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29 Oct 2007 : Column 712W—continued


Gas in thousand customers
Decile group
Lowest 10 per cent. Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth Ninth Highest 10 per cent.

Pre-payment

609

406

289

254

199

220

151

110

33

25

Standard credit

958

928

929

857

880

809

816

811

905

872

Direct debit

537

770

886

994

1,024

1,075

1,137

1,184

1,166

1,208


The aforementioned data have been estimated from the latest BERR Domestic Fuel Inquiry which shows customers numbers by payment type and the 2005-06 Expenditure and Food Survey which supplies information on payment methods and household income.

Ofgem’s domestic retail market report shows that in March 2007 there were 21/2 million customer accounts signed up to online tariffs (this figure includes both gas and electricity accounts). The majority of consumers paying online for their gas and electricity will use the direct debit payment method and would therefore be included in that category in the aforementioned tables.

There are around 50,000 gas and electricity fuel direct accounts.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Animal Welfare

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with his European counterparts on improving animal welfare standards for the sale of domestic animals. [160440]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA officials hold regular discussions on welfare issues with stakeholders and colleagues in the European Union (EU) but the sale of domestic animals has not been raised specifically.

Common standards for many areas of animal welfare already exist within the EU. These include standards of welfare on-farm, during transport and at slaughter.

The Commission’s proposals for the next five years are set out in the EU Animal Welfare Action Plan, published on 23 January 2006. We look forward to continued engagement with the Commission and fellow member states on this.

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with his European counterparts on improving animal welfare standards in member states of the European Community. [160441]


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Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA ministers and officials hold regular discussions, on this and a range of other issues, with stakeholders and colleagues in the European Union (EU).

Common standards for many areas of animal welfare already exist within the EU. These include standards of welfare on-farm, during transport and at slaughter.

The Commission’s proposals for the next five years are set out in the EU Animal Welfare Action Plan, published on 23 January 2006. We look forward to continued engagement with the Commission and fellow member states on this.

Biofuels: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact on greenhouse gas emissions of the growing of biofuels. [160474]

Mr. Woolas: Lifecycle analysis carried out on the greenhouse gas emissions for a wide range of biofuels show that sustainably produced biofuels can result in an overall net reduction in carbon emissions. Full details of their evaluations are available on the European Union website.

The actual carbon savings can vary widely, depending on how much fossil energy is used in cultivation, harvesting, processing and transportation. For example, the Government-sponsored Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership has calculated that the carbon savings for UK wheat-based ethanol compared to petrol can vary from 7 per cent. to 77 per cent.

For this reason, the forthcoming renewable transport fuel obligation (RTFO) will require companies to measure and report on how much carbon their fuel has saved over the entire lifecycle from grain to tank. From 2010, when experience with carbon measurement and reporting has been established, the Government have announced their intention that the RTFO will reward fuels according to their carbon savings.

British Waterways Board: Finance

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what discussions he has had with his counterpart in the Welsh Assembly Government on the funding of British Waterways; and if he will make a statement; [160722]

(2) what discussions he has had with his counterpart in the Scottish Executive on the funding of British Waterways; and if he will make a statement; [160723]

(3) what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on (a) the funding of British Waterways and (b) the use of British Waterways for leisure and tourism purposes; and if he will make a statement; [160798]

(4) what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on (a) the funding of British Waterways and (b) the role of British Waterways in regeneration; and if he will make a statement; [160799]


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(5) what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on (a) the funding of British Waterways and (b) the use of British Waterways to transport freight; and if he will make a statement. [160800]

Jonathan Shaw: Responsibility for inland waterways has not been devolved to Wales and DEFRA remains the single government sponsor of British Waterways in England and Wales. However officials do discuss British Waterways matters with their Welsh counterparts from time to time.

The Scottish Executive is responsible for the funding of British Waterways’ canals in Scotland and I am in contact with my counterpart in the Scottish Executive as required by the governing legislation. My officials also hold regular liaison meetings with the Executive to discuss financial and operational matters affecting British Waterways.

DEFRA holds regular meetings with ministerial colleagues and officials on a wide range of issues, including the funding of British Waterways and its operational activities. I have recently written to the Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government, for Health, for Transport and for Culture, Media and Sport, with the aim of setting up an inter-departmental working group to formalise and strengthen DEFRA’s contact with other Government Departments. This group will work to ensure that the potential benefits of waterways are understood.

Commons Councils

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he plans to publish his proposals for the formation of commons councils under the Commons Act 2006. [160692]

Jonathan Shaw: The Government will issue a public consultation document on proposals for commons councils later this year, with a view to bringing the relevant provisions of the Commons Act 2006 in to force in the first half of 2008. DEFRA has already begun informal discussions with stakeholders to help inform this process.

Conservation: Devolved Matters

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many meetings have taken place with the Scottish Executive since May on the further devolution of nature conservation duties beyond 12 nautical miles. [160621]

Jonathan Shaw: Since May, the Government and the Scottish Executive have met four times to discuss the devolution of nature conservation responsibilities, among other issues. This includes my visit to Scotland in early October.

Contamination: Grants

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government’s policy is on making contaminated land grants; and what assistance is available for householders who do not receive grants to remove radon gas from their property. [161386]


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Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA provides discretionary funding support to individual local authorities (LAs) in connection with their responsibilities for dealing with contaminated land under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Support is also provided by central Government through the environmental, protective and cultural services (EPCS) component of revenue support grant. This funding is not ring-fenced, which enables individual LAs to determine their own expenditure.

Responsibility for radon gas no longer rests with DEFRA but with the Health Protection Agency and the Department of Health.

Domestic Wastes: Waste Disposal

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what records the Waste Resources Action Programme holds of the local authorities in (a) Wales, (b) Scotland and (c) Northern Ireland which have moved to alternate weekly collections of household rubbish. [158213]

Joan Ruddock: WRAP does not advise local authorities in Wales or Scotland, and therefore does not hold any records on those local authorities that have moved to alternate weekly collection of household waste.

WRAP does provide advice to local authorities in Northern Ireland through its Recycling and Organics Technical Advisory Team. The team’s understanding is that 24 out of 26 local councils operate an alternate weekly collection system.

Advice on recycling collections in Scotland and Wales is a matter for the devolved Governments.

Energy: Conservation

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if the Government will take steps to support local campaigns to save electricity as part of its strategy on tackling climate change; and if he will make a statement. [159812]

Mr. Woolas [holding answer 25 October 2007]: The Government are working at a regional and community level through the Climate Change Communications Initiative which has provided £8.5 million to 83 local projects to help raise awareness of climate change, encourage positive attitudes and provide advice on action to help tackle it.

My department also funds the Energy Saving Trust (EST).The ESTs Community Partnerships programme works with and provides advice and support to local bodies, to help them deliver energy efficiency to their communities.

The Community Energy Efficiency Fund (CEEF), which is funded by my department, aims to ensure 300,000 of the most vulnerable pensioner and other vulnerable households are assisted using an area based approach. In September 2007, 50 projects totalling £6.3 million were offered funding by CEEF, including a range of new and established projects, each bringing
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together key players at the local level to improve the effectiveness of Warm Front and Energy Efficiency Commitment.

Environment Protection: Territorial Waters

Anne Moffat: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government's policy is on the environmental protection of UK territorial waters. [160758]

Jonathan Shaw: Under the EC habitats and birds directives, the UK has established a network of sites to protect habitats and species. There are currently 182 marine protected areas in UK inshore waters (up to 12 nautical miles), which include 81 Special Protections Areas with marine habitats for birds, 98 Special Areas of Conservation with marine habitats or species, and three statutory marine nature reserves. We are carrying out surveys of marine areas to identify further sites that will meet the obligations under the directives.

In addition, we have an international commitment under OSPAR to establish an ecologically coherent network of well managed Marine Protected Areas by 2010. By then, we will have largely completed our network of European sites.

We will further add to this network by including Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) which were proposed in the Marine Bill White Paper, published in March 2007. Through the Marine Bill, the Government will deliver a new framework for the sustainable development of the UK marine area. The MCZ mechanism will provide a flexible tool which allows for the designation of a full range of sites, from areas of limited protection to areas of very high protection. It will be possible to designate MCZs anywhere within marine waters over which the UK Government exercises jurisdiction, namely UK offshore waters and the territorial sea adjacent to England.

It is the Government's intention to publish a draft Marine Bill in the next session, probably in early 2008.

Export Credit Guarantees

Mr. Hurd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice his Department has provided to the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) concerning the impact of the businesses supported by ECGD on (a) biodiversity and (b) climate change. [161238]

Mr. Woolas: My Department examines the environmental impacts, including both biodiversity and climate change impacts of potential projects on a case-by-case basis, and provides advice to ECGD as appropriate.

Fisheries

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what information on fish stocks his Department provided to the Food Standards Agency to enable the Agency to carry out the sustainability assessment of its two a week advice on fish consumption; and if he will place this information in the Library; [161628]


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(2) if he will make a statement on the 2004 findings of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution that implementation of the Food Standards Agency two a week fish consumption advice would result in a 40 per cent. overall increase in fish consumption and a 200 per cent. increase in oily fish consumption; [161629]

(3) when his Department was approached by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for advice on the sustainability of fish stocks with regard to the FSA’s two a week fish consumption advice; [161630]

(4) what assessment his Department has made of the impact on fish stocks of the Food Standards Agency’s two a week fish consumption guidance; [161631]

(5) what his Department’s policy is on the implementation of the Food Standards Agency’s two a week fish consumption advice. [161632]

Jonathan Shaw: The Department is in regular contact with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and has provided, when required, the latest scientific information on the state of the key EU fish stocks, based on advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). The FSA is currently gathering a range of material to support a sustainability assessment on its advice that consumers should eat more fish, and will seek further input from DEFRA as necessary. In the meantime, the FSA advice, which I support, remains that consumers should be encouraged to eat two portions of fish per week (including one of oily fish).

The UK household consumption of fish has increased by some 13 per cent. per head in the last 10 years, and by 17 per cent. in absolute terms over the same period. It is not however possible to assess what proportion of these increases has been as a direct consequence of the FSA advice.


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