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Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency set up the Restoring Sustainable Abstraction (RSA) Programme in 1999 to identify and catalogue those sites which may be at risk from unsustainable abstraction. The aim of the RSA programme is to implement solutions to improve the flow and ecology of rivers.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will take steps to encourage improved water flow in the chalk rivers of Hertfordshire; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency and Three Valleys Water are currently seeking solutions to the long-term challenge of reversing the impact of over-abstraction on flow levels within the Hertfordshire Chalk streams.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on the ecology of the chalk rivers of Hertfordshire of current rates of water abstraction. 
Mr. Woolas: The ecological quality of chalk rivers is assessed by the Environment Agency using nationally recognised procedures. Invertebrates, fish and aquatic plants are regularly monitored. The precise number of monitored sites and the frequency of sampling varies from river to river and is related to the severity of low flows thought to be attributed to abstraction.
The Environment Agency uses monitoring results in the development of Catchment Abstraction Management Strategies (CAMS). As a result the Upper Lee and Colne have been given over abstracted status. This defines a future licensing strategy to prevent further over-abstraction and to improve current status.
(2) what estimate he has made of the reduction in average daily household water usage in the East of England likely to be achieved on an annual basis by 2021; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Woolas: A minimum benchmark figure for the design of new homes will be established by revision of the building regulations to be introduced in April 2009. The design performance standard of 125 litres per person per day is proposed. Additional benchmarks have been established in The Code for Sustainable Homes which set out higher levels of water efficiency. The ambition of an average daily household water usage of 130 litres per person per day by 2030, or less, within existing developments, was set out in the Governments water strategy Future Water.
Daily household water usage data are reported by Ofwat in their Security of Supply Report. The average per capita consumption for consumers of Three Valleys Water who supply consumers in Hertfordshire was 168 litres per person per day in 2006-07.
The new water efficiency requirements to be introduced within Part G of Building Regulations and the review of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations will require improved water efficiency performance in new and existing premises, and will be enforced through current mechanisms set in both sets of Regulations.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations he has received from the Environment Agency on the sustainable level of daily household water usage. 
Mr. Woolas: The level of sustainable daily household water usage will differ for each area and over time, as it needs to take into account how much water can be sustainably abstracted in one catchment area (which might change over time) and how much water is used by all water users.
The Environment Agency has developed catchment abstraction management strategies (CAMS). Each strategy reflects the amount of water available in the natural environment for sustainable abstraction and looks at whether there is a sustainable balance between it and the amount of water that is licensed for abstraction. Strategies are available from the Environment Agency's website.
The Government's strategy for water, Future Water, states our ambition to reduce per capita consumption of water through cost effective measures, to an average of 130 litres per person per day by 2030, or possibly even 120 litres per person per day depending on new technological developments and innovation. Any reduction in per capita consumption will contribute towards achieving a sustainable balance of supply and demand, and the Environment Agency has expressed support for the Government's ambition for water efficiency.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether changes have been made in his Department's assessment of future (a) water demand and (b) water resource in (i) Hertfordshire and (ii) the Eastern Region since 2000 as a result of climate change; 
Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency is the statutory body with a duty to manage water resources in England and Wales. As part of the Agency's management role it has both national and regional water resource strategies which set out the pressures over the next 25 years.
Water companies have statutory duties to maintain adequate supplies of water. On 1 April 2007 it became a statutory requirement for water companies to prepare and maintain previously voluntary water resources management plans. These are 25 year plans which complement the Agency strategies and seek to reconcile supply with anticipated demand using the twin-track approach of considering the need for new resources, such as reservoirs, in parallel with the full range of options for reducing demand. New resources should be developed only where the scope for managing demand is clearly insufficient or unjustified in terms of cost.
The planning authorities are statutory consultees on the water company water resources management plans, which means that the water companies can be provided with information on proposed large scale developments in their supply areas. The water companies are also statutory consultees on Regional spatial strategies and local development frameworks, in the East of England and elsewhere, and should work with plan making bodies in drawing up these plans, so that the necessary coordination can occur.
Water companies are currently holding the first public consultations on their draft water resource management plans, providing any interested parties will the opportunity to make representations on the content of the plans. Each water company, in the East of England and elsewhere, has to publish a statement in response to the representation, and if the response is not considered to be adequate the Secretary of State can direct them to make further changes.
The Environment Agency now has Catchment abstraction management strategies (CAMS) in place throughout England and Wales, including the East of England, which provide transparency in the allocation of water resources. CAMS provide a consistent and structured approach to local water resources management, recognising the reasonable needs of all abstractors and the needs of the environment. CAMS enable the consideration of how much water can be abstracted from watercourses without damaging the environment. They will provide more local detail on the availability of water in Hertfordshire and the East of England more generally, and will allow a detailed assessment of where action may be needed to deal with problems of over abstraction.
In October 2007, the Chancellor announced a new Public Service Agreement on climate change. Sustainable abstraction, as measured through the water availability status in catchments, is the chosen indicator of the extent to which we are adapting to climate change. The achievement and maintenance of sustainable abstraction requires that policy is adaptable to changing climatic conditions. This indicator captures efforts to reduce demand and use water efficiently, and long-term planning to ensure resilience of water supply. It reflects the totality of abstraction impacts from local to national level.
Mr. Woolas: Based on climate change scenarios derived from Hadley Centres Regional Climate Model which suggests that the frequency of short droughts, lasting one or two seasons, would increase significantly by the 2050s and be commonplace by the 2080s, it is expected that there will be an increase in the frequency of short droughts in Hertfordshire by 2021. These projections are based on modelling studies that contain inherent uncertainties, meaning that the actual frequency of droughts that will be experienced in future may be more or less than these estimates.
All water companies, including those supplying Hertfordshire, will need to identify measures to increase resilience of water supply against increased frequency of drought in their Water Resources Management Plans, which are currently subject to consultation. These measures should include demand and supply side options to maintain a supply-demand balance.
Water companies have statutory drought plans which set out how a company will meet essential demands for water in times of drought. Drought plans are prepared every three years and are subject to public consultation.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what (a) representations he has received on and (b) assessment he has made of the sustainability and acceptability of the abstraction regime in Hertfordshire on summer surface water availability; 
The Environment Agency is the statutory body with a duty to manage water resources in England and Wales. It now has catchment abstraction management strategies (CAMS) in place which provide transparency in the allocation of water resources. CAMS provide a consistent and structured approach to local water resources management, recognising the reasonable needs of all abstractors and the needs of the environment. CAMS enable the consideration of how much water can be
abstracted from watercourses without damaging the environment. They provide local detail on the availability of water and allow a detailed assessment of where action may be needed to deal with problems of over abstraction.
The first set of CAMS has been completed and information on water resources in Hertfordshire and the east of England can be found on the Environment Agency website. I am not aware of representations having been made to the Secretary of State on the results of the relevant CAMS documents.
The expansion of Abberton reservoir is the subject of an application for planning permission to the relevant planning authority. Should the reservoir be expanded, then the potential use of its water in Hertfordshire will be a matter for the water company operating the reservoir and the water companies supplying Hertfordshire.
The Secretary of State has designated all water companies serving Hertfordshire as operating in areas of serious water stress, for the purposes of accelerating domestic metering of water supply where there is a resources case to do so. This designation allows the companies concerned to make a case for compulsory metering in the water resources management plans. Where the Secretary of State agrees the case has been made, then the companies will be allowed to pursue a programme of compulsory metering.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 22 May 2008, Official Report, column 425W, on airports: public safety zones, what factors will be taken into account in deciding the order in which the public safety zones will be reviewed under the phased review. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The principal factor in deciding the order of review of public safety zones will be the increase in total aircraft movements against the forecast figure provided when the current zones were established; airports showing the strongest growth will be the first reviewed.
Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 22 April 2008, Official Report, column 1895W, on railways: Scotland, what work she has asked Network Rail to undertake regarding a high speed rail link between England and Scotland. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government have commissioned and published various pieces of research into the effects of biofuels on air quality. These include an evaluation of the impacts of vegetable oil fuel on the emissions of two light duty diesel vehicles and an evaluation of the potential impact of bioethanol on emissions of a wide range of air pollutants (available at
or by navigating from the Department for Transport's home page (www.dft.gov.uk) to DfT home > Policy, guidance and research > Roads and vehicles > Environmental issues > Research, and then > Ethanol Emissions Testing: Main Report or > Cleaner and Quieter Vehicles and Cleaner Fuels > DfT biofuels evaluation of emissions performance from vegetable oil fuel).
Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether there are measures in place to penalise those local transport authorities which do not issue bus passes for free travel to local elderly and disabled people within certain times. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Travel concession authorities have a legal obligation to issue a concessionary travel pass to any person who appears to that authority to be eligible for concessionary travel. The legislation does not include any explicit statutory time limits by which an authority must issue a pass, although the statutory wording implies that the permits should be issued within a reasonable period of time. Travel concession authorities failing to supply permits within a reasonable period of time may be vulnerable to legal challenge.
Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate she has made of the expected proceeds of the sale of the Government's interests in CTRL/London and Continental Railways. 
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