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(3) if she will make a statement on her policy regarding the principle of individual producer responsibility; 
(4) what steps she is taking to secure well-defined individual producer responsibility for electronic waste. 
Mr. Meacher: The Government welcomes the proposed EC Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. The Department works closely with all Departments, in particular with the DTI, who lead in negotiations, on this Directive. The Directive is
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still under negotiation and without a final text it is too early to provide details of how it will be implemented in the UK.
The Government supports the principle of individual producer responsibility, though we believe collective responsibility should be kept open as an option where otherwise there could be disproportionate costs to SMEs. The Common position text allows a collective as well as an individual approach to producer responsibility, and both uphold the polluter pays principle.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made of the need for compulsory insurance as part of the EU Environmental Liability Directive regime to give polluters a greater incentive to avoid environmental damage. 
Alun Michael [holding answer 23 July 2002]: The European Commission's draft Directive on Environmental Liability requires Member States to encourage the use by operators of any appropriate insurance or other forms of financial security.
Compulsory insurance is one possible means of financial security and was covered by the Government's public consultation which ended on 24 May 2002, and in the extended partial regulatory impact assessment (COM (02) 17). A mechanism such as this could support both the prevention and remediation aspects of the proposed Directive, with insurers offering policies on the basis of best environmental practice. It would also ensure that a source of funding was available for the remediation of damage, should it occur.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the inclusion of the compliance with permit and state of the art exemptions in the EU Environmental Liability Directive. 
Alun Michael [holding answer 23 July 2002]: No specific assessment has been undertaken of the inclusion of the permit and state of the art exceptions. The extended partial regulatory impact assessment submitted to Parliament (COM (02) 17) did consider the implications of removal of the permit exception, to inform the UK negotiating position in preparation for any moves by other Member States to remove it.
This assessment revealed that removal of the permit exception could have two conflicting effects: a damaging effect upon business certainty and the ability of operators to obtain financing, whilst secondly providing an incentive for operators to treat permit conditions as a minimum requirement, and therefore take further precaution in their activities to minimise their risks. By extension, inclusion of the exception could provide shareholders and operators with some confidence, but on the other hand reduce the precautionary effect.
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Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent research her Department has evaluated regarding the spread of ragwort; and what action her Department has taken to (a) combat the spread of ragwort and (b) publicise knowledge of its spread. 
Alun Michael: In 2001, the former MAFF commissioned an ADAS research project to review ragwort and its control with particular reference to horses. This included a study of the factors influencing the spread of ragwort, such as changes in land use, changes in agricultural policy and climate change. The study confirmed that these factors may influence the spread of ragwort. However, it concluded that there was insufficient scientific data to allow evaluation of the extent to which the prevalence of ragwort had increased as as result of them.
Defra investigates complaints about the spread of ragwort and other injurious weeds covered by the Weeds Act 1959 where there is a threat to farmed land or land used for the keeping of horses as part of a diversified farm businesses. When a complaint is received the occupier of the land will be asked to take action to clear the weeds. If this fails to resolve the problem, Defra has statutory powers under the Weeds Act to arrange for the weeds to be cleared and to recover the cost from the occupier of the land. In the majority of cases, complaints about ragwort are resolved through co-operation and persuasion, without the need to take legal action.
The spread of ragwort along the sides of roads and on railway land is of particular concern to many people in the countryside. I have recently written to the Highways Agency, Local Government Association and Railtrack reminding them of the serious problems that can be caused by ragwort and urging them to ensure that they take effective clearance action.
This year we have also revised guidance on the Weeds Act and two updated Defra leaflets are available. ''The Weeds Act 1959Preventing the spread of harmful weeds'' gives general advice about the operation of the Weeds Act and ''The Weeds Act 1959Guidance note on the methods that can be used to control harmful weeds'' provides technical advice on the control of ragwort and other injurious weeds. Both leaflets can be found on the Defra website and hard copies can be obtained from Defra publications.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will ensure that the consultation process which follows the publication of the Ouse draft flood strategy is one which allows all sections of the community to comment. 
Mr. Morley: I am advised by the Environment Agency that the Ouse Strategy has undergone a consultation process during its production, with meetings occurring with Lewes Flood Action, Residents Associations and many other interest groups. A
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working group was established, with representations from the communities involved, including businesses, elected members, parish councillors, flood action groups and landowners.
The purpose was to obtain advice and comments as the strategy developed, and public meetings were held in Lewes and Uckfield to facilitate this. Smaller meetings were also held with a number of other parish and residents' groups through the valley to allow for comment from other sections of the community. In addition, letters received were passed to our consultants for consideration when developing the strategy.
The Ouse strategy now includes the Environment Agency's preferred options which are believed to represent the most economical, technical and environmentally sound proposals for the catchment. It is these options that will be forwarded to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for consideration for grant aid.
Public meetings are being arranged by the Environment Agency in Lewes and Uckfield in August to explain the strategy, with further meetings to follow at parish level. There is still an opportunity to influence the strategy during the detailed design stage.
Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what specific criteria her Department proposes for the where possible clause to become applicable within the pledge to replenish fish stocks agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. 
Mr. Morley: The United Kingdom attaches high importance to the commitment to restore fish stocks and will be seeking to secure this by 2015 under the Common Fisheries Policy. The wording ''where possible'' was inserted to meet the concerns of some parties that the objective might in some cases in other parts of the world be biologically impossible.
Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how the Government plans to develop the partnership agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to increase the capacity of coastal developing countries to tackle and manage their fish resources; and by which year these partnerships will need to be fully operational to help achieve the 2015 millennium development goals. 
Mr. Morley: A number of local, regional or thematic partnerships were announced at WSSD which are potentially relevant to helping coastal developing countries manage their fish resources. The United Kingdom will join these partnerships where we are invited to do so and it is clear that we have a contribution to make.
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a cross-cutting approach to regional oceans and coastal ecosystem management in the Wider Caribbean region. Fisheries are within the scope of this work.
The UK is currently exploring how it might assist global work to protect coral reefs through the International Coral Reefs Initiative, and is supporting OSPAR (the convention for the protection of the marine environment of the North East Atlantic) in developing a partnership with the equivalent convention for West Africa. Both should contribute to helping developing countries manage fish stocks more effectively.
The Plan of Action agreed at WSSD called for action to strengthen donor coordination and partnerships to enable developing countries to develop their capacity for infrastructure and integrated management, and the sustainable use of fisheries. The UK will continue to work for this through its bilateral aid programme, through its membership of a number of regional fisheries organisations, and through partnerships with a number of UN agencies, in particular with the FAO.
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