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9 Sep 2009 : Column 1916W—continued

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government are taking to extend the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority; and if the Minister will make a statement. [290949]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The extension of gangmaster licensing to other sectors of the economy was considered by the Vulnerable Worker Enforcement Forum in 2008. However, the Government concluded that the way forward was to prioritise effective enforcement of the existing law, not to introduce new regulation. We are doing this through a campaign to raise workers' awareness of employment rights, including the establishment of the new Pay and Work Rights Helpline, which provides workers with a single point of contact covering five different enforcement agencies, and by strengthening the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate which regulates agencies in sectors not covered by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government are taking to remove unlicensed gangmasters. [290950]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Under the Gangmasters Licensing Act it is an offence to operate as an unlicensed gangmaster, which, upon conviction, can result in punishment of up to 10 years' imprisonment, a fine or both. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) is responsible for enforcing the Act on behalf of Government, and now that it has moved on from its initial set up phase, the GLA is concentrating its resources on tackling those who operate outside the law. Operation Ajax was launched by the GLA in May 2008. This is a UK wide initiative to stamp out worker abuse by labour providers operating in the GLA sectors. Operation Ajax provides the brand under which the GLA undertakes individual enforcement and compliance operations against illegal and non-compliant labour providers. This type of approach is already used by other enforcement agencies to tackle criminality.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the likely effects of the recession on the number of unlicensed gangmasters. [290951]


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Huw Irranca-Davies: There has not been any specific assessment of the impact of the recession on the number of unlicensed gangmasters, but the Government recognise that difficult trading conditions might tempt employers to cut corners by operating without a licence, or otherwise maximise profits at the expense of their work force. With this in mind, the Government have recently reviewed the funding available to the GLA and have agreed additional amounts for this year and next, specifically to cover enforcement and operational activities. This will enable the GLA to recruit additional enforcement officers to target the areas where vulnerable workers are most at risk from unlicensed labour providers.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many gangmasters have been prosecuted by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority since its establishment. [290952]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) has carried out three successful prosecutions all for operating as a gangmaster without a licence. In May 2008, a labour provider from Perth in Scotland was sentenced to 18 months probation and 140 hours community service. In May 2009, an Edinburgh recruitment firm was given a fine of £200(1). On 1 September 2009, a Gangmaster based in the Morecambe Bay area, operating in shellfish gathering, was ordered to pay a fine of £600 and costs of £4,000.

There are a further four cases pending that have entered the court system:

Geomatics Group

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what contracts the Environment Agency's Geomatics Group has with local authorities. [290832]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Geomatics Group undertakes commercial contracts for a range of external clients including local authorities. The names of contracting organisations are commercially confidential.

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Environment Agency's Geomatics Group's public task is. [290833]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Geomatics Group is a specialist business unit within the Environment Agency that supplies high quality, geospatial data and customised services to the Environment Agency, Government agencies, non-governmental organisations and the commercial market.

Its range of products can be used in a wide variety of geospatial applications including:


9 Sep 2009 : Column 1918W

The group is reinforcing the work the Environment Agency is currently undertaking to identify and evaluate areas at risk from flooding across England and Wales. By identifying drainage patterns and water flow, it will help predict which areas and structures are most at risk from flooding in different weather conditions.

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many staff are employed in the Environment Agency's Geomatics Group. [290834]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Geomatics Group within the Environment Agency employs a total of 40 staff.

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the (a) turnover and (b) profit of the Environment Agency's Geomatics Group in 2009-2010. [290835]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The expected total turnover of the Geomatics Group for 2009-10 is £4,482,000. This includes work undertaken for the Environment Agency.

Geomatics Group makes no profit from work undertaken for the Environment Agency and the level of profit on work undertaken for external customers is commercially confidential.

River Thames: Pollution

Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the level of risk to the health and safety of swimmers and boaters from the discharge of sewage into the Thames in the area of Mogden, Isleworth on 3 July 2009. [288785]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Environment Agency manages the chemical environmental quality of the upper Thames estuary; there are no stipulated microbiological standards that are applied in the upper reaches.

Water quality assessment is based on the level of dissolved oxygen in the river which is important for protecting fish in the estuary.

Matters relating to public health are directed to the London Port Health Authority which provides advice and guidance on river usage involving public contact with water.

As part of the Environment Agency's protocol for managing pollution incidents on the Thames estuary, the London Port Health Authority is routinely informed of significant sewage-related incidents. This is to ensure that any necessary precautionary information can be made available to the public and this was the case in this incident.

There are no designated bathing waters that would have been affected by the discharges from the locations in west London.


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Shellfish: Colchester

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects a decision to be made on the application of protected geographic indicator status to the Colchester oyster; and if he will make a statement. [290738]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The application to register the Colchester Native Oyster, first received in 2005, had a number of objections received during the consultation process.

Officials subsequently met with representatives of the applicant group in May 2007 to discuss the objections and outstanding points relating to the product specification for the application. Further information relating to the geographical area and other aspects of the application was sought from the applicant group which, despite numerous and regular reminders from officials, has not been forthcoming.

As a result, it has not been possible to complete our assessment of the validity of the application for protected geographical indication status for the Colchester Native Oyster. Although the scheme is a voluntary one, we will continue to pursue this with the applicant group.

Water Charges

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he plans to take to assist voluntary groups, churches and charities affected by introduction of charges for surface water drainage. [290715]

Huw Irranca-Davies: I attended the meeting of the All Party Scout Group on 15 July and promised the cubs and scouts that this issue will be resolved. We are currently waiting to see revised proposals from United Utilities on what it is proposing for 2010-11 and beyond. I expect companies and the regulator to settle this in a way that is fair and reasonable and reflects Government guidance to Ofwat.

Weedkillers

Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with (a) representatives of Dow AgroScience Ltd. and (b) the Chemical Regulations Directorate on the relicensing of the herbicide aminopyralid; and if he will make a statement. [290689]

Huw Irranca-Davies: There have been no discussions with Dow Agrosciences Ltd. on this matter that have involved DEFRA Ministers. We have frequent discussions with the HSE's Chemicals Regulation Directorate, which is the part of central Government responsible for the regulation of pesticides, detergents, chemicals, on behalf of DEFRA Ministers.

We are currently considering the advice from the Advisory Committee on Pesticides that approvals for aminopyralid could be reinstated subject to various conditions.


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Northern Ireland

Departmental Electronic Equipment

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with reference to the answer of 25 November 2008, Official Report, column 1566W, on departmental electronic equipment, how much (a) his Department and (b) its agencies have spent on (i) flat screen televisions, (ii) DVD players and (iii) stereo equipment since November 2008. [289166]

Mr. Woodward: The following table shows expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), including the Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland and its agencies but excluding its NDPBs, on (i) flat screen televisions, (ii) DVD players and (iii) stereo equipment since November 2008:

Flat Screen Televisions DVD Players Stereo Equipment

NIO Core

3,848

1,947

0

Compensation Agency

0

20

0

Youth Justice Agency

2,413

2,008

375

Forensic Science NI

0

0

0


Northern Ireland Prison Service

For this agency, the details requested could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

All expenditure has to be incurred in accordance with the principles of Managing Public Money and the Treasury handbook on Regularity and Propriety.

Departmental Marketing

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much his Department spent on branded stationery and gifts for (a) internal and (b) external promotional use in each of the last five years. [287481]

Mr. Woodward: The costs requested for the Northern Ireland Office, including the Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland but excluding its Agencies and Executive NDPBs, in each of the last five years, are shown in the following table.

Internal(£) External (£)

2004-05

Nil

841

2005-06

318

26,149

2006-07

Nil

22,046

2007-08

665

23,868

2008-09

275

26,613


Departmental Postal Services

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much his Department spent on Royal Mail services in each of the last two years. [288737]

Mr. Woodward: The following table shows how much the Northern Ireland Office, including the Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland, but excluding its Agencies and Executive NDPBs, spent using Royal Mail in each of the last two years.


9 Sep 2009 : Column 1921W

Expenditure (£)

2007-08

£66,473

2008-09

£161,125


These figures exclude companies who operate franking machines and may make payments to Royal Mail. The £95,000 increase from 2007-08 to 2008-09 relates to an increase from £32,000 in 2007-08 to £81,000 in 2008-09 by the Chief Electoral Office due to the European elections and an increase from £371,000 in 2007-08 to £49,000 in 2008-09 by Access NI resulting from their first full operating year.


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