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19 Sept 2002 : Column 290Wcontinued
Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she intends to have with her French counterpart over the recent attack on the British boat "Philomena," carried out in international waters by French fishermen; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: Following the incident within French fishery limits involving the Philomena over the weekend of 20/21 July, officials have been in contact with the French authorities and the representative association for the vessel. There has since been a meeting of UK and French fishermen's representatives and arrangements have been made for improved communication between the parties involved.
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there is to provide an aid package to support UK farmers whose pasture lands have become water-logged or been destroyed by persistent wet weather. 
Mr. Morley: There is no routine provision to compensate farmers for the effects of bad weather. In exceptional circumstances, a Member State may apply to the European Commission to make special payments from national resources.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many new pieces of legislation originating in the European Union were implemented by her Department in each of the last three years; and if she will make a statement. 
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent studies have been carried out into the number of (a) rabbits, (b) hares, (c) foxes, (d) grey crows, (e) magpies, (f) otters, (g) feral mink and (h) jays in England; and what trends have been detected in the population levels of each species. 
Mr. Meacher: The Department is aware of a number of studies of the populations of mammals and birds in England. The most recent comprehensive estimates of rabbit, hare, fox, otter and mink populations were published by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee in A Review of British Mammals: population estimates and conservation status of British Mammals other than cetaceans (1995).
Estimates indicate that rabbit populations are increasing at around 12 per cent. each year. Brown hare populations are probably in continuing decline. Mountain hare populations are thought to be stable but, as expected, very localised. Fox populations appear to be stable in rural areas and increasing in urban areas. The otter is benefiting from reintroductions to the wild and is continuing to spread and increase. American mink numbers may be declining in some areas as a result of the spread of otters.
The British Trust for Ornithology conducts surveys of bird numbers in Britain. A 198891 survey estimated 590,000 magpie territories and 160,000 jay territories in Britain. Magpie numbers are estimated to have increased by a mean rate of 45 per cent. a year between 1966 and 1986 and to have stabilised thereafter. Jay populations have tended to increase on farmland and to decrease in woodland since the survey and overall, the population remained relatively stable or increased slightly up to 1995.
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arrangements there are to deal with the disposal in the United Kingdom of (a) refrigerators and (b) tyres; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: I have already announced special grant funding of an extra £40 million for local authorities for this year. This is in addition to the £6 million already allocated for the last financial year. Additional help for future years was included in the Spending Review announced on 15 July.
The funding will enable local authorities to make full use of treatment facilities now up and running in the UK. Five "fridge eating" sites have been operating for a number of weeks. Two are due to come on line in August, and a further three later this year.
Under a voluntary, industry-led approach, the UK traditionally recovers value from around 70 per cent. of the tyres disposed of each year, although this dipped in 2000 due to the closure of a major tyre reprocessing facility. Since then, significant new tyre reprocessing capacity has been developed.
As well as having sufficient tyre reprocessing capacity, it will be important that the framework supporting the tyre landfill ban promotes responsible tyre disposal and recovery. Earlier this year, DTI issued a discussion document on used tyre issues which examined a possible statutory producer responsibility model. We are currently considering next steps in the light of the responses received.
Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment she has made of mechanical biological treatment techniques for waste disposal used in other European countries; 
(3) what assessment she has made of the mechanical biological treatment practices of Island Waste Services. 
Mr. Meacher: Mechanical biological treatment is used to manage the residue remaining after the recyclables have been removed from municipal waste. It employs conventional, proven techniques to remove any remaining recyclables and to stabilise the organic content by composting or anaerobic digestion. This material can then be landfilled or used as a fuel for energy recovery. The process is widely used in Germany and Italy and also in Austria and the Netherlands.
MBT is specifically designed to complement waste management strategies that are focussed on material recovery through recycling and composting by providing a flexible way of dealing with the residue. This type of treatment can assist in reaching the targets for the reduction of biodegradable municipal waste disposed of to landfill as set out in the Landfill Directive.
A bid by Shanks that includes mechanical biological treatment recently won preferred bidder status for a 25 year waste disposal contract with East London Waste Authority. Shanks will be using Italian technology under licence.
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My understanding is that Island Waste Services produces a fuel from the residual municipal solid waste after material recovery including separate composting of green waste. The treatment of the fuel is solely by mechanical means, to achieve size reduction, without any element of biological treatment.
Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will take further measures to increase the amount of household waste which is recycled; and if she will make a statement;  (2) if she will take measures to achieve greater uniformity of waste disposal policy and practices by local authorities; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: The Government already has a number of measures in place that will increase the future amount of household waste which is recycled. These measures include setting statutory performance standards for the percentage of waste that local authorities must recycle by 200304 and 200506, and additional financial support to help local authorities deliver these standards.
The standards we have set for local authorities take account of the performance that the authorities were reporting at the time. As a result, whilst all authorities are required to improve, there are variations in the percentages that authorities must deliver.
Our ambitions on waste disposal extend well beyond 200506 and we will seek continuous improvement in our recycling rates. We will consider longer-term recycling standards for individual local authorities in the light of experience and any technological developments. As a part of that consideration, we will take a view on the demands for improvement we place on those who are currently lower and higher performing authorities.
Generally, we consider local authorities are best placed to decide locally how best to meet existing standards, taking account of the nature of the local waste stream and issues such as the type of housing in their area. We have no plans for centrally imposing greater uniformity in the way local authorities collect and dispose of waste.
In November the Secretary of State announced that the Government's Strategy Unit would be carrying out a study on waste strategy. This study is assessing what extra instruments, changes to targets or regulations, and/or additional funding may be required to ensure that the strategy is effectively delivered and that we are able to develop more sustainable waste management. The Strategy Unit are due to report later in the year and we will make final decisions on future resources, and consider other policy measures, when the conclusions of the study are known.
Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the method of continuous sampling of dioxin emissions from waste disposal incinerators. 
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Mr. Meacher: The Environment Agency is undertaking research into continuous dioxin sampling which includes market and literature searches, laboratory testing, and field trials, comparing "continuous" samplers with discontinuous methods. The research will establish which, if any, of the commercially available equipment can perform reliably and accurately, and inform the preparation of performance standards for these monitoring systems. The Agency anticipates that the research will be completed in Spring 2003.
Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what financial resources she has made available to local authorities in 200203 to help with the storage and disposal of refrigerators; and how much each local authority has been allocated. 
Mr. Meacher: £6 million was allocated to local authorities for the extra costs they faced from 1 January to end March this year as a result of the disposal of refrigerators regulations. This money was added to local authorities' general grant for the current financial year and distributed using standard spending assessments. It is not possible to provide a meaningful allocation for each authority.
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