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The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher): Progress was made on the importance of sanitation in eradicating poverty and meeting the millennium development goal on safe drinking water. Broad agreement was also reached on key issues such as the urgent need to restore fish stocks and address illegal fishing. The meeting also recognised the need for a strong focus on Africa. However, other difficult issues remain outstanding.
Sue Doughty: I am concerned that the Secretary of State, yet again, has failed to come to the House to make a statement. On 16 May, she said that she was willing to consider making a statement to the House if she felt that there was something of substance to say on her return from Bali. Does that mean that the grave concerns here about agricultural subsidies are not sufficiently important to bring the Secretary of State to the House? Does it mean that, with only two months to go, everything is on course, apart from a few minor glitches? Does it mean that we have more or less thrown in the towel? Does it mean
Mr. Meacher: I understand the hon. Lady's frustration, but I can tell her that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State informed Mr. Speaker and, as a courtesy, the spokesman for the Opposition that she would be attending the EU's Agriculture Council. My right hon. Friend said that she would make a statement if there was a range of issues of sufficient clarity and substance to justify one. Regrettably, and for reasons that are well understood, that is not the case.
Of course the Government are wholly committed to a successful outturn at Johannesburg. The UK is playing a lead part in the EU to secure that, and the EU is at the driving edge of trying to achieve agreement before Johannesburg. We certainly do not lack concern about this matter. The opposite is true: we are hugely concerned that
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): In carrying forward the outcomes from Bali to Johannesburg, will my right hon. Friend make greater efforts still to involve and consult the UK food and drink sector? It has a great deal to offer in obtaining and achieving the sustainable targets that Johannesburg has set itself. Will my right hon. Friend say whether plans to involve that very important sector of industry are in place?
Mr. Meacher: I am sure that we are seeking to do that. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear from the outset that he wanted a partnership involving UK business, especially in regard to water and sanitation, financial services, tourism, energy and forestry. However, we are pleased to respond to representations from any sector of industry that feels that it can make a contribution to Johannesburg. We shall certainly receive favourably any correspondence from my hon. Friend or industry representatives.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley): I represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers in Luxembourg on 11 June, together with Ross Finnie, Minister for Environment and Rural Development in the Scottish Executive, and Mrs. Brid Rodgers, the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development.
Mr. Salmond: The Minister and I attended a splendid lunch a couple of weeks ago with Commissioner Fischler, who was extremely reassuring about the concept of relative stability. However, the Fishing News has reported that Commissioner Fischler was extremely reassuring to a committee of the Spanish Parliament on the question of equality of access.
Does the Minister share my concern that between the draft and the final version of the Commission's proposals on CFP reform there seems to have been a significant weakening of the principle of relative stability? Does he accept that, without relative stability, there can be no acceptable fisheries policy?
Mr. Morley: I certainly accept the latter point: relative stability is an integral and important part of any CFP, including the reformed one that we want. I am confident that we can achieve that. I was reassured by what Commissioner Fischler said about relative stability, and do not detect the weakening that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) perceives between the first draft and the final draft. I am convinced that the vast
Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): On behalf of everyone involved in the Lowestoft fish fair, which took place last Saturday, may I sincerely thank my hon. Friend for coming to Lowestoft to open it and for spending so much time meeting and talking to people? That was greatly appreciated.
On the reform of the common fisheries policy, fishermen in Lowestoft, while accepting the need to reduce fishing effort, are concerned that if that translates into a days at sea regime, our trawlermen, who travel a long distance to the Norwegian sector to catch their plaice, may be unfairly disadvantaged. Will my hon. Friend take that into account in forthcoming negotiations?
Mr. Morley: I will take that into account. May I say how much I enjoyed opening the Lowestoft fish fair? It was good to see how much support it had from the local community. It was also very nice to visit CEFAS, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science. It is celebrating its 100th anniversary in Lowestoft, which is a great tribute and advantage to the area.
On a days at sea regime, the beam trawlersthere is a significant fleet based at Lowestoftalready work within an effort-controlled regime. What they have done needs to be taken into account in relation to future calculations on effort control. It is an important industry for my hon. Friend's area and we will be consulting closely with the beam trawler sector and, indeed, all sectors of the industry, on any proposals for future effort control.
David Burnside (South Antrim): The Minister will be aware from the Prime Minister's answer to my question on his statement about the Seville summit earlier this week that the right hon. Gentleman either forgot or did not bother to raise the subject of fisheries at a senior level at the summit. Did the Minister's Department make representation at that summit meeting for fisheries policy to be discussed, including the very serious allegations about the Spanish presidency's misuse of its position on fisheries policy? That has been widely reported in such papers as The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph but not in this House.
Mr. Morley: Any member state is free to make representations to the President of the Commission. It does not necessarily mean that that will influence change, and I do not believe that the representations on the proposals for the CFP were changed. Indeed, an examination of the draft proposals, which were widely available before the final proposals, demonstrates that there has been no significant change in relation to the Commission's proposals.
We think that the Commission is generally going in the right direction. There are, of course, issues of detail that we will want to discuss, but we think it quite right that there is a new approach towards fisheries management in the European Uniongiven the mistakes that have been made in the pastthat is based on putting sound science and conservation management at the heart of a sustainable fisheries management regime.
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher): In December 2001, we announced a payment of £6 million to go to local authorities to cover their costs up until March 2002 for the disposal of refrigerators. We realise that local authorities are in need of further funding, and intend to make an announcement as soon as possible.
Barbara Follett: With Hertfordshire county council currently disposing of 3,000 fridges a monthand, despite its best efforts, it cannot do that for less than £32 a fridgeand with Government assistance unlikely to amount to more than £15 a fridge, will my right hon. Friend please look carefully at ways of helping councils meet this shortfall?
Mr. Meacher: Two mobile plants have been operating in this country for two or three months and three fixed plants will be in operation by the end of next month, which will be able to reprocess 1.2 million fridges. Given the state of the current technology and the level of plant that has been installed, my understanding is that a competitive cost for reprocessing is about £20 per unit but that as the technology improves and further plant is put in place, that may reduce to about £15 per unit. However, I am happy to look at any evidence that my hon. Friend can produce that suggests a basis for significantly different figures.
Mr. Meacher: Uncharacteristically, the hon. Gentleman is wrong in almost everything that he said. First, the cost has been estimated at about £40 million this year. The Government will be making a statement on that. I certainly do not accept the suggested figure, which is nowhere near £100 million.
Secondly, I did not blame my civil servants; they did exactly what they should have done, which was constantly to raise at formal meetingsnine times over two and a quarter yearsthe need for an answer to the question as to whether CFC should be removed from insulation foam. They were right to do that. The only comment that I made was that I should have been informed about the matter at the time[Hon. Members: "Ah."] I was informed in July 2001. I should have been informed much earlier and had that been so, I should have approached the Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, at a much earlier stage.
I have not lost confidence in my civil servants, nor have I lost confidence in their ability to get on top of the problem. Indeed, by the autumnprobably Octoberwe shall be beginning to reprocess more than the increase in the pile of refrigerators. The pile will disappear some time in the middle or latter part of next year.