Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many drought orders his Department has granted in each year since 1979 ; and how many of these involved varying the conditions of abstraction.
|Numbers ------------------------ 1980 |2 1981 |nil 1982 |13 1983 |5 1984 |92 1985 |nil 1986 |nil 1987 |nil 1988 |1 1989 |74 1990 |65 <1>1991 |24 <1> To date.
Most of these involve a temporary variation in the conditions governing the abstraction of water, but only a detailed review of all 276 statutory instruments could give a precise figure : this would involve disproportionate effort.
The Asylum Bill, which was published on 1 November, contains measures which will modify the duties on local authorities and ease housing pressures.
Mr. Cartwright : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what evidence he has received about the extent of unauthorised occupation of local authority housing in Greater London ; and what action he plans to take.
Mr. Yeo : Investigations into levels of unauthorised occupation are being undertaken by a number of London authorities, and my Department is taking a close interest in the findings as they emerge. The Government have taken a number of steps which encourage the reduction of unauthorised occupation. These include the financial
Column 186discipline of the ring-fenced housing revenue account, the incentive in HRA subsidy rules to minimise voids, and the requirement to publish performance indicators. My Department is also funding research which will provide authorities with models of good practice to prevent such activity in the first place. The primary responsibility for tackling the problem must rest, however, with the owners and managers of the housing--the local authorities themselves.
Mr. Speller : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will authorise district councils to use funds accumulated from the sale of property to build houses and flats for sale or rent to the local community.
Mr. Yeo : Our general policy is to encourage the private sector, including housing associations, rather than local authorities to be the providers of new houses and flats. Local authorities are free to use 25 per cent. of the receipts from the sale of council dwellings to assist this process in various ways, including sponsoring housing association developments.
Mr. Gale : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what action he intends to take, following the advice of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, to reduce the number of ports of entry through which live animals and birds may enter the United Kingdom ; (2) what action he intends to take in the light of recent advice from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to introduce a levy on the import of wild birds and animals.
Mr. Baldry : The Joint Nature Conservation Committee's report on the wildlife trade makes a number of wide-ranging recommendations, including those concerning a levy and further restrictions on ports of entry. Because these are not issues which affect the United Kingdom alone, we have drawn the report to the attention of the European Commission and urged it to propose stricter controls throughout the European Community. We expect the Commission to publish proposals for a new regulation on the wildlife trade very soon. In subsequent discussions we shall take full account of the committee's advice.
Mr. Squire : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to issue guidance to local authorities on the planning considerations associated with the water companies' investment to improve the quality of bathing and drinking water ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Yeo : My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Wales have today published Circular 17/91-- Department of the Environment--and Circular 62/91--Welsh Office. This gives guidance on the planning implications for local authorities of substantial investment by the water industry to improve the quality of bathing waters, to find alternative disposal means for sewage sludge at present disposed of at sea, and to improve the quality of drinking water.
The circular stresses the strict deadlines for improving the quality of bathing and drinking waters, and emphasises
Column 187local planning authorities' responsibility to work with the water industry to find suitable sites for sewage treatment works and to handle planning applications without delay. It also reminds authorities of the need to allocate sites for sewage treatment works, where appropriate, when preparing or reviewing development plans. And it advises water companies to consider the need for environmental assessment of their proposals at the earliest possible stage.
Sir George Young [holding answer 6 November 1991] : On 5 June I announced that selected housing associations would be invited to bid for grants to run pilot schemes as managing agents for private owners, to encourage landlords to let their empty properties to homeless people. The first homes made available through this initiative were let in October. Also in October I announced a new scheme to bring empty flats over shops back into use. Local authorities will shortly be invited to bid for a share of the £25 million to be made available. Accommodation created through this initiative will help to relieve homelessness pressures in many hard- pressed urban areas. Under the Department's new initiative with the Council of Mortgage Lenders, announced on 5 November, repossessed properties will be passed to housing associations for temporary letting to homeless families nominated by local authorities. This will bring empty properties back into use, provide homes for families, restore confidence in the market and help mortgage lenders.
These initiatives are additional to our £300 million homelessness allocation to local authorities and housing associations in London and the south-east, which will provide 16,000 permanent homes for homeless families. Work is also progressing on the Department's £96 million initiative to combat rough sleeping in central London. A total of 489 additional hostel places, 530 places in housing leased from private owners and 250 places in permanent housing have been made available this year for rough sleepers. By the end of 1993-94, the total of additional permanent housing generated by this initiative will reach 1,800 places.
Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the towns and villages in Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, at which the National Rivers Authority has asked for development restrictions ; and if he will make a statement as to the reason for those restrictions.
Mrs. Ray Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the inspector's inquiry into the sinking of the Antares from Carradale has been completed ; how much time is required under the Merchant Shipping (Accident Investigation) Regulations for consideration of the report ; when the Secretary of State expects to publish the report ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. McLoughlin : The marine accident investigation branch inquiry is complete ; the inspector has submitted his findings and recommendations to the chief inspector of marine accidents who is now preparing his report for submission to the Secretary of State for Transport. Before the chief inspector's report can be published, he is required by regulation 9 of the Merchant Shipping (Accident Investigation) Regulations 1989 to give persons whose reputations are likely to be adversely affected, time to consider the text and further time to provide alternative text if agreement cannot be reached. The duration of both prescribed periods are 28 days but experience has shown that the whole consultation period is likely to take a minimum of three months.
In the light of these facts, and with the additional period being required for the printing of the final report, publication is not expected before April 1992.
Year |Number of |BTP officers --------------------------------------- 1986 |177 1987 |176 1988 |172 1989 |175 1990 |191
Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the cost to British Rail of funding the British Transport police in Scotland for each of the last five years, expressed in constant terms.
Year |Cost |(£000s) ------------------------------ 1990-91 |5,192 1989-90 |5,241
Column 189disused railway in Scotland which in general comprise a large number of short isolated stretches of which only a very small proportion contains the trackbed.
Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if the railway inspectorate has given approval to the proposed single-line chord at Cowlairs to join the main Glasgow Queen street line with the line to Cumbernauld ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. McLoughlin : The Health and Safety Executive's railway inspectorate gave provisional approval to the single line chord on 29 August 1991. This would enable British Rail to install and bring the new line into use pending an inspection. The works started in September on a new bridge, but work cannot commence on the track and signalling alterations until the bridge is finished, in February 1992. The inspectorate will discuss with BR what amendments may be needed to the scheme in the light of this forthcoming inquiry into the Newton accident.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many bus companies operate within the Wakefield district ; and what is the proportion of tendered bus routes within the district operated by each of these companies.
Mr. McLoughlin : Information about the number of bus companies operating within the Wakefield district could be produced only at disproportionate cost. Information about tendered bus routes within the district is a matter for the West Yorkshire passenger transport executive.
Mr. Freeman : As at 31 March 1991, British Rail had some 1,705 route miles in Scotland, of which some 23 per cent. were electrified or in the process of being electrified by projects approved or under construction. BR had 10,305 route miles in Great Britain, 30 per cent of which were or will be electrified.
Mr. McLoughlin : Subsidies for tendered bus services are a matter for the West Yorkshire passenger transport authority and executive. The executive has budgeted for expenditure of £15.1 million on tendered bus services including school services in 1991-92.
Mr. McLoughlin : The Department has received 35 applications for harbour revision orders since 3 August 1988, two of which were subsequently withdrawn. Of the remainder, only three involved the authorisationof specific works projects and all three fell within annex II to Council directive 85/337/EEC. In one of these cases--Harwich, Parkeston Quay--the Secretary of State decided after consultation that an environmental assessment was required. The environmental impact statement prepared by the applicant is still being considered, together with representations on the order.
(2) whether he intends the 3.5 per cent. CO standard in the draft EC directive to be extended to roadside spot checks ;
(3) what steps he proposes to take to encourage agreement on the draft EC directive on technical inspection of motor vehicles ; (4) what information he has regarding the exhaust emission standards proposed in the draft EC directive on technical inspection of motor vehicles.
Mr. Chope : I refer the hon. Member to the explanatory memorandum on the Commission proposal (7753/91, COM(91) 244), dated 23 September. The in- service CO testing standard proposed by the Commission is 3.5 per cent. for modern conventional petrol-engined cars and light goods vehicles, which is also the current EC prescribed design limit for new engines.
The 4.5 per cent. CO standard which has just been introduced into the MOT test is based on the EC type approval limit, including the 1 per cent. manufacturing tolerance allowed for engines coming off the production line. That standard is realistic for vehicles in service, and brings about a significant reduction in pollution caused by excessive emissions from badly tuned engines. We shall be monitoring the results of emission-checking very closely to help us to make a more informed judgment on the merits of the proposal from the Commission, on which discussion in the EC has not yet started. The 4.5 per cent. standard applies to petrol-engined cars and light goods vehicles first used after 1 August 1983, and compliance can be enforced at roadside spot checks. There are no immediate plans to apply different standards, but the longer-term intention is to tighten standards further.
Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to develop accurate smoke testing protocols for vehicle testing ; if this will apply to roadside spot checks ; what assessment he has made of the Bosch smokemeter and Lucas Hartridge diesel exhaust smokemeter for this purpose ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Chope : The Government are planning to introduce an instrumented smoke check into the annual roadworthiness test of heavy vehicles next summer. This will replace the current visual check for excessive smoke. Research is currently in progress to help determine the best form of
Column 191instrumentation and the best method of testing which can also be used for roadside checking. The two instruments to which the hon. Member refers are among those being considered.
Mr. McLoughlin : Directional signing within the airport boundary is the responsibility of Heathrow Airport Limited, and is kept under review by the airport. If my hon. Friend has specific comments on signing at Heathrow, he might want to put them to the airport.
Mr. Gerald Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what information he has from British Rail on the safety implications of the cab design fault on the class 456 two-coach trains which do not meet operational requirements for service on the south London line ; what action British Rail is taking to rectify the problems ; and when the new trains are expected to enter service.
Mr. Freeman : It is imperative that drivers of driver-only-operated trains have a clear and unobstructed view of the TV monitors, or other visual aids, on station platforms. The driver's cab window on class 456 trains was too small for this equipment to be seen clearly from the driving position. The driver's seat was therefore modified to slide sideways to give an acceptable view of the platform equipment. Class 456 trains entered service on 30 September.
Mr. Gerald Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what temporary speed restrictions there are in force on the south London line to the west of Brixton for safety reasons ; and when restrictions are expected to be lifted.
Mr. Freeman : Due to the installation of a new junction, a temporary speed restriction has been imposed in the Voltaire road area pending the completion of further track relaying work. The usual line speed of 45 mph has been reduced to 20 mph for a distance of approximately 220 yards. The restriction is expected to be in place until next spring. Also in the vicinity, there is a speed limit of 10 mph in connection with bridge renewal which will operate until 22 November.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reason his Department has authorised the reopening of the direct exit from Market Weighton on to the Beverley stretch of the A1079 ; and what representations he has received concerning this matter.
Mr. Chope : The authorisation for a junction with the A1079 at the eastern end of the Market Weighton bypass is contained in the original orders for the scheme. Before the junction is open to traffic its layout will be improved. Written representations have been received from two members of the public in support of the opening of the junction.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will review the closure of lanes in the M1 between junctions 41 and 43 to allow better traffic flow during the current resurfacing works.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what arrangements have been made to allow continued traffic flow during the current resurfacing work on the M1 motorway in West Yorkshire between junctions 41 and 43 ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Chope : The work on the M1 between junctions 41 and 43 is being carried out in three separate lengths to minimise delays and disruption overall and especially the effect on the important M1/M62 interchange at Lofthouse.
Tidal flow traffic management is in operation on the M1 to provide a minimum of two lanes for the dominant peak hour flows. In the morning this is northbound towards Leeds and in the afternoon southbound towards Wakefield.
Closed-circuit television and recovery vehicles on permanent duty ensure that incidents are indentified and cleared quickly to keep traffic moving.
Mr. Freeman : I am pleased to say that the report is being published today and I am placing copies in the Library. Further copies are available from the Department's publications sales unit, Building 1, Victoria road, South Ruislip, HA4 ON2, at a price including postage of £2.75.
The Attorney-General : In 1990, a total of 2,599 originating summonses for the collection of mortgage arrears were issued in the Chancery Division of the High Court for Northern Ireland. The total figure for all mortgage foreclosures in Northern Ireland is not collected centrally. It is not therefore possible to give figures for possession orders granted, cases where suspended possession orders were made, and those cases which did not proceed after the originating summons was issued.
Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy how many representations he has received about the charges being levied by electricity companies to connect electricity from (a) renewable sources or (b) combined heat and power projects to the electricity distribution system.
Mr. Wakeham : Connection charges are a matter for the parties concerned. Any dispute on the provision of a supply of electricity, including connection charges, may be referred by either party to the Director General of Electricity Supply for determination.
Column 194As I said in my reply to my hon. Friend, the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot), on 28 June 1990, at column 311, a copy has already been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy how many copies of the annual report of the ministerial group on energy efficiency have been distributed ; and what percentage of them were distributed to the news media.
Mr. Wakeham : Virtually 2,000 copies of the report have been distributed to date. Further copies will be distributed at exhibitions in coming months. Just over 4 per cent. are being distributed to news media.
Mr. Wakeham : A number of qualified organisations were invited to tender for the advertising element of the publicity campaign, and a separate group of qualified organisations to tender for the promotional element. All the companies invited made presentations in response, and the appointments were made on the basis of competitive tendering.
Mr. Wakeham : Further resources are being made available for this new campaign in order to increase still further its effectiveness and impact. The scale of the resources now available demonstrates the Government's commitment to the campaign.
(2) which organisations submitted tenders for the appointment as financial advisers on the privatisation of British Coal ; (3) which organisations were invited to tender for the appointment as accounting advisers on the privatisation of British Coal ; (4) which organisations were invited to tender for the appointment as financial advisers on the privatisation of British Coal.
Mr. Wakeham : A number of qualified organisations were invited to tender for the positions of accounting and financial advisers in respect of the privatisation of British Coal. The appointments were made on the basis of competitive tendering.