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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 10 December 1991


Channel Tunnel

Mr. Fearn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the precise alignment and siting of stations along the proposed high-speed rail link.

Mr. Freeman : As my right hon. and learned Friend explained in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) on 5 December at column 188, work on defining the line should begin in the new year. That will include the location of stations. The proposals will be published for consultation when they have been developed in enough detail.

Mr. Steinberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what facilities will be constructed to connect the east coast line with passenger and freight traffic from the channel tunnel rail link.

Mr. Freeman : Both passenger and freight trains will be able to run initially from the channel tunnel on to the east coast main line via existing lines. British Rail plans to link the proposed new line between the tunnel and London to lines north of London, including the east coast main line, by constructing an international station at King's Cross. The Bill containing the powers for this station and the connecting lines is before Parliament.

London Underground Stations

Mr. Bernie Grant : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much London Underground Ltd. have spent on capital works at each of Bounds Green, Finsbury Park, Highgate, Manor House, Seven Sisters, Tottenham Hale, Turnpike Lane and Wood Green tube stations in the periods 1980-85, 1985-90, and 1990-91.

Mr. Freeman : The Government do not hold information on investment at individual underground stations.

Lane Rental Road Maintenance

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will estimate the economic savings from lane rental road maintenance.

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Mr. Chope : We estimate that lane rental has resulted in traffic delay savings of some £70 million, at a cost in contractors' bonuses of some £13 million, from its introduction in 1984 to the end of 1990, the latest date for which figures are available.

Navigational Aids

Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what information is available on the value of traffic and the degree of risk associated with navigational aids in United Kingdom waters in accordance with the obligations of the Salas convention 1974 ; and if he will publish it ;

(2) what are his estimates of the number of users of navigational aids in the following categories (a) merchant ships calling at United Kingdom ports, (b) merchant ships not calling at United Kingdom ports, (c) fishing vessels, (d) leisure craft from United Kingdom ports, (e) leisure craft from foreign ports, (f) naval vessels and (g) other vessels ; and the amount of financial contribution made by each category.

Mr. McLoughlin : The need for navigational aids in relation to the volume of traffic and the degree of risk is regularly reviewed by the general lighthouse authorities in consultation with the users and the Department of Transport. Estimates of user numbers by category are not available. In 1990-91, light dues collected in the United Kingdom from merchant shipping calling at United Kingdom ports were about £42 million ; from fishing vessels £1.1 million ; from tugs £65, 000- -United Kingdom--and £47,000--foreign ; and from pleasure craft £23, 000--United Kingdom--and £1,000--foreign. Dues are not collected from ships which do not call at United Kingdom ports. The Ministry of Defence also contributed £1.4 million for use of the Decca service, of which £0.3 million related to 1990-91.

A45 (Traffic Flows)

Mr. Irvine : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what were the traffic flows along the A45 (a) between Stowmarket and Ipswich, (b) over the Orwell bridge and (c) between Ipswich and Felixstowe in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991, respectively.

Mr. Chope : The information is not available in exactly the format requested. The following figures are the average annual daily traffic--AADT --flows between each of the major junctions on these sections of the trunk road.

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                    |1985   |1986   |1987   |1988   |1989   |1990   |<1>1991        


(a) Stowmarket to   |n/a    |n/a    |n/a    |n/a    |n/a    |20,900 |22,500         




    A45/A140        |29,400 |29,500 |29,600 |32,600 |33,400 |33,200 |35,000         

    junction to                                                                     




    A45/A1156       |15,800 |17,400 |22,900 |24,300 |24,900 |24,200 |27,000         

    junction to                                                                     




(b) Orwell bridge   |20,900 |24,100 |23,700 |26,900 |29,700 |32,100 |32,000         


(c) A45/A12/A1156   |21,700 |23,200 |23,700 |24,400 |25,600 |25,700 |24,800         

    junction to                                                                     




    A45/A154        |11,800 |12,900 |13,300 |14,100 |15,900 |16,200 |15,900         

    junction to                                                                     

    Felixstowe port                                                                 

n/a=Not available.                                                                  

<1>To end October.                                                                  

Gisburn Bypass

Mr. Carr : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when proposals to construct a bypass around the village of Gisburn in Lancashire will be announced ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Chope : There are no proposals to bypass Gisburn in our current forward programme.

Copster Green (Traffic)

Mr. Carr : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he intends to introduce a speed limit along the A59 through the village of Copster Green.

Mr. Chope : No.

Mr. Carr : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proposals he has for introducing traffic calming measures along the A59 through the village of Copster Green.

Mr. Chope : None, but we shall keep the needs of this road under review.

Trust Ports

Mr. Nicholls : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) whether he will ensure that the sale of the successor company by a trust port board will be subject to sufficient safeguards to prevent the subsequent reorganisation of the successful bidder's other business in such a manner as to allow any of their debt repayments to be funded by the revenue and profits of the successor company ; (2) what advice he has given to trust port boards to ensure that any successful bid for a trust port does not lead to revenue and reserves being used to fund debt payments for other trading enterprises ;

(3) what steps he has taken to ensure that the subsequent actions of a successful bidder for a trust port do not lead to the assets, revenue or profits of the successor company being used to fund debt incurred in another company in which the successful bidder or his backers have a substantial stake ;

(4) whether he will require any successful bidder for a trust port to demonstrate that any other company in which he or his backers have any stake does not contain repayment schedules for interest on debt which might in due course prejudice the successful operation of that company.

Mr. McLoughlin : The advice given to trust port boards makes it clear that, where trust ports intend to sell their

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undertakings to a single bidder, they are expected to prepare and agree with my right hon. and learned Friend a statement of objectives for the sale. These objectives will include the desirability of encouraging the disposal of the whole or a substantial part of the equity share capital of the successor company to managers or other employees of the company, and the obtaining of the best open market price for the port, taking into account any other agreed objectives, for example plans for the future of the port. In assessing complete bids, trust port boards will clearly wish to satisfy themselves that a bidder is both prepared and able to meet these objectives.

Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) whether, in relation to the privatisation of ports, he intends to operate a price preference in favour of bids from management and employee buy-out teams ; what discussions have taken place, and are taking place, with potential management and buy-out teams ; and if he will make a statement ;

(2) what is meant by the term substantial employee share ownership in respect of the current trust ports privatisation programme ; and if he will make a statement ;

(3) whether it is his policy to support the principle of employee share ownership in the current trust ports privatisation programme ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin : Under section 5(3) of the Ports Act 1991 my right hon. and learned Friend is obliged to

"have particular regard to the desirability of encouraging the disposal of the whole or a substantial part of the equity share capital of the successor company to--

(a) managers of other persons employed by the company ; or (

(b) another company the whole or a substantial part of whose equity share capital is owned by managers or other persons so employed." It is for the trust port boards in the first instance to assess the bids for their ports, including those from management and employee buy-out teams, and to put their recommendation as to the successful bidder to my right hon. and learned Friend for his consent. The term "substantial" occurs frequently in legislation and falls to be interpreted in the particular context and circumstances of each case. Each trust port board will need to consider each bid against the overall objectives of sale agreed for its port, including those relating to employee share ownership. My right hon. and learned Friend has made it clear that he is prepared to consider a limited price preference for a management and employee buy-out team in individual cases and in the light of the particular circumstances of each case.

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Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what information he holds regarding the outcome of the recent study by the International Atomic Energy Authority into the need for more stringent tests on fire resistance and impact damage of packages used for the air transport of plutonium ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 9 December 1991] : The IAEA review of the transport of radioactive materials by air is still taking place. Any proposals for a more stringent test regime for air transport will be submitted for inclusion in the comprehensive revision of the transport regulations, due for publication in 1996.

Ship Accident (Radioactive Materials)

Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will obtain a copy for his departmental library of the study by the International Union of Marine Insurers on the financial impact of an accident in the southern sector of the North sea involving a ship carrying radioactive materials.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 9 December 1991] : A copy of this study is on order.


Magistrates (Briefing)

Mr. Nellist : To ask the Attorney-General what information he has on the nature and extent of training or briefing for magistrates in the Coventry area in connection with the poll tax.

The Attorney-General : No training was provided centrally for magistrates. In the Coventry area the justices' clerk arranged a seminar for magistrates and a note was sent to those magistrates who were unable to attend.

Maxwell Companies

Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Attorney-General if the Official Solicitor will use his powers on behalf of the beneficiaries of the pension funds of (a) Mirror Group Newspapers plc and (b) Maxwell Communication Corporation to obtain a Mareva injunction and an Anton Piller order to secure a freeze of all assets and bank accounts and documents of all companies, trusts and family members associated with the late Robert Maxwell.

The Attorney-General : The Official Solicitor has no general power to intervene on behalf of the beneficiaries of a trust. The primary duty of safeguarding and recovering assets lies with the trustees of the pension fund who have the right to take action for injunctive relief.


Property Services Agency

Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list those buildings held for occupation by the Property Services Agency which are vacant ; and if he will indicate those premises that have been vacant for more than one year.

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Mr. Yeo : The following vacant buildings are currently held for occupation by PSA Services :

(1) TCS Workshop, Ponton Road, London

(2) TCS Workshop, Gypsey Lane, Keynsham

(3) TCS Workshop, London Road, Biggleswade

(4) TCS Workshop, Mitchell Way, Portsmouth

(5) TCS Stores, Milton Park, Didcot

(6) Lafone House, Leather Market Street, London

(7) 34/36 St. Leonards Road, Eastbourne

(8) 54/56 Compton Street, London EC1

Items (1) to (5) are vacant following the decision to close the Crown Suppliers. Items (6) to (8) are vacant following

rationalisation of accommodation held by PSA Services.

Only item (8) has been vacant for more than 12 months.

Priority Homeless Statistics

Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list for each local authority, and by region in England since 1979-80, the total number of priority homeless acceptances where there was a child or pregnant adult, and the total number of two- bedroom or larger dwellings available to local authorities for new permanent secure tenants, excluding transfers, but including nominations to housing associations.

Mr. Yeo : I have placed in the Library a table showing the information derived from local authorities' annual housing investment programme returns for 1989-90 and 1990-91, the only years for which it has been collected. The total number of two-bedroom or larger dwellings available has been taken as the number let in each year and does not include any dwellings kept vacant for repairs or for other reasons.

House Construction

Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will provide his estimate of the current average construction cost for (a) a council house in each of his Department's regions and (b) a housing association house in each housing corporation region.

Mr. Yeo : The average construction costs, based on accepted tenders, of council houses and bungalows--excluding flats--in each of the Department's regions for the year July 1990 to June 1991 were :



North                          |43,400       

Yorkshire and Humberside       |40,400       

East Midlands                  |33,400       

Eastern                        |43,300       

Greater London                 |71,500       

South East                     |47,900       

South West                     |40,200       

West Midlands                  |37,700       

North West (including Cumbria) |54,900       

The figures available for housing associations represent the total cost, including land acquisition and on-costs, and cover flats as well. They are not therefore directly comparable with those for council property. With that proviso, the average unit costs for housing association self-contained new build schemes approved under the Housing Corporation's approved development programme in the year April 1990 to March 1991 were :

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                                      |total  |public         

                                      |unit   |funded         

                                      |cost   |cost           

                                      |£      |£              


London and Home Counties (North East) |96,900 |80,400         

London and Home Counties (North West) |111,200|92,900         

London and Home Counties (South)      |89,700 |73,500         

West Region                           |62,900 |49,400         

East Midlands                         |54,900 |41,100         

West Midlands                         |54,600 |39,500         

North East                            |52,400 |39,200         

North West                            |54,000 |40,700         

Merseyside                            |55,300 |42,300         

Rents-to-Mortgages Scheme

Mrs. Gorman : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidance he has issued to the Commission for the New Towns in Basildon about publicising the rents-to-mortgages scheme by advertising on local television.

Mr. Yeo : It has not been necessary to advertise on television : the Commission for the New Towns, whose responsibility it is to publicise the scheme in Basildon, is in direct contact with all the eligible households.

British Waterways Board

Mrs. Ann Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has for the privatisation of the British Waterways Board.

Mr. Trippier : There are no such plans, but privatisation is always an option to be considered for public undertakings.

Mrs. Ann Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when the chairman and the chief executive of the British Waterways Board commissioned management consultants to consider ways in which the board could be privatised ; and what were the total fees paid to the consultants for this assignment.

Mr. Trippier : There has been no such commission.


Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the chlorine loading potential of all CFCs and HCFCs for the time intervals of 10, 20 and 50 years.

Mr. Baldry : Chlorine loading potentials, calculated on a steady state emission basis, have been published in report No. 20 of the World Meteorological Organisation global ozone research and monitoring project, "Scientific Assessment of Stratospheric Ozone : 1989", as follows :

Species    |Chlorine             




CFC-11     |1.0                  

CFC-12     |1.5                  

CFC-113    |1.11                 

CFC-114    |1.8                  

CFC-115    |2.0                  

HCFC-22    |0.14                 

HCFC-123   |0.016                

HCFC-124   |0.04                 

HFC-125    |0.0                  

HFC-134a   |0.10                 

HFCF-142b  |0.14                 

HFC-143a   |0.0                  

HFC-152a   |0.0                  

CC14       |1.0                  

CHCC1      |0.11                 

The Montreal protocol scientific assessment, due to be published early next year may provide some time dependent values for either chlorine loading potential or the related ozone depletion potential.

Ozone Depletion

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list all the studies he has undertaken or commissioned on the human and environmental effects of ozone depletion over the United Kingdom ; and whether he has any plans for future research in this area.

Mr. Baldry : In 1989 my Department placed a research contract with the University of Lancaster, worth £220,000 over three years, to investigate the effect of increased UVB radiation on the ecophysiology of plants and to identify a range of sensitive UVB indicator species. A scientific meeting will be held in April 1992 on UVB effects on biota with support from my Department. Assessment of the effects of UVB on health or agriculture are matters for the Department of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, respectively.


Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will obtain for his Departmental library a copy of the transcript and videocassette of the "World in Action" programme on radioactive pollution from Sellafield broadcast on 2 December.

Mr. Heseltine : The Department has a videocassette of the programme.

Construction Products Regulations

Mr. Latham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement on the implementation of the construction products directive ; and what staffing and administrative resources are available for the supervision of the construction products regulations 1991, SI 1991, No. 1620, and circular 13/91 from his Department.

Mr. Yeo : The Construction Products Regulations 1991--SI 1991 No. 1620--come into force in the United Kingdom on 27 December this year. The enforcement of these regulations is the responsibility of weights and measures authorities in Great Britain and of district councils in Northern Ireland.

The manpower and expenditure implications for enforcement authorities were taken into account in determining the 1991-92 provision for total standard spending by English and Welsh local authorities. For Scotland account was taken in the Scottish local authority aggregate external finance settlement for 1991-92. In Northern Ireland the Department of the Environment

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(NI) has agreed to reimburse councils towards the 1991-92 costs of additional enforcement measures arising from the regulations. The level of provision of staff and administrative resources in individual authorities is, of course, a matter for local determination.

In addition some central Government resources are being committed in support of the supervision of the regulations. In particular the Department of the Environment is required to inform the European Commission of action taken by enforcement authorities that restricts the free movement and marketing of construction products subject to the regulations.


Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what studies he has made of homelessness in Leicester.

Mr. Yeo : The primary responsibility for dealing with homelessness in Leicester rests with Leicester city council. The hon. Member will recall that I met him on 24 July, together with a delegation from Leicester city council, to discuss homelessness in Leicester, and that my hon. Friend, the Minister for Housing and Planning visited the city on 25 September. On the question of people sleeping rough in the city, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 26 November at column 476 .

Building Regulations

Mr. Robert B. Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he proposes to implement the conclusions of his Department's review of the Building Regulations ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Yeo : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has today laid regulations to revoke and replace the Building Regulations 1985 and to consolidate all subsequent amendments to those regulations. The Building Regulations 1991 implement the final conclusions of a major review of both the technical and procedural requirements of the Building Regulations.

The main changes arising from the technical review relate to part A-- structure, part B--fire safety, part C--site preparation and resistance to moisture, part E--resistance to the passage of sound, part G--hygiene, part K--stairs, ramps and guards and part M--access and facilities for disabled people and a new part N--glazing, materials and protection.

The fire safety requirements--part B--and their supporting guidance document have been revised to reflect changes in building form and fire protection technology. These requirements maintain, and in certain respects enhance, the existing level of life safety. The replacement of the mandatory rules on means of escape in case of fire by guidance which is much wider in scope will introduce flexibility in this important area of building control, as will changes to the guidance on structural fire precautions and the introduction of provisions for sprinklers. Guidance on the fitting of smoke detectors in all new dwellings is included, and there is a new requirement on the provision of access and facilities for the fire service which will assist firefighters in the protection of life.

New guidance on the requirements concerning contaminated land--part C--in conjunction with two new Building Research Establishment publications, gives

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advice on dealing with the risks associated with radon and landfill gas when building in those areas likely to be affected by these gases.

The provisions relating to access and facilities for disabled people--part M--have been extended to cover all floors of non-domestic buildings and most extensions, and now address some of the needs of people with hearing and sight impairments.

The introduction of a new requirement--part N--seeks to reduce the risks associated with glazing in buildings, and will apply to all conservatories and porches whether or not they are otherwise exempt from the regulations.

Other important changes include extending the requirement relating to large span roofs to shopping malls, the extension of sound insulation requirements to flat conversions, new guidance on stairs and the risks associated with young children, and the revision of provisions governing the installation of unvented hot water systems. The procedural review resulted in a number of detailed changes, the most significant of which is the introduction of completion certificates. This new requirement will enable people undertaking building work to request that the local authority provide a compliance certificate on the satisfactory completion of the controlled work. Such certificates, which are already being issued by some local authorities on a voluntary basis, should provide reassurance to future building owners and to people buying and selling houses.

It is intended that the new regulations should come into force on 1 June 1992, to allow time for builders and others to familiarise themselves with the new requirements. Revised approved documents, which provide practical guidance on meeting the requirements, are being published today by HMSO. Copies of these documents have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

European Environment Commissioner

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many telephone conversations he has had with the European Environment Commissioner regarding EC directive 85/337 ; what were the dates of the conversations ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Heseltine [holding answer 6 December 1991] : There have been a number of exchanges between the Government and the Commissioner on this matter.

Greenhouse Effect

Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the implications for the United Kingdom of the proposals in the 1990 report EUR-12707 on the European impact of the greenhouse effect ; and what collaboration on research to mitigate the dangers of global warming has been undertaken by his Department.

Mr. Baldry [holding answer 9 December 1991] : In January this year, the Department's climate change impacts review group published its report, "The Potential Effects of Climate Change in the United Kingdom", copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House. The report dealt with twelve areas from agriculture and the natural environment to socio-economic issues. It used climate change scenarios very similar to those proposed in the report EUR-12707.

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The principal focus of co-operation for research on all aspects of global warming is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in which the United Kingdom leads the science assessment working group and makes strong contributions to the working group on impacts and response strategies.

Development Plans

Mr. Favell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to commence the development plans provisions of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991 ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir George Young [pursuant to his answer 6 November 1991, c. 160- 61.] : We have today made the Planning and Compensation Act 199(Commencement No. 5 and Transitional Provisions) Order 1991. This includes provisions to commence the new development plans system on 10 February 1992. The Department is today writing to all local planning authorities in England to confirm that date. The Welsh Office is writing similarly to authorities in Wales.

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