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14 Oct 2008 : Column 1043W—continued


Domestic Waste: Waste Disposal

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research his Department has commissioned in relation to household waste prevention and restriction in the last five years. [224620]

Jane Kennedy: The Waste and Resources Evidence Programme is completing a number of research projects under the themes of household waste prevention and behaviour change as listed as follows. 12 such projects were funded in 2005-06 and a further four projects were added to this portfolio in 2006-07.

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The Department has just commissioned a review study to help distil the evidence emerging from this and other research focussed on waste prevention. This new project is scheduled to report in the spring of 2009. The project team will work with DEFRA staff to consolidate findings from the Waste and Resources Evidence Programme, the Environmental Behaviours Unit and other parts of DEFRA, together with work undertaken by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the Environment Agency and other relevant published work.

Fisheries: Nature Conservation

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will hold discussions at EU level to seek to ensure that action to prevent fishing activity on sites designated as being of European importance is taken under the Habitats Directive. [222737]

Huw Irranca-Davies: My officials are in regular contact with the Commission on this matter. While sites of Community importance are designated under the EC habitats directive (92/43/EEC) any action that may be required to restrict fishing activity in these areas would be taken under the common fisheries policy.

Flood Control: Agriculture

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding his Department has budgeted to spend on projects investigating the contribution of farming to flood attenuation on flood plains in the next three years. [225309]

Jane Kennedy: There is a large body of current research examining the impact of land use and land management on flood risk management. Examples include the Environment Agency funded flood risk management research consortium and the DEFRA-led multi-objective flood management demonstration project, which is spending £500,000 to look at the impact of land use management on flood risk management.

The Environment Agency's science programme spends over £4 million annually investigating flood and coastal risk. The programme contains projects that consider the impact farming can have on flood risk.

Floods: Farms

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will amend regulations to allow farmers easier access to their land during flood conditions. [224810]

Jane Kennedy: As part of the cross-compliance requirements linked to EU direct aid payments, EU member states must define minimum requirements for good agricultural and environmental condition. One such requirement in England is a restriction on farmers carrying out mechanical field operations or using motorised vehicles on waterlogged soil to maintain soil structure and prevent compaction when soils are waterlogged.


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Where exceptional weather conditions exist the Secretary of State can grant temporary exemptions from that requirement to enable farmers to, for example, harvest their crops. The Secretary of State granted such an exemption on 10 September this year until 4 October due to the exceptional weather conditions and this has recently been extended until 25 October. A similar exemption was also granted last year. It is important to note that farmers are still required to assess any resulting damage to soil and take remedial action as soon as possible.

Floods: Livestock

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the level of loss of livestock incurred in the recent floods. [224808]

Jane Kennedy: The floods in the north-east in September caused considerable difficulties to livestock farmers in the area. We have not assessed the number of livestock lost but local estimates indicate the numbers were relatively low, although a small number of individual farmers may have faced significant losses. Local and regional bodies, including local authorities, One North East, and representatives from the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and Animal Health, worked closely together to assist those affected.

Floods: Morpeth

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the operation of flood warnings to parts of Morpeth during the recent floods. [225510]

Jane Kennedy: The Environment Agency is assessing the operation of flood warnings in Morpeth during the recent floods. The Environment Agency is reviewing the number and extent of warning areas and is revising its procedures to ensure that only the correct sequence of warnings can be issued in Morpeth.

Food: Procurement

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress his Department has made on the development of a local food procurement policy. [226228]

Jane Kennedy: The legal framework governing public procurement does not allow public bodies to give greater weight to locally produced food and drink when awarding contracts. This is because public bodies are required to ensure public procurement is fair, transparent and not used to discriminate by setting up barriers to free trade. It would also reduce competition contrary to UK public procurement policy that is designed to achieve value for money for the taxpayer.

The legal and policy framework does provide public bodies with plenty of flexibility to be innovative in their procurement and, for example, we are encouraging them through the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI) to increase tendering opportunities for small and local producers. How they can do this is explained in the advice on the PSFPI website, including the guides
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“Putting it into practice” and “How to increase opportunities for small and local producers when aggregating food procurement”.

Incinerators: Hazardous Substances

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information his Department uses when formulating guidance for the public and local authorities about the assessment of safety of incinerator bottom ash. [225228]

Jane Kennedy: My Department has not produced any guidance on the assessment of the safety of incinerator bottom ash. The Environment Agency, as the principal regulator for the waste controls in England and Wales, has recently produced a position note on the classification of incinerator bottom ash, which is available on their website.

Incinerators: Pollution

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what research the Environment Agency has undertaken in conjunction with the Environmental Services Association to evaluate the toxicity testing of incinerator bottom ash; [225188]

(2) what are the most recent test results on the toxicity of incinerator bottom ash to have been made public; [225225]

(3) if he will place in the Library a copy of the study undertaken by the Environmental Services Association with the support of the Environment Agency on H14 ecotoxicity testing of incinerator bottom ash. [225227]

Jane Kennedy: The Environment Agency has not undertaken any research in conjunction with the Environmental Services Association to evaluate the toxicity testing of incinerator bottom ash. However, we understand a study was undertaken by the Environmental Services Association into this issue, but the Department has not seen and does not possess its results.

More generally, the operators of incinerators are required by their environmental permits to report periodically on the elemental composition of the bottom ashes produced by the incinerators. These reports do not equate to test results on toxicity testing. The reports are placed on the Environment Agency's Public Register and can be inspected at the Environment Agency's Area offices.

Landfill: Hazardous Substances

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what toxicity tests his Department requires to be undertaken of landfill disposal of non-hazardous waste. [225226]

Jane Kennedy: Where waste is destined for landfill, it is the responsibility of the waste producer to characterise the waste and determine whether it is non-hazardous. Non-hazardous waste is not required to be tested for toxicity.


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Landfill operators may be required to carry out certain monitoring and testing under the terms of their environmental permit.

Marine Bill: Draft

Mr. Leech: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consideration has been given to merging the provisions of the Marine Bill and the Marine Navigation Bill in a single Bill. [225820]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The links between the Marine Bill and Marine Navigation Bill have been considered and the issue was briefly discussed by the Joint Committee on the Draft Marine Bill during its pre-legislative scrutiny. Work on the Marine Navigation Bill is being led by the Department for Transport. The Marine Bill is concerned with creating and delivering a strategic management framework for the UK’s marine resources. By contrast, the Marine Navigation Bill is concerned very specifically with improving safety at sea and in our ports, and with updating the powers of the bodies responsible for maritime safety.

Although there is no direct linkage between the Marine Navigation Bill and the Marine Bill, there are possible synergies with the proposals for the setting up of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to deliver marine functions around the UK, such as licensing. In this they are complementary, sharing aims of better regulation, but the two Bills are otherwise too different to justify combining them into a single Bill.

Pigeons: Avian Influenza

Jessica Morden: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans his Department has to undertake a new risk assessment on the impact of avian influenza on racing pigeons. [222613]

Jane Kennedy: The veterinary risk assessment (VRA) relating to pigeon racing and avian influenza has been reviewed and as a result the General Licence for bird gatherings was amended. This took place on 8 September and details can be found on our website.

Racing pigeons are no longer required to undergo a seven day isolation following a race from continental Europe and pigeons from outside the UK will no longer be required to be in the UK for 28 days prior to a race. This means that pigeons from continental Europe can now be gathered with birds from the UK without undergoing a quarantine period.

In the event of an avian influenza outbreak or case, DEFRA will assess if the General Licence in force at that time needs to be revoked or amended.

Plastics: Waste Disposal

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications of the outcomes of research on the dissolution of polythene by the application of microbes for his policy to reduce the amount of plastic packaging in the waste stream; and if he will make a statement. [225393]


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Jane Kennedy: DEFRA are aware of academic research on this issue in the USA and Japan. The technology would need considerable development before it can be applied in industrial use.

In the meantime, we are looking at other ways to reduce the amount of plastic packaging used at source, including through reducing the amount of plastic used per unit of packaging.

DEFRA is commissioning evidence reviews to identify the life cycle impacts of various types of plastic; this will help determine our future policies on plastics packaging.

Powers of Entry

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) primary and (b) secondary legislation sponsored by his Department and its predecessor has (i) amended and (ii) enhanced existing powers of entry since May 1997. [221932]

Huw Irranca-Davies: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him on 8 October 2008, Official Report, column 577W.

Rabies

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cases of rabies were reported in the UK in each of the last three years; and what steps the Government are taking to reduce the incidence of rabies world-wide. [225432]

Jane Kennedy: There have been no cases of classical rabies in the last three years (September 2005 to October 2008) in the UK outside of UK quarantine facilities. Rabies was confirmed in two puppies in a UK quarantine facility in Chingford in April this year. These puppies were imported into quarantine from Sri Lanka.

A strain of rabies called European Bat Lyssavirus (or bat rabies) has been found in Daubenton's bats in the UK on three occasions since September 2005. Details are available on the DEFRA website.

Action against rabies disease worldwide is the responsibility of the Department for International Development.

DEFRA supports a large programme of research into rabies and related viruses, with some £500,000 committed annually for studies undertaken at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) and the Central Science Laboratory (CSL).

There are two main thrusts to the work underway, with VLA taking forward studies to characterise rabies viruses isolated from across the globe that will develop our knowledge of potential threats and inform on effectiveness of vaccines. The VLA also serve as the international reference laboratory for rabies and take forward research on the development and validation of diagnostic tests.

The research at CSL seeks to understand the ecology and management of wildlife vectors of rabies in support of contingency planning for wildlife rabies control.


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