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Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Totnes concerning genetically-modified food dated 3 July 2003, Defra ref: 183640. 
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The FSA report to Parliament through Health Ministers, and I understand that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Public Health (Miss Melanie Johnson) wrote to the hon. Member on 21 September 2003.
Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the future of GM-free zones; and what plans she has to allow GM crops to be planted alongside conventional crops. 
Mr. Morley: We will consider the terms on which GM and non-GM crops might co-exist when we have received a report on this subject from the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission. This is due shortly. We are also considering our broader policy on GM crops in the light of all the available information, including the report of the GM public debate. It is not clear how compulsory GM-free zones would be consistent with European Union law. However, the European Commission has suggested that voluntary GM-free areas might be acceptable in circumstances where, for practical reasons, it is very difficult to achieve satisfactory co-existence arrangements.
Mr. Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the restrictions on importation and sale of products derived from farmed bears. 
Mr. Morley: Under animal health controls the importation into England of products derived from bears is only permitted on the basis of a valid import licence issued by Defra. Each application for a licence is assessed on its own merits and in deciding whether or not a licence should be issued consideration is given to any animal health risk the product may present. In addition, the international trade in all bear species and their parts and derivatives is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The Government implements strict policies on trade to conserve endangered species and maintains a precautionary approach banning all commercial trade in bear bile or gall bladders irrespective of whether or not they come from captive bred specimens, on the grounds that this trade is likely to be detrimental to the species. International trade in other products derived from farmed bears listed in the Appendices to CITES is subject to regulation to ensure that it stays below the level at which species might become endangered.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission; and if she will make a statement. 
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Mr. Bradshaw: The IWC has to operate within the terms of its parent treaty (the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling), which dates from 1946. Within the very real constraints of that treaty (which aims to facilitate the orderly development of the whaling industry and which also provides for unregulated whaling under "Special Permit" for scientific purposes), the IWC has done well to introduce and maintain, for almost 20 years, a moratorium on commercial whaling, to which all members, except Norway, subscribe. Changes to the terms of the parent treaty require the unanimous agreement of all; there is thus no prospect of securing desirable change while keeping pro-whaling countries within the ambit of the treaty.
Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the proportion of junk mail which can be recycled; what estimate she has made of the proportion of paper waste represented by junk mail in the last year for which figures are available; and what steps the Government are taking to reduce the volume of junk mail. 
Mr. Morley: Between 500,000 and 600,000 tonnes of paper was used in direct mail and promotions in the UK in 2002. In terms of total tonnage, this is a relatively small proportion of the overall paper waste stream. For example, the paper packaging waste flowing into the waste stream in 2002 was 3.7 million tonnes. However, junk mail is largely disposed of in the household waste and it should be possible to collect much of this paper for recycling.
The current level of recycling of junk mail is estimated to be some 13 per cent. We have, therefore, recently agreed a voluntary producer responsibility scheme with the industry to increase recycling of junk mail. Under this Agreement, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has undertaken to meet specific targets for the recycling of junk mail in the UK. The targets are:
55 per cent. by the end of 2009; and
70 per cent. by the end of 2013.
Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she intends to publish proposals for action arising from the "Living Places" consultation document and responses. 
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Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she plans to increase penalties for environmental pollution to create a greater incentive for companies to improve environmental performance. 
Mr. Morley: There are currently stiff penalties available under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. These offences on summary conviction can carry the statutory maximum, and on conviction on indictment, a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine or both. Defra is currently considering whether to introduce a sliding scale of penalties under section 33 to reflect the seriousness of fly-tipping offences. If magistrates do not consider their maximum fine to be high enough, a case can be referred to the Crown Court, who have unlimited powers. Penalties for environmental pollution can therefore be awarded to any level under the current system.
Several steps have been taken with regard to sentencing and penalties. At the end of 2002, the Magistrates Association, in association with Defra, issued a guidance pack entitled "Costing the Earth" to all its members, highlighting the seriousness and costs of environmental crime.
Defra also increased the amount for fixed penalty notices for litter and dog fouling offences to £50 on 1 April 2002, and through the Anti-social Behaviour Bill, proposes similar fixed penalty notices for minor offences of graffiti and fly-posting. We are also considering a possible role for the use of fixed penalty notices to help enforce duty of care legislation.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the implications of the new licensing arrangements on long-term investment and job security at quarries in the Vale of York. 
The Environment Agency has a duty to consider social and economic, as well as environmental aspects of sustainable development in its licensing policies. As part of the Environment Agency's assessment of any new licence application, it will take into account any relevant considerations. Quarry and mine operators will have the same opportunities as other abstractors to submit a business case to the Environment Agency in support of their licence applications, which can address any social or economic issues including long-term investment needs and effects on employment.
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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will take steps to allow (a) a quarrying abstraction licence to be tied to the life of the planning permission for a quarry and (b) a right of appeal and compensation where a licence is refused or curtailed. 
Mr. Morley: It is not appropriate for the length of abstraction licences to be tied to the life of planning permissions, as consideration of each address very different issues. The Environment Agency will determine the length of an abstraction licence on a case-by-case basis, using guidance that it has developed and taking into account relevant considerations.
In addition, the Water Bill provides that there can be compensation for loss or damage where a licence cannot be granted to any previously exempt abstraction, such as quarry dewatering, when it becomes subject to licensing.
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