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The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which is partly funded by DEFRA, is responsible for delivering greater material efficiency, including increasing recycling rates. Its work on packaging waste interlinks with many aspects of recycling, such as working with local authorities to advise on recycling facilities and overcome barriers to recycling. WRAP also has a behavioural change programme which targets consumer recycling and explains why this is important.
WRAP is working with the retail industry to increase the recycling content of packaging and is targeting the supply chain through the voluntary 'Courtauld Commitment' agreement. Through its business growth and manufacturing programmes, WRAP is also working to ensure that the necessary facilities are in place in order to increase the capacity and capability of recycling and to increase the use of recycled materials in manufacturing.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has one press officer and a public relations manager and press assistant who also work with the media. This team of three is managed by a head of corporate communications
with a wider brief. Wakehurst Place, home of the Millennium Seed Bank, has one press and marketing officer.
Jonathan Shaw: No estimate has been made of the cost to the UK economy of graffiti. Local authorities have powers to remove graffiti and can recover the costs of doing so on surfaces that are in or on the street.
Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans his Department has to work with the Department of Communities and Local Government on the implementation of the Waste Strategy for England 2007; and whether he will integrate (a) small, (b) medium and (c) large-scale biological treatment facilities within this implementation. 
Joan Ruddock: My Department has established a Waste Strategy Board to drive forward and monitor delivery of the Waste Strategy for England 2007 across Government. The board includes representatives from the other Government Departments with a key interest in waste, including Communities and Local Government (CLG), and we will be working closely with these Departments in implementing the strategy.
My Department is also working with CLG to take forward specific aspects of the strategy, including planning for waste infrastructure, pollution control, waste aspects of the local government performance framework, and proposals to remove the ban on local authorities using financial incentives to increase recycling by households.
The strategy sets out the measures that the Government have put in place to secure the investment in infrastructure needed to divert waste from landfill. It remains vital that regional spatial strategies and local development documents look forward and make adequate provision for the appropriate types and scales of infrastructure and waste treatment facilities needed, including biological treatment plants. It is also important for specific, suitable sites to be identified in plans.
(4) what requests for assistance his Department received from (a) Severn Trent and (b) other water companies to manage water supplies in the recent floods in Gloucestershire and the surrounding area; 
Mr. Woolas: There are a number of reviews being carried out by different organisations into the flooding that occurred in the summer. One of these is a wide-ranging and thorough review that has been established by the Government to identify any lessons to be learned for the way that we manage and respond to flooding events such as those experienced recently. This review will cover issues such as loss of drinking water supplies. It is being led by an independent chair, Sir Michael Pitt. We are aiming to publish initial findings by the end of the year and subsequently a formal report. A call for evidence is currently lodged on the Cabinet Office and UK Resilience websites. Until these reviews have been completed and the recommendations considered, it would not be right to comment or speculate at this stage on any actions that might need to be taken.
However, I can confirm that during the flooding of Gloucester and the surrounding area, and following a specific request from the Severn Trent Water, my Department was able to facilitate the use of further road tankers from private companies to assist in the filling of the water bowsers.
Mr. Woolas: On 26 July 2006, the following water companies had hosepipe bans in force in some or all of their supply areas: Thames Water, Southern Water, Mid Kent Water, South East Water, Three Valleys Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, Folkestone and Dover Water and Cholderton and District Water.
We fully recognise the valuable contribution made by all carers. From this month, we have further raised the carers allowance weekly
earnings limit from £87 to £95, allowing carers to earn more before their benefit is affected.
The Government are working with carers organisations and others to review our National Carers Strategy. In this review we are examining carers benefits in depth. We plan to publish the reviews conclusions in March 2008.
Mr. Plaskitt: The agency is currently clearing 72 per cent. of applications within 12 weeks. This is compared with just 53 per cent in March 2006, before implementation of the operational improvement plan.
For all applications cleared in June 2007, the average length of time taken to agree an award of child support was 91 days from first contact to clearance. It was 143 days before the operational improvement plan.
Caroline Flint: I refer the hon. Member to the answer my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave earlier to the hon. Members for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) and for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Mr. Crabb).
more than 270,000 Community Care Grants
nearly 1.3 million Budgeting Loans
over 1 million Crisis Loans
over 40,000 Funeral Payments
over 235,000 Sure Start Maternity Grants
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will consider the merits of establishing a separate credit bank social fund for low earners; and if he will make a statement. 
As part of its financial inclusion strategy, the Government are committed to increasing the availability of affordable forms of credit for those who find it difficult to access mainstream lenders such
as banks. Potential for reform of the Social Fund will be considered in this context.
The £42 million Growth Fund, which is a key element of our strategy, is doing much to increase the availability of affordable credit, having made in excess of 30,000 loans to financially excluded people in its first few months, with many thousands more excluded people to be helped as expansion of this sustainable service continues. In parallel with this we are working closely with the credit union movement and investing £1 million of the Growth Fund to test ways in which the recently announced Transaction Banking Service can be introduced to enable even greater service through credit unions for those who find it difficult to access mainstream financial services.
Furthermore, as announced in Financial Inclusion: the way forward, the Government has established a working group, involving the banking industry and the Financial Inclusion Taskforce, to consider ways in which the capacity and coverage of third sector lenders can be increased nationwide, through the support of the banking sector and the Government.
Mr. Plaskitt: The modernisation of our telephone service has greatly improved access to crisis loans. It has resulted in a more efficient service for our customers, and provided more flexibility to meet call demand.
18. Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment his Department has made of the effects of aligning starting thresholds for council tax benefit with those for income tax. 
Caroline Flint: There have been a number of significant reforms to our tax and benefit system. From April 2009, in real terms, households with children will be, on average, £1,800 per year better off, while those in the poorest fifth of the population will be, on average £4,000 a year better off than in 1997.
Mr. Plaskitt: There are several criteria used to measure the effectiveness of access to work. The level of expenditure and the number of people helped into work by the scheme are the two key criteria.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what period of time the Child Support Agency Midlands Business Unit retains recordings of telephone calls from members of the public. 
In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive. As the Chief Executive is currently on annual leave I am responding, with his authority, on his behalf.
You ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, for what period of time the Child Support Agency Midlands Business Unit retains recordings of telephone calls from members of the public. 
Prior to 26 March 2007, telephone calls made to the Child Support Agency were recorded and retained for 3 weeks. From that date, voice recording functionality was enhanced to allow telephone calls to be retained for 14 months. This functionality applies to any call made through the Agencys call routing system. Certain calls, for example where a client calls a caseworkers number directly, are not recorded.
I hope you find this answer helpful.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will discuss with ministerial colleagues steps to facilitate easier access to Judicial Review for parents owed money via the Child Support Agency. 
Matters relating to court proceedings are the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice who advise that those applying for a Judicial Review are expected to exhaust whatever alternative remedies are available to them under the particular process they are concerned about.
The Child Support Agency has already, through the Operational Improvement Plan made considerable improvements in client service over the last year with new scheme uncleared applications at their lowest level since January 2004 and 72 per cent. of new cases cleared within 12 weeks. These improved service levels, complemented by a thorough and tested appeals process ensure clients have access to the necessary support and advice in all their dealings with the Agency. It is therefore more appropriate to continue to
improve client service, through the Operational Improvement Plan enabling the Child Support Agency to deliver more money to more children, than to place additional and unnecessary burdens on our courts.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will take steps to (a) register private agreements for child maintenance and (b) set standards, monitor and enforce such private registration; and if he will make a statement. 
Caroline Flint: We believe that the Commission should form a view as to whether it should run a register, potentially on a test basis first, to assess take-up, its cost effectiveness and the relative stability of the agreements reached.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the new maintenance assessment under the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is designed to compensate for the costs of raising children; how the formula has been derived; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Plaskitt: The principles of the basic maintenance formula under the Commission will be based on the structure of the formula introduced in 2003 with percentage rates based on the non-resident parents income and number of qualifying children.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether any of the main objectives of the planned Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission will be to collect the arrears of child maintenance owed to parents with care; and if he will make a statement. 
This main objective is supported by two subsidiary objectives. The first is to encourage and support voluntary maintenance arrangements. The second is to support the making of applications to the statutory maintenance service and to secure compliance with parental obligations under the Child Support Act when this is appropriate.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will bring forward plans to allow the courts to make child maintenance orders without the agreement of both parents where the courts are dealing with other financial aspects of divorce or separation; and if he will make a statement. 
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