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Agenda 21

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what collation of Local Agenda 21 plans is undertaken by her Department; and what monitoring of their progress is made. [25823]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 9 January 2002]: The Prime Minister set a target for all local authorities to have a Local Agenda 21 strategy in place by end 2000. A Government office survey showed that 93 per cent. of local authorities met this target. Local authorities now have a statutory duty, under the Local Government Act 2000, to prepare community strategies for promoting the social, environmental and economic well-being of their area. Guidance makes clear that these should continue the work done on LA21 strategies. The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions has responsibility for community strategies. Progress is reported through a best value performance indicator.

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River Tees

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent steps have been taken to improve the cleanliness of the Tees in the last five years; and what improvements there have been in the life of the river resulting from such action. [25445]

Mr. Meacher: The Tees Barrage, which became operational in 1996, protects the river Tees from pollution discharged to the estuary and the river upstream of the barrage is now generally of good or very good quality. In 2001, 1,260 salmon and sea trout were counted in the fish trap at the Tees Barrage compared with 241 sea trout and salmon five years earlier. However, numbers of fish trapped in the barrage fish trap represent only a fraction of those running through the estuary and it is estimated that up to 20,000 salmon and sea trout migrated through the Tees during 2001. There is now also a healthy colony of breeding seals at Teesmouth.

The Environment Agency, working with industry, Northumbrian Water, local authorities and English Nature has also overseen dramatic improvements in water quality in the Tees estuary. In 2000, Northumbrian Water completed and commissioned the Bran Sands Treatment Complex at a cost of £270 million. Domestic sewage and industrial effluents are now biologically treated to a very high standard before being discharged to the estuary.

Whereas 10 years ago there was no oxygen present in the estuary during the warm summer months, the main estuary is now classed as good or fair quality.

Biological oxygen demand (BOD) which measures the amount of oxygen consumed in water, usually by organic pollution, has been reduced from a daily load of 150 tonnes in 1990 to 35 tonnes in 2000. The daily load of ammonia, which is toxic to fish, has been reduced from 59 tonnes in 1990 to 14 tonnes in 2000. Inputs of other toxins such as organic chemicals and metals have also been reduced as a result of improved processes and treatment systems, better environmental management, recycling and reuse. Two major ammonia reduction investments in 2001 should bring environmental benefits in 2002. Programmes to further reduce ammonia and biological oxygen demand are programmed for 2002.

Sustainable Development Commission Review

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost was of (a) printing, (b) publishing and (c) distributing the Sustainable Development Commission Review. [25283]

Mr. Meacher: I understand from the Sustainable Development Commission that the approximate printing, publishing and distribution costs of their review were as follows:

All of these figures exclude VAT.

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Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action she is taking to reduce fly-tipping. [25356]

Mr. Meacher: The unlawful deposit of waste without a waste management licence or registered exemption (commonly known as fly-tipping) is a criminal offence. In the event of a conviction, severe penalties are available to the courts, including an unlimited fine or imprisonment of up to five years.

Section 59 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, provides a local authority or the Environment Agency with the power to effect the removal of fly-tipped waste and to recover costs from those responsible.

The Environment Agency continues to give the need to combat fly-tipping a high priority. The agency is currently working to establish a central unit to co-ordinate its approach to environmental crime. This unit will work with other key enforcement bodies, such as local authorities, the police and HM Customs and Excise, and will target particular environmental and economic threats such as fly-tipping.

In addition the Fly-Tipping Stakeholder's Forum, which comprises local authorities, business and landowners representatives and is chaired by the Environment Agency, meets regularly to develop practical solutions and to develop co-ordinated action to combat the problem of fly-tipping.

Dairy Farming

David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of the EU's policy of cutting export refunds for whole milk and skimmed milk production on (a) the United Kingdom and (b) the Northern Ireland dairy sector. [26127]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 11 January 2002]: Export refunds for dairy products may be set to compensate for the difference between world and EU prices. When this gap narrows, as was the case earlier last year, the refunds are reduced. When it widens, as is the case at present, the refunds may be increased. But in setting export refunds for dairy products the Commission and the Management Committee for Milk and Milk Products are required to consider a number of factors. These include the objectives of the Common Organisation of the Market, the supply of dairy products on EU markets (required, for example, for food manufacture), as well as the difference between world and EU prices. In the last quarter of 2001 weak world markets made it difficult for EU traders to export, including the Northern Irish dairy sector which relies particularly heavily on exports of milk powders. The UK therefore supported proposals for higher export refunds for these products which were agreed in November and December 2001. The market situation is being kept under review.

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to assist the dairy farming industry in the United Kingdom. [25947]

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Mr. Morley [holding answer 11 January 2002]: The report of the Milk Task Force has now been received and passed on to the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food for it to take account of the recommendations in forming its own views. In advance of receiving the report of the policy commission, it would be premature to speculate on any future actions.

IACS Payments

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Government received their payment from the European Commission for IACS payments. [26089]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 11 January 2002]: Reimbursement from the Commission is sought after expenditure to which it relates has been incurred and is received approximately two months after payments are made.

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will pay interest to farmers who do not receive IACS payments by 31 January. [26088]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 11 January 2002]: The EC regulations do not provide for the payment of interest. The extent to which any claimants might be entitled to compensation for delays in their payments will be considered in the light of the circumstances at the time.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many samples tested for foot and mouth disease of (a) cattle, (b) sheep, (c) pigs and (d) other species proved (i) positive and (ii) negative. [24089]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 19 December 2001]: Details of individual samples taken are not recorded centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. However, 2,359 premises which were affected by foot and mouth disease had samples taken for laboratory testing, of which 1,328 returned positive results and 1,026 returned negative results. I should point out in this context that a negative result does not necessarily mean that there is no virus present. Five results are currently unknown.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farm animals were slaughtered (a) on non-contiguous premises, (b) on infected premises and (c) as dangerous contacts on contiguous premises in (i) November and (ii) December 2001. [26355]

Mr. Morley: In November and December 2001, there were no cases of foot and mouth disease and therefore no animals were slaughtered on infected premises and no animals were slaughtered as dangerous contacts on contiguous premises.

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However, during November 2001, 71 farm animals were slaughtered on non-contiguous premises. 70 of these animals were slaughtered as dangerous contacts, one was slaughtered on suspicion. In December 2001, one farm animal was slaughtered as a dangerous contact on a non-contiguous premises.

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