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Mr. Spicer : My hon. Friend makes a very strong point. It must be said, however, that one of the features of those who are roofless and sleeping rough is, of course, that they find it difficult to get jobs.
Mr. Spicer : My hon. Friend says, "Of course." That is one reason why the problem is unacceptable. Many of these people are children, and our first advice to them is, therefore, to go back to their parents.
Mr. Chris Patten : I have no plans to ban the importation of all polychlorinated biphenyl waste. To do so would be environmentally irresponsible when we have facilities for safe disposal and effective notification and monitoring controls. But the Environmental Protection Bill contains powers to restrict, and if necessary to ban, imports of waste-- including PCB waste--where there are risks of pollution or harm to human health.
Mr. Livsey : Given that the Government are moving towards banning transfrontier shipments of hazardous waste, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a strong case for tabling an amendment to the Environmental Protection Bill to prevent toxic waste and PCBs coming to Britain from developed countries?
Mr. Patten : We have argued within the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development and the European Community that, by and large, developed countries--the OECD members--should deal with their own toxic waste. We must limit the amount of movement of toxic waste between countries. I do not think that it would be right to press for a ban. If I did that, I would be a Secretary of State whose decisions had led to illegal dumping at sea and on African beaches.
Mr. Colvin : Does my right hon. Friend agree that environmental pollution does not recognise national frontiers? We would like industrial waste, especially toxic waste, disposed of in the country of origin. Nevertheless, because Britain has at its disposal plant that is capable of handling such waste safely, we have a moral duty to the rest of the world to accept it, and that is totally in keeping with our lead on green matters internationally.
Column 885waste that we deal with is produced in this country ; only about 5 per cent. of it comes from abroad. That is a far smaller proportion than in many other countries.
Mr. Allan Roberts : Will the Secretary of State condemn the practice of Rechem International--the chemical company that imports PCBs--of issuing writs like confetti against anyone who criticises it, thus stifling any possibility of public debate? Fourteen writs have been issued. I must admit a vested interest ; I am one of the 14 people being sued. Will not the Minister accept that what he has said is wrong? There are plans for increasing the amount of imports. Will he confirm that between October 1988 and August 1989, 6,700 tonnes of toxic waste came into the country, that Rechem is increasing its capacity for incinerating toxic waste and PCBs from 82,000 tonnes to 150,000 tonnes and that the Government are allowing one shipload of toxic waste and PCBs a week into the country? The Government are ministering purposely over the trade in poison to mask the balance of payments deficit in manufactured goods.
Mr. Patten : Even by the hon. Gentleman's standards that is average nonsense. I do not want to come between the hon. Gentleman and his solicitors or anybody else's solicitors. The figures that I gave earlier are correct. Only about 5 per cent. of the waste that is dealt with in this country comes from abroad. We have pressed internationally to limit as much as possible the movement of toxic waste. We will continue to press home that initiative.
Mr. Soames : When my hon. Friend meets the chairman of the Commission for the New Towns, will he remind him that the commission made an exceptionally successful investment in properties of which it is now disposing in new towns, from which the taxpayer is being paid a handsome return? Will my hon. Friend have a word with the Treasury to see whether it is possible to establish from the proceeds of the sales a charitable fund of a very small amount per annum, the percentage to be agreed, to provide community projects in the new towns concerned?
Mr. Chope : The commission already has power under statute to make contributions to local charities and other voluntary organisations. I know that my hon. Friend is concerned about the extent of those contributions. I shall be happy to raise that matter at my next meeting with the chairman of the commission.
Column 886England and Wales will be spending over the next five years to remedy current situations of non-compliance with the EC drinking water directive.
Water companies also have investment programmes totalling £1.4 billion to improve bathing water quality.
Mr. Welsh : Why is it taking European court action against the British Government to force the pace in bringing British water supplies up to recommended European standards? Is it not disgraceful that levels of aluminium, lead and other substances above European standards are daily being ingested by millions of people in Britain? As a lead pipe replacement programme would solve the lead problem, is the Minister encouraging his housing colleagues to reverse their present policy of reducing finance for such a project as part of a general scheme to bring British water supplies up to European standards?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The hon. Gentleman mentioned lead. In fact, our national standards are more stringent than that required under the European directive. He also mentioned aluminium, where the directive standard is aesthetic rather than for health reasons because water containing aluminium can appear cloudy even though it is safe to drink. We have drawn up a comprehensive and fully funded programme of compliance and agreed it with the water service companies
Mr. Holt : My hon. Friend may be aware that at lunchtime today I had the privilege of hosting a table of parliamentary guests from Belgium, who are in this country to discuss water because of the excellence of our supplies. They said that Brussels does not have a single water purification plant. In view of that, before the EEC starts telling us what to do with our water, it should get its own house in order.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : My hon. Friend makes a good point. We understand that the Commission has begun infraction proceedings against virtually every other member state. Even if we do appear before the European Court for an alleged breach of the drinking water directive, it will be our first case. I remind my hon. Friend that 68 other breaches of environmental directives by other member states have already come to court. Instead of being the dirty man of Europe, we have one of the best programmes and records of compliance of any country in Europe.
Mr. Ron Brown : Is not London water recycled six or seven times? That may go down well with some people--possibly because it is time that people in the city had a pure water supply. Is not that a basic right? Is it not something that the Government should consider with real intent as these basic issues will arise time and again? It is a rip off.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : London water is entirely safe to drink, even if it has been recycled through the hon. Gentleman. The Water Act 1989, by placing those companies in the private sector, has given them access to additional investment finance, while setting rigorous independent scrutiny by regulations.
13. Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received following the announcement of allocations to local authorities for their housing investment programmes in 1990-91.
Mr. Nicholson : My hon. Friend will be aware that, during progress on last year's Local Government Housing Bill, I made several representations about the specific problems in the urban areas of Taunton Deane. We are grateful for the recognition of those problems in next year's allocations. We also note that the inner cities again receive the lion's share of the new money. As my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) pointed out, Labour councils do not always use their resources effectively. Will my hon. Friend the Minister, do his best to ensure that those Labour councils fill their empty council homes, collect rent and rate arrears and work constructively with the private sector to meet housing need?
Mr. Chope : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his appreciation of the increased HIP allocation for Taunton Deane. It has almst quadrupled for next year and it shows the effectiveness of our new system of targeting. My hon. Friend was right to express frustration at the way that many Labour authorities use the large sums of money that the Government make available to them. I hope that more of them will heed his points and get better value for money.
Mr. O'Brien : Will the Minister confirm that local authority associations have made repeated representations to his Department because the HIP programme has been reduced? Will he also confirm that the reduction during the past 10 years under this Government has meant a reduction in affordable homes and in homes available for the elderly? Even with the increase for 1991, is there not a reduction of more than 25 per cent. on last year because of the way that the housing programme has been manipulated by his Department? When will he give the full facts about the housing investment programme and about the needs and demands of the local authorities that are required to meet the need for affordable housing?
Mr. Chope : I am sorry to have to tell the House that the hon. Gentleman has got his facts wrong. HIP allocations next year will be more than £2 billion, which is more than double this year's allocation, and total public expenditure on housing capital next year will be more than £4.4 billion, which is 7 per cent. higher than this year's provision.
Mr. Oppenheim : Does my right hon. Friend agree that Amber Valley has done extremely well out of the safety net arrangements, for which we are extremely grateful to the areas that have contributed? Does he also agree that if the community charge in Derbyshire generally ends up being higher than the estimates, it will be due solely to the profligacy of Derbyshire county council?
Mr. Gould : But what answer can the Secretary of State give to the Tory chairman of the ADC, who said last week on behalf of the association that the Government's poll tax estimates were artificially low? What answer can he give to poll tax payers in Tory-controlled districts and elsewhere who, when their bills arrive on 1 April, will be outraged to find that they are required to pay much more than the Government have so far let on? What answer can he give to his own hon. Friends, including the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir D. Smith), who know all too well what is in store for their constituents, or does he think that all those people are wrong and only he is right?
Mr. Patten : I give to those councillors and to others the answer that I gave the House last week--the main determinant in community charge levels next year will be the rate of spending by local authorities. I wonder when the hon. Gentleman will be answering the point put by my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities earlier this afternoon. We waited with edge-of-the-seat enthusiasm just now to discover whether the hon. Gentleman would condemn his hon. Friend the free riders of the Militant tendency.
Mr. Pawsey : I thank my hon. Friend for that complete reply. Does he agree that the sale of council houses represents the greatest shift of assets to the individual that the United Kingdom has ever experienced, and would he care to comment on the Labour party's policy? Although the Opposition say that they would maintain the sale of council houses, they will not confirm that they will maintain the discount system. Does my hon. Friend further agree that, without discounts, the sale of council houses would stop and that the Labour party's policy is typical humbug yet again?
Mr. Spicer : My hon. Friend is right on all counts, I think, although the Labour party's policy on the right to buy is a bit of a mystery. It seems that the Opposition have performed a volte face and decided that they now like a policy that they originally attacked, as they attack so many of our policies at their inception. On the other hand, there seems to be no question of the Labour party's giving incentives to buy. Moreover, it would seem from leaks of the Labour party's policy that its new policy on local
Column 889taxation would give a kick in the teeth to those who have bought their council houses. I do not know what sort of a policy that is.
Dr. Reid : Is the Minister aware that some Labour Members have always been pleased to support the provision of opportunities for working people to obtain their own homes, either by purchase or by rent? What we find criminal is that the selling-off of existing council houses has not been complemented by the building of new council houses for people who cannot afford to purchase their own homes. Is it not a very one-sided and unfair policy that correctly provides for the majority of people in Scotland and throughout Britain to purchase their own homes but at the same time deprives local authorities of the moneys necessary to provide the homeless and those on low incomes, who have no prospect of purchasing their own homes, with a roof over their heads?
Mr. Spicer : The Government take account of the total housing stock in Britain, and that has been expanding rapidly particularly in recent times. The hon. Gentleman will know that there is a massive increase ahead in expenditure in public sector housing by the Housing Corporation and housing associations, which will combine public with private money to build new homes, and that is precisely the way it should go in future.
The Minister for Sport (Mr. Colin Moynihan) : I met members of the bid team on 2 October last year to discuss progress on Manchester's Olympic bid and am ready to meet them again at any time. They are well aware of the Government's enthusiastic support for Manchester's bid.
Mr. Sumberg : Is my hon. Friend aware of the concern among those who support this bid that the unofficial cricket tour of South Africa may jeopardise Manchester's chances of hosting the Olympics in 1996? Does he agree that that would be most unfair to Manchester? Will he use his considerable influence with the Olympic authorities to promote Manchester's bid for 1996?
Mr. Moynihan : I do not think that my hon. Friend's fears will be confirmed. On the contrary, I believe that the bid will be looked at on its merits. Manchester and the north-west of England have a long and illustrious sporting tradition and are well versed in providing for the very best in sport. I am confident that holding the games in Manchester would be a fitting tribute to the centenary of the modern Olympic movement.
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