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During this period I have written three times to all Members of Parliament, Members of the House of Lords, and a wide range of organisations seeking comments and evidence. Last month I held three days of public hearings in Portcullis House when all three main campaign groups joined me to hear and question evidence given by experts.
This has been an exceptionally open and, as has been acknowledged on all sides, transparent process. I am now carefully examining the evidence I have received both in response to the letters and in the hearings, and I shall shortly bring forward proposals based on the principles and the process set out in my statement to this House on 21 March.
During the last half year I have written twice to all Members of Parliament, Peers and a wide range of organisations seeking comments and evidence. In addition, last month I held three days of public hearings in Portcullis House when all three main campaign groups joined me to hear and question evidence given by experts.
This has been an exceptionally open process. I am now carefully examining the evidence I have received both in response to the letters and in the hearings, and I shall shortly bring forward legislative proposals based on the principles of minimising suffering and recognising utility.
Alun Michael: We have no plans to make national financial assistance available for the effects of wet weather. However, the Government is fully aware of the problems facing producers in certain areas of the United Kingdom, and through working closely with the European Commission, we have been able to bring forward payments to affected producers, and to secure exemptions for them from certain CAP scheme rules.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her estimate is of the proportion of household waste that was recycled in the last year for which figures are available. 
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Mr. Meacher: The WEEE directive is still in draft. The text should be finalised later this year and this will allow detailed implementation plans to commence. There has already been significant consultation with business and other stakeholders. This will continue.
Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many tonnes of fruit and vegetables were destroyed by the EU in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what funding was provided for this purpose. 
Mr. Morley: Provisional figures for the marketing year 200102 indicate that some 0.6 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables were withdrawn from the EU market at a cost of 59 million euros (approximately #36 million).
Mr. Meacher: Environment Agency data from 199889 indicate that around 57 per cent. of waste produced by households, commerce and industry (including construction and demolition) is landfilled in England and Wales. 200001 figures for municipal waste in England show 78 per cent. going to landfill.
The UK still landfills too great a proportion of its waste; this is neither sensible nor sustainable. However, in view of local authority recycling and composting targets, the forthcoming Landfill Directive targets to reduce the landfill of biodegradable waste and additional targets for the reducing the landfill of industrial and commercial waste, we would expect to see disposal to landfill to begin to decline over the next few years. Following the publication of the Strategy Unit's waste strategy review, the Government will consider what further action it can take to assist in this process.
Alun Michael: In November, the Government intends to launch a new Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food in England. This strategy will include a response to all of the Policy Commission's recommendations,
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Mr. Meacher: A total of 9 per cent. of municipal waste is currently incinerated in England. The latest data for industrial and commercial waste, including construction and demolition waste, indicate that just under 4 per cent. is incinerated.
Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representions she has received on the disposal of hazardous waste by incineration; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: I have met representatives of the high temperature incineration industry. We are seeking to address their concerns in working towards a thorough assessment of the options for the disposal of hazardous waste.
In addition, we announced special grant funding of #40 million for local authorities to cover their costs for this financial year. Additional help for future years was included in the Spending Review announced on 15 July.
Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the letter to the hon. Member for Linlithgow of 13 July, Reference MC 172596/am, what information she has submitted to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and its Advisory Council on Ecosystems about the proposal of Dr. David Conover that big fish should be returned to the sea, in the interests of total biomass harvested. 
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his conclusions are likely to have limited relevance to fish stocks exploited in the waters around the UK. One of the main reasons for this is that there are relatively few large fish in our waters. The priority in our fisheries is to help overfished stocks to recover by reducing the overall fishing rate on all sizes of fish and to help juvenile fish to survive beyond the age of maturity.
Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the Minister of State (Environment)'s letter 171977/JW of 16 September 2002, what action has been taken to follow up issues about magnesium carbonate and carbon sequestration. 
Mr. Meacher: Cement manufacture is a carbon intensive process and carbon dioxide emissions from this source in the UK are about 1 per cent. of our annual total emissions. Magnesium carbonate as an alternative to Portland Cement for use in the buildings and construction industry is claimed by a manufacturer in Australia to reduce the carbon emitted in manufacture and absorb carbon in use.
The Department of Trade and Industry funds a programme by the Buildings Research Establishment (BRE) that reviews development of low energy cements. Research is needed to prove the structure, durability and performance of magnesium carbonate in the UK context as well as confirming the claims for carbon sequestration and low embodied energy. BRE will be submitting an application for a research project on magnesium carbonate in this year's DTI Partners in Innovation competition round, and if successful the work would start in April 2003.
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