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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 3 June 1992

TRANSPORT

Severn Bridge

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the tolls on the Severn bridge from its opening till the present ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle : The information is as follows :


                 |Motor   |Cars    |Small   |Large            

                 |cycles           |goods/  |goods/           

                                   |buses   |buses            

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

September 1966   |1s.0d   |2s.6d   |2s.6d   |2s.6d            

February 1971    |5p      |12.50p  |12.50p  |12.50p           

March 1973       |5p      |12p     |12p     |12p              

August 1979      |10p     |20p     |20p     |40p              

June 1983        |-       |50p     |50p     |£1.00            

December 1985<1> |-       |20p     |20p     |40p              

January 1987<2>  |-       |50p     |50p     |£1.00            

December 1989    |-       |£1.00   |£1.00   |£2.00            

April 1992       |-       |<3>£2.80|<3>£5.60|<3>£8.40         

<1>Reduced to 1979 levels following High Court judgement.     

<2>Reinstated toll levels following House of Lords ruling.    

<3>One-way toll (westbound)-eastbound is free.                

These toll charges reflect the cost of providing and maintaining the Severn bridge. The increases in April 1992 will additionally help to meet the cost of providing a second crossing, which is due to open in 1996.

Public Opinion Surveys

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the public opinion surveys carried out by his Department since 1 November 1991.

Mr. Norris : My Department regularly commissions surveys. A list of all surveys is maintained, but it is not possible to identify easily from this list those surveys which include questions of opinion. The answer on 5 November 1991 to the hon. Member referred to 69 surveys of all types reported to the Department's survey control unit in 1991. A further 47 have been reported since and I am sending a list of these to the hon. Member.

Consultants Fees

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the total sum paid out in fees by his Department to management consultants in 1979-80 and in each following year up to and including 1991-92 ; and what is his estimate for 1992-93.

Mr. Norris : The latest figures for fees paid by the Department to management consultants are as follows :



             |£                        

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

1984-85      |250,000                  

1985-86      |272,000                  

1986-87      |218,000                  

1987-88      |371,000                  

1988-89      |604,000                  

1989-90      |734,000                  

1990-91      |814,592                  

1991-92      |<1>1,228,066             

1992-93      |<2>1,373,005             

<1> Latest estimate.                   

<2> Budget.                            

#9542                                  

This excludes fees for computing consultancies.

Information for earlier years could be provided only at a disproportionate cost.

Greater Manchester Relief Road

Mr. Lewis : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when it is intended that the draft orders for the M6 to M56 section of the Greater Manchester western and northern relief road be issued.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle : This summer.

M6, Corley Moor

Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to receive a formal application from British Coal for an extra junction on the M6 near Corley Moor to the west of the Corley service station ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle : It would be for Warwickshire county council as highway authority for local roads to decide to request the Department to include in its programme an extra junction on the M6 near Corley Moor.

Mr. Lewis : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he now expects the public consultation to take place in respect of (a) the M56 to A580 and (b) the A580 to M66 sections of the Greater Manchester western and northern relief road.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle : I expect public consultation on the M56 to M62 section of the Greater Manchester northern relief road to start later this year. I cannot yet give a date for consultation on the section between the M62 and M66.

ENVIRONMENT

Housing, Liverpool

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many private and public sector properties are currently vacant in the city of Liverpool ; what incentives he will provide to Liverpool city council to introduce homesteading schemes ; what penalties he will impose on private and public sector landlords who fail to let properties ; what is the estimated annual rent and community charge lost on empty private and public sector properties (a) throughout the United Kingdom and (b) in Liverpool ; if he will meet leaders of Liverpool city council to discuss a plan of action ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Baldry : At 1 April 1991, the number of vacant properties in Liverpool was 5,733 local authority, 843 housing association and 7, 908 privately owned.


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As far as local authority stock is concerned, the housing subsidy rules penalise those councils that have more than 2 per cent. of their stock empty and reward those that do better. To further encourage best use of housing resources the Department will be introducing a pilot scheme to promote homesteading of local authority stock, linked with the estate action programme. For private homes, we do not believe that property owners should be forced to let accommodation against their will, but our policies are geared to creating the conditions to encourage landlords to let their properties.

Combined Heat and Power

Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to the answer of 21 May, Official Report, column 221, by the Minister for Energy, what proposals he has for encouragement of combined heat and power schemes in the renewables sector ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean : The Energy Efficiency Office--EEO--through its best practice programme, continues to promote the wider application of combined heat and power--CHP--schemes in all appropriate sectors of the United Kingdom economy regardless of the fuel used.

Where a CHP plant uses a fuel such as waste it may also benefit from the Government's programme to promote the development of renewable energy sources. This programme is run by the Department of Trade and Industry, which works in close collaboration with the EEO on CHP schemes using alternative fuels.

Opencast Mining

Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether it is his intention that local authorities should have a veto on applications for opencast mining.

Mr. Baldry : No. It is for the mineral planning authority as the elected representatives of the local community in the first instance to decide in any particular case whether planning permission should be granted having regard to all the material considerations, including the potential impact of the development on the environment and local residents. However, it is a fundamental of the land use planning system that the applicant has the right of appeal to the Secretary of State against a mineral planning authority's refusal of an application.

Environment Programme

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what response Her Majesty's Government have made to the environmental action programme 1993-2000 launched by Commissioner Ripa di Meana on 18 March.

Mr. Maclean : The Government played a full part in discussions leading to the adoption, at the Environment Council on 26 May, of preliminary conclusions concerning the environmental action programme "Towards Sustainability". The Council welcomed the presentation by the European Commission of the programme and undertook to ensure that the programme will be discussed so that it can become operative by 1 January 1993


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following the adoption of a resolution by the Council. Preparation of the resolution will fall to the United Kingdom presidency of the Council.

The Government have set out their initial views on the programme in an explanatory memorandum which will be presented to the Select Committee on European Legislation when the Committee is reconstituted. Copies of the explanatory memorandum have been placed in the Library of the House.

Planning Controls

Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what action is being taken following the recommendation by the House of Commons Environment Committee concerning the harmonisation of planning control above and below low watermark ;

(2) if he will consider extending local authority planning control to the 12-nautical mile limit of territorial waters.

Mr. Baldry : In its second report of last Session, the Environment Select Committee made several recommendations on the issue of harmonising landward planning control and seaward regulations as far as the 12-nautical mile limit of territorial waters. We are considering the report and will respond in due course.

Contaminated Land

Mr. Adley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the Contaminated Land Registry with particular reference to its timing, its implications on planning and liabilities on owners of land on the register.

Mr. Maclean : I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) on 14 May, at column 198.

Environment Council

Mr. Mark Robinson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Environment Council on 26 May.

Mr. Howard : My hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside and I represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council on 26 May.

The Council approved a new directive on air pollution by ozone. The directive requires the monitoring of atmospheric concentrations of ozone throughout the Community on a consistent basis ; the sharing of selected monitoring information between member states and the Commission ; and the issuing of information and of precautionary health warnings to the public in the event of ozone concentrations exceeding specific thresholds. It also requires the Commission, four years after entry into force of the directive, to put a report to the Council on the monitoring data collected by member states, with proposals on the control of air pollition by ozone.

The Council adopted conclusions on the framework convention on climate change and agreed that the convention constituted a significant first step in tackling this global problem. They urged all countries to sign the convention during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and to ratify it as soon as possible, and agreed that the Community should also sign it. The Council also supported the continuation of the


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climate change negotiations to begin in autumn 1992 and stressed the readiness of the Community to contribute actively to this work. The Commission gave a brief presentation on the state of their preparations to present to the Council proposals for a strategy for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, which would include proposals for a carbon/energy tax.

In advance of UNCED, the Council adopted preliminary conclusions welcoming the presentation by the Commission of the fifth environmental action programme, entitled "Towards Sustainability". It noted the contents of the programme and undertook to accord the highest priority to consideration of the programme in the light of UNCED and the opinions of the European Parliament and the economic and social committee, so that, following the adoption of a resolution by the Council, the programme can become operative by 1 January 1993.

The Council discussed informally the state of preparations for UNCED.

The Council discussed at length a draft Council regulation on the supervision and control of shipments of waste within, into and out of the European Community. The regulation is intended to update existing Community legislation on the control of transboundary movements of waste and to enable member states to ratify the United Nations Environment Programme convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal. Much progress was made towards the achievement of a common position, but owing to continuing differences of view on the question of national self-sufficiency in the disposal of waste, the Council was unable to reach agreement on this occasion.

Local Government Commission

Mr. Mark Robinson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will issue guidance to the local government commission and announce its work programme.

Mr. Howard : I have today issued to the local authority associations and other organisations with an interest the policy guidance I intend to issue to the new local government commission. It takes account of the comments we received on the draft guidance issued last November. I have also today issued draft procedure guidance for the local government commission. Copies of both documents have been placed in the Library of the House and additional copies are available in the Vote Office.

I intend to direct the local government commission to undertake a rolling programme of reviews of the shire counties of England, area by area. Review will be carried out in five tranches. The areas to be covered in each tranche are :

First

Avon

Gloucestershire

Somerset

Cleveland

Durham

Derbyshire

Humberside

Lincolnshire

North Yorkshire

Isle of Wight


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Second

Cambridgeshire

Cumbria

Lancashire

Devon

Hampshire

Leicestershire

Nottinghamshire

Staffordshire

Third

Bedfordshire

Berkshire

Oxfordshire

Buckinghamshire

Cheshire

East Sussex

West Sussex

Kent

Northamptonshire

Fourth

Dorset

Essex

Hereford and Worcester

Norfolk

Suffolk

Wiltshire

Fifth

Cornwall

Hertfordshire

Northumberland

Shropshire

Surrey

Warwickshire

This represents a balanced and manageable programme for the commission and gives priority to those areas where there is a history of dissatisfaction with the existing local government structure. I expect structural changes following the commission's reviews to take effect between 1994 and 1998.

Contingencies Fund

Mrs. Ann Winterton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to draw advances from the Contingencies Fund in 1992-93.

Mr. Howard : Yes. In February my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced that the Government would be providing £55 million of Government support towards Manchester's bid to host the 2000 Olympic games. Most of this funding will be used to provide sports facilities, but £2 million is to be used to help the Manchester Olympics bid committee fund the bid itself. Funding of the work on the bid will form a new service and parliamentary approval to it will be sought in a summer supplementary estimate for the urban aid and derelict land reclamation vote--class VIII, vote 3. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £900,000 will be met by a repayable advance from the Contingencies Fund.

In addition, I shall be taking a further advance from the Contingencies Fund to meet the immediate administration and project development costs of the Birmingham Heartlands urban development corporation. Parliament approved the statutory order establishing this corporation on 10 March 1992 and Parliament's approval of the associated new expenditure will be sought in a supplementary estimate also for the urban aid and derelict land reclamation vote--class VIII, vote 3. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £300, 000 will be met by a repayable advance from the Contingencies Fund.


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Building Regulations

Mr. Duncan : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has made any changes to the Building Regulations 1991, or the guidance in the associated draft approved documents, which came into force on 1 June ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Baldry : The Building Regulations 1991 were laid before Parliament on 10 December 1991 and, subject to certain transitional provisions, came into force on 1 June 1992.

The main technical changes brought about by the regulations relate to regulation 7 (materials and workmanship), 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).

In conjunction with the coming into effect of the new regulations, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has approved, for the purpose of giving practical guidance on ways of meeting the amended technical requirements of the regulations, the "approved documents" which were also published in December. To bring the statutory guidance fully up to date, HMSO has published an amendments document--"The Building Regulations 1991 : Amendments 1992"--which contains corrections, clarifications and revisions to both the new approved documents and those existing editions which will remain approved for the purposes of the 1991 regulations--parts 3 (toxic substances), F (ventilation), H (drainage and waste disposal), J (heat producing applications) and L (conservation of fuel and power). A copy of the amendments document will be placed in the Library of the House.

The new statutory guidance on the requirements for means of escape in case of fire--approved document B (fire safety)--will now have the practical effect of requiring that smoke detectors are fitted in all new and converted dwellings. As a result of this change, the provisions of the Smoke Detectors Act 1991 are unnecessary, and we have therefore decided, on the advice of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, not to bring that Act into force.

The Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations, which were laid before Parliament on 28 May, make a minor preocedural amendment to regulation 13 of the Building Regulations 1991, which is necessary to remove an unnecessary administrative burden on builders and developers that was inadvertently introduced in those regulations. The amendment ensures that extra copies of fire safety plans are not required to be deposited where the work relates to a dwelling-house or flat, and comes into effect on 26 June 1992.

The Department has issued a joint circular with the Welsh Office--DOE circular 13/92, Welsh Office circular 29/92--to all building control authorities in England and Wales, and approved inspectors, giving general guidance on the main procedural changes which will arise on the coming into effect of the new regulations, and other administrative matters arising as a consequence. The circular also contains details of all the approved documents. A copy of the circular has been placed in the Library of the House.


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