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Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to allow rural businesses in the tourist industry a payment holiday in respect of business rates as a result of losses incurred during the foot and mouth outbreak. 
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Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make it his policy to ensure that businesses whose cash flow has been significantly affected by the consequences of the foot and mouth outbreak receive immediate assistance in the form of (a) interest free loans, (b) relief on business rates and (c) other measures. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 23 March 2001]: I set out a package of short term help for businesses in my statement to the House on 20 March 2001, Official Report, columns 191-210, and further details of the discretionary hardship rate relief scheme in my answer to the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) on 26 March 2001, Official Report, columns 425-26W.
Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the sites which have received ash from the Edmonton incinerator since 1996, for use (a) in building bricks, blocks, paving stones and other building materials, (b) in public and private roads and streets, (c) in compost, potting soil, growing medium or fertiliser and (d) on farms, livestock/poultry holding sites and feedstuffs companies. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 26 March 2001]: Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 imposes a duty of care on waste producers and others who have control of waste. The parties to the transfer of waste are required to keep records but information on waste transfers is not held centrally. The information available to the Environment Agency indicates that bottom ash has been consigned from the Edmonton incinerator to Ballast Phoenix Ltd. for recycling as a secondary aggregate but that ash is not otherwise consigned from the incinerator for use in (a), (b), (c) or (d).
Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the Environment Agency requested that the mixing of fly ash and bottom ash at Edmonton be stopped; when the mixing was halted; what assessment has been made of (a) the increase in and (b) toxicity of dioxin concentrations in the mixed ash; and if the toxicity falls within the range observed in urban soils. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 23 March 2001]: The Environment Agency advises that it has made no such request but confirms that it was informed by the operator of the Edmonton incinerator that the mixing of precipitator ash with bottom ash ceased in August 2000. The Environment Agency has no information on the toxicity of dioxin concentrations in ash mixed before that date. However, the Agency was informed by the operator that test results showed the dioxin levels of mixed ash to be close to background levels (i.e. those found in normal urban soil).
Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the studies carried out into dioxin and furan levels in and around the Byker incinerator. 
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Mr. Meacher [holding answer 23 March 2001]: The Environment Agency monitors combined dioxin and furan releases from the combustion process at the Byker Heat Station, details of which are available on the public register and the Agency website. Monitoring of local air quality outside the Byker site is the responsibility of the appropriate local authority.
Mr. Hill: The UK-wide review of the scheme began last autumn. Group discussions at national and local levels have taken place with disability organisations, local authorities, enforcement bodies and badge holders themselves. The next stage will be a discussion paper which will be widely disseminated to interested parties including users this spring. The results of this consultation will inform our proposals.
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps his Department is taking to help local authorities reach the targets set by the National Waste Strategy. 
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: The Waste Strategy 2000 set targets for the recovery of municipal waste and the recycling and composting of household waste and the reduction in the landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste.
In Waste Strategy 2000 we announced that we would consult on the design and operation of a scheme of tradeable landfill permits for waste disposal authorities to meet the landfill diversion targets. We have published that consultation paper today.
Waste Strategy 2000 also announced targets for doubling the recycling or composting of household waste within three years and nearly tripling it within five years, to be underpinned by statutory performance standards for each local authority under the Best Value regime. These standards were published on 5 March.
Spending Review 2000 provided major extra funding directly to local authorities to address waste and recycling, as set out in answer to the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) on 14 December 2000, Official Report, column 200W. The new Waste and Resources Action Programme, whose funding now stands at £40 million over the next three years, will operate across all waste streams to foster markets for recycled materials.
On 10 March, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced the next round of lottery funding (the New Opportunities Fund), including a programme to expand community sector waste reuse, recycling and composting. Such community sector activity can help local authorities to meet their targets.
On 23 June we issued guidance on managing the waste function within Best Value and on 5 March we published guidance to local authorities on municipal waste management strategies. These strategies will set out authorities' plans for achieving all of their targets.
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Waste management was a theme in the first year of the Beacon Council Scheme. We have launched an initiative in partnership with the Local Government Association, the Improvement and Development Agency, the Institute of Wastes Management and the Environmental Services Association to establish and maintain networks of authorities, the industry and community sectors to spread good practice.
Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action is taken by his Department to ensure that site operator employees are trained as required by the Control of Major Accident Hazards regulations. 
Mr. Meacher: The Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999 (COMAH) do not contain specific training requirements. They are "goal setting regulations" supported by duties on operators with the highest hazards to demonstrate in a safety report that they have taken the measures necessary to prevent a major accident. The training of staff forms an integral part of the safety management arrangements.
The COMAH Competent Authority (HSE and Environment Agency in England and Wales) assesses the safety reports that sites with the highest hazards are required to produce, and also the major accident prevention policies produced by other major hazard installation operators to ensure that they contain the necessary measures. Inspection at these installations includes checking compliance with the safety management arrangements set out in the major accident prevention policies and safety reports.
Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress has been made towards the establishment of a public- private partnership for National Air Traffic Services Ltd. 
Mr. Prescott: I am pleased to announce that today the Government have selected the Airline Group as the strategic partner for the National Air Traffic Services public-private partnership. The Airline Group have satisfied the Government that they will maintain the high safety standards achieved by NATS. Their strategic investment plan will provide NATS with the investment it needs to meet the demands of steadily increasing air traffic, and will guarantee the future of the new air traffic control centres at Swanwick and Prestwick. The Airline Group will also introduce management skills into NATS which will help it to operate efficiently.
The NATS public-private partnership will be regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority, which will ensure that NATS continues to operate safely, while reducing costs to users. The Government will retain a 49 per cent. shareholding to enable them to protect the public interest on strategic matters. Staff will have a direct interest in the company through a 5 per cent. stake.
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Since last November, when the legislation enabling the establishment of the public-private partnership was announced, the Government have been taking the views of all sections of the aviation community on their proposals. The report on the discussions held during this three month period is being laid in the Libraries of both Houses today.
This will be the first true public-private partnership, helping to ensure the safe and efficient provision of air traffic services, and providing the opportunity for NATS to emerge as a major worldwide player in its field.
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