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Question_markThere are several noteworthy written answers in the latest edition of Hansard.

The Opposition has supported the Government’s carbon reduction plans. The following question from Shadow Local Government spokesman Eric Pickles is interesting in light of this. Are the Conservatives contemplating a spending commitment?

"Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether local authorities will be compensated for the regulatory costs of the carbon reduction commitment. [222919]

Joan Ruddock: I have been asked to reply.

There are no plans to provide additional funding to local authorities in regard to their participation in the Carbon Reduction Commitment. There are already funding streams in place to help local authorities monitor and reduce their energy use via the Local Authority Performance Framework Climate Change Indicators and the SALIX Finance fund. The additional administration costs of the emissions monitoring required by the Carbon Reduction Commitment are not substantial.

Overall the energy efficiency benefits of participating in the Carbon Reduction Commitment are calculated to outweigh the administrative costs. Economic analysis indicates that local authorities are well placed to perform well in the scheme as there are significant opportunities for local authorities to increase the energy efficiency of their operations."

Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers asked about Metronet – who are responsible for two-thirds of London Underground’s infrastructure – and we were reminded how costly the programme is:

"Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effects of Metronet going into administration upon the delivery of its commitment under its public-private partnership contract. [231555]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Following the PPP administration of Metronet on 18 July 2007, both Metronet companies transferred to Transport for London on 27 May 2008. Transport for London, together with London Underground and the Government, are currently considering the future structure for the lines previously the responsibility of Metronet. A key consideration is to ensure that the major upgrades due to be completed on the Victoria, Metropolitan, Circle, District and Hammersmith and City lines are not significantly affected by Metronet’s failure.

The comprehensive spending review 2007 settlement sets out the expected levels of Transport for London’s grant and borrowing to 2017-18. This generous funding package worth some £40 billion over the next 10 years makes provision for the continued modernisation of the underground and costs arising from Metronet’s administration. Government will continue to work with London Underground and Transport for London to ensure that these upgrades can be delivered.

Passenger safety remains of paramount importance. London Underground has always retained overall responsibility for passenger safety on the network and the Office of Rail Regulation regulates health and safety on the underground."

Linda Riordan, Labour MP for Halifax, asked about GM crops:

"Mrs. Riordan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the effects of genetically modified crops on the environment. [233461]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Under European Union legislation, proposed GM crops are subject to a robust case-by-case assessment of their potential impact on human health and the environment. We will only agree to the release of a GM crop if we are fully satisfied that it is safe, based on the evidence."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of GM!

Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland, who represents Leeds North West, asked about supermarket prices. The Government’s response will have deceased old Labourites turning in their graves:

"Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions his Department has had with farmers’ representatives on the pricing of their goods in supermarkets. [233469]

Jane Kennedy: None. We do not discuss prices offered by supermarkets as we believe they are for the market to determine within the constraints of competition law. The Department, at both official and ministerial level, holds frequent discussions with different sectors of the industry on a range of issues that concern them, including the encouragement of long-term sustainable relationships between suppliers and retailers."

And finally, only the very immature will find the following questions from Shrewsbury & Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski (Conservative) inherently amusing:

"Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether there are plans for his Department to begin keeping records of equine semen imports to the UK. [231643]

Jane Kennedy: Records are kept by Animal Health at each local animal health office. All consignments of imported semen are required to be accompanied by health certification under EU law. Animal Health carries out checks on consignments to ensure health conditions are met.

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to assist horse breeders in verifying the provenance of imported equine semen. [231644]

Jane Kennedy: All consignments of imported semen are required to be accompanied by health certification under EU law. Animal Health carries out checks on consignments to ensure health conditions are met."

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