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Mr. Buckley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce a transitional period for households with substantial increases in payments following the introduction of the poll tax in April 1990.

Mr. Gummer [holding answer 24 April 1989] : The Government have no plans to introduce a poll tax.

The Government have proposed a safety net which will provide transitional protection for areas in which there would otherwise be substantial increases in average bills per household. The community charge rebate system will give further protection to chargepayers with low incomes.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish for each local authority in


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England (a) the illustrative community charge for 1989-90 (i) within and (ii) without safety net, (b) the comparable figures for 1988-89, (c) the percentage changes between the two years, (d) the average rate bill per household for 1989-90 and (e) the average number of adults per household.

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment in which month he expects to announce illustrative 1989-89 community charges for Nottingham based upon the forthcoming year's rate support grant settlement.

Mr. Gummer : As in previous years, I intend publishing illustrative community charges for all local authority areas in England when detailed budget returns have been received. The date of publication will depend on prompt submission of those budget returns. So far 343 out of the 426 returns have been submitted.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the regulations which give poll tax registration officers access to local education authority lists containing the names and addresses of school pupils' parents ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer : The Government have no plans to introduce a poll tax. The regulations governing the administration of the community charge in England and Wales are the Community Charges (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1989 (S.I. 1989/438). Regulation 6 requires certain public bodies on request to provide the community charges registration officer (CCRO) with names, addresses and periods of residence where such information is within the possession or control of those bodies. The local education authority is among the bodies concerned, but the governors or proprietors of schools (who maintain registers containing the names and addresses of parents) are not. Whether such names and addresses can be given to the CCRO will therefore depend upon whether they have been passed into the possession or control of the authority. The authority may not inspect or take an extract from a school register other than for educational purposes.

Nuclear Waste

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if Her Majesty's Government have identified a safe long-term method of disposing permanently of nuclear waste.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Government believe that safe disposal routes for radioactive wastes can be developed in the United Kingdom. The Government have accepted Nirex's recommendation that a repository for low and intermediate-level radioactive waste should be constructed in the form of a mine under the land and that further investigations should be undertaken to determine the suitability of Sellafield or Dounreay for construction of a repository. Heat-generating radioactive wastes will be stored for at least 50 years to allow them to cool before a final decision on disposal is taken.

Caravan Parks

Sir Eldon Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish his new model standards for caravan parks.


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Mr. Trippier : My right hon. Friend published the revised model standards on 19 April. Separate standards have been specified for permanent residential mobile home sites and for holiday caravan sites. As a result of research sponsored by my Department, the spacing standard for holiday caravans with aluminium or other similar fire-resistant exteriors has been reduced from 6 to 5m. This takes account of the changes which have occurred in the caravan industry over the past decade and, together with other changes in the new standards, should lead to more attractive holiday caravan site layouts.

The standards have been circulated to all local authorities in England and Wales and to other interested bodies and copies have been placed in the House Libraries. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy.

London Docklands Development Corporation

Mr. Heddle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what the status of the London Docklands development corporation will be upon the expiry of its enterprise zone status.

Mr. Trippier : When the Isle of Dogs enterprise zone expires the corporation will cease to be the enterprise zone authority for the purposes of part XVIII of and schedule 32 to the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980, and will then gain the full range of planning powers in that area of docklands. Its status will otherwise be unchanged.

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list all planning permissions given by the London Docklands development corporation along the river Thames in the borough of Southwark which secure a public riverside walkway.

Mr. Trippier [holding answer 24 April 1989] : A list of 17 permissions given by the LDDC since 1981 has been placed in the Library. The corporation is committed to securing extensive riverside and dockside access throughout its area. Twelve miles of waterside are so far accessible, and a further 15 miles are proposed.

Lindane (Lost Container)

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has on the current whereabouts of the container of lindane lost on 13 March.

Mr. Portillo : I have been asked to reply.

The container, lost while under tow by a French ship to Cherbourg, was thought to be about 25 km north-west of the Cap de la Hague. The French authorities, who are responsible for co-ordinating counter-pollution operations in that area of the Channel, have carried out an intensive but unsuccessful search for it using both surface vessels and a submersible. That special search has now been called off on the basis of a joint Anglo/French scientific assessment of the pollution threat which concluded that the physical nature of the lindane, the packaging, depth of water in which the container was lost, water currents and other factors, are such that the likelihood of contamination is much less than at first feared.

In the process of normal training and exercises, the French Navy will continue to look for the missing container. The French authorities also continue to carry out an intensive programme of sampling and analysis of seawater and fish.


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Bathing Water

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will estimate the cost at current prices to each water authority in England to bring the bathing beaches that fail to meet the standards laid down in the European Community bathing water directive (76/160/EEC) into conformity.

Mr. Howard : Water authorities are spending about £100 million a year on schemes to improve the quality of bathing waters and this rate of spending is likely to increase. However, detailed proposals for schemes to improve bathing waters are still being formulated and it is too soon to estimate the total spending required by each authority to meet EC bathing water quality standards.

Public Rights of Way

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was his Department's response to the Countryside Commission's consultation papers, "Paths, Routes and Trails" and "Changing the Rights of Way Network".

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Department has not commented on either paper.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how his Department measures the reduction in the time taken to decide opposed rights of way orders in the absence of information on the receipt of, and replies to, letters by his Department's offices in Bristol ; and if he will publish such information as is available to indicate how substantial the reduction is.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The time between the submission of an order to the Department's Bristol office and the issue of a decision is recorded for every case. The median from submission to decision in 1987-88 was 53 weeks ; in 1988-89 this time was reduced to 40 weeks.

Housing Statistics

Mr. Norman Hogg : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the number and proportion of empty dwellings at the latest available date in (a) the private rented sector, (b) the housing association sector, (c) the central Government sector and (d) the local authority sector.

Mr. Trippier [holding answer 24 April 1989] : Estimates derived from the housing investment programme returns of English local authorities for April 1988 are as follows :




                                          |Vacant dwellings (number in '000s)       |Vacant dwellings as a percentage of stock                                                                                    

Local authority<1>                        |101.2                                    |2.4                                                                                                                          

Housing Association                       |12.7                                     |2.5                                                                                                                          

Other public sector<2>                    |16.1                                     |6.5                                                                                                                          

Private<3>                                |579.5                                    |4.1                                                                                                                          

<1>Includes dwellings which are closed or have been acquired for demolition but excludes dwellings on overspill estates.                                                                                          

<2>Includes housing owned by new towns, county councils, Government Departments, nationalised industries, other public bodies and council dwellings on overspill estates. Many of these are vacant because of     

operational requirements, notably those owned by the Ministry of Defence and others have been acquired for demolition for example, by the Department of Transport. The Government are encouraging the sale of     

housing which is surplus to requirements and many of those that are vacant are in the process of disposal.                                                                                                        

<3>Includes owner-occupied as well as private rented dwellings.                                                                                                                                                   


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Local Authority Employees (Pensions)

Mr. Favell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will introduce regulations to allow part-time local government employees to buy additional service for pension purposes.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley [holding answer 24 April 1989] : These proposed regulations were held up for a long time by a dispute between the local government employers and unions. Since this was settled we have needed to consult other Departments on the proposal that the regulations should apply not only to present employees but to those who have retired since April 1986. This has just been agreed. We will now give the preparation of the regulations as much priority as possible. In view of this agreement those employees who retire before the regulations are made will not be placed at a disadvantage.

River Mersey (Pollution)

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what chemicals the Norsochem works is allowed to discharge into the Mersey ; and in what quantities.

Mr. Moynihan [holding answer 20 April 1989] : I understand that the company currently has deemed consent to discharge a range of organic chemicals into the Mersey. Details of the type and quantity of chemicals which the company is allowed to discharge are on the public register maintained by the North West water authority and available for inspection.

I understand that the North West water authority is shortly to replace the deemed consent with a positively determined consent. Details of this consent including the conditions to which it is subject, will also be entered on the public register.

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many prosecutions relating to pollution of the Mersey his Department has brought against companies for the time for which figures are available ; and what were the verdicts and fines in each case.

Mr. Moynihan [holding answer 20 April 1989] : Responsibility for enforcement of water pollution controls over industry rests with the regional water authorities and comprehensive information about prosecutions is not held centrally.

However, I understand that in 1987, the North West water authority brought a total of 23 prosecutions for


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offences committed under part II of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, in the Mersey catchment as a whole. All resulted in convictions, with an average fine imposed of £680. Of the prosecutions brought in 1988, 17 have so far been tried, all resulting in convictions with average fines of £670.

Local Authority Services

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list in the Official Report (a) those services which local authorities must presently provide free of charge ; (b) those services for which local authorities are permitted to charge in accordance with regulations or primary legislation, where the charges are set in those regulations of primary legislation, where the charges are set in those regulations or primary legislation or otherwise by the Government and (3) those services for which local authorities are permitted to charge in accordance with regulations or primary legislation, where the charges are for local discretion.

Mr. Ridley [holding answer 19 April 1989] : This information is not available in precisely the form requested by the hon. Member. I am placing in the Library such information as is available about local authorities' charging powers.

Peak Park (Planning Applications)

Mr. McLoughlin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many planning applications for house building have been made to the Peak park planning board ; how many have been successful ; and how many have been for starter homes and how many for family residences.

Mr. Trippier : Since April 1984, the Peak park joint planning board has dealt with 1,110 planning applications for house building, of which 11 were for starter homes. A total of 626 applications (56.4 per cent.) were approved including six for starter homes. No records are kept of the number of family residences involved in the applications.

Council Houses

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement further to his reply of 7 February, Official Report, column 600, about council houses.

Mr. Trippier : No.


 

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