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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 11 January 1994

ENVIRONMENT

Special Advisers

Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the name and job description of each special ministerial adviser employed in his Department, showing any particular outputs for which each adviser is responsible.

Mr. Gummer : Mr. Keith Adams is my personal special adviser and Mr. James Gray is special adviser to the Ministers of State in my Department. Mr. Tom Burke provides expert advice to Ministers and senior officials on environmental affairs and Professor Peter Hall similarly provides expert advice on planning affairs.


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Smoke Control Areas

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will issue regulations to control the sale of unauthorised fuels in smoke control areas and prohibit the sale of high-sulphur solid fuel.

Mr. Atkins : Since the proposals were presented, levels of smoke and sulphur dioxide in the United Kingdom have continued to decline. Last year, annual average concentrations were 5 per cent. lower than in 1991-92 and only one site exceeded the European Community directive limit value. The need for these regulations is therefore being reconsidered.

Transport Expenditure

Mr. Nigel Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the annual expenditure on transport by county councils and passenger transport authorities since 1989.

Mr. Baldry : The information is as follows :


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Net current expenditure on public transport<1>                                                                                        

£ thousand                                                                                                                            

                                |1989-90         |1990-91         |1991-92         |1992-93         |1993-94                          

                                |outturn         |outturn         |outturn         |revised estimate|budget                           

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

Shire counties                  |87,943          |100,769         |109,215         |105,394         |104,842                          

Passenger transport authorities |313,321         |350,296         |381,501         |405,125         |408,893                          

<1> Includes expenditure on public transport support, concessionary fares for elderly, blind, disabled and children (excluding school 

travel), public airport companies. Excludes expenditure and income incurred by the PTA levy.                                          

Water

Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) pursuant to his answer of 6 December 1993, Official Report, column 13, what consultations he has had with the water regulator and the National Rivers Authority on the use of targets for each water company in respect of the reduction of leakage from water company pipes ;

(2) if he will consider giving power to the water companies through the regulator to fit water conservation devices in homes.

Mr. Atkins : We are considering these matters following consultation, including with the Director General of Water Services and the National Rivers Authority, on our paper, "Using Water Wisely".

Local Authority Legislation

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many Acts resulting from Bills introduced by his Department have altered the powers of local authorities in each year since 1990 ; (2) how many Acts of Parliament have resulted from Government Bills that affect the powers of local authorities for each year since 1990.

Mr. Baldry : Since 1 January 1990 those Acts of Parliament which have resulted from Government Bills and which affect local authorities in England include :


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Environmental Protection Act 1990

Food Safety Act 1990

National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990

Caravans (Standard Community Charge and Rating) Act 1991 Community Charges (General Reduction) Act 1991

Community Charges (Substitute Setting) Act 1991

Local Government Finance and Valuation Act 1991

Planning and Compensation Act 1991

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

New Roads and Street Works Act 1991

Road Traffic Act 1991

Further and Higher Education Act 1992

Local Government Act 1992

Local Government Finance Act 1992

Severn Bridges Act 1992

Boundary Commissions Act 1992

Education (Schools) Act 1992

Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1992

Education Act 1993

Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 This list does not include consolidation Acts.

Water Quality

Sir Teddy Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement outlining the steps which have been taken to repeal the water quality directives following the European Council meeting ; and what obligations will remain relevant to the United Kingdom in respect of water quality.

Mr. Atkins : We welcome the European Council's decision to make water legislation consistent with subsidiarity and up-to-date science. It is now important that the Commission and the Council should, in giving effect to this decision, ensure that the details of new and revised


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directives really are consistent with subsidiarity and are confined to essential quality and health parameters. Existing directives will remain in place until the Commission has brought forward proposals, and substitute directives have been agreed by the Council after consultation with the European Parliament.

Homelessness

Mr. Nigel Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many people are homeless in the parliamentary constituency of Cheltenham.

Sir George Young : Information is reported quarterly by local authorities in England on the number of households for whom they accept responsibility, to secure permanent accommodation, under the homelessness provisions of the Housing Act 1985.

This is not available for the Cheltenham parliamentary constituency but Cheltenham district council reported that they had accepted 39 households as homeless in the quarter ending 30 September 1993.

Anderton Boat Lift

Ms Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assistance he will give to the Trent and Mersey Canal Society Ltd. towards the restoration and reopening of the Anderton boat lift ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Baldry : The lift is the responsibility of British Waterways which receives substantial grant-in-aid from this Department. It is for BW to determine what funds it can commit to a restoration scheme in line with its statutory responsibilities. I welcome the initiative between British Waterways, local authorities and the private and voluntary sectors to explore the potential for a joint funding and management scheme. This would enable costs to be apportioned according to benefits, particularly those accruing to local interests.

Derelict land grant may be able to assist in enhancing surrounding land, depending on the competing claims on limited resources, and what funding can be secured from other sources.

Bathing Beaches

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will place in the Library the full details of the test results collected by the National Rivers Authority on bathing beaches in England, Wales and Scotland in the 1993 bathing season.

Mr. Atkins : The customary detailed summary of results for all United Kingdom bathing waters will be placed in the Library early in the year. Full results are available from the monitoring authorities.

Regional Development Fund

Ms Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will provide for full additionality for European regional development fund schemes by extending the automatic cover available for European regional development fund receipts to include the matching local authority contribution ; and if he will make it his policy to maintain the levels in other areas of local authority capital spending.


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Mr. Baldry : The Government already provide for the full additionality of European regional development fund--ERDF--receipts. Matching funds can come from a variety of sources including : --Local Authorities

--City Challenge

--Derelict Land Grant

--DTI Funds for Regional Assistance

--British Rail, water companies

--voluntary bodies and Charities

--Economic Regeneration Bodies

--TECs

--private sector.

From 1 April 1994, an important source of matching funding for ERDF projects will be the single regeneration budget, which will merge 20 separate domestic public expenditure programmes. Local authorities are required to provide matching funding from within their existing resources, as are all ERDF beneficiaries. It is important that local authorities continue not to be treated differently from other beneficiaries in this respect. They must determine their own priorities in deciding whether or not to allocate resources to ERDF programmes. They must consider all the options available to them, with or without ERDF funds, and must decide which will offer the best value for money, whilst meeting local priorities. But they do have a further active contribution to make to the effective delivery of ERDF programmes to their areas, through their membership of partnership committees.

To increase local authority financial resources in the manner requested would act as a disincentive to resources being spent judiciously and would be contrary to the Government's policy of firm control over all United Kingdom public expenditure.

Research and Development

Mrs. Anne Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the spending on research and development in each of the last five years given in 1992-93 prices in his Department.

Mr. Gummer : Expenditure by my Department on research in the last five years based on 1992-93 prices in £ million is as follows :


          |£ million          

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

1988-89   |72.1               

1989-90   |77.1               

1990-91   |88.3               

1991-92   |103.5              

1992-93   |104.9              

Squatters

Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are his Department's responsibilities in the matter of problems arising from squatters ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir George Young : Policy on squatting is primarily the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. This Department does, however, have an interest in the problems arising from squatting in both residential and commercial property, in particular the implications for housing stock management and the effects on private property owners.


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Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to designate squatters as being statutory homeless.

Sir George Young : Under the present homelessness legislation--part III of the Housing Act 1985--squatters could be accepted as statutorily homeless if, on application to the appropriate local authority, the authority was satisfied that they were homeless, had become homeless unintentionally, and had a priority need for accommodation, as specified in the Act.

As I said in an earlier reply to the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford)-- Official Report, 21 October 1993, column 281 --the Government propose to reform the homelessness legislation. We intend that the new legislation should continue to provide that suitable accommodation is available for vulnerable people who are genuinely homeless through no fault of their own. We will announce our proposals shortly.

Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has held with local authorities during the last 12 months about the occupation of council housing stock by squatters ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir George Young : My Department discusses housing management issues regularly with the local authority associations. These have not focussed specifically on squatting, but the associations responded to my right hon. and learned Friend's consultation paper on the proposals in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill.

Defective Houses

Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take further measures to aid financially persons who knowingly purchased defective houses under the right-to-buy scheme and who now find they cannot sell them on.

Sir George Young : No. The housing defects legislation--part XVI of the Housing Act 1985--compensates people who purchased designated defective house types from public sector landlords before it was known that they contained serious inherent structural defects, and who paid a price which did not reflect the existence of the defects. People who knowingly purchase defective houses do so at their own risk, and the purchase price should take account of the defects.

Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many homes, classified as defective under the Housing Act 1985, have been sold under the right-to-buy scheme.

Sir George Young : Local authority returns do not identify how many dwellings designated defective under part XVI of the Housing Act 1985 have been sold under the right-to-buy scheme. However, local authorities report that some 31,000 designated dwellings were sold by public sector bodies to people qualifying for assistance under the housing defects scheme.

Home Energy Efficiency Scheme

Mr. Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what target he has set for take-up by pensioners of the home energy efficiency scheme over the first year of its extension to all pensioner households.


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Mr. Atkins : The target for the home energy efficiency scheme in 1994-95 is to treat 440,000 homes. My Department does not set a separate target for pensioner households.

Water Charges

Mr. Parry : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received concerning the level of water charges in the north-west.

Mr. Atkins : The regulation of water charges is a matter for the Director General of Water Services. But my right hon. Friend has received representations from a number of hon. Members and members of the public about North West Water's charges.

North West Water's average household bill in 1993-94 for unmeasured water and sewerage services is £169. The equivalent average for England and Wales is £185.

Radioactive Waste

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what criteria he intends to use to judge whether or not the option of high for low-level waste substitution of radioactive reprocessing wastes will produce an environmental detriment to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Atkins : The Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee has been asked to identify the environmental implications resulting from substitution and to advise in what circumstances these may be significant.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Mr. Dafis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the annual increase in global carbon dioxide emissions which will result from the additional production resulting from the latest round in the general agreement on tariffs and trade.

Mr. Atkins : The intergovernmental panel on climate change will be evaluating projections of world greenhouse gas emissions, including the impact of the GATT, for its second assessment report to be published in 1995. The implications are not solely for increased emissions. Increased trade and prosperity offer the opportunity for investment in more efficient production and use of energy generally in both developed and developing countries. The obligations for developed countries under the Framework Convention on Climate Change to take measures aimed at returning greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2000, and for all parties to the convention to review the adequacy of provisions by the end of the decade, remain.

Departmental Representations

Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 15 December regarding representations to his Department, in what format records relating to such representations are kept.

Mr. Baldry : Since 1991 we have received a large number of representations of various types about the review of local government structure. Those received in response to departmental consultation exercises are retained separately, as are those about individual reviews in progress. Correspondence dealing with particular local


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government functions is also kept together. Formal representations to the Secretary of State on the Local Government Commission's final reports are of course recorded with particular care. Other representations are generally retained according to their origin.

Nuclear Fuel Storage

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration he has given to the matters raised in and recommendations of the report of July, presented by the European Parliament's Environment Committee on the environmental and public health aspects of the storage, transport and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel (A3-0220/93) a copy of which was sent to Her Majesty's Government by the President of the Parliament.

Mr. Atkins : The conclusions of the report have been noted.

Council Tax

Mr. Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his best estimate of the percentage take-up of the single person's discount for the council tax by all pensioner households which would be eligible.

Mr. Baldry : I have no information about the take-up rate for discounts.

Mr. Bayley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many appeals against council tax valuations from York residents (a) have been heard since April and (b) are currently outstanding.

Mr. Baldry : As at 31 December 1993, of the 1,425 proposals to alter the valuation list received in the area of York district council, two had been heard by the valuation tribunal as appeals and 958 were outstanding. A total of 465 had therefore been settled by discussion between the listing officer and the taxpayer, and we expect most proposals to be resolved in this way.

Energy Efficiency

Mr. Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to publicise the extension to all pensioners of the home energy efficiency scheme.

Mr. Atkins : The Energy Action Grants Agency--EAGA--is responsible for administering the home energy efficiency scheme. EAGA supply HEES leaflets free of charge to local authorities, Housing benefit offices, housing associations, citizens advice bureaux, the Benefits Agency, job centres, Age Concern and other organisations which have contact with the HEES client group. EAGA also encourages installers to promote HEES locally by means of advertising, press publicity and distribution of its own leaflets.

Negative Equity

Mr. Milburn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will estimate the number of households with negative equity in each region in each year since 1987.

Sir George Young : Estimates of the number of households with negative equity are not available for all regions and all years since 1987. Estimates made for the third quarter of 1993, are as follows :


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                                            |Number         

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

Greater London                              |140,000        

South East excluding London                 |340,000        

South West and East Anglia                  |160,000        

East Midlands and West Midlands             |100,000        

Yorkshire and Humberside, North West, North |60,000         

                                            |-------        

England                                     |800,000        

Changes in the value of houses between the quarter in which they were purchased and the third quarter of 1993 are estimated from the DoE mix- adjusted index of prices of second hand dwellings. Mortgage debt is as at the time of purchase, as there is no direct information about subsequent changes. Ratios of mortgage advances to price, and the distribution of purchases between regions as derived from the building societies mortgage survey are assumed to have applied to house purchase loans by other lenders as well, in the absence of specific information about them.

Public Bodies

Mr. Straw : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment in respect of how many boards, authorities, committees and other public bodies he is responsible, in whole or in part, for appointments ; what is the total number of such appointments ; and what is the total public spending by such boards, authorities, committees and other public bodies.

Mr. Gummer : Information about the nationalised industries and non- departmental public bodies for which I am responsible is contained in "Public Bodies 1993". A copy is available in the House of Commons Library and shows the number of bodies, their gross expenditure and the number of appointments to each body.

"Public Bodies" includes the Commons Commissioners and valuation tribunals, for which I am responsible but to which appointments are made by the Lord Chancellor and local authorities respectively. I also appoint one-third of the members of the seven national park authorities in England and nine of the 35 members of the Broads Authority. Departmental support for these bodies in 1992-93 was £16.4 million.

No central record is maintained of departmental committees and boards not listed in "Public Bodies".


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