neutral) incentive schemes for minimising waste. This would be a power not a duty, and the aim of any such scheme would be to incentivise behavioural change. This would not be a charging scheme for the collection of waste, as any payments required would be aimed at influencing behaviour change and not on the cost of the collection service.
Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the insurance industry on the provision of (a) adequate flood defences by the Government and (b) insurance cover in areas vulnerable to flooding; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: Ministerial colleagues, officials and I are in regular contact with the insurance industry and the Association of British Insurers. We are working together with the mutual aim of ensuring continued widespread availability of flood insurance cover through the Associations Statement of Principles. This sets out commitments by insurers on the availability of flood insurance, associated with commitments by the Government on effective management of flood risk.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Environment Agencys definition is of the probability of (a) low, (b) medium and (c) high flood risk in terms of the frequency in years at which an area is likely to flood. 
Lowthe chance of flooding each year is 0.5 per cent. (1 in 200) or less.
Moderatethe chance of flooding in any year is 1.3 per cent. (1 in 75) or less but greater than 0.5 per cent. (1 in 200).
Significantthe chance of flooding in any year is greater than 1.3 per cent. (1 in 75).
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice (a) his Department and (b) the Waste and Resources Action Programme has given to local authorities on food waste collection, including which types of food can and cannot be placed in food waste buckets. 
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) offers advice to local authorities on arrangements for food waste collection. This advice
has been developed on the basis of published literature, a number of projects commissioned by WRAP and current local authority experience of providing food waste collection services. The general advice is that if local authorities are considering collecting food waste they should consider collecting it separately and on a weekly basis. Where food waste is collected separately, WRAP advises that local authorities provide appropriate containers to householders (typically a kitchen caddy and a rigid external container) to make the separation of food waste easier for residents and to encourage them to take part in the service.
The types of food waste suitable for collection will depend on the treatment facilities available to a local authority. All food waste collected separately must be treated at enclosed facilities (for example, in-vessel composting or anaerobic digestion plants) that meet the requirements of the Animal By-Products Regulations and are approved by the State Veterinary Service. Typically this will include cooked and uncooked food, dairy products, meat, fish and fruit/vegetables.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what time period elapsed between the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease and cessation of work on dangerous viruses at the Pirbright laboratories. 
Jonathan Shaw: Foot and mouth disease was first confirmed on a premises in Surrey on 3 August. As soon as the circulating virus strain was identified as the same strain as the one held at the Pirbright site on 4 August, DEFRA and Merial agreed that, because of the large quantities involved, the use of live virus would be voluntarily suspended by Merial. The case for a similar suspension at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) was also considered on 4 August and has been kept under active review since then. Drawing on advice from the Health and Safety Executive, some modification has been made to the agreed areas where IAH can work with live virus. However, our judgment to date has been that, because of the small volumes of live virus handled by IAH and the additional measures the Institute has put in place, complete suspension is not justified.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many animals have been culled (a) on infected premises, (b) on the basis of slaughter on suspicion and (c) as a result of dangerous contact following the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease. 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 16 October 2007]: A total of 2,160 animals have been compulsorily culled as a result of the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease. A breakdown of the statistics is shown as follows:
|Current premises status||Number of premises||Number culled and disposed( 1)|
|(1) Figures as of 12 October 2007 and may be subject to change.|
(2) Includes slaughter on suspicion and dangerous contact premises subsequently confirmed as infected premises.
(3) Excludes those cases which were subsequently confirmed as infected premises.
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