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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 26 July 1990

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

City Fraud

Mr. Skinner : To ask the Attorney-General what discussions he has held recently with the Director of Public Prosecutions about City fraud ; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General : I frequently meet the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss matters of departmental interest. However, as I said in my answer to the hon. Member on 9 July 1990, primary responsibility for the prosecution of commercial fraud rests with the Serious Fraud Office. I met the director of the Serious Fraud Office on Monday 16 July to discuss matters of departmental interest.

Statutes in Force"

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Attorney-General if he will state the dates to which Her Majesty's Stationery Office's publication "Statutes in Force" applies (a) in respect of new statutes and (b) in respect of repeals and amendments.

The Attorney-General : As to new statutes, all relevant Acts which received Royal Assent before 24 May 1990 have been duly published in "Statutes in Force". Information on the repeal of whole Acts is up to date to 29 June 1990, and amended Acts in "Statutes in Force" are up to date to various extents ranging from 1 January 1983 to 1 May 1990.

Political Advisers

Mr. Cryer : To ask the Attorney-General if he will list the political advisers and public relations advisers currently employed to advise Ministers in his Department, including those persons paid by other organisations and seconded to the Government, giving in every case the source of payment, rate of salary and expenses.

The Attorney-General : No political advisers or public relations advisers are currently employed to advise Ministers in any of the Departments for which I am responsible.

THE ARTS

Natural History Museum

Mr. Fisher : To ask the Minister for the Arts whether he intends to publish the corporate plan of the natural history museum.

Mr. Mellor : I am pleased to say that the museum published its corporate plan in April and copies are available from the museum on request.


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ENVIRONMENT

Local Government Finance

Mr. French : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the names of those local authorities known to him that have set their standard community charge multiplier at less than twice the personal community charge in respect of properties unoccupied for more than (a) three months, (b) six months and (c) 12 months.

Mr. Nicholls : I am arranging for this information to be placed in the Library of the House.

Krypton 85

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what research his Department has carried out into Krypton 85 before authorising its release into the atmosphere in 1992 ; what regulations apply to Krypton 85 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Trippier : Discharges of radioactive gas into the atmosphere are regulated by authorisations issued under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960. My Department has supported research into immobilisation of Krypton 85 for purposes of disposal. Applicants for an authorisation are required to justify their proposals with reference to their own research results where appropriate. No application for such an authorisation to be granted in 1992 has been received. All applications are carefully assessed by Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution before authorisations are granted.

BISF Houses

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations the Minister for Housing has received from the hon. Member for Nottingham, North requesting a meeting regarding BISF houses ; and when he will reply.

Mr. Michael Spicer : My hon. Friend the then Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State replied to the hon. Member's request in his letter of 29 March 1990.

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the implications of the Parnham report "BISF Houses : An Assessment of Condition", for the policies of his Department.

Mr. Michael Spicer : My Department has not seen this report, which we understand has been commissioned privately.

European Environment Agency

Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last met his European Community counterparts to discuss the issue of the development of a European environment agency ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Trippier : I discussed the European environment agency with EC Environment Ministers and their counterparts in eastern Europe in Dublin on 16 June 1990. The progress made in adopting the regulation on the agency was welcomed. The regulation takes actual effect when a decision on the siting of the agency is made.


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Radioactive Waste

Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether his Department has reviewed its policy on radioactive waste management and storage following the publication of the European Commission's proposals for radioactive waste management and storage.

Mr. Trippier : The 19th report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities broadly endorsed the Government's policy on radioactive waste management and storage. No further review was therefore required.

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what controls govern the disposal of radioactive waste to the dustbin by local authority collection ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Trippier : The disposal of radioactive waste with domestic refuse system is controlled by the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 (RSA 60). Unless exempted by way of an order issued under RSA 60 any such disposal requires authorisation.

House Renovation Grants

Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what were the reasons for the delay in publishing the regulations on the house renovation grants scheme ; what is the average interlude between the publication of regulations and the starting of a scheme ; and what representations he has had from (a) local authorities and (b) others on this matter.

Mr. Nicholls : The Housing Renovation etc. Grants (Reduction of Grant) Regulations 1990 (S.I. No. 1189) were not laid before Parliament until 8 June as they had been the subject of an extensive consultation exercise. It was necessary to take account of comments received from consultees before the regulations could be finalised. Information is not available on the average time taken between the publication of regulations and the start of a scheme and it could be collected only at disproportionate cost. Since the regulations were laid my Department has received two representations from local authorities and 13 from hon. Members.

Water Charges

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the water companies that have had complaints sent to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission over the cost of water pipes to new homes since privatisation ; and if he will list the complaints received, by company.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Complaints about the actions of, and charges imposed by, water and sewage undertakers fall to be dealt with in the first instance by the customer service committees established by the Director General of Water Services. Reference of any individual complaint to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission is a matter for decision by the director general.

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has on the amount charged by individual water companies for connection to the water system for (a) new homes and (b) new businesses ; and if he will make a statement.


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Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Section 79 of the Water Act 1989 enables water and sewage undertakers to levy charges to cover the cost of additional infrastructure required to meet the demands of new customers. The initial limits, which were set by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, are listed in the table. These charges are payable on the provision of new supplies or sewerage services for domestic purposes and are in addition to the longstanding arrangements for the provision of local infrastructure through requisitioning payments and connection charges.


Statutory Water Companies:      

water infrastructure charge     

limits                          

(at 1990-91 prices)             

                    |£          

--------------------------------

Bournemouth         |1,000      

Bristol             |439        

Cambridge           |1,000      

Cholderton          |201        

Colne Valley        |435        

East Anglian        |1,000      

Eastbourne          |1,000      

East surrey         |51         

East Worcestershire |576        

Essex               |404        

Folkestone          |998        

Hartlepool          |252        

Lee Valley          |808        

Mid Kent            |1,000      

Mid Sussex          |392        

Mid Southern        |700        

Newcastle           |216        

North Surrey        |392        

Portsmouth          |358        

Rickmansworth       |395        

South Staffs.       |606        

Sunderland          |485        

Sutton              |254        

Tendring Hundred    |1,000      

West Hampshire      |868        

West Kent           |834        

York                |222        

Chester             |758        

Wrexham             |490        

Table file CW900726.001 not available

Statutory water companies : water infrastructure charge limits (at 1990-91 prices) £

Bournemouth 1,000

Bristol 439

Cambridge 1,000

Cholderton 201

Colne Valley 435

East Anglian 1,000

Eastbourne 1,000

East Surrey 251

East Worcestershire 576

Essex 404

Folkestone 998

Hartlepool 252

Lee Valley 808

Mid Kent 1,000

Mid Sussex 392

Mid Southern 700

Newcastle 216

North Surrey 392

Portsmouth 358

Rickmansworth 395

South Staffs 606

Sunderland 485

Sutton 254

Tendring Hundred 1,000

West Hampshire 868

West Kent 834

York 222

Chester 758

Wrexham 390

Fire Regulations

Mr. Faulds : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received about the implications of the report by Bickerdike Allen Partners on fire and building regulations on the changes recommended in building requirements affecting fire safety regulations.

Mr. Nicholls : A consultation paper containing proposals for amendments to part B, "Safety in Fire", of the Building Regulations 1985 was issued in March. Responses are now being considered. A number of those who have responded, including the Royal Institute of


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British Architects, the British Institute of Architectural Technicians, the Association of Structural Fire Protection Contractors and Manufacturers, the Gypsum Products Development Association, and Cape Building Products Ltd., have referred to the recommendations made in the review of fire and building regulations undertaken by Bickerdike Allen Partners. These recommendations have already been accepted by the Government, and are in the course of being implemented. The part B proposals take account of them, and the two documents are intended to form a complementary approach to the improvement of fire safety in buildings.

Planning Policy Guidance

Mr. Soley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when the planning policy guidance note, "The Countryside and the Environment", is to be published.

Mr. Spicer : The publication date has not yet been set. More than 400 responses were received to the consultation draft.

Agricultural Dwellings

Mr. Soley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he intends to take to ensure that agricultural dwellings erected in accordance with the advice given in the annex to circular 24/73 are occupied by farmers or farm workers engaged in a financially viable agricultural practice.

Mr. Michael Spicer : Local planning authorities have extensive enforcement powers if an agricultural dwelling is occupied in breach of an agricultural occupancy condition.

Mr. Soley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will consider publishing new guidance encouraging local planning authorities to restrict the occupation of agricultural dwellings to persons working on the land identified in the planning permission.

Mr. Michael Spicer : This, and other suggestions, are under consideration with a view to publishing new guidance in the final version of the planning policy guidance note on the countryside and the rural economy.

Mr. Soley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what evidence he has received concerning abuse of the special privilege given to agricultural workers' dwellings in the annex to circular 24/73.

Mr. Michael Spicer : A number of responses to the consultation draft of the planning policy guidance note on the countryside and the rural economy commented on this point, and the Council for the Protection of Rural England has sent me a copy of its recent report, "A Place in the Country".

Housing Associations

Mr. Soley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give details for each local housing authority for 1989-90 of (a) the estimated expenditure by housing associations, (b) the actual expenditure by housing associations, (c) the estimated number of completed housing units by housing associations, (d) the actual number of completed housing units by housing associations and (e) the extent of overspending by housing associations.


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Mr. Michael Spicer : This matter is for the Housing Corporation. I have asked the corporation to respond to the hon. Member direct.

Capital Receipts

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will lift restrictions preventing local authorities from diverting money from capital receipts into the building of homes.

Mr. Portillo : The rules under which local authorities set aside a reserved part of their capital receipts as provision for credit liabilities enable resources to be targeted more effectively on need. Local authorities are free to use all the usable part of their capital receipts for capital expenditure on any service.

Women's Temporary Accommodation

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to ensure that women going into temporary accommodation will have the choice of accommodation with high security and women only if that is what they wish.

Mr. Michael Spicer : The choice of temporary accommodation made available to any household accepted as homeless under the homelessness legislation is a matter for each local authority. Local authorities should seek to ensure that the type of accommodation offered is appropriate to the circumstances of each individual household.

Homelessness

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what research has been undertaken into the relationship between the breakup of family relationships and homelessness, temporary accommodation and bed-and- breakfast accommodation.

Mr. Michael Spicer : The results of a major national study of homelessness and temporary accommodation carried out for the Department by the university of Birmingham's centre for urban and regional studies was published last year. My Department has also commissioned the university of York to carry out a study of the housing effects of relationship breakdown ; this will be completed in 1992. Results of the first stage have already been published.

Bed-and-Breakfast Accommodation

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how the community charge will be collected from homeless families, eligible for an 80 per cent. rebate, who have been placed in temporary accommodation in another borough ; and if he will estimate the administrative cost of the housing benefit being assessed by the placing authority and the community charge being collected by the receiving authority.

Mr. Portillo : Generally the sole or main residence of such families would be expected to move to the receiving authority and the community charge would be paid at the new address. If the accommodation was designated for the collective charge, payments would be made to the receiving authority through the landlord, otherwise,


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payments would be made directly to the authority. Information is not available in the detail requested on cost of housing benefit administration or collection of the community charge.

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures will be taken to ensure that families in bed-and-breakfast or temporary accommodation receive adequate information regarding the collection of the community charge and advising them of rebates available ; and what safeguards there will be to ensure the confidentiality of financial information for those people and families whose tax is collected under a collective charge.

Mr. Portillo : Advice has been given to local authorities in community charge practice notes 14 and 21. The landlord of a collective charge property will not need to hold information other than the names of qualifying individuals, the periods during which they are resident and the amounts payable by way of contribution for each day by the individuals, These records may be inspected by the local authority. A community charge benefit claimant will have his or her benefit paid by the authority either directly or by way of a voucher. There is no need for the landlord of a collective charge property to hold separate information about an individual's financial status.

Caravan Sites

Mr. Beith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidance he has given to local authorities as to whether they should send out community charge bills or uniform business rate bills in respect of those caravans on protected sites whose status he has announced his intention to clarify by means of further legislation.

Mr. Nicholls : The Department wrote to all charging authorities in England on 30 March informing them of the reply given that day to my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Chope) ( Official Report, columns 346- 47). In view of the proposed requirement on charging authorities to refund any payments of the standard charge in respect of caravans on protected sites, the letter drew to authorities' attention the need to consider to what extent they wished to take steps to collect the standard charge. It is my impression that most authorities have chosen not to levy a standard charge in these cases.

Pollution, London

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many monitoring points for assessing the levels and effects of automobile exhaust pollution exist in the Greater London area ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Trippier : Warren Spring laboratory operates, under contract to my Department, three Greater London sites monitoring the levels of air pollution, the majority of which is caused by road transport.

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) on how many occasions in the current year the concentrations of gases produced from the


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photochemical decomposition of exhaust emissions in London have exceeded safety levels as designated by the EEC and other international standards ;

(2) what information he has about the measured concentrations of ground level ozone and benzene in the Greater London area during the current spell of hot weather ; and if he will make a statement ; (3) if he will make a statement about the level of photochemical smog in London during July.

Mr. Trippier : The Government release data from the United Kingdom national ozone monitoring network should any two sites measure an exceedance of a 60ppb (parts per billion) hourly average, which is considerably more stringent than the World Health Organisation guide value for ozone of 76-100 ppb. There are currently no comparable EC guide values. Data from the network covering the London area are given below.


.

Date         |Number of |Maximum              

             |hours                           

             |over 60ppb                      

----------------------------------------------

 5 May 1990  |6         |88                   

 6 May 1990  |6         |79                   

17 June 1990 |4         |67                   

15 July 1990 |1         |64                   

20 July 1990 |3         |74                   

21 July 1990 |6         |88                   

Modelling studies suggest that peak kerbside and urban background benzene concentrations are in the order of 60ppb and 6ppb respectively. There are no international guide values for benzene. By the end of 1992, and to comply with EC legislation, new cars will be fitted with catalytic converters, cutting the emissions of the ozone precursors nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, including benzene, by more than 80 per cent. Since road transport is the major source of these pollutants in urban areas, these measures will lead to substantial improvements in all aspects of urban air quality.

Public Inquiries

Mr. Snape : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list those members of the panel of independent inspectors who are currently available to hold public inquiries in England and Wales into road schemes, with their ages, qualifications, and last two previous professional appointments.

Mr. Michael Spicer : I will write to the hon. Member.

Shire Counties (Expenditure)

Mr. Mans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the total estimated expenditure per head for each shire county for 1990.

Mr. Nicholls : The information is as follows :


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