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Helen Jones: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speakers Committee on the Electoral Commission what steps are being taken to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of returning officers. 
Peter Viggers: The Electoral Commission informs me that it is using its powers under the Electoral Administration Act 2006 to implement a performance standards framework for returning officers and electoral registration officers in Great Britain. The Commission will use the framework to provide an assessment of the performance of individual officers, and to identify areas where further support may be required to improve performance. The Commission will also collect and analyse financial information from returning officers to support its assessments of performance and efficiency.
Helen Jones: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speakers Committee on the Electoral Commission what steps are being taken to monitor the effectiveness of the delivery of (a) poll cards and (b) postal votes in each local authority area. 
Peter Viggers: The Electoral Commission informs me that the responsibility for sending poll cards and postal votes to electors in each local authority area rests with the returning officer for that area. The Commissions guidance to returning officers provides information about the production and distribution of poll cards and the issue and distribution of postal votes.
The Commission has no powers to direct or challenge individual returning officers in relation to the exercise of their statutory duties. However, the Commissions performance standards framework will support an assessment of the performance of individual officers in relation to a number of key management standards.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether his Department has undertaken research into the potential risk of lung damage and other allergic reactions from household waste storage and collection practices amongst (a) immuno-compromised patients and (b) people with fungi allergies. 
Joan Ruddock: DEFRA published in 2007 a report by independent consultants that assessed the health impact of fortnightly residual collections of biodegradable waste. Part of the work assessed available evidence on health risks to members of the public from air-borne micro-organisms and air-borne biological material from household waste. They concluded that there is no evidence which indicates that fortnightly residual waste collection will result in an increase of these substances to levels in air which could pose any risks for members of the public. The research literature provides no evidence that fortnightly residual household waste collection will cause any significant health impacts for residents, or that any health impacts are likely to be significantly greater than those associated with weekly collections.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what powers waste collection authorities have to enter (a) the curtilage of a property and (b) a property; under what circumstances such powers may be exercised; what powers such authorities have to inspect the contents of such domestic rubbish receptacles; and what penalty may be imposed upon householders who refuse entry to waste collection authority representatives by the authority. 
Joan Ruddock: The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 extended the powers of section 108 of the Environment Act 1995 to waste collection authorities in relation to their functions under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA).
Subject to at least seven days notice expiring, and either the consent of the occupant or a warrant under schedule 18 of the Environment Act, persons authorised by the Environment Agency or the enforcing authority (which could be a local authority waste officer) are entitled to enter property to examine and investigate possible waste offences.
This is not a power designed to enable the inspection of household waste receptacles. Local authority powers under section 46 of the EPA cover how waste is presented for collection, not how waste is stored by householders. If a householder had breached a section
46 notice it would be clear to the authority when it collected the waste, so there would be no need to enter the property to gather such evidence.
Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Environment Agency on the funding required to implement the final recommendations of Sir Michael Pitt's report on the 2007 floods; and if he will provide a breakdown by subheading of the estimated costs of implementing those recommendations. 
Mr. Woolas: We have announced an initial provision of £34.5 million funding over the three years to 2010-11 which may be needed to implement the Pitt recommendations. We will determine how this should be spent when we see the final Pitt report and the priorities which it contains.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether his Department monitors the number of visitors to the Knowledge Bank on litter run by his Department and ENCAMS. 
Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will convene a forum among representatives of supermarkets to discuss an industry-wide approach to reducing the use of plastic bags. 
Joan Ruddock: A forum was convened on 7 May 2008 which included representatives from supermarkets, the British Retail Consortium, and others. Its aim was to discuss the reduction of single use carrier bags.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations he has received from Castle Point Borough Council in relation to the Environment Agency's assessment of its recycling plan; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made on transferring ownership of private sewers to water companies since the consultation in 2004. 
Mr. Woolas: The Government Response Paper published in October 2004 acknowledged that transfer of ownership to sewerage undertakers would result in far-reaching changes and that further work was needed to understand the implications. Since then DEFRA has undertaken this work, which has included further cost estimates, a stakeholder seminar and qualitative customer research. Details of this work can be found on the DEFRA website.
As a result, the Government announced in February 2007 their decision to transfer private sewers and lateral drains draining to the public sewerage system into water company ownership. We subsequently published a public consultation in July 2007 on implementation options for the proposed transfer. The consultation also posed questions on the scope of assets to be included in the transfer and ways in which the creation of new private sewers can be prevented.
A summary of responses was published in March 2008 and we are currently preparing proposals for implementation with the help of a steering group of key stakeholders. The work of the steering group will inform the decision on the timing of transfer and the drafting of regulations for implementation. We expect to be in a position to consult on these regulations later this year.
Joan Ruddock: Local authorities, in consultation with residents, are best placed to decide on the appropriate recycling and waste collection services for their areas. My Department funds the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to provide local authorities with advice on good practice.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 13 March 2008, Official Report, column 640W, on Burma: Sanctions, whether a date has been set for the presentation of the conclusions drawn from discussions between the UK and its EU partners on how best to target financial transactions owned or controlled by Burmese officials; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when a UN Security Council Presidential Statement on Burma is expected following discussions by the UN Security Council on 24 April. 
Meg Munn: On 2 May, immediately before the devastating cyclone hit Burma, the UN Security Council agreed a Presidential Statement relating to the Burmese regimes 10 May referendum. The Council reaffirmed its statements of 11 October and 15 November 2007 and called on the Burmese regime to establish the conditions and create an atmosphere conducive to an inclusive and credible political process.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government is taking to ensure that Burma is put on the UN Security Councils formal agenda; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: We have made clear our belief that the UN Security Council should engage on the fast deteriorating situation in Burma as a matter of urgency. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has indicated his immense frustration at the way in which the Burmese government is restricting the international aid effect, and the Secretary-General should have the firm resolve of the Security Council behind him. The UK raised Burma in Security Council consultations on 12 May and continues to encourage members to place humanitarian relief on the formal agenda. We have also asked the UN Secretary-General to convene an Emergency Summit of world leaders to press for expanded delivery of aid as soon as possible. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discussed these issues with the UN Secretary-General on 13 May and my right hon. Friend the Prime Ministers Special Envoy, Michael Williams, traveled to New York on 14 May to continue this dialogue with the UN and Security Council partners. The UK Permanent Representative in New York continues to make our concerns clear.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the cost was of food and drink procured for working lunches attended by officials at which no external invitees were present in each of the last five years for which figures are available. 
Stewart Hosie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department spent on (a) written consultations, (b) consultation roadshows and (c) stakeholder focus groups in each of the last three years. 
Meg Munn: This information is not held centrally, as there is no dedicated account for expenditure on any of these activities. Individual budget holders would need to identify relevant expenditure to obtain a total for the Department, and this could be done only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the itinerary of the visit of the Ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China, Mr. Zha Peixin, to Kingston-upon-Hull in April 2004. 
Meg Munn: We do not have a copy of the itinerary for the visit of the Ambassador for the Peoples Republic of China, Mr. Zha Peixin. We would refer any specific questions regarding this visit to the Chinese Embassy.
Meg Munn: The UK remains deeply concerned by the current violence in Lebanon. Such unrest is not only a threat to Lebanon but also to the stability of the wider region. We urge all sides to work urgently for a resolution to the crisis. We strongly support the Arab League mission, which arrived in Beirut on 14 May and are working for action at the UN Security Council to encourage a solution.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to support media and election monitoring in the Maldives in the run up to multi-party elections; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: I refer the hon. Member to the answer my hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East gave to the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) on 27 February 2008, Official Report, column 1704W.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of the Maldives on the (a) establishment of (i) an election commission, (ii) a judicial commission and (iii) an anti-corruption commission ahead of the multi-party elections and (b) on the subsequent operation of such commissions. 
Meg Munn: In a meeting with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in April the Maldivian Foreign Minister, Abdulla Shahid, stated that an Interim Election Commission would be created within 30 days of the ratification of the new constitution. He underlined that the deliberations of the Special Majlis (Constitutional Assembly) were nearly complete. Foreign Minister Shahid told us that the Commission would be responsible for all elections-related matters and that all registered political parties would be able to nominate Commissioners.
We have had no specific discussions on other commissions, but in his statement to EU Parliamentarians and officials on 6 May, Ahmed Sareer, Chargé daffaires at the Maldives Mission to the EU, confirmed that an Interim Judicial Service Commission and an Anti Corruption Commission would be created within 30 and 60 days respectively of the introduction of the new constitution.
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