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23. Mr. Steinberg : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration he has given to the possible options for need assessments under the new system of local government finance ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. David Hunt : On 12 July we discussed a report by officials, which contains a range of options for standard spending assessments, with the Consultative Council on Local Government Finance. My right hon. Friend will not be taking any final decisions until the autumn.
24. Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his latest estimate of the cost of introducing a system of local government finance based on capital value rates plus local income tax.
32. Mr. Rooker : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about the level of safety net for local authorities under Her Majesty's Government's new system of local government finance.
Mr. David Hunt : The safety net is the result of the old system of local government finance. I refer the hon. Member to the statement made to the House on 19 July by my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for the Environment, which contained full details of the proposed safety net.
40. Dr. Goodson-Wickes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he intends to take to ensure that tenants in the private rented sector are not put in the position of paying the community charge without a corresponding deduction in the rate element of their rent.
Mr. David Hunt : Protected tenants paying rents which include rates will have the normal protection of the Rent Act 1977 for tenancies entered into before 15 January 1989, and may register fair rents which are exclusive of rates. The Housing Act 1988 will apply to most tenancies entered into after that date, and any rents determined by the rent assessment committee under that Act will be
Column 773exclusive of rates. Any reductions in inclusive rents arising from the introduction of community charge should be settled on the basis of individual contracts. The Department will be producing shortly a booklet on the impact between the community charge and rents in the series "You and the Community Charge".
75. Ms. Mowlam : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from Professor Elaine Murphy of Guy's hospital, London as to the viability of assessing severe dementia for the purposes of community charge exemption ; and what response he has made.
Mr. David Hunt : Professor Murphy wrote to my right hon. Friend the then Minister for Local Government on 6 July about this matter. I am now considering her letter and have agreed to meet professor Murphy to discuss it.
78. Mr. McCartney : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what further consideration he has given to the impact of poll tax registration on the levels of electoral registration in the light of early experience of registration.
Mr. David Hunt : If there is any impact of community charge registration on electoral registration it can be connected only with the misleading use of the term "poll tax" for party political purposes.
Mr. David Hunt : I have no illustrative comunity charge figures for 1990-91. Illustrative community charges published on 19 July reflect 1989- 90 local authority responsibilities and levels of expenditure.
Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the criteria determining whether a local authority should be (a) a gainer or (b) a loser from the community charge safety net (i) in the estimates given for hypothetical community charges in 1988-89 and (ii) in the estimates given on 19 July for hypothetical community charges in 1989-90.
Mr. David Hunt : Areas which are shown as gaining from the safety net are those in which the total of community charges assumed to be raised from residents is higher than the total of domestic rates. Conversely, areas contributing to the safety net are those where the total of community charges are assumed to be lower.
Details of the calculations for illustrative community charges for 1988-89 and 1989-90 were contained in the explanatory notes accompanying the tables placed in the Library on 23 June 1988 and 19 July 1989, respectively.
Column 774average rate per adult charged in 1989-90, showing also the averages for each region, inner London, outer London and the rest of the south east separately, and for England as a whole.
Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what a senior ward sister currently living in a flat in Battersea would pay for her local services under (a) the community charge, and (b) a system of capital value rates and local income tax allocated on an 80/20 basis.
Mr. David Hunt : In 1989-90 a ward sister earning £15,000 living alone in a flat Battersea worth £70,000 would pay a community charge of £375 (disregarding the transitional safety net) and £639 under a system of capital value rates plus local income tax.
25. Mr. Boateng : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will seek powers to redirect the resources currently spent on bed-and-breakfast accommodation for homeless people towards the provision of purpose built accommodation for them.
Mr. Chope : I am currently reviewing the homelessness legislation and hope to announce conclusions soon. But it is for local authorities to determine how to direct resources to meet their local housing needs. My Department has consistently advised that the best use must be made of existing stock to house the homeless before recourse to temporary accommodation and that bed-and-breakfast hotels should be used only as a last resort, especially for families.
21. Mr. Butler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many new town houses have been built in Warrington since the inception of the new town development corporation ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 775Government have called for the support of all nations in preparing an international framework convention. This call was endorsed by the governing council of the United Nations environment programme (UNEP) in June and by the economic summit in Paris on 16 July. The summit also supported the United Kingdom's proposals to phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons, to give added momentum to international work on integrating environment and economic decision making, to safeguard tropical forests and to strengthen the United Nations environmental institutions, especially UNEP.
Mr. Chope : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State awaits the results of a survey by our Department of local authority empty property and will then consider action, in consultation with the local authority associations.
30. Mr. Ian Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on the transitional mechanisms to be introduced in connection with the unified business rate.
44. Sir John Hunt : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from the National Hairdressers Federation in respect of the likely impact of the unified business rate upon hairdressing salons ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. David Hunt : The National Hairdressers' Federation's letter of 29 May was taken into account in settling the transitional arrangements announced by my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State on 19 July.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : We recognised that the ban would affect the legitimate ivory trade, but this was outweighed by the need for immediate action to protect the African elephant pending decisions on a long-term strategy for its future survival.
Mr. Chope : Any person who falls into difficulty with mortgage repayments should contact his or her lender as soon as possible. Responsible lenders will be sympathetic and willing to help. There are also independent organisations which offer advice to people in this situation. The Government give grants to 20 voluntary bodies which provide such a service.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Officials, together with officials from the Department of Trade and Industry, have recently studied the issues raised by environmental labelling for consumer products and have spoken to a range of interested parties, including representatives of consumers, producers, retailers and
environmentalists. This study has taken account of the experience of the Blue Angel environmental labelling scheme in the Federal Republic of Germany, and of developments in the European Community. We shall make known our conclusions on this study in due course.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Ninety six per cent. of new cars registered in May could use unleaded petrol. 70 per cent. could run on unleaded petrol straight away and the remaining 26 per cent. after adjustment.
41. Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has had any recent discussions on environmental matters with the firms BP, Barclays Bank, Inchcape, BAT Industries or Shell.
I discuss environmental matters generally with individuals, local authorities, voluntary organisations and industry on all possible occasions.
42. Mr. David Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proportion of councils in England and Wales now contract out local government services ; and how much has been saved since 1981 as a result of such contracting out.
Mr. David Hunt : Under part I of the Local Government Act 1988, all authorities in England and Wales are required to introduce competition for certain services, starting on 1 August 1989. Previous studies of voluntary competition indicate that savings of 20-30 per cent. have been achieved.
Mr. Moynihan : The main provisions of part II of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 were brought into force between July 1984 and October 1986. These provided for more effective protection of inland, surface and underground waters, the extension of controls to cover all coastal and estuarial waters and public involvement, for the first time, in the water pollution control system. These provisions are re-enacted and where appropriate streng-thened in the Water Act.
46. Mr. Heddle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had with the construction industry about the likely cost of sewerage and water connection charges following privatisation of the water industry.
Mr. Howard : I have had one meeting with representatives of the House Builders Federation, and my officials have held two meetings with them to discuss the detailed arrangements for introducing a charge at the time new connections are made to water mains and public sewers under powers included in the Water Act 1989.
49. Dr. Twinn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many years were given to member states to identify a full list of bathing waters for the purposes of the 1975 bathing waters directive.
51. Ms. Primarolo : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received concerning action by the Bristol urban district council to acquire land used by people of Bristol as open space for unscheduled development ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr Moynihan : Bristol city council made representations, after it was consulted about the proposed vesting of land at St. Anne's road which is likely to be needed for a road junction improvement. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment decided not to proceed with the vesting order but to allow an opportunity for negotiation to see whether the development corporation can acquire the land by agreement.
Mr. Moynihan : Since the Merseyside development corporation was established, 3,500 permanent jobs have been created in the designated area. The corporation's regeneration programme has also led to on site construction jobs of about 1,000 man years work annually.
54. Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether his Department has made any assessment of the increase in rents in the private sector following the introduction of market rents for new tenancies in January of this year.
Mr. Chope : Under this Government the number of owner-occupiers has risen dramatically by over 3 million. More people now own their homes than ever before. We do not believe that further general incentives to owner- occupation are necessary.
However, we are funding through the Housing Corporation shared ownership schemes run by housing associations which allow people to enter the housing market by purchasing part of the equity in their homes, and paying rent on the balance.
60. Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will consider making changes to section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 to help local first-time buyers along similar lines to those the Welsh Office has announced it is considering for Wales.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : My right hon. Friend's statement of 3 February at column 433 indicated the basis on which planning authorities in rural areas in England may wish to release small additional sites for development where there is evidence of a local need for low cost housing. The draft planning guidance issued by the Welsh Office on 30 June is on broadly similar lines, but with specific reference to conditions in Wales. It proposes no amendment of section 52.
My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Wales issued a consultation paper on 11 July ( Official Report, column 483 ) which invited
Column 780comments on separate proposals to amend section 52. In that context we shall consider any views on the need for changes to section 52 to facilitate the provision of low cost rural housing. Comments are invited by 11 September.
56. Mr. Favell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to be able to publish figures showing the savings accruing to local authorities as a result of competitive tendering.
Mr. David Hunt : The Department will shortly be issuing a questionnaire to authorities seeking information about the outcome of the first round of competition under the Local Government Act 1988, which starts on 1 August of this year. The results of this survey should be available early next year.