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Construction plant noise
Testing new chemicals
Dangerous substances in water
Large combustion plants
New municipal waste incinerators
Existing municipal waste incinerators
Air Quality--smoke and SO
Monitoring of forest damage
Forestry action programme
Trade in endangered species (enforcing CITES)
CFCs, halons and ozone layer
The United Kingdom has also signed the Sofia protocol to the 1979 convention on long-range transboundary air pollution and the Basel convention on transfrontier movements of hazardous wastes.
52. Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much was spent per head of population in 1988-89 on the control of pollution and improvement of the environment in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Trippier : Statistics are not available in a form that would allow an exact reply to this question. Broad estimates suggest that the UK spends for the purpose of pollution control and environmental improvement a proportion of its GDP comparable to that in other industrial countries.
Column 749for protecting the environment. We are currently urging agreement on a wide range of proposals, including the following :
A regulation establishing a European Environment Agency to underpin environmental policy with comparable and authoritative information on a Europe-wide basis ;
A directive to protect the habitats of wild fauna and flora which will enable all member states to implement the Berne Convention and which will have added value over and above what can be achieved nationally ;
A directive to consolidate existing directives on exhaust emissions from passenger cars and which will include evaporative emissions ; A directive to tighten controls over emissions from large diesel vehicle engines, which are responsible for about half the emissions of NOx from road transport and which are the principal source of smoke in cities ;
A resolution that advanced industrialised countries should aim to become self-sufficient in disposing of their wastes so that we may put an end to virtually all transfrontier shipments of wastes ; A proposal establishing a community-wide scheme of labelling to provide consumers with impartial advice on the environmental characteristics of products and to reinforce incentives for manufacturers to produce goods which are environmentally more benign ;
A directive designed to improve public access to environmental information which will be consistent with the register-based approach used successfully in this country for a number of years ; The production of an agreed list of substances which are particularly dangerous for the aquatic environment and which require priority action to minimise imputs from all sources ;
A directive establishing a mechanism for up-dating certain existing directives on water quality in the light of technical progress and practical experience.
In addition, we have already persuaded the Community to adopt our ideas for reducing and eliminating chlorofluorocarbons as its position in the current revision of the Montreal protocol. These proposals are the most stringent of any put forward in the negotiations.
Mr. Moynihan : Effective co-ordination of Government action in the larger cities is delivered through the city action teams while the inner- city task forces operate at a more local level based in the heart of inner- city districts. The CATs and task forces work closely together to bring about regeneration in their areas.
On 6 December my hon. Friend the Minister of State announced the formation of a new ministerial team to spearhead and co-ordinate action in inner- cities. Each city action team and inner-city task force now has a Minister to advise and assist it in its vital regeneration work.
Mr. Trippier : I refer the hon. Member to the reply that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Energy gave to the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) on 13 December 1989 at columns 647-48.
Mr. Trippier : The Environmental Protection Bill contains various measures intended to discourage people from discarding litter in general, including powers for local authorities to impose fixed penalty tickets on litterers and the raising of the maximum fine for littering from £400 to £1,000. The Bill also promotes the recycling of waste by requiring local authorities to prepare recycling plans and to consider recycling as a vital part of their waste management strategy. The industry is also developing new products such as the non-detachable pull-ring which will contribute to reducing the problem of litter.
65. Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give urgent consideration to extending to London and other cities, the principle of encouraging the provision of affordable housing which already applies to rural areas ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Chope : The Government's policy is to encourage provision of affordable housing in both rural and urban areas. We have recently taken a series of measures to promote the provision of low-cost housing to rent and buy in rural areas ; but special priority continues to be given to inner- city areas in distributing resources to both local authorities and housing associations.
86. Mr. John Garrett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will consider initiating a study into the feasibility of using the planning system in high land value areas to reserve land for affordable housing as a specific land use ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Moynihan : The general question of what role the planning system can and should play in helping to secure the provision of affordable housing has been raised in a number of the responses to the draft planning policy
Column 751guidance note on housing (PPG3) which we published for consultation last October. I will consider the hon. Member's suggestion in that context.
66. Mr. Dykes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what new measures he is considering to curb the uncontrolled demolition of unlisted dwelling houses by developers creating sites for redevelopment, outside of conservation areas.
Mr. Moynihan : My right hon. Friend is considering this and other planning aspects of housing development in the context of responses to the draft revised planning policy guidance note 3 (housing) which was issued for consultation on 4 October.
67. Mr. David Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to implement the recommendations contained in his review group's report on the provision of sport and recreation in the inner cities.
Mr. Moynihan : The Government will be giving careful consideration to the recommendations contained in the report of the review of sport and active recreation provision in the inner cities and to appropriate follow- up action. I very much hope that the other organisations to which recommendations are addressed will take them forward positively.
Mr. Chope : Good progress. In the four years that the Estate Action programme has been operating 123 schemes have been approved which include planned disposals by councils of some 12,500 dwellings to the private sector.
A research report recently published by the Department of the Environment confirmed that selling run-down council properties to developers for improvement and sale to individual owners was welcomed by both the new occupants and former tenants.
The report endorses the Government's work under the Estate Action programme in promoting such schemes to help local authorities improve the quality of life on run-down estates.
Excludes dwellings sold under the Right to Buy scheme
The Sale of Local Authority Housing to the Private Sector' HMSO £12.50.
90. Mr. Hind : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he next intends to visit an Estate Action scheme.
Mr. Chope : My right hon. Friend has not yet done so, but hopes to do so in the future. For my part I visited three Estate Action schemes in Salford last month and look forward to further visits to other schemes.
71. Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has any proposals to increase the amount of money available for grants for the provision of children's play and recreation facilities in rural areas ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Moynihan : Primary responsibility for play provision rests with individual local authorities which fund facilities according to their judgments about the need for and level of priority attached to particular projects. The Department allocates money specifically for children's play through the Sports Council which in turn funds the national children's play and recreation unit. The unit is currently supporting a number of demonstration projects which will examine good practice in play provision for children in rural areas. This Department also grant aids the Rural Development Commission, which funds a range of social and community projects, a number of them concerned with children's play and recreation. It is for both the commission and the play unit to decide within their overall budgets the priority given to children's play projects in rural areas.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : My hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside met the president of the British Scrap Federation on 16 November when he attended its half-yearly dinner. Various matters relating to recycling and the valuable reclamation work undertaken by members of the British Scrap Federation were discussed.
Mr. Moynihan : Under paragraph 27 of schedule 32 to the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 and paragraph 19 of schedule 5 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 the rate exemption will end as each area concerned ceases to be an enterprise zone. My right hon. Friend has no plans to change the position.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : None, but the work of environmental health officers has been relevant to a number of matters, such as the revenue support grant, which my right hon. Friend, my colleagues and I have discussed with the local authority associations.
80. Mr. Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he proposes to introduce orders under the Local Government Act 1988 to extend those council activities required to be put out to public tender.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : An order extending the competition requirements of the Local Government Act 1988 to the management of sport and leisure facilities was made on 28 December 1989. There are at present no plans for extending those requirements to other services.
81. Mr. Illsley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will arrange an early meeting with representatives of Barnsley metropolitan borough council to discuss its allocation of revenue support grant.
Mr. Chope : The then Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) met a delegation from Barnsley metropolitan borough council to discuss revenue support grant (RSG) on 29 June 1989. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State received no further request from Barnsley for a meeting on RSG, and the House approved the Revenue Support Grant Report (England) 1990-91 and other reports on the settlement on 18 January 1990. But we are, of course, prepared to meet authorities if they so wish.
82. Mr. Steinberg : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to introduce more effective and progressive public involvement in planning processing ; and if he will make a statement.
83. Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what requests he has received from the Rural Development Commission to develop more housing for rent in rural areas ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Chope : My right hon. Friend's predecessor, and the then Minister for Housing, met Lord Vinson, chairman of the Rural Development Commission, in December 1988, and discussed the need for low-cost housing in rural areas ; and the commission's officials have regular discussions with my Department and the Housing Corporation. The commission makes grants to the National Agricultural Centre Rural Trust for its work in helping to establish village-based housing associations. Public expenditure provision for subsidised rented housing in rural areas has increased substantially over the past two years, and the Housing Corporation has established a special rural programme for villages.
84. Mr. Malcolm Bruce : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what legal action is currently being pursued by the European Commission in respect of drinking water quality ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The European Commission and member states regard the detailed formal correspondence on infraction proceedings as confidential, hence detailed information on infraction proceedings is not freely available. However I understand that, with regard to the drinking water directive, the Commission is at various stages of legal action against virtually all member states, including the United Kingdom.
Mr. Trippier : I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave on 13 December to my hon. Friends the Members for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) and for Cornwall, North (Mr. Neale) Official Report column 717.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The Director General of Water Services' powers to protect consumers are set out in the Water Act 1989 supplemented by the water and sewerage undertakers' instruments of appointment. Under section 7 of the Act he must exercise his powers so as to secure that the functions of water and sewerage undertakers are properly carried out and that appointed companies are able to finance the proper carrying out of those functions. Subject to these general duties, he is subject to specific duties to protect consumers, to promote economy and efficiency and to facilitate competition. Under section 6 of the Act the director general must establish up to 10 customer service committees and must allot each appointed company to one of those committees. It is the director general's intention to establish 10 customer service committees as soon as possible. The committees must keep under review all matters affecting customers' interests, consult and make representations to the companies, investigate those customer complaints within their remit and report to the director general on their activities in each financial year on any matter affecting the interests of customers or as required by the director general.
The director general has a duty to consider any complaint that the customer service committee is unable to resolve and any allegation that a committee is in breach of its duty, to consider any complaint asserting a contravention of any condition of an undertaker's appointment or any other requirement enforceable under section 20 of the Act, which he decides not to refer to the Secretary of State, and to take such steps as he considers appropriate.
The director general is also responsible for administering the regulatory system established under the Act and set out in the companies' instruments of appointment, which provides significant safeguards for consumers in relation to charges for water and sewerage services and to standards of service, and protects consumers from abuse of monopoly power.
Column 755The main provisions of the conditions of appointment are : Limits on increases in charges. These may be adjusted by the director general in certain circumstances and reviewed periodically in the light of the principles set out in section 7 of the Act ; A prohibition on undue discrimination between classes of customers or potential customers so that, for example, domestic and industrial consumers both pay their fair share ;
A requirement to submit audited accounts which, among other things, enable the director to protect the customer from cross subsidy between the appointed business and other businesses or companies in the group ;
Requirements as to the procedures to be followed before a domestic customer may be disconnected for non-payment of charges and for dealing with leakage with respect to metered domestic customers, and requirements to prepare, submit to the director for approval, and publish code of practice for relations with customers and the customer service committees, for disconnection procedures and for liability for changes in the event of leakage ;
A requirement to report performance against specified customer service indicators, to set targets for three key indicators of service--pressure of mains water, interruptions to water supplies and foul water flooding--and to make available to the public information on performance against these indicators. The director may vary the matters on which companies are required to report. Where performance is unsatisfactory he may ask the Secretary of State to make regulations under sections 38 of 68 to the Act to lay down standards of performance enforceable under the Act ;
Procedures to ensure that the best value is obtained from the sale of any surplus land and that the customer benefits from the proceeds ;
A requirement that the assets needed for the carrying out of the statutory water and sewerage functions remain available to the company, and a requirement to prepare, keep up to date and submit to the director an underground asset management plan to enable him to satisfy himself that the maintenance of long term assets is not being neglected.
The director has wide-ranging information powers under the Act and the instruments of appointment to monitor the performance of companies. Should a company be in breach of its appointment conditions the director general may take enforcement action under section 20 of the Act.
The director general is not responsible for regulating the quality of water supplied to customers or the quality of sewage discharges. Those are matters for other regulatory bodies but the director general has powers to ensure that the charges paid by consumers properly reflect the expenditure required to provide a satisfactory performance standard.