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Column 768Armstrong, Hilary (added 8 March 1988 ; discharged 18 January 1989)
Evennett, Mr. David
Flannery, Mr. Martin
Greenway, Mr. Harry
Griffiths, Mr. Win
Hicks, Mrs. Maureen
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Steinberg, Mr. Gerry
Thompson, Mr. Jack (discharged 8 March 1988)
Thornton, Mr. Malcolm
Turner, Mr. Dennis (added 18 January 1989)
Vaughan, Sir Gerald
Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list in the Official Report all nuclear waste currently excluded from the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 under the exemption Order 1986.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Radioactive Substances (Substances of Low Activity) Exemption Order 1986 exempts all very low level solid wastes, less than 0.4 bq/g, and organic solvent wastes containing only carbon-14 or tritium at total concentrations of less than 0.4 bq/ml, from consideration under the Act. It also exempts gaseous wastes which have a half-life of less than 100 seconds.
Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what remedial action has been taken at the low level radioactive waste disposal sites at (a) Drigg, (b) Dounreay, (c) Harwell and (d) Amersham to ensure the presence of chelating agents assisting the migration of radionuclides off site is minimised ; and what has been the cost to date in 1989 pound sterling to implement this policy.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The presence of chelating agents in wastes disposed of at the British Nuclear Fuels low-level radioactive waste disposal site at Drigg are excluded, as far as practicable, by means of the authorisation issued by the joint authorising Departments and the BNF "conditions of acceptance". No chelating agents have been disposed of at the Harwell and Amersham sites. Questions relating to Dounreay are matters for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether Her Majesty's pollution inspectorate and his Department's radioactive waste division seek to ensure that generators of nuclear waste separate aggregated waste into streams by half-lives of the radionuclide or transuranic.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Radioactive waste is disposed of in accordance with authorisations issued under section 6 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 which stipulate disposal routes, activity limits and other conditions designed to ensure that any dose to the general public is below the maximum permissible as recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. In setting limits etc, Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution takes account of the half-lives of radionuclides in the wastes but does not require their separation.
Column 769location all known amounts of the radioactive waste products of (a) nickel 59, (b) nickel 63, (c) niobium 94, (d) cobalt 60, (e) americium 241, (f) caesium 137, (g) molybdenum 99, and (h) technetium 99.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Except for molybdenum 99 which has a half- life too short to be of significance, and is therefore not recorded, information as requested on the other radionuclides listed is contained in the 1987 United Kingdom radioactive waste inventory a copy of which will be placed in the Library as soon as possible.
intermediate-level nuclear waste.
Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish in the Official Report tables showing (a) the proportion by volume of low level radioactive waste produced annually arising from nuclear power plants, reprocessing spent fuel, industrial radioisotope production and medical radioisotope use and (b) the proportion by curie content of the low level wastes produced in the categories set out under (a) .
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy towards the disposal of United Kingdom-generated toxic wastes in west and central African countries ; and if he will make it his policy at the next council of European Economic Community Environment Ministers to raise the matter of the illegal export of European Economic Community origin toxic wastes to the countries of west and central Africa.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : No United Kingdom generated toxic waste has been sent to African countries for disposal, as far as the Government are aware. Proposals to do so would be subject to the Transfrontier Shipment of Hazardous Waste Regulations 1988. The Government oppose the export of toxic waste to countries which do not possess suitable facilities for its safe disposal. The matter has been discussed several times at the Environment Council. The Government have no plans to raise the issue at the next meeting.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what amounts, in terms of volumes and curie content, of radioactive waste from the Medical Research Council's radon source materials exist at Barton-le- Clay, Bedfordshire ; and what are the present plans to dispose of this radioactive waste.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Since the Radioactive Substances Act of 1960 has been in force there has been no authorisation to store radioactive waste from the Medical Research Council's radon source materials at Barton- le-Clay. I understand that radioactive materials were used there between 1939 and 1948. I am seeking confirmation from the council that no such materials remain.
(2) what arrangements are being made to monitor the changes in the number of rats.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Information is not held centrally on rat numbers. The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949, which is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, places a general duty on local authorities to ensure that their districts are kept free from rats and mice so far as practicable.
Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will seek a report from water authorities on the action they are taking to repair sewers as a means of controlling the public health nuisance from rats.
Mr. Howard : In 1987-88, water authorities spent some £308 million on maintaining and extending their sewers and sewage treatment facilities--an increase of 30 per cent. in real terms on 1981-82. The extent to which sewer condition affects the size of the rat population is not, however, clear. Water authorities also carry out rodent control exercises in sewers and along river banks.
Mr. Fraser : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what communications he has received from the Rochester-on-Medway council about the proposed management buy-out of council housing stock ; and what steps he will take to ensure that an independent expression of views by tenants is made before considering any consent to transfer under the Housing and Planning Act 1986.
Mr. Trippier : The council has informed us that it has resolved to sell its entire housing stock and has given us a preliminary indication of its plans. If it decides at a later date, having consulted its tenants, to apply for the Secretary of State's consent to dispose of the stock, my right hon. Friend will of course consider the application on its merits.
Schedule 3A to the Housing Act 1985 (as inserted by schedule 1 to the Housing and Planning Act 1986) requires the council to consult its tenants before applying to the Secretary of State for consent. My right hon. Friend is obliged by the terms of the schedule not to entertain an application from Rochester-on-Medway council until it has consulted tenants in accordance with the schedule.
Mr. Onslow : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what forecasts he has received from water authorities in England and Wales about the adequacy of water supplies in their area during the coming nine months ; and what steps are being taken to limit abstraction from areas and ground water sources in anticipation of a drought.
Column 771coming nine months. However, a review of water resources early in January showed that in most areas water storage levels were satisfactory, but that in some of the drier southern areas levels were below normal. Since the exceptionally dry winter weather has continued, I am watching the situation closely by way of arrangements made with the organisations that represent the water undertakers. Two applications under the provisions of the Drought Act 1976 have been received from water undertakers.
Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations his Department has made to the Devon county council to cater in its structure plan for a large immigration of population into Devon during the period up to 2001 ; and if he will make a statement as to the part currently played by his Department in suggesting what should be included in county structure plans.
Mr. Chope : The Department was consulted by Devon county council on its document "Devon in 2001" but made no representations about the level of population growth. It is for county councils to decide what alteration they propose to their structure plans. General advice on the content of structure plans is to be found in the memorandum accompanying circular 22/84. The new series of planning policy guidance notes and minerals policy guidance notes introduced last year provide national guidance on planning policy. My right hon. Friend has also published regional planning guidance for some regions in response to proposals from conferences or groupings of local planning authorities.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will identify the landfill sites in the South-East known to have dangerous or potentially dangerous concentrations of methane gas ; and if he will make a statement.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution wrote to all waste disposal authorities in England and Wales on 15 August 1988 requesting them to carry out detailed surveys of both closed and operational landfill sites in connection with landfill gas.
They were asked to establish information on the amount and composition of gas, the geology of the site and its surroundings, the location of any sewers or other services through which gas might migrate, the location and proximity of any housing or other developments, the extent, nature and efficacy of any existing gas control measures and to establish what extra measures may be required.
Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution is analysing the results. We expect to receive its report shortly.
Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what radionuclides have been measured off-site at Drigg, Dounreay, Harwell and Amersham International, formerly the radio-chemical centre, traceable to the low-level nuclear waste disposal sites ; at what distances and in what quantities these migrating
Column 772radionuclides have been discovered ; and whether any site licence regulations have ever been breached by off-site migration.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The information required for the British Nuclear Fuels low-level radioactive waste disposal site at Drigg can be found in the recent report by British Nuclear Fuels on "Radioactivity and Monitoring of the Environment 1987", a copy of which is in the House of Commons Library. No radionuclides traceable to low-level nuclear waste disposal have been measured off the Harwell and Amersham sites. No conditions in the authorisations issued by the joint authorising Departments have been breached by off-site migration. Questions relating to Dounreay are matters for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Mr. Howard : The Government's proposed guaranteed standards scheme which I am setting out today is a no-nonsense, no-quibble scheme providing a spur to management to ensure the best commercial practices. Customers who suffer inconvenience will receive an automatic entitlement to a payment or credit of £5 for every day, or each occasion, that a breach of one of the standards or service occurs. This will avoid the frustration customers at present experience because they cannot obtain any compensation in such cases. The scheme covers delays beyond the period notified by the company for restoring water supplies following a planned interruption of supply ; delays of more than 24 hours in restoring water supplies following an unplanned interruption which has been notified to the company ; appointments which are not kept on the day specified by the company to the customer ; failure to answer all reasonable written inquiries about bills or requests for alternative method of payment which take more than 10 to 20 working days depending on the need for further investigation ; failure to answer reasonable written complaints about water supply or sewerage services within a specified period.
I am discussing detailed targets with the industry before we lay the draft regulations.
I also welcome today's announcement by the Water Authorities Association and the Water Companies Association of their three draft codes of practice.
The outline model general code of practice for customers, on which the new companies will base their codes of practice for customers, will clarify the services to be provided and their terms and conditions. It also contains useful advice on enquiries and complaints procedures.
The code of practice on leakages sets the terms under which metered domestic customers will be entitled to a one-off discount against a higher than expected bills as a result of an undetected leak from a supply pipe. The discount is conditional on the customer repairing the leak within a specified period.
The revised code of practice on disconnection provides valuable advice and new safeguards for customers who have difficulty paying their bills. It sets out procedures to
Column 773be followed before disconnection. I welcome the water industry's continued efforts to ensure that the occasions on which disconnection occurs should be kept to the absolute minimum of those customers who can pay but refuse to do so.
These new rights for water customers are in addition to the new framework of individual statutory rights for customers and the companies' duties to provide service. They add to the protection provided by the director general who ensures that customers are not over charged or suffer loss of service quality, and also to our proposals for customer representation and investigation of complaints.
I will be making copies available in the House Library of the guaranteed standards scheme and, with the agreement of the industry, copies of the three draft customer codes of practice.
Mr. Nicholas Ridley : My Department shares in the work of representing the Government on a number of international bodies, in particular the European Community, the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Commonwealth, and the Council of Europe. Among its other international commitments, my Department also subscribes to or is represented on the following international organisations :
International Association on Water Pollution and Control ; International New Towns Association ;
International Solar Energy Society ;
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources ;
Paris Commission on Prevention of Marine Pollution from Land Based Sources.
In addition, it is represented on a number of other international organisations in the field of building research.
Column 774Vote X, 2 of the Department's Supply Estimates 1988-89 gives details of subscriptions paid by the Department to international organisations. Figures on the total cost of participation in these bodies, which would include staff time and travelling expenses, are not held separately and are not available other than at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Pendry : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his reply to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde of 1 February, Official Report, columns 217-8, whether he has received a letter from Millwall football club regarding the list of incidents of hooliganism annexed to his letter of 21 December 1988.
Mr. Moynihan : The chairman of Millwall football club wrote to me on 5 January about the arrest and ejection figures included in the list of incidents of football hooliganism in 1988-89, annexed to my letter of 21 December to parliamentary colleagues. The figures for the Millwall v Newcastle match on 19 November 1988 were as reported by the police soon after the game. These were subsequently revised by the police and a revised version of the illustrative incidents list was made available on publication of the Football Spectators Bill. I have exchanged letters with the chairman of Millwall on the point.
Mr. Yeo : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish in the Official Report a table showing for 1989-90 his estimate of the number of male and female employees in respect of whom employers are expected to pay national insurance contributions at the 9 per cent. and 10.45 per cent. rates, together with the forecast amount of the employers' contributions at each rate.
National insuranceNumber of employees Estimated yie contribution rates(in millions) (secondary class 1) |Male |Female|All ---------------------------------------------------- 9 per cent Contracted in |1.0 |1.2 |2.2 |1.6 Contracted out |0.5 |0.9 |1.4 |0.6 Total |1.5 |2.1 |3.6 |2.2 10.45 per cent Contracted in |3.0 |0.7 |3.7 |4.9 Contracted out |5.9 |1.9 |7.8 |9.6 Total |8.9 |2.6 |11.5 |14.5
The figures include employers' contributions in respect of married women and widows who pay contributions at the reduced rate, whether contracted in or contracted out.
Mr. Yeo : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish in the Official Report a table showing for 1989-90 his estimate of the numbers of male and female employees expected to pay national insurance
Column 774contributions at the 5 per cent., 7 per cent., and 9 per cent. rates, together with the forecast amount of the employees' contributions at each rate ; and if he will divide the figures between those contracted in and those contracted out.
National Insurance Number of employees Estimated yield Contribution Rates (in millions) (Class 1) |(£ billion) |Male |Female |All ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 5 per cent. Contracted in |0.4 |1.3 |1.7 |0.3 Contracted out |- |0.1 |0.1 |- |--- |--- |--- |--- Total |0.4 |1.4 |1.8 |0.3 7 per cent. Contracted in |0.4 |1.4 |1.8 |0.6 Contracted out |0.1 |0.2 |0.3 |0.1 |--- |--- |--- |--- Total |0.5 |1.6 |2.1 |0.7 9 per cent. Contracted in |4.0 |1.7 |5.7 |5.0 Contracted out<1> |6.4 |2.6 |9.0 |8.8 |--- |--- |--- |--- Total |10.4 |4.3 |14.7 |13.8 <1> The figures shown for contracted out employees include employees contributing to personal pension schemes.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which aspects of the benefits system introduced in 1988 are being monitored by means of (a) special research programmes, (b) special inquiries of local authorities and (c) voluntary agencies.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : Currently, 50 claimants in the Republic of Ireland are being paid sickness benefit from the Department's overseas branch at Newcastle upon Tyne. There could be a small number of claimants being paid by the Department's local offices but the numbers involved, if any, could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : The housing benefit regulations allow a source of income that would be available to a claimant if he or she were to apply for it to be taken into account as a notional source of income. Family credit will be assumed to be in payment to a housing benefit claimant from a date that allows time for a claim to be determined but only where the claimant appears to meet all the conditions for family credit yet has not claimed it. The applicant will be informed accordingly. In cases where family credit has already been claimed it will not be taken into account until actually received.
Column 776benefits will receive less than the full amount of April's benefit upratings because they are receiving transitional protection.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : I regret that the information requested is not available. It is estimated, however, that around 770,000 income support recipients who are in receipt of other social security benefits may receive less than the full amount of April's benefit uprating because of transitional protection.
Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if, pursuant to his answer of 6 February to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe, Official Report, column 624, he will publish in the Official Report the detailed information about benefits for disabled people which the right hon. Member requested from him.
All the benefits provided specifically for disabled people more than retained their value between November 1979 and April 1988 with real increases ranging from 0.6 per cent. to 9.4 per cent. I regret that information about the number of disabled people who lost free prescriptions and free school meals is not available. It is estimated that about 30,000 income support recipients getting the disability and higher pensioner premiums will still require transitional protection after the uprating in April 1989 ; the vast majority of disabled people will get an increase.
Most disabled people on housing benefit gained or saw no change in their benefit as a result of the April 1988 reforms. About 50,000 are estimated to have lost some or all of their benefit.
Transitional protection was introduced for vulnerable groups of claimants to restrict their losses as a result of the 1988 reforms to £2.50 per week. This included disabled people who qualify for the disability premium or who qualified for the handicapped needs allowance in the old housing benefit scheme. Those dependent on social security benefits will still see an overall increase in their benefit income after the transitional payments have been
Column 777reduced by £2 per week in April 1989. Special arrangements have been made for those who would not otherwise do so.
Mr. Clay : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will specify the figure referred to in his reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North on 21 January, Official Report, column 848, as being used for the calculation of the element of income support levels for April 1988 in consideration of water charges.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : As explained in paragraph 5 of the explanatory notes to "The Impact of the Reformed Structure of Income Related Benefits", the calculations were based on the actual water charges paid by claimants (suitably uprated) where these were recorded in the annual statistical inquiry, and on an uprated average value of £1.65 per week for other cases in the sample.
Mr. Scott : Further to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) on 3 May 1988 at columns 422-24, I am pleased to announce a further disbursement to charities of £2.8 million. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Wales and Northern Ireland will be making their own arrangements. I have placed a list of those organisations that are to receive payments in the Library.
Mr. Alton : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of his Department's officials are engaged in matters relating to the maintenance of the quality of foods sold by retailers.
Mr. Ryder : Many officials throughout my Department are engaged to some extent in work that is directly or indirectly related to the maintenance of the quality of food. The inquiries that would be necessary to assess the percentage of time spent on such activities would be disproportionately costly and cannot be justified.