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16 Jun 2008 : Column 633W—continued


Flood Control

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the relative standards of protection against flood risk in rural and urban areas; and if he will make a statement. [209364]

Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency is currently updating its National Flood Risk Assessment and this will enable an assessment of the differences in standards of protection for rural and urban areas. Government investment is prioritised to maximise reduction in risk.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many of the 15 urgent recommendations of the Pitt review on the summer floods of 2007 have been implemented; how many of the interim conclusions of the Pitt review have been implemented; and how many of the additional 20 interim conclusions of the Pitt review published on 4 March 2000 have been implemented. [210431]

Mr. Woolas: The Government agreed with the 15 urgent recommendations set out in the interim Pitt report. Significant progress has been made with all of them and Sir Michael reviewed our progress with them in April 2008. His review can be found on the Cabinet Office website.

The Government contributed DEFRA's views on the additional 92 interim conclusions to Sir Michael, many of which are already in progress, and looks forward to receiving his final report.

Flood Control: Felixstowe

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations he has received from (a) local authorities and (b) hon. and right hon. Members on the adequacy of Felixstowe's flood defences in the last five years; and what actions he took in response to such representations. [209871]

Mr. Woolas: According to departmental records, in the last five years Suffolk Coastal district council have written to DEFRA about the adequacy of Felixstowe's flood defences on three occasions. Ministers have also held two meetings with the right hon. Member on the
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adequacy of Felixstowe's flood defences during this period: in March 2006 with the then Secretary of State and in October 2006 with the then Minister of State.

The issues associated with these representations were focused on the Felixstowe flood defences and no action was taken other than providing clarification of the procedures in place, since these provide a fair and transparent means of prioritising funding to projects.

Floods: Insurance

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the Answer of 1 April 2008, Official Report, column 730W, on Flood Control: Finance, for what reasons insurance companies do not have direct access to data from the national flood and coastal defence database. [208450]

Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency’s National Flood and Coastal Defence Database contains some information about individuals such as names and addresses. Insurance companies are therefore not permitted direct access to this information as it falls under the Data Protection Act 1998.

In order for insurance companies to have direct access, significant changes would have to be made to the database to ensure that access to personal information is limited.

Forests: International Cooperation

Mr. Hurd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government's objectives are for the forthcoming G8 Environment Ministerial in Kobe, Japan; and whether he will be seeking an agreement to address illegal logging. [209369]

Mr. Woolas: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs attended this meeting on 24 to 26 May.

The three agenda items were climate change, biodiversity (covering illegal logging issues) and the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). The meeting produced a Chair's Summary, as well as agreeing a ‘3R Action Plan’ and a ‘Call to Action on Biodiversity’, linked to a ‘G8 Forests Experts’ Report on Illegal Logging’ that includes a menu of actions for G8 members to address illegal logging collectively and individually. These documents are publicly available on the website of Japan's Ministry of the Environment.

At the meeting, the UK made contributions on each of the three items.

On climate change, the Secretary of State's overall aim was to give impetus to the G8 summit and to engage in dialogue with G8+8 countries on climate change issues. There was a positive discussion on long-term climate goals which should send an appropriately strong signal to the G8 summit and a good discussion on carbon markets, with several parties explaining their intentions on national cap and trade schemes. There was also agreement to a further dialogue—the Kobe process—which will provide a valuable forum for informal discussions with major emitters.


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On the 3Rs, the Secretary of State underlined the importance of improving resource efficiency and promoting more sustainable products and materials at national and international level. He pointed out that implementing the England Waste Strategy 2007 is expected to lead to an annual net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 9.3 million tons of CO2 equivalent, roughly the same as taking 3 million cars off the road each year. He stressed the need for strict compliance with the UN Basel Convention on the trans-boundary movement of waste, and for measures to promote environmentally sound ship recycling.

On biodiversity, the Secretary of State in his interventions focused particularly on forestry and illegal logging, emphasising that improved forest governance is essential to deliver reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) as well as to maintain forest biodiversity. He also underlined the importance of working to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target and ensuring effective follow-up to that target.

Insulation: Waste Disposal

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the capacity of available facilities safely to capture and dispose of products containing ozone depleting substances, with particular reference to those contained within plastic foam insulation. [210701]

Mr. Woolas: The UK has some of the largest and most modern fridge treatment plants in Europe. These recover ozone-depleting substances from the fridge insulating foam and circuits, as well as, in some cases, other equipment containing ozone-depleting substances.

There are two high temperature incinerators in the UK that are used to destroy waste ozone-depleting substances.

The use of ozone-depleting substances in building insulation foams has been banned in the EU since the beginning of 2004. Most of these foams are currently still in buildings. DEFRA has initiated discussions with building industry stakeholders to assess the current infrastructure available for dealing with the recovery or destruction of ozone-depleting substances in building foams and the technical and economic issues that arise.

Lighting: Waste Disposal

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice he has provided to local authorities on the appropriate disposal of low-energy light bulbs containing mercury. [211261]

Joan Ruddock: The Department has not issued specific advice to local authorities about the disposal of low energy light bulbs. The responsibilities of local authorities and producers are set out in a statutory code of practice.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs—the most common type of energy efficient bulbs) are covered by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. All local authorities in England are providing designated
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collection facilities for WEEE. Information about which sites take back CFLs (and other types of WEEE) is available on the recycle-more website at:

Retailers that have joined a scheme to take back electrical and electronic equipment are funding the upgrade of local authority sites. Once CFLs have been collected, producers of the equipment have responsibility to fund treatment and recycling.

The Department has published background information on CFLs—their benefits in terms of energy efficiency as well as advice on their disposal at the end of their lives. This can be found on the DEFRA website at:

Recycling: Greater London

Joan Ryan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which London boroughs operate a kerbside recycling scheme for residential properties. [210347]

Joan Ruddock: All London boroughs provide a kerbside collection service for recyclable material (best value performance indicator 91a). On average, 95 per cent. of households in London received a kerbside collection of at least two recyclables in 2006-07 (BV91b). The Household Waste Recycling Act 2003 requires authorities to provide a kerbside collection service of at least two recyclable materials by 31 December 2010.

Reservoirs

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he plans to change the criteria for assessing reservoir safety from a capacity-based definition to one based on risk; and if he will make a statement. [210854]

Mr. Woolas [holding answer 13 June 2008]: Reservoir safety issues are being considered by Sir Michael Pitt in his independent review of last summer’s floods and I await his recommendations.

Waste Disposal: Crime

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar of 14 January 2008, Official Report, column 868W, on waste disposal: crime, for what reasons the regulations will not come into force until April 2009; and if he will make a statement. [210364]

Joan Ruddock: Proposals for strengthened powers for local authorities to stop, search and seize vehicles suspected of involvement in fly-tipping form part of a wider package of measures designed to tackle illegal waste activity which has been discussed with stakeholders during the course of the last year. The Government issued a consultation document on all these measures on 13 June 2008. This consultation will end in September 2008. Allowing sufficient time for consideration of responses and detailed policy development means that the legislation will not come into force before the common commencement date in April 2009.


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Water Supply: Yorkshire and the Humber

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his latest estimate is of the water reserves of (a) Yorkshire and Humberside and (b) Leeds Metropolitan District; and if he will make a statement. [211184]

Mr. Woolas: In Yorkshire and Humberside reservoir stocks currently stand at 86 per cent. full and groundwater levels are average for this time of year.

In south Humberside reservoir stocks are healthy, with reservoir levels at Covenham, for example, standing at 98 per cent. full. For the Leeds area specifically, stocks currently stand at 88 per cent. The Environment Agency continues to routinely monitor the situation.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Biofuels

Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the cost of meeting the UK's provisional target under the proposed Renewable Energy Directive of 15 per cent. of total energy coming from renewable sources by 2020 with levels of use of biofuels of (a) 1 per cent. by volume of the road fuel market, (b) 5 per cent. by volume of the road fuel market, (c) 10 per cent. by volume of the road fuel market and (d) 10 per cent. of final consumption of energy used in transport. [210207]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 11 June 2008]: There could be a range of different costs to meet the UK's share of the renewable energy target, depending on a range of factors. We will be setting out initial analysis of the potential costs of meeting the target in our renewable energy consultation, which will be published over the summer.

Broadband

Mr. Sarwar: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of levels of take-up of broadband in (a) Glasgow, (b) urban areas in Scotland and (c) urban areas in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [208249]

Malcolm Wicks: The matter raised is the responsibility of the independent regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), which is accountable to Parliament. I have asked the chief executive of Ofcom to reply directly to the hon. Member. Copies of the chief executive's letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Business: Sustainable Development

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the ways in which adoption of sustainable development practices and technologies is likely to affect businesses. [209333]


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Malcolm Wicks: BERR jointly chaired the Commission on Environmental Markets and Economic Performance (CEMEP) into sustainability and the potential benefits of a transition to a low carbon economy. The Government published their response on 1 May. BERR has commissioned research, due to report later this month, to investigate the business opportunities for the UK in moving to a low carbon economy and is supporting work by the OECD which will enable businesses and government to better understand the impacts on the environment, and company performance, of business activity on sustainable development. BERR is also working to develop an environment-adjusted productivity measure which may in the future be used to evaluate policies at the aggregate and sectoral level. In general, all published research commissioned by the Department is made available on the website.

Copyright: Internet

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform when he expects to begin a public consultation on legislative proposals to require internet service providers and rights-holders to co-operate in the prevention and detection of illegal file-sharing. [209300]

Malcolm Wicks: Our preferred option remains a voluntary solution. We are keen to see an agreement that meets the criteria of fairness, legality, effectiveness and flexibility for all the parties involved. We have to recognise, though, that our hopes for such an agreement may be too ambitious. It would be very disappointing if we have to legislate—but nobody should doubt our willingness to do so if an agreement cannot be reached.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what discussions he has had with (a) internet service providers, (b) rights holders and (c) consumer groups on (i) voluntary co-operation and (ii) possible legislation against illegal file sharing; and what the outcomes were of those discussions. [209304]

Malcolm Wicks: Both Ministers and officials in BERR have had meetings with a wide range of internet service providers, rights holders and representatives of consumers both in the run up to, and following, the publication of the Creative Economy Strategy Paper on 22 February 2008 in which we announced that, while voluntary commercial solutions to the problem would be preferable, we would consult on legislation that would require internet service providers and rights holders to co-operate in taking action on illegal file sharing if suitable arrangements between ISPs and relevant sectors were not forthcoming or proved insufficient. Those discussions have significantly informed our understanding of the issues involved, the potential for an industry solution and possible regulatory approaches if necessary.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the number of music tracks illegally downloaded in each of the last five years. [209357]


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Malcolm Wicks: BERR has made no such estimates. The nature of the problem means that it is very difficult to obtain robust data on. According to studies conducted by Jupiter Research, commissioned by the BPI, 6.5 million people in the UK engaged in online music “piracy” in 2007. A separate survey by Entertainment Media Research showed that in 2007 some 43 per cent. of respondents had downloaded unauthorised music from file-sharing sites, although a different survey by Olswang into convergence reported lower figures, whereby only 14 per cent. of respondents admitted unlawfully copying music.


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