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11. Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Devonport) (Lab): What estimate his Department has made of the volume of wastage of edible food arising from date stamping and food labelling practices; and if he will make a statement. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Dan Norris): The Waste and Resources Action Programme has estimated that 370,000 tonnes of food that is past its best before date but still probably safe to eat is thrown away by householders each year. The best before date is an indicator of quality rather than of food safety. I have no comparable statistics for the commercial sector.
I welcome my hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box and thank him for that reply. A number of my constituents have contacted me expressing real concern about the extraordinarily high level of edible waste that disappears into dustbins. They feel that we should be able to attack the problem in a number of ways. First, individuals should ensure that they do not waste as much food; secondly, supermarkets should cut back on their three-for-two offers, which encourage
over-buying; and thirdly, the food industry should buy into the labelling. What additional help will the Government offer, and when does my hon. Friend expect the Food Standards Agency review on labelling to report?
Dan Norris: I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. The key thing is that energy from waste is only one part of the picture; the Governments priority is to consider waste prevention, reuse and recycling ahead of energy from waste. I do not have the specific answer to my hon. Friends question, but I will write to her with it.
12. Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with farming organisations on the taking into receivership of Dairy Farmers of Britain; and if he will make a statement. 
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): As I said in answer to an earlier question, my ministerial colleagues and I have been working with a wide range of organisations to continue our efforts to help those affected.
Mr. Jones: In answer to a question from the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle), the Secretary of State said that he saw no need for an inquiry into the failure of Dairy Farmers of Britain. However, last August the co-operative issued an annual report that by any standards contained a preposterously over-optimistic assessment of its future. Given that so many farmers have lost so much money already and stand to lose even more, will the Secretary of State confirm that when he or his ministerial colleagues are considering the failure of the co-operative, they will take into account the actions of the directors who authorised that annual report?
Hilary Benn: I understand the hon. Gentlemans concern on behalf of the farmer members. For some while, it has been no secret that Dairy Farmers of Britain was in difficulty; the House is well aware of that. Ultimately, of course, the directors are responsible to the members of the company. For reasons that the House will understand, we have been concentrating our efforts on trying to help those affected. The single most important step that we can take is to try to find alternative buyers for their milk.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met Dr. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, when he visited the United States in May 2009. They discussed the UK marine strategy and the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems.
Mrs. Riordan: I welcome the Governments close dialogue with the new US Administration on all things marine. However, does the Minister agree that, given the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, common fisheries policy reform and so on, we are increasingly becoming a leading reformer on marine fisheries issues globally?
Huw Irranca-Davies: It is an important agenda, and it is rising both in the public mood and among politicians. We need to consider how we bring marine and fisheries issues together within CFP reform, take a long-term view, base decisions on the science and better equip regional management. Furthermore, we are considering the Marine and Coastal Access Bill at the moment in Committee. The agenda is rising, and the Government are committed to playing a leading role in it, domestically and globally.
Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): I am pleased to hear that the Minister takes the issue seriously; anyone who has read Charles Clovers excellent book The End of the Line, or seen the film, will know that we have to hurry to make sure that we preserve our marine species. Monaco represents the Governments next opportunity to fight to make sure that the bluefin tuna gets a convention on international trade in endangered species listing, and that the EU does not put together some cosy deal cooked up by southern states, thus splitting our strong and important sense that the species should be preserved.
Huw Irranca-Davies: The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. I have seen Charles Clovers film and I have read his bookin fact, I met him the day before yesterday. [Interruption.] I have the T-shirt. We are as committed as any European nation to dealing with the bluefin tuna issue. We are awaiting with interest a possible proposal from Monaco and the US, and we will respond accordingly at the appropriate time. Like many other European nations, we are concerned about bluefin tuna.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Dan Norris): Local authorities have made great progress in increasing the rate of recycling. I am encouraged that 85 per cent. of them have chosen to include a waste target in their current local area agreements to ensure they continue to prioritise this important area. I have not had any recent discussions with local authorities about waste recycling targets. My officials regularly meet representatives of local authorities to discuss all aspects of waste management, including recycling targets.
Simon Hughes: Household recycling has certainly improved considerably, but will Ministers talk to local councils about the recycling of material in public places, particularly at transport sitesrailway stations, tube stations and bus stationswhere, for example, lots of newspapers, especially free newspapers, are all over the place on a regular basis? That is an issue that should be of concern both nationally and locally.
Dan Norris: I certainly agree about free newspapers, which pose a particular challenge that we take seriously. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman feels that the Government have been doing positive things in this respect, but I completely accept that we need to do even more. Recycling on the go is something that we need to be thinking hard about in the years to come.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Dan Norris): Officials from my Department have been in discussion with the small business sector and a wide range of other interested parties about the management of commercial and industrial waste. Later this month I hope to publish a statement of our policy objectives for these types of waste, which will include a list of actions to help achieve those objectives.
Mr. Chaytor: The local waste disposal site for commercial use in my constituency has been closed for refurbishment for nearly a year, which means that small businesses have to travel to larger sites in neighbouring towns where the charging regime is much more rigid. A sole trader who could previously have disposed of a small load for £5 now has to pay a minimum charge of £58 per half tonne. In the statement that the Minister is going to make later this month, will he consider the impact of rigid charging schemes, particularly the consequential increases in fly-tipping?
Dan Norris: I completely accept that there are difficulties in this regard, and we need to think carefully about them. However, there are some good examples of local authorities raising their own initiatives to deal with circumstances that are not exactly the same as those that my hon. Friends constituents face, but are not dissimilar. I am certainly happy for his local authority people to liaise with my officers and officials in order to work out a solution to the challenge that he has brought up.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): DEFRAs responsibility is to help us all to live within our environmental means. I wish to inform the House of the appointment of Christopher Parry as chair-designate of the Marine Management Organisation, which is to be established under the Marine and Coastal Access Bill. His appointment will be for three years from the point at which the MMO is created.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. I was pleased to see the recent DEFRA consultation on amending the Animals Act 1971 to remove the threat of strict liability faced by responsible animal owners. That is one of the factors contributing
to the crippling insurance costs now facing riding schools, disabled riding centres and livery yards. When will the Minister be in a position to give an update on the outcome of that consultation? Some of us have tried to fix this several times through private Members Bills and ten-minute rule procedures, and it really needs the Government to sort it out once and for all.
Hilary Benn: I share the view that the hon. Gentleman expresses. He rightly draws attention to the efforts that have been made in this House, unfortunately without success, to deal with this issue. We will publish responses to the consultation as soon as we can, because I recognise the concern that there is out there about the position that people find themselves in.
Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome the Walker review on water metering and charging, which sets out for the first time the basis on which we can properly consider who should pay for the costs of environmental benefits such as the costly beach clean-up in the south-west. Will my right hon. Friend meet a group of colleagues from the south-west to discuss why this should be used to put right the very high prices that we have as a result of the botched Tory water privatisation?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and other hon. Members here today who have repeatedly led delegations to me to raise these issues. It is good to see that Anna Walker has been comprehensive in her response to those issues. The road tour in the south-west was particularly well attended by hon. Members, including my hon. Friend, and I am sure that they will attend the next one. She is right that we have to address this issue, and I look forward to meeting her soon. I am sure that she will keep up the pressure on me, and on No. 10.
T2.  Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that at a time of national crisis, the European Union contribution should relate to reform of the common agricultural policy? Should we not take a lesson from the Prime Minister and increase our contribution to the EU by 0 per cent., and save £3.5 billion?
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jim Fitzpatrick): I think we covered the arrangements for the CAP and its reform earlier. We will do everything that we can to protect British interests and ensure that it is as efficient as possible.
T4.  Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): When was the last time that the Minister met the water regulator to discuss the high charges that people are having inflicted on them at the moment, given the state of the economy?
Huw Irranca-Davies: Both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I regularly meet the economic regulator. In fact, we have met within the past few weeks. As my hon. Friend knows, the pricing review is going on. We have to ensure that the water companies deliver for the consumer and deliver environmental benefit, within our social and environmental guidance. We will continue to advocate that.
T3.  Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): A decade ago, there were several dozen dairy farmers in the borough of Kettering. Now, the local branch of the National Farmers Union tells me that there are just two left. The new slurry storage regulations may well be the last straw. When will the Department introduce measures that reduce the cost of dairy farming in this country?
Hilary Benn: The legislation on nitrate-vulnerable zones dates from the early 1990s, and those who took positions at the time bear responsibility for the consequences. We have to apply the legislation as it is in place. As I indicated earlier, there is a specified period for farmers to take on the requirements for additional slurry storage, and as the House will be aware, Her Majestys Revenue and Customs has clarified there is access to a capital allowance for the construction of slurry stores.
T6.  Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): May we have a brief update on food labelling? I am increasingly receiving expressions of concern from my constituents about the dubious labelling of eggs and chicken. The packaging is designed to create the impression that the products are organic, free-range and produced in the UK, whereas the small print makes it clear that they are intensively farmed and imported from abroad.
Jim Fitzpatrick: My hon. Friend raises a very important point, and I can assure him that DEFRA is working hard on the matter. Labelling and country of origin are being examined, and we will come forward with proposals in due course.
T5.  Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): On Monday the Prime Minister launched the White Paper Building Britains Future. There is no reference in that document to farming, the rural economy or recycling. With the exception of a reference to the Flood and Water Management Bill, DEFRA is completely invisible in it. Why does DEFRA not seem to appear at all in Building Britains Future?
Hilary Benn: The hon. Gentleman points to the Flood and Water Management Bill, which is a really good example of our getting on with it in the light of the terrible floods that affected people in 2007. I simply say that the answers that the House has heard so far today clearly indicate a Department getting on with it and helping the farming industry to ensure that we can produce enough food.
Natascha Engel (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab):
May I press my hon. Friend the Minister of State on his earlier answer about country of origin labelling? Meat that comes from abroad is being sold under pictures of
Union Jacks, which is tricking people into thinking that they are buying British when they are not. What specifically is being done to enforce honest country of origin labelling?
Jim Fitzpatrick: My hon. Friend makes an absolutely valid point. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already pronounced that this is a nonsense situation. The matter was raised at the Agriculture Council last week in Luxembourg, and we are working as quickly as we can on it because we want exactly the same thing as she does.
T7.  Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): The Government rightly promote recycling, but is the Minister aware that Lewes district councils recycling levels have effectively been capped at 27 per cent. by East Sussex county council, which will not provide further recycling credits because it wants a waste stream to feed its incinerator? Is it not about time that East Sussex county council was pulled out of the stone age and that councils that want to recycle more, such as Lewes council, which believes it can increase recycling by 50 per cent., were allowed to get on with it?
Jane Kennedy (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab): May I urge my right hon. Friend to hold to his intention of responding to the consultation on the so-called replacement insecticide with a voluntary scheme that will be workable and achievable and which will demonstrate our willingness to trust the farming community, which shares our concerns about the impact of agriculture on the environment?
Hilary Benn: I will announce my decision very shortly, but as I indicated to the National Farmers Union conference this yearand as my right hon. Friend will be well awarein the end, I do not have a fixed view about the means of achieving the goal that we all share, which was set out well by those on the Opposition Front Bench earlier. In the end, we want an effective scheme that will work and, generally speaking, if we can encourage people to take part, we will get better results.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): From his meeting with the farmers of South Staffordshire earlier this year, the Secretary of State will remember the acute concern expressed about bovine TB. Has he rethought his policy on a badger cull?
Hilary Benn: No, I have notI believe in being straightbecause the evidence from where badger culling has been tried, as reported by the independent scientific group, was clear. However, we are working with the industry through the TB eradication group. In the end, the considerable amount of money that we are putting into vaccines will, I hope, offer a better way of dealing with the disease. We are looking to start the demonstration projects next year, subject to licensing, in the six areas that are being identified now.
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