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Climate Change

12. Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): What steps his Department is taking to encourage best practice in adaptation to climate change in the countryside. [219298]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Joan Ruddock): We have a cross-government programme on adaptation, and a framework for adaptation is established through the Climate Change Bill. DEFRA is working with regional rural affairs forums, Farming Futures and the rural climate change forum to help raise awareness and encourage best practice.

Rob Marris: I am delighted that at last we have a cross-government framework on adaptation. What funding did DEFRA include in its budgets for research into, and knowledge transfer regarding, climate change adaptation in rural communities, including for productive agriculture?

Joan Ruddock: I thank my hon. Friend. This is a very important issue, and next week I intend to launch the adapting to climate change website, which will show what is happening across the whole of Government. This is not just a DEFRA issue; it is across the whole of Government, and an accompanying document will be published. But I can tell him that £5 million per year has been given to a research programme on agriculture and climate change, which includes research on the impacts of climate change on agriculture and how the sector can adapt. We are also working with the rural climate change forum, as I said. We have provided £250,000 up to March 2009 to Farming Futures, which aims to provide for farmers practical advice on adaptation.
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There is not time to go into what we are doing on biodiversity, but enabling biodiversity to adapt to climate change is also very significant, and money is being spent.


13. Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): What progress has been made in increasing producer responsibility for packaging, as referred to in his Department’s framework for pro-environmental behaviours. [219299]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Joan Ruddock): Earlier this year, I raised the packaging recovery targets for 2008, 2009 and 2010, which came into force on 14 March. The targets for 2008 have been set to ensure that the UK meets the current EU targets. Targets post-2008 are designed to ensure continued compliance with the EU and to reflect ambitions outlined in the Government’s waste strategy.

Mr. Illsley: The document referred to in my question—the Department’s framework for pro-environmental behaviours—makes only one reference to packaging. It is one line on page 49, which says the Government will seek to

despite the fact that only 3 per cent. of all the material that goes to landfill is packaging and, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, recovery targets have been increased. The difficulty for the industry is that it now cannot recycle much of the material collected, because it is of such poor quality. Will she take that on board and, with her colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government, try to improve the possibility of recycling better materials?

Joan Ruddock: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work on packaging, which is very important. The reason why we must pay a lot of attention to packaging is that in many cases it is avoidable. The public believe that it is avoidable, and they want something done about it. So we will not resile from that. We recently produced information through WRAP—the Waste and Resources Action Programme—which is the Government-funded organisation that deals with waste, that shows us that in the current market, kerbside sorting is more effective for local authorities than single co-mingling, and that costs are similar if two streams are co-mingled but paper is kept separate. So local authorities can benefit from kerbside separation. Kerbside sort achieves the higher-quality recyclates that my hon. Friend wants to see produced. So we are providing a great deal of assistance to local authorities and giving them advice. Contrary to the popular belief that co-mingling is the easiest thing for consumers, we have found that the size of bins matters in determining how much consumers recycle. We will not hesitate to try to get better recycling quality and levels from our local authorities, because that is what our citizens want.

Topical Questions

T1. [219312] Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

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The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): DEFRA’s responsibility is to enable us all to live within our environmental means. I wish to inform the House that we are today publishing a discussion paper entitled, “Ensuring the UK’s Food Security in a Changing World”. The UK currently has a secure food supply, but with recent sharp increases in food and fuel prices, a growing world population and climate change, it is sensible that we think about the impact of those changes on food supply in the years ahead. I look forward to receiving views on the paper.

Alun Michael: I congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking a decision about badger culling, based on the science and the evidence. Given that we have a long and porous border between Wales and England, does he agree that any widespread culling of badgers in Wales would be bad for farmers in Wales and could be bad for farmers in England?

Hilary Benn: Those decisions in Wales are, of course, devolved matters, and we will keep in close contact with the Welsh Assembly Government as they take forward their proposals. I reached the view that badger culling could not make a contribution to the control of disease, in line with the advice given to me by the independent scientific group, for the reasons that I have set out very clearly to the House.

T2. [219313] Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): The Fisheries Minister will be aware that earlier this week Commissioner Borg recognised the acute difficulties faced by the industry, and made available some €2 billion for a compensation fund. In light of that, will the Minister reopen dialogue with the industry in this country to see what use can be made of the money provided by Mr. Borg? Of course, if we do not take it up, it will be taken up by fishing industries in other countries in the EU.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jonathan Shaw): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue. He is right to draw to the House’s attention the fact that the Fisheries Council met on 15 July, when we discussed bringing in new flexibilities and new regulations for the European fisheries fund. The flexibilities will allow for some decommissioning, not just of whole fleets but, as we discussed with the Commissioner, of fleet segments, either geographically or by sector. We will look closely at, and talk to the industry about, the changes that are being made, so that we can implement them to best effect. As I have said in previous debates, both to him and to the industry, I do not subscribe to subsidies for red diesel. I know that prices have gone up greatly, but for the fishing industry, no duty is applied. If I applied the full de minimis provisions, it would provide the UK fleet with one month’s relief at last year’s prices, and I do not think that that is a good approach, even in the short term.

T7. [219319] Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): In the several months since I last raised the issue with the departmental team, what progress has been made on bringing forward incentives to introduce biodegradable chewing gum? Chewing gum blights our townscapes and spoils our children’s outings. Members
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on both sides of the House have been raising the issue for several months now. Will the Minister tell us when he will be able to introduce a measure to improve the incentives? [Interruption.] He may think that it is funny—or rather there may be colleagues in the House who think it is funny, but I assure him, and them, that it is not funny for people whose families are affected, or whose town is blighted by chewing gum.

Jonathan Shaw: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the city that he represents, Nottingham, the council reckons that it spends more than £12,000 on clearing up the flipping stuff. I know that he, as the chair of One Nottingham, his local area agreement, would rather use that money for things of far more advantage—

Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): Sticky stuff!

Jonathan Shaw: The hon. Gentleman makes jokey remarks about the subject, but chewing gum costs councils a lot of money, and it is antisocial. We can say to people, “Put it in the bin.” We have a campaign that supports local councils in encouraging people to put their chewing gum in the bin. Where councils have taken up that campaign, they have seen a reduction in the problem. On manufacturing—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must stop the Minister there. We are up against the clock.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): Let us return to food. Was it prudent of the Prime Minister to take time out to lecture us all about the amount of food that we throw away when it turns out that 15 Government Departments do not even know how much of the food that they buy with our taxpayers’ money they throw away every year? Is that not just another case of “Do as we say, not as we do”?

Hilary Benn: No, it is not. May I say that it is very nice to see the hon. Gentleman back at the Dispatch Box? I have missed him of late. We published information on the amount of perfectly usable food that gets thrown away. The information had been collected as a result of research that was undertaken; that is common sense. I think that a lot of people will be surprised, as I was, to learn of the amount of food that was being thrown away; the information makes us more aware. If we can save money and not contribute to climate change—the methane that flows from that food goes into landfill—it is very sensible to do so.

Mr. Ainsworth: Changing the subject, I am sure that the whole House will agree that it was a great day for wildlife conservation when, in 1989, the international community banned the trade in ivory. I am sure that most of us would also agree that it was a regrettable day when, in 1997, Robert Mugabe led a successful challenge to that ban. Are the Government proud that on Tuesday, acting on behalf of the EU, an official from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs voted to allow China to import ivory? Surely the best way to deal with the continuing illegal trade in ivory is to choke off demand, not stoke it in that way.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Joan Ruddock): The hon. Gentleman knows, because I have written to him at length, that the decision was taken on behalf of
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the EU. Ministers were involved in that decision, which was not taken by an official. The decision was originally taken in principle by the international community in 2002 to allow a number of African states that had legal stockpiles of ivory to undertake a one-off sale. The conditions on the buyers in those sales were laid down by an international body that protects wildlife. Japan met the conditions, and China applied to meet the conditions. After a year of inquiry, China was found to meet the criteria, which are about safeguarding the import of legal stocks, ensuring that stocks are only moved around legally and making sure that illegal ivory is not laundered. After the last one-off sale, which went to Japan, may I tell the hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must tell the Minister that her reply has taken more than a minute, and that I must consider Back Benchers.

T8. [219320] Mrs. Linda Riordan (Halifax) (Lab/Co-op): Is the Minister aware of the recent report on reward-only waste incentive schemes in the US? Are there any plans to introduce such incentives in this country?

Joan Ruddock: Local authorities can already introduce reward-only schemes. We have piloted such schemes in this country, which qualify for the incentive pilots that will be on offer next year. I understand that the Opposition are promoting such schemes, but the problem is that the shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), has instructed Tory councils not to co-operate with the Government. Furthermore, the US schemes depend on chips in bins, which the hon. Gentleman has described as “an invasion of privacy”. The Conservative party is in a pickle over its waste strategy.

T3. [219314] Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): DEFRA’s new company reporting rules for carbon may be based on grid average electricity, even if companies have renewable energy onsite, which might undermine the green energy market and lead companies to declare imaginary carbon that they have not really emitted. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet industry representatives and hon. Members from both sides of the House in an attempt to resolve that obvious anomaly?

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Phil Woolas): The answer is yes. I am more than happy to do that, and the hon. Gentleman has raised an important point.

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): I welcome the Government’s decision to publish proposals on tackling food security. Many of our constituents, especially those on low incomes, face real problems with rising food prices. What contribution does the Secretary of State believe that British farmers can make to increasing our food security and reducing prices in the shops?

Hilary Benn: The most important contribution is to do what they are doing already, which is to produce food that people want to buy. If we are to deal with global price increases, we need a lot more agricultural
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production around the world, including in Africa. If Africa cannot increase production to feed a growing population, it will add to pressure on prices for the available stocks of food, which will affect UK consumers in the end. More production in the world is the single most important thing.

Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): The Department knows that bluetongue strand 1 is spreading rapidly from south to north Spain, and is moving in our direction. I understand that the vaccines that we have in the UK are for a different strand of bluetongue. Will the Secretary of State tell us how useful those vaccines will be against that strand? If they are not effective, what is his strategy?

Hilary Benn: Like hon. Members, I am aware of the new strain that is coming up through Europe. It is a different type, and our vaccine deals with the bluetongue strain that we currently face; the vaccination is rolling out extremely successfully. We are carefully examining the implications of the change in the strain, when the strain might come to the UK, and what we need to do to respond. Vaccination has been shown to work, and I hope that it will deal with the new strain, if it comes. I shall be happy to respond further to the hon. Gentleman.

T4. [219316] Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): Because of the discovery of bovine TB in calves exported to the Netherlands, all cattle exports to the European Union are now at risk. What steps will the Secretary of State take to address this problem, specifically to try to find a way of testing that works with calves?

Hilary Benn: The right hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important point. We are urgently investigating the circumstances surrounding this case. We have been in contact with the Dutch authorities and with the Commission, and I will report further to the House.

T5. [219317] Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): On 24 June, a rabbit with cryptosporidiosis hopped into the water treatment works at Pitsford, in my constituency, and contaminated the water supply for 250,000 people. Is the Secretary of State as impressed as I am by the response of Anglian Water, the local media and others, which could not have been any better?

Hilary Benn: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking that question. I am indeed impressed by how this has been dealt with. I also pay tribute to local Members of Parliament for the role that he and others have played. Giving good information and timely advice, and keeping people in touch with what is happening and when it is safe to start drinking the water again, is exactly how such incidents should be dealt with. I applaud all those involved for the efforts that they have made.

T9. [219321] Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): Further to the questions asked by the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) and the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray), has the Secretary of State considered whether instead of looking at the need to bear down on bovine TB as a nationwide problem, it
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might be better to form partnerships in the hot- spot areas between scientists, environmentalists and farmers, who know more about the problems within the locality, in order to find local solutions?

Hilary Benn: That is a very helpful suggestion. As I have said to the House, I want to establish a TB partnership
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group precisely so that all the means at our disposal that are effective—that is the heart of the debate—can be used. I am waiting for the industry to come and participate in the mechanism that I have proposed so that we can bring together all those who have an interest in this disease and all the effective means of dealing with it, and get on with it.
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Business of the House

11.31 am

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): May I ask the Leader of the House to give us the forthcoming business?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 21 July—Topical debate on the Bercow review of services for children and young people (0-19) with speech, language and communication needs followed by consideration of Lords Amendments to the Housing and Regeneration Bill.

Tuesday 22 July—Motion on the summer recess Adjournment followed by consideration of Lords Amendments to the Crossrail Bill. Colleagues will wish to be reminded that the House will meet at 11.30 am on this day. The House will not adjourn until the Speaker has signified Royal Assent.

The business for the week commencing 6 October will include:

Monday 6 October—Second Reading of the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 7 October—Opposition day (19th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Wednesday 8 October—Remaining stages of the Children and Young Persons Bill [Lords].

Thursday 9 October—Topical debate: subject to be announced followed by a general debate on defence in the UK.

I should like to wish all hon. Members and all staff of the House—the whole team of staff, from my excellent private office to the dedicated House of Commons cleaners—a good recess.

Mrs. May rose—

Ms Harman: I am sorry—I did not turn the page over. It is that hard being Leader of the House!

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for October will be:

Thursday 9 October—A debate on the report from the Children, Schools and Families Committee on testing and assessment.

Thursday 16 October—A debate on the report from the Business and Enterprise Committee entitled “Jobs for the Girls: Two years on”.

Thursday 23 October—A debate on the 30th annual House of Commons Commission report.

Thursday 30 October—A debate on the report from the Public Administration Committee entitled “Politics and Administration: Ministers and civil servants”.

Mr. Speaker: Is the Leader of the House sure that she is finished?

Mrs. May: I think that the Leader of the House has lost the plot as well as the page. I echo the comments that she made, however, and as this is the last business questions before the recess, Mr. Speaker, I wish you, all right hon. and hon. Members, all staff of this House and Members’ staff a happy summer recess.

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