|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Howard : I understand from the South West water authority that for the week commencing Monday 27 February, 23 samples of water issuing from the Lowermoor treatment works all complied with the standards of the EC drinking water directive. The 89 samples taken during the same week from the distribution system served by the Lowermoor treatment works complied with the EC standards except for one sample from an old property with lead plumbing which exceeded the standard for lead and four samples which exceeded the standard for iron. It is not unusual for the iron standard to be exceeded occasionally in distribution systems with iron mains. Those results which did not comply with a directive standard have been notified to the local environmental health officer.
Column 209I am informed that the authority's current sampling programme has a daily target of 10 routine samples. In addition, samples are taken in response to customer requests to investigate problems and to monitor the effects of mains cleaning operations. This level of sampling will be maintained until the authority, North Cornwall district council, and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly health authority are satisfied that it can be reduced.
Mr. Chope : Evidence on land use change in the countryside is collected regularly by my Department and by the Ministry of Agriculture, and taken into account in policy formulation. It is too early to assess the implications for land use of the announcements about rural housing which my right hon. Friend made last month.
Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the meetings which have taken place between his officials and (a) building societies and (b) Nottingham city council, on the question of mortgages for BISF houses in Bilborough, Nottingham, since he met a delegation of residents in 1988 ; and if he will make a statement.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if, pursuant to the reply to the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) Official Report, column 493, 20 February, he will set out the policy considerations underlying his decision not to conduct an environmental audit of British Nuclear Fuels plc's nuclear fuel cycle production plants.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the outcome of the meeting between EEC Environment Ministers and African Environment Ministers held in Dakar in January to discuss the international trade and regulation of hazardous waste.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The conference on hazardous wastes held in Dakar on 26 and 27 January this year issued a communique requesting the Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity, in collaboration with, among others, the executive director of the United Nations environment programme, to assist African countries to establish appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and control of movement of nuclear and industrial wastes in Africa and calling on all countries to participate in the diplomatic conference expected to be held in Basle later this month under the auspices of the United Nations
Column 210environment programme to negotiate a global convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on progress in the United Nations on the development of an international convention to regulate hazardous and toxic waste disposal.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : A diplomatic conference is expected to convene in Basle later this month for the purpose of adopting and signing the global convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes.
Mr. Hunter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many units of accommodation have been started and completed by the private sector in each local government district in Hampshire in each year since 1979 ;
(2) how many units of accommodation have been started and completed by the public sector in each local government district in Hampshire in each year since 1979.
Mr. Trippier [holding answer 9 March 1989] : The reported annual housebuilding figures for public and private sectors since 1980 appear in "Housebuilding in England by Local Authority Areas : 1980 to 1987". Figures for 1979 were published in "Local Housing Statistics" issue 59 and figures for the first half of 1988 were published in "Local Housing Statistics" issue 87. Copies of these are in the Library.
Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans Her Majesty's Government have to review progress at all levels in respect of their achieving the goals set by the Brundtland report ; and when they expect to publish their first review.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The United Kingdom is one of the few countries around the world to have produced a detailed response setting out the steps being taken to follow up the Brundtland report. The Government believe that the most effective way to promote the call in the report for policies of sustainable development to be adopted on a global scale is through concerted action by the international community as a whole. Our recent conference on saving the ozone layer was one practical and highly successful demonstration of this.
The United Kingdom is taking a leading role in international organisations such as the United Nations and OECD to ensure that sustainable development is integrated into all their activities. We have also recently commissioned Professor David Pearce of London university to review current work on the tools needed for measuring progress towards sustainable development.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has regarding the effects of extremely low frequency electric and magnetic radiation on plant, animal and human life.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Department has no information regarding the effects of extremely low frequency electric and magnetic radiation on plant, animal and human life. The National Radiological Protection Board is under a statutory duty to inform and advise Government, and others, on any hazards which may arise.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many relaxations in sewage works discharge consents are currently being allowed in each water authority or water company area ; and, of this number, how many are temporary and how many permanent.
Mr. Howard [holding answer 13 March 1989] : Authorities may apply for time-limited variations to discharge consents in cases where they plan to complete improvement schemes by March 1992. In addition, some small works may also be eligible for longer-term variations in those limited number of cases where it can be demonstrated that investment to meet current consent requirements would produce negligible environmental benefits. In all cases, HMIP will consider applications on their merits before granting revised consent conditions. At this stage, I cannot say how many applications will be made or granted--either in total or for any water authority.
Mr. Cran : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will outline the reasons for the delay in the publication of the HMIP report on the subject of the emission of radiation from the Capper Pass works in north Humberside, which his Department stated it expected to receive in November 1988, Official Report, 1 November 1988, column 564.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley [holding answer 13 March 1989] : The first part of the HMIP report on emissions from the Capper Pass works on north Humberside was completed in November. Completion of the second part, concerning non-radioactive emissions was unfortunately interrupted by an injury to the inspector who was dealing with it. This was overcome and the two parts of the report assembled into a single report. I have already indicated that I hope to place this single report in the Library of the House shortly.
Mr. Colin Shepherd : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to complete his consideration of the consultations concerning the General Development Order 1988 in respect of clay pigeon shooting.
Column 212to upholding this policy is demonstrated by my right hon. Friend's dismissal in February of proposals for a major shopping and leisure complex at Bricket wood near St. Albans, and by his dismissal today of similar proposals at Hewitts farm near Orpington. Both sites are in the metropolitan green belt. In both these cases my right hon. Friend has ordered the prospective developer to pay the cost incurred by the local planning authority at the public inquiries held to consider these proposals.
Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will estimate the volume of chlorofluorocarbons which are at present in use in refrigeration units and other domestic and industrial equipment in the United Kingdom.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : We have no estimate of the volume of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) at present in use. The Montreal protocol, and the European legislation which implements it, restrict the overall supply of CFCs. The European Community Environment Council, in response to a United Kingdom initiative, has called for the protocol to be strengthened so as to reduce supply by 85 per cent. as soon as possible and to eliminate it altogether by the end of the century. This will increasingly encourage the recycling of existing material wherever possible.
Sir Anthony Meyer : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many accidents involving injury have been reported during the past five years involving powered boats travelling close inshore off bathing beaches.
There have been about 700 incidents in total each year involving powered pleasure boats, but records are not kept of those occurring close to bathing beaches.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on progress made by the biogeochemical ocean flux study in assessing the use of coccolithophores to fix carbon dioxide.
Studies have shown that the natural abundance of coccolithophores could increase under conditions of increasing carbon dioxide. Studies are under way on the suitability of these organisms as food for zooplankton and protozoa. Coccolithophores are only one component of ocean life taking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere ; the biogeochemical ocean flux study's 1989 cruises will measure these processes.
Mr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom contribution to the joint global ocean flux study investigating the role of oceans in global climate change.
The biogeochemical ocean flux study (BOFS) of the Natural Environment Research Council provides the United Kingdom component of the joint global ocean flux
Column 213study (JGOFS). The BOFS involves 60 scientists and 14 laboratories, and expenditure of at least £3 million in 1989-90. The United Kingdom is also represented on the joint global ocean flux study international scientific committee.
Mr. Madel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the chairmen of the private water companies whom he has called in to see him as a result of their announcing increases in water charges of more than 10 per cent. for the year 1989-90 ; what response they gave to him ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Howard [pursuant to his reply 23 February 1989, c. 733] : The Water Companies Association indicated in its statement of 5 February that statutory water companies were likely to raise their charges this year by 30 per cent. or more. In some quarters, increases of 50 per cent. or more were anticipated. I have now met almost all the chairmen of the companies to discuss their proposals. The Department's financial advisers, Deloitte Haskins and Sells, have also scrutinised the companies' proposals and the reasons for the increases.
Some companies already had fixed their charges and were unable to reduce them. However, following the meetings that I have had with them, most companies proposed lower increases and the majority seen by Deloitte have agreed to reduce their proposals further. I now anticipate that the average increase in charges for the statutory water companies will be about 22 per cent. Since Deloittes began its scrutiny, consumers have, therefore, been saved at least £16 million in increased charges.
The Government have always made it clear that water charges will have to rise to meet the higher quality standards which are being demanded of the water industry. The preparation of asset management plans, as part of the new regulatory framework being established by the Water Bill, has also identified in a number of cases serious backlogs of maintenance of underground assets, which mean that companies will have to spend substantially more to maintain existing levels of service. In reviewing the companies' charging proposals, Deloittes sought in particular to identify the increase which could be attributable to these factors ; it also sought to avoid
Column 214recommending any action which would be imprudent when set against the likely sustained higher levels of capital expenditure in future. The extent to which investment is needed to meet existing requirements and maintain standards indicates underinvestment in many of the statutory water companies which shows just how inadequate the existing system of regulation has been. Such sharp increases in one year should not have been necessary and some of the increases which companies have announced are higher than these considerations alone would justify. Under existing statutory controls, the Government have no power to reverse these decisions.
We shall scrutinise this year's increases in charges very carefully in the light of the new system for controlling these charges which we are introducing in the Water Bill. Where price rises this year cannot be justified, appropriate adjustments will be made to the price ceilings which we set.
Mr. Tony Lloyd : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the level of aluminium in water supplies taken at regular intervals by each of the local authorities in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside ; and how often the samples taken are in excess of the recommended safety levels.
It is not the practice of many local authorities to carry out extensive monitoring of public water supplies. Water undertakers monitor their water supplies regularly.
Supplies taken by the North West water authority in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside have shown that the aluminium standard of the EC drinking water directive is regularly exceeded in parts of the following local authority areas : Sefton (Southport).
Stockport (excluding Reddish, Heaton Mersey).
Bolton (excluding Westhoughton, Lostock, Heaton Moor).
Tameside (Ashton, Stalybridge, Dukinfield, Mossley)
Oldham (excluding Royton and Chadderton).
Lancaster (Lancaster City and parishes of Slyne with Hest and Bolton-le- Sands).
The levels of aluminium detected in these supplies have not been judged to constitute a health risk.