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Departmental Official Hospitality

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many receptions he has hosted and funded in his capacity as Secretary of State in the last 12 months; which individuals and organisations (a) were invited to and (b) attended each reception; and what the cost was of each reception. [203844]

Jonathan Shaw: We will publish in due course an annual list providing information relating to official receptions hosted by Ministers in the Department during the course of the previous financial year.

Farms: Local Authorities

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans the Government have to maintain the number of tenanted or managed farms owned by local authorities. [207042]

Jonathan Shaw: Under the Agriculture Act 1970, the Government have no powers to require local authorities to maintain statutory smallholdings; this decision rests entirely with individual authorities. There are currently no plans to change the legislation.

Fisheries: Quotas

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications for UK fishermen of the Scottish Executive's moratorium on transfer of Scottish fixed quota allocation units and licences; and if he will make a statement. [207625]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 2 June 2008]: At this time I am unable to make a proper assessment of the implications of the moratorium on any part of the UK fishing fleet as there is still some uncertainty about exactly how in practice the Scottish Executive intend to apply it. I have expressed my profound disappointment at this unilateral action, which tears up long-standing arrangements between England and Scotland for managing fishing licences and quotas. It creates additional risk and uncertainty for fishermen at a time when they are already under enormous pressure and prevents then from carrying out their legitimate business.

Fisheries: Scotland

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what discussions he has had with his Scottish counterpart on the decision taken by the Scottish Executive to introduce a moratorium on fisheries licence and quota transfers; when he was notified of the moratorium; and if he will make a statement; [207621]

(2) what assessment he has made of the impact on the UK fishing industry of the decision by the Scottish Executive to implement a moratorium on licence and quota transfers; and if he will make a statement; [207622]

(3) if he will take steps to review the terms of the concordat with the Scottish Executive on fisheries following the decision by the Scottish Executive to implement a moratorium on licence and quota transfers; and if he will make a statement; [207623]


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(4) whether he has taken legal advice on the decision taken by the Scottish Executive to implement a moratorium on fisheries licence and quota transfers; and if he will make a statement. [207624]

Jonathan Shaw: I have had no discussions with my Scottish counterpart about the moratorium and was first advised of it late on Thursday 15 May, the day before it was announced. At this time I am unable to make a proper assessment of its impact on any part of the UK fishing fleet as there is still some uncertainty about exactly how in practice the Scottish Executive intend to apply it. In the absence of that information it is impossible to make a full judgment of the legality of the moratorium but the preliminary advice that I have received is that it may be unlawful. I have expressed my profound disappointment at this unilateral action, which tears up long-standing arrangements between England and Scotland for managing fishing licences and quotas. It creates additional risk and uncertainty for fishermen at a time when they are already under enormous pressure and prevents then from carrying out their legitimate business. I am saddened that the Scottish Executive no longer feel able to work within the collaborative framework of the fisheries concordat. In our view the concordat is still valid given the continuing need for the UK Government and devolved Administrations to work together.

Flood Control: Finance

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the (a) pre-construction budget and (b) outturn cost of each major flood defence project was since 1997; and if he will make a statement; [207914]

(2) what the (a) target completion date and (b) completion date for each major flood defence project was since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [207915]

Mr. Woolas [holding answer 2 June 2008]: I regret that it is not possible to provide the information requested in the usual timescale. I shall write as soon as possible and a copy of my reply will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Floods

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many households are deemed to be at high risk of flooding in England and Wales; and of these (a) to how many households the Floodline Warnings Direct system is available and (b) how many are registered with it; [207515]

(2) how much the Flood Warnings Direct system cost to (a) develop and (b) install. [207601]

Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency’s 2006 National Flood Risk Assessment divides properties into three probability bands as follows:


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As of 1 August 2007, the Environment Agency reported that the Floodline Warnings Direct Service was available to 794,000 properties and, of these, 240,000 were registered.

The Environment Agency has informed me that the Floodline Warnings Direct system cost £14.2 million over four years to develop and implement. The breakdown of these costs are as follows:

£ million

System development

4.5

Equipment and Installation

5.5

Implementation and other costs

4.2


Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps he is taking to increase the number of people in England and Wales at high risk of flooding to whom Floodline Warnings Direct is available; [207516]

(2) how many people at risk or high risk of flooding in England and Wales are estimated to be unaware of the risk. [207602]

Mr. Woolas: DEFRA and the Environment Agency have agreed upon an annual programme of expansion, improvement and recruitment to the flood warning service. This is documented in the Environment Agency’s Flood Warning Investment Strategy.

The aim of the strategy is to make the Flood Warnings available to 80 per cent. of those identified as being at risk of flooding within the Environment Agency’s Flood Map, by March 2013. The Environment Agency is on course to meet this target.

Food Supply

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government's strategy is for ensuring security of food supply within the UK. [207041]

Jonathan Shaw: Within the UK, domestic food security depends upon diversity of supply and strong trading links (most of the food we import comes from the EU), strong and resilient strategic infrastructure, effective risk management and contingency planning, and critically, for an energy-intensive food chain, security of energy supplies.

Smoking

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many smoking shelters were built at each of his Department's London buildings in each of the last five years. [205043]

Jonathan Shaw: We do not have any smoking shelters on the London estate.

Supermarkets: Environment Protection

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he plans to take to engage leading supermarkets in programmes to foster the environmental enhancement of local communities. [207069]


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Jonathan Shaw: Food and drink packaging makes up a large proportion of the litter people drop, and the Government are working with food outlets, manufacturers and retailers to address this. “Reducing litter caused by food on the go—A Voluntary Code of Practice” launched in October 2004, is one example. Fast food operators, shops and supermarkets are encouraged to sign up to this “Code of Practice”, which then commits them to work in partnership with the council to improve their local environment, for instance by providing additional bins, staffing regular litter sweeps around their outlets, conducting research into waste minimisation and promoting the anti-litter message to their customers.

Waste Management: Contracts

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which companies are contracted by local authorities for municipal waste management services, broken down by local authority. [207964]

Joan Ruddock: DEFRA does not hold this information.

Whales: Conservation

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with his Cabinet colleagues on whaling since January 2008; and if he will make a statement. [207248]

Jonathan Shaw: I discuss whaling with my colleagues in other Government Departments on a regular basis. UK Government policy on whaling—in particular our strong support for the maintenance of the moratorium on commercial whaling—is supported by all Government Departments.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with representatives from (a) the Japanese Government, (b) the Norwegian Government and (c) the Icelandic Government on whaling since January 2008; and if he will make a statement. [207249]

Jonathan Shaw: On 8 January, I called in the deputy ambassador from the Japanese embassy in London to express the UK’s outrage and urge Japan to end its slaughter of whales.

The deputy ambassador was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling in this country and that the UK is outraged by Japan’s whaling activities and considers Japan’s lethal research wholly unnecessary.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met the Prime Minister of Iceland on 24 April and reiterated the UK’s strong opposition to whaling. The Icelandic Prime Minister was left in no doubt as to the strength of feeling in the UK on the issue.

There have been no discussions on whaling since January between DEFRA Ministers and Norwegian representatives. However please be assured that DEFRA Ministers and FCO posts will raise the issue of whaling with these countries’ representatives whenever it is appropriate to do so.


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Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with representatives from Romania on their recent membership of the International Whaling Commission; whether he expects them to support the international moratorium on whaling; and if he will make a statement. [207250]

Jonathan Shaw: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) has written to the Romanian Government welcoming their decision to join the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In discussions at official level in Brussels, Romania agreed that the EU line at the forthcoming annual meeting of the IWC should be to support the maintenance of the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling. I am therefore in no doubt that Romania will take a pro-conservation stance at that meeting.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he expects there to be an attempt to overturn the international moratorium on commercial whaling at the forthcoming International Whaling Commission meeting; and if he will make a statement. [207251]

Jonathan Shaw: I think it unlikely that there will be any formal proposal put to the 60th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) specifically seeking the removal of that paragraph in the schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which provides for the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling. However, there will be discussion on whether, and if so how, Japan’s desire for a quota of minke whales for coastal communities in Japan can or should be accommodated; these discussions are not likely to be concluded at this meeting.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he will be able to name the countries that are (a) members of the International Whaling Commission and (b) not members of the International Whaling Commission to which the Government have (i) sent the Protecting Whales—A Global Responsibility document and (ii) written about whaling since January 2008; and if he will make a statement. [207253]

Jonathan Shaw: For reasons given in my reply of 6 February 2008, Official Report, column 1296W, and of 28 February 2008, Official Report, column 1874W, I do not think it appropriate to provide the information sought by the hon. Member.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he plans to attend the 60th meeting of the International Whaling Commission; and if he will make a statement. [207254]

Jonathan Shaw: I plan to attend the next annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to be held in Santiago, Chile in June 2008. If conflicting priorities make this impossible it is planned one of my fellow DEFRA Ministers will represent the UK in Santiago.

The UK will, both at the 60th meeting and beyond, continue to support the IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling and oppose all forms of whaling, other than limited whaling operations by indigenous people for subsistence purposes.


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Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether he expects new members to join the International Whaling Commission in time to be able to vote at the forthcoming International Whaling Commission meeting; and if he will make a statement; [207255]

(2) what estimate he has made of the number of International Whaling Commission members likely to (a) support the international moratorium on commercial whaling and (b) oppose the international moratorium on commercial whaling should a vote be called on the matter at the 60(th) meeting of the International Whaling Commission; and if he will make a statement; [207256]

(3) when he next plans to discuss whaling with (a) his Cabinet colleagues and (b) representatives from foreign Governments that (i) are and (ii) are not members of the International Whaling Commission; and if he will make a statement; [207257]

(4) when he last discussed whaling with his foreign counterparts; whether he has directly lobbied any countries to join the International Whaling Commission and support the international moratorium on commercial whaling; and if he will make a statement. [207247]

Jonathan Shaw: Partly as a consequence of UK lobbying effort, two new countries (Uruguay and Romania), have joined the International Whaling Commission (IWC) since last year, and Nicaragua’s voting rights have been re-instated so that Nicaragua can now vote on the anti-whaling side. We do not know which countries, if any, may have been recruited to the pro-whaling side; the final voting numbers will be unknown until the plenary session opens on 23 June. We would nonetheless expect to have a clear majority of countries present and voting at this year’s annual meeting of the IWC ready to support the maintenance of the moratorium on commercial whaling, should its future be put to a vote. In the unlikely event that the pro-whaling countries hold the simple majority, they are unlikely to be able to end the moratorium, a vote on which requires a three-quarter majority.

Cabinet Members, along with all hon. Members, will shortly receive a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter which provides a full report of HMG’s aims for the forthcoming annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting, making clear that the UK remains vigorously opposed to whaling and detailing our position on issues such as the importance of welfare considerations and whale watching.

I discussed whaling with the hon. Peter Garrett MP, Australian Minister for the Environment on 25 April. Among other issues, we discussed the meeting I had with the Japanese deputy ambassador on 8 January to express the UK’s outrage over Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling activities.


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