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12 May 2008 : Column 1335W—continued

Floods: Compensation

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether (a) homeowners, (b) tenants, (c) businesses and (d) farmers are eligible to apply for compensation for flood damage in Selsey. [204979]

Mr. Woolas: There is no general compensation scheme for those who are uninsured, not least because it would be unfair to those who paid for cover. Also, flood defences are provided under permissive powers; there is no legal obligation on the Government to protect property to any given standard, or at all. This has been the policy of successive Governments.

While compensation is not payable for those affected by flooding, grants and loans are available from the Department for Work and Pensions to help those in most need following flooding.

Floods: Research

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) research studies and (b) reviews have been commissioned by his Department into the flooding in summer 2007; who commissioned them; who is carrying them out; and how much they will cost. [204207]

Mr. Woolas: A review of the flooding, its causes and subsequent management including recovery issues, was commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. This is being led by the independent Chair Sir Michael Pitt, and being carried out by the Cabinet Office with support from DEFRA and CLG. Until the Review has been concluded, we will not have final costings.

Floods: Thames Gateway

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to promote the development of an integrated approach by local authorities, developers, highways authorities and water companies to the management of storm water within the Thames Gateway growth area; and if he will make a statement. [198990]

Mr. Woolas: Planning Policy Statement 25 on Development and Flood Risk promotes the strategic consideration of flood risk at all levels of the planning process. This is done through a constructive partnership approach between local planning authorities, the Environment Agency and other stakeholders, in the early consideration of, and planning for, new development in flood risk areas.

In the Thames Gateway, strategic flood risk assessments, which are co-ordinated by the Environment Agency, are providing all stakeholders with a common understanding of risk from all forms of flooding.


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Genetically Modified Organisms: Crops

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations he has received on genetically modified crops; and what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Development on genetically modified crops and developing countries. [204302]

Mr. Woolas: Defra has received a range of representations on GM crops, and we keep in close touch with the Department for International Development on any cross-cutting issues to do with the use of GM crops in developing countries.

Housing: Carbon Emissions

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Energy Saving Trust on the launch of the Green Homes Service. [204297]

Mr. Woolas: We have had a variety of discussions with the Energy Saving Trust on the issue of the Green Homes Service, at both ministerial and official level.

Landfill Tax: Fly-tipping

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on fly-tipping of the landfill tax escalator. [204486]

Joan Ruddock: No formal assessment has been made.

However, the Government are monitoring levels of fly-tipping and ways in which the effects can be mitigated. In April 2004, the Flycapture database was set up to help local authorities and the Environment Agency improve information on the scale of fly-tipping and to help focus resources and identify trends in this growing environmental crime. Flycapture is enabling central and local government to demonstrate the true nature, extent and scale of fly-tipping, both nationally and locally. The data are being used to develop more effective, evidence-based policies and strategies.

DEFRA also funded a research report by the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science into the causes and incentives of fly-tipping. The report concludes that there is not one cause of fly-tipping but a number of separate ones.

Assessing the specific effect of the landfill tax on fly-tipping would be extremely difficult, not least because there are a number of different causes of fly-tipping, some of which may need to coincide before a person decides to act illegally. Fly-tipping levels also reflect the level of enforcement and other prevention activity undertaken by the Environment Agency and local authorities, which can offset any increase in illegal activity.

Although the research recognises that one of these causes may be the cost of legitimate waste disposal, the landfill tax is an important instrument in reducing our reliance on landfill and moving to more sustainable waste management options. The actual increases,
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together with the knowledge of the future rate of tax, is sending a strong signal. This will change behaviour, while allowing business time to adjust and make the necessary investment in alternative waste treatment routes.

Leisure: Staffordshire

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the levels of amenity available to the residents of the parishes of Lapley, Stretton and Wheaton Aston in Staffordshire. [203694]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA has no responsibility for the provision of local amenities and therefore has made no such assessment.

Nature Reserves: West Sussex

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the plans of Natural England and the Environment Agency to flood areas of Medmerry; and if he will make a statement. [204980]

Mr. Woolas: Natural England has no powers to decide flood defence policy. The Environment Agency has not published any plans to flood areas of land behind the Medmerry coastline. The draft Pagham to East Head Coastal Defence Strategy will make an assessment of the impacts of all options in accordance with DEFRA guidance. The options will include changes to land use as a result of managed realignment of the coastline. The draft strategy is due to be issued for public consultation at the end of May.

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the financial value of the palaeontological remains in the on-shore cliffs at the Medmerry frontage. [204981]

Joan Ruddock: There have been a number of attempts to put a financial value on wildlife assets, all of which have encountered problems. To date, as far as we are aware, no one has attempted to do this for palaeontological assets generally, let alone for those present at the Medmerry frontage.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects to publish a response to the consultation on nitrate vulnerable zones; what the next steps will be; and when he expects to announce the Government's policy. [204213]

Mr. Woolas: We intend to announce and publish our response to the nitrate vulnerable zones consultation before Parliament breaks for summer recess. This will include a summary of what the Department plans to do as a result of the consultation responses.


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Nitrogen Oxides

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to ensure that the UK meets its targets for the reduction of nitrogen oxides by 2010 under the EU national emissions ceiling directive and the UN Gothenburg protocol. [203915]

Jonathan Shaw: The UK reported in December 2007 for the first time that the 2010 national emission ceiling for nitrogen oxides (NOx) was likely to be exceeded by some 10 per cent. Though there remain considerable uncertainties with the projections, the increase is a consequence of changes in projections of emissions from energy production, and an improved methodology for predicting emissions from non-road transport mobile sources and machinery. We have commissioned a study to examine options for improving the prospects of achieving compliance, which will be finalised early in May 2008.

Pollution Control

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what factors were taken into account in setting the fee levels for pollution prevention and control permits; what the cost of administering the permit scheme is; and if he will make a statement; [204214]

(2) what estimate he has made of the cost of a Pollution Prevention and Control permit in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [204227]

Joan Ruddock: There are three categories of pollution prevention and control permits: IPPC permits issued by the Environment Agency, IPPC permits issued by local authorities, and air pollution control permits issued by local authorities.

DEFRA (for the latter two categories) and the Environment Agency consult annually on the level of fees and charges for the coming financial year. Those consultations cover the factors taken into account and regulatory costs.

Papers for this year’s DEFRA consultation, which closed on 4 January, are available on the DEFRA website. The Environment Agency consultation closed on 7 December, and the papers are available on the Environment Agency website.

Regional Development Agencies: Finance

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what arrangements he has agreed with regional development agencies and Natural England to account for exchange rate variations. [203931]

Jonathan Shaw: Budgets for Regional Development Agencies and Natural England are set in sterling. Exchange rate variations have no immediate impact on these bodies. However, DEFRA is working closely with the delivery bodies and the paying agency, the Rural Payments Agency, to manage and account for the total resources for the Rural Development for England Programme over the seven-year programming period.


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Rural Areas: Finance

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much EU funding was provided for the individual axes of the European Rural Development Programme for England, expressed in euro; what the sterling equivalent was at the time the sum was settled; and what it is at the most recent exchange rate. [203928]

Jonathan Shaw: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) contribution to the Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013 is set in euros. Details are set out in the financial tables of the programme document, which was approved by the European Commission in December 2007. The sums are:

Total EAFRD

3,217,464,635

of which:

Axis 1

344,877,726

Axis 2

2,441,251,505

Axis 3

269,018,937

Axis 4

160,894,083

Technical assistance

1,422,384


At the time of programme approval, the exchange rate was 0.71475. Sterling equivalents as at December were therefore:

£

Total EAFRD budget

2,299,682,847

of which:

Axis 1

246,501,355

Axis 2

1,744,884,513

Axis 3

192,281,285

Axis 4

114,999,046

Technical assistance

1,016,649


The current exchange rate is 0.78895, as specified by the European Commission and used to convert EAFRD payments for May 2008.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how often his Department draws down funding for the European Rural Development Programme from the EU; and what exchange rate is used to allocate that funding to the regional development agencies and Natural England. [203929]

Jonathan Shaw: The EU funding is paid in arrears, following receipt of a claim for reimbursement from the Rural Payments Agency. The claim for reimbursement is submitted on a quarterly basis in Euros.

Budgets for the Regional Development Agency and Natural England Rural Development Programme for England are allocated by DEFRA, in sterling. The Regional Development Agencies and Natural England are responsible for committing the expenditure, but payments to beneficiaries and claims for reimbursement from the European Commission are made by the Rural Payments Agency, the Paying Agency for the Programme. Expenditure commitment details are provided by the Regional Development Agencies and Natural England,
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in Sterling, to the Rural Payments Agency, which makes the payments in sterling. It is the responsibility of the Rural Payments Agency to convert the sterling payments into euro claims for reimbursement from the European Commission. The exchange rate used is set by the European Central Bank rate, on the last but one day in the month before the payments were made.

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what funding he has allocated to the European Rural Development Programme from UK funds as matched funding; and what effect changes in the euro/sterling exchange rate will have on that sum. [203930]

Jonathan Shaw: The total Exchequer budget (matched funding) for the RDPE 2007-2013 is £1,682 million. Fluctuations in exchange rates will not affect this sum. Under Council Regulation 1698/2005, the Rural Development Regulation, any unspent European funds may be rolled forward by up to two calendar years following the year in which they were originally allocated. The effect of exchange rate fluctuations can therefore be managed over the seven-year programming period as a whole.

Sea Mammal Research Unit

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what role the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University plays in UK marine policy. [203998]

Jonathan Shaw: The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) is an independent research centre, and is used by Defra as a contractor to provide scientific research and monitoring. The unit is currently responsible for monitoring cetacean by-catch under the requirements of the EC Habitats Directive and Council Regulation 812/2004, and for developing mitigation measures to reduce the by-catch of marine mammals.

SMRU is also a member of the Healthy and Biologically Diverse Seas Evidence Group, one of the groups falling under the umbrella of the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy. Defra is committed to evidence-based policy development, and therefore scientific evidence and information derived from monitoring initiatives such as this plays an important role.


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