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14 Jan 2008 : Column 864Wcontinued
Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress his Department has made on reducing the use of plastic bags; and what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Irish government's policy on the matter. 
Joan Ruddock: The Government have secured an agreement with retailers to reduce the environmental impact of single use shopping bags (paper and plastic) by 25 per cent. by the end of 2008.
A number of retailers have already implemented initiatives and are working with the Waste and Resources Action Programme on their individual programmes of activity. A review of progress towards the 25 per cent. target will be completed by the end of this year to assess what would be required to make further reductions by 2010.
On 19 November 2007, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would convene a forum of supermarkets, the British Retail Consortium and other interested groups to urgently assess together how, and how quickly, we can eliminate single-use disposable bags altogether, in favour of long-lasting and more sustainable alternatives.
An assessment of the Irish levy on plastic bags has been carried out in the past by HM Treasury. This concluded that a similar tax in this country would not be effective on environmental grounds. The Government have no current plans for a national plastic bags tax, although the Chancellor keeps all taxes under review.
Mr. Randall: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the Government's policy is on biodegradable plastics; 
(2) what recent discussions (a) he and (b) officials from his Department have had with third parties on the use of biodegradable plastics. 
Joan Ruddock: The Government fully support the development of new, innovative technologies including some products made from biodegradable materials and particularly the sustainable development of biodegradable plastics from non-fossil sources.
The strategy for non-food crops and uses, (published in November 2004 by DEFRA and the former Department of Trade and Industry), set out a number of actions, aimed at promoting opportunities for biopolymers and other renewable products.
The strategy recognises that polymers derived from renewable materials can have lifecycle advantages over petrochemical based products, provided they are correctly disposed of, usually through composting or, in some circumstances, incineration with energy recovery. The Government are working with industry
and trade organisations to support the development of schemes to increase composting of biodegradable materials and to inform consumers and businesses of the importance of doing this.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he intends to bring forward secondary legislation under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 on keeping primates as pets. 
Jonathan Shaw: The Government intend to introduce a code of practice on the keeping of primates as pets under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 as soon as possible in line with available resources. A working group has already been tasked with producing such a code. This and all other codes issued by the Government will be subject to public consultation and parliamentary approval.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 28 November 2007, Official Report, column 530W, on Seabed: Scotland, when he next plans to discuss the Marine Bill with the devolved administrations; if he will discuss the control of the seabed to the 200 nautical miles limit around Scotland; whether he intends to use the Marine Bill to give the Scottish Executive control over that seabed; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA officials and I meet regularly with our counterparts in the devolved administrations to discuss marine issues, including the Marine Bill. Proposals for the draft Marine Bill respect the current devolution settlement with Scotland. It is for the UK Government as a whole to consider any proposals for changes in responsibility for the control of the seabed to the 200 nautical mile limit around the whole of the UK.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what responsibilities (a) his Department and (b) the Scottish Executive have within the (i) six and (ii) 12 nautical mile limit around Scotland; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: Activities in the marine area out to both six and 12 nautical miles are controlled under a variety of regimes. Responsibilities under these regimes in different parts of our territorial sea are subject to the devolution settlements and other management arrangements agreed with the devolved administrations. As a consequence, DEFRA responsibilities across the marine area vary and some of those responsibilities are shared with other Government Departments and agencies.
Responsibilities within those parts of the territorial sea adjacent to Scotland are defined under the Scotland Act 1998. The Scottish Executive has responsibility in that area for all matters not reserved
to the UK Government by virtue of that Act, and for any reserved matters which have been executively devolved to the Scottish Ministers.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects the urban drainage pilot projects to be completed; and if he will publish their conclusions on (a) effectiveness, (b) cost and benefits and (c) contribution to the reduction of flooding. 
Mr. Woolas: DEFRA's integrated urban drainage pilots are due to finish in spring 2008, with a final report and guidance produced in autumn 2008. We expect the final report to cover the costs, benefits and effectiveness of an integrated approach to urban drainage, particularly with respect to improved flood risk management.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what expenditure local councils have made on kennels for stray dogs; and what resources have been given to local councils to enable them to implement the relevant provisions of the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act 2005; 
(2) when the provisions of the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act 2005 in relation to stray dogs will be fully implemented. 
Jonathan Shaw: The commencement of section 68 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 will take place on 6 April 2008, at which point local authorities will become solely responsible for stray dogs functions under sections 149 and 150 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Local authorities will be funded through the Revenue Support Grant arrangements, which will include an additional £4 million a year for authorities in England and Wales.
Local authorities are free to decide how to spend the funding for their services in relation to stray dogs, and DEFRA does not collect data on individual local authorities expenditure.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what funding will be made available to local authorities for the 24-hour service for stray dogs in advance of the coming into force of section 68 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005; and whether this money will be ringfenced for this purpose. 
Jonathan Shaw: From 6 April 2008, the police will cease to have responsibility for stray dogs functions under sections 149 and 150 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990; the functions will be the responsibility of local authorities. Local authorities must decide what represents a reasonable service in accordance with local needs. Where practicable, they should provide at least one acceptance point which, where possible, is open around the clock.
£4 million per year for the three years of the revenue support grant period will be paid to local authorities in England and Wales. Future spending reviews will consider funding for the longer-term for all local authority services, including their responsibilities for stray dogs. Local authorities are free to spend the money they receive on the services they feel are appropriate for their area.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much central Government funding the Waste and Resources Action programme will receive in each of the next three years in cash terms. 
Joan Ruddock: As a UK-wide programme, funding is provided to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) from DEFRA, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland).
No final decisions on budget allocations from this Department have yet been made. The DEFRA financial settlement for 2008-11 increases the budget by 1.4 per cent. and it is important that spending is aligned with wider departmental priorities and gives best value for money. Operating an effective delivery service, combating climate change and protecting the natural environment are three of our key priorities and funding allocations will reflect this.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 10 December 2007, Official Report, columns 42-43W, on waste disposal: costs, what the average cost per household was of collecting household waste in councils with (a) weekly rubbish collections and (b) alternate weekly collections. 
Joan Ruddock: DEFRA does not hold a list of local authorities operating alternate weekly collections of household waste. However, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) does hold some information to assist local authorities with support and guidance. This information has been made available in Hansard in response to previous questions on this topic.
No comparative assessment of the variation in costs and frequencies of household waste collection services provided by local authorities in England has been made by DEFRA. Such an assessment would not provide meaningful results as, while we are aware that many local authorities operate household waste collections at frequencies other than weekly, we do not hold specific details on the types of scheme used and the extent of their coverage.
The Government do not believe it is right to prescribe centrally how household waste is collected in different parts of the country. This is a matter for local authorities.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what new powers have been given to local authorities to (a) seize and (b) inspect vehicles, in relation to waste offences, in the last 12 months. 
Joan Ruddock: The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 introduced new powers for local authorities to instantly stop, search and seize vehicles involved in fly-tipping related offences. However, these powers have not yet been commenced.
My Department is currently developing the detailed regulations that will give effect to these powers. A consultation is planned for May 2008 with the regulations planned to come into force in April 2009.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate the Environment Agency has made of the proportion and volume of household rubbish that is burned by households in their gardens; 
(2) what estimate (a) his Department and (b) the Environment Agency has made of the number of households who burn household rubbish in their garden; 
(3) what research (a) his Department and (b) the Environment Agency has undertaken into burning of household waste inside the curtilage of domestic dwellings. 
Joan Ruddock: No specific assessment has been made by my Department or the Environment Agency of 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. However, in 2006 DEFRA published a research project to review complaints received by local authorities about bonfire smoke, which advised on the legal and practical remedies available to local authorities and private individuals. It reported that a total of 29,147 complaints were made to local authorities in 2000; and that in a part year survey of 2004 involving 47 local authorities 5,424 complaints were made. The research report did not attempt to analyse the type of burning that was the subject of complaint.
In addition, 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 currently being undertaken by my Department. Results from the on-going work will be due later this year.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance his Department has given waste collection authorities
on (a) closed lid polices and (b) no side waste policies in relation to the collection of household waste. 
Joan Ruddock: Following requests by local authorities for clarification of the legislation regarding side waste, DEFRA sent a letter in August 2005 to all English waste authorities setting out our interpretation of the legislation. A copy of this letter is available on DEFRA's website.
No advice has been offered by DEFRA on the subject of closed lid policies. However, section 3.11.2 of the waste and resources action programme's (WRAP) revised advice on alternate weekly collections, published on 16 July 2007, includes a short statement on closed lid/no side waste policies. However, the decision on whether to adopt either of these policies is one for each individual local authority to take.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what additional funding is being provided to local authorities undertaking the rubbish tax pilots; 
(2) whether additional funding will be given to local authorities taking part in the pilots for new bin taxes. 
Joan Ruddock: As I said in my written ministerial statement to Parliament of 15 November 2007, DEFRA has committed up to £1.5 million per year over three years to help support the waste incentive pilot schemes.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what mechanisms will be used to tackle non-payment by residents of the proposed charges for the collection of household waste; and whether the rubbish collection of non-payers will be cancelled for non-payment. 
Joan Ruddock: It is envisaged that local authorities would be able to recover any money owed by residents through the courts as a civil debt.
Local authorities' duty to collect household waste would still apply.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether his Department's definition of revenue neutral for its proposals for new taxes on the collection of household rubbish would include the costs of (a) technology to weigh individual bins, (b) computer systems to record bin weights and generate invoices, (c) administration of customer databases, (d) systems for dealing with rented property and houses of multiple occupation, (e) systems for dealing with disputes, non-payment and bad debts, (f) enforcement, (g) publicity and promotion and (h) clearing up additional fly-tipping; and whether the householder would be expected to pay for these additional costs via (i) the rubbish tax and (ii) council tax. 
Joan Ruddock: Revenue collected through charges under a waste incentive scheme could not be used to cover any costs.
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