Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 15 March, Official Report , column 578 , when a decision was made not to comment on the merits of a decision or the process by which it was reached.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) pursuant to his answer of 15 March, Official Report , column 578 , what steps he has taken to ensure that parties in respect of the Birch Coppice opencast application have the opportunity to make a submission based on the case and therefore on the mineral planning guidance note on which any decision is to be based ;
(2) pursuant to his answer of 15 March, Official Report , column 578 , when he proposes to make a final decision on the Birch Coppice opencast application ;
(3) by what date he expects the decision on Birch Coppice to be made ;
(4) what procedures have to be complied with in the specific case of the Birch Coppice opencast application in north Warwickshire before a decision can be made ;
(5) what arrangements he has made to seek representations from relevant parties on any further decision on opencast at Birch Coppice in Warwickshire ;
(6) what sort of evidence will be sought by the public inquiry due to take place before a decision into opencast at Birch Coppice can be made ;
(7) if his Department will write to all the objectors involved in the public inquiry in 1991 into the Birch Coppice opencast application to tell them that the decision may be reached on a basis other than that on which the original inquiry was conducted.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer on 15 March, Official Report, column 578, how many exceptions there have been to his policy of not answering questions on the merits of, or process leading to, decisions in each of the last 10 years.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much his Department has spent on getting legal advice on the opencast decision at Birch Coppice in Warwickshire (a) from external sources and (b) from sources within his Department.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the available information on the total cost to his Department to date in dealing with all matters relating to the Birch Coppice opencast application.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will seek a statement from (a) North Warwickshire borough council and (b) Warwickshire county council on the amounts they spent on the Birch Coppice public inquiry on 30 July to 23 August 1991 ; and how much the Birch Coppice inquiry cost the applicants and his Department.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 15 March, Official Report, column 578, on which version of mineral planning guidance 3 he expects to base his decision on Birch Coppice.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether it is his practice to take legal advice before announcing a decision on opencast applications ; and whether his Department obtains legal advice from other Departments on opencast decisions as a matter of practice.
Mr. Baldry : Consideration is given on a case-by-case basis for the need to seek legal advice. My Department does not obtain legal advice from other Departments on opencast decisions as a matter of practice.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many lawyers are employed in his Department (a) generally and (b) dealing with opencast decisions ; and how many lawyers in his Department have given legal advice on opencast decisions in each of the last three years.
(b) Currently and at any one time over each of the last three years, two lawyers have been available to give legal advice on opencast decisions.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans and provision he has made to compensate persons prejudiced by his decision of 24 February on the Birch Coppice opencast inquiry.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what compensation his Department has paid out in each of the last 10 years as a result of maladministration of any sort during the planning process.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps his Department takes to ensure citizens are informed of their rights to redress if the Department makes an error during the planning process.
Mr. Baldry : All appellants are sent a copy of "Planning Appeals--A Guide" which explains the process for High Court challenges and investigations by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. Interested parties who write to the Department are informed of these rights.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions has he had concerning the costs to councils, British Coal and objectors of his decision of 24 February to set aside his decision of 2 August 1993 on Birch Coppice in Warwickshire.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 15 March, Official Report, column 578, if he will set out in respect of each of the responsibilities of his Department those matters on which it is his practice not to answer parliamentary questions.
Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 15 March, Official Report, column 578, regarding the Birch Coppice opencast decision, which mineral planning guidance note was in force on 2 August 1993.
Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will place in the Library a list of approved or suitably qualified bodies available to carry out environmental impact assessment studies.
Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidance his Department has issued on environmental impact assessment procedures to local authorities, other statutory bodies, non- governmental bodies funded by central Government practitioners and other bodies or individuals.
--Circular 15/88 "Environmental Assessment", dated 12 July 1988 --Circular 7/94 "Environmental Assessment : Amendment of Regulations", dated 18 March 1994
--a booklet "Environmental Assessment : A Guide to the Procedures", 1989
--a free leaflet "Environmental Assessment", 1989.
Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what factors should be taken into account in environmental impact assessment studies in cases where proposed developments would have an effect on the local environment.
Mr. Baldry : Where a project which is the subject of a planning application requires environmental assessment, the Town and Country Planning (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1988 provide that the environmental statement submitted by the applicant shall include a description of the likely significant effects on the environment. These include the impact on human beings, flora, fauna, soil, water, air, climate, the landscape,
Column 862material assets and the cultural heritage. The statement must also describe the measures envisaged to avoid, reduce or remedy any significant adverse effects.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the implications for United Kingdom waste management policy of the decisions taken at the recent review meeting of the Basle convention.
Mr. Gummer : The major issue considered at the second meeting of the conference of the parties to the Basle convention which took place between 21 and 25 March was a proposal to ban movements of hazardous waste from OECD to non-OECD countries. The Government entered the negotiations with two objectives : the first objective, shared with environmentalists, was not to allow the export of wastes for recovery to those non-OECD countries which were unable to manage wastes in an environmentally sound manner. The second objective was to protect legitimate trade in secondary raw materials with non-OECD countries wishing to import hazardous wastes for recovery. During the negotiations the G-77 countries were unanimous in their view that a ban was the best way to protect the environment in non-OECD countries. In view of this unanimous position the Government decided, along with their EC and OECD partners, to agree to a ban. The Government welcome the decision, which was adopted by consensus. The decision prohibits immediately all movements of hazardous waste for final disposal from OECD to non-OECD states, and prohibits from 31 December 1997 all movements of hazardous wastes for recycling or recovery from OECD to non-OECD states. Movements for recycling or recovery can continue until 31 December 1997 if a non-OECD country allows such imports and has provided information about the categories, quantities and management of acceptable waste imports to the Basle secretariat. The decision will be implemented in the United Kingdom under the Waste Shipments Regulation and will take effect when the United Kingdom becomes a party to the convention on 8 May. The conference also decided to develop guidance to assist states on the question of what constitutes hazardous waste under the convention. The guidance will be presented to the third meeting of the conference of the parties to be held in September and October 1995. The United Kingdom intends to play an active part in this work. The Government consider that non-hazardous wastes are an important source of business both to OECD and to non-OECD states and ought not to be affected by the decision taken.
Recalling the request of the G-77 countries at the First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention in Uruguay, 30 November-- 4 December 1992, for the total ban on all exports of hazardous wastes from OECD countries to non-OECD countries. "Recognising that transboundary movements of hazardous wastes from OECD to non-OECD States have a high risk of not constituting an environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes as required by the Basel Convention.
"1. Decides to prohibit immediately all transboundary movements of hazardous wastes which are destined for final disposal from OECD to non- OECD States ;
Column 863"2. Decides also to phase out by 31 December 1997, and prohibit as of that date, all transboundary movements of hazardous wastes which are destined for recycling or recovery operations from OECD to non-OECD States ;
"3. Decides further that any non-OECD State, not possessing a national hazardous wastes import ban and which allows the import from OECD States of hazardous wastes for recycling or recovery operation until 31 December 1997, should inform the Secretariat of the Basel Convention that it would allow the import from an OECD State of hazardous wastes for recycling or recovery operations by specifying the categories of hazardous wastes which are acceptable for import ; the quantities to be imported ; the specific recycling/recovery process to be used ; and the final destination/disposal of the residues which are derived from recycling/recovery operations ; "4. Requests the Parties to report regularly to the Secretariat on the implementation of this decision, including details of the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes allowed under paragraph 3 above. Further requests the Secretariat to prepare a summary and to compile these reports for consideration by the Open-ended Ad Hoc Committee. After considering these reports, the Open-ended Ad Hoc Committee will submit a report based on the input provided by the Secretariat to the Conference of the Parties of the Convention ; "5. Requests further the Parties to cooperate and work actively to ensure the effective implementation of this decision."
Mr. Clifton-Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will announce his decisions on the extension of compulsory competitive tendering to local authorities' security work, management of on-street parking and vehicle management.
Mr. Baldry : My Department received 90 responses to the consultation paper issued on 16 November 1993 from local authorities and other interested parties. We are considering carefully the comments made. I expect to lay the necessary draft statutory instruments before the House shortly.
It is widely accepted that competition is the best guarantee of value for money in public service provision. I am keen to see local authorities press ahead with competitive tendering for these services as soon as possible. Neverthless, I recognise that they must be allowed adequate time to prepare for tendering and to conduct a fair and even-handed competition.
We would expect the tendering process to take up to 12 months, and authorities will need a little time to prepare for market testing once the statutory instruments have come into force. The date originally proposed for vehicle management in England, 1 April 1995, would not allow authorities adequate time and I have therefore decided to defer the start date for this work until 1 October 1995. This brings vehicle management into line with security work, where I intend the start date to remain 1 October 1995. After this date, the in-house team will not be able to carry out this work unless they have won it in competition. I anticipate that authorities will begin inviting tenders in the autumn of this year. As I told the House on 15 December, Official Report, columns 734-35, CCT for all new services will be introduced in shire areas following the local government review.
My hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London has today made a separate announcement about the implementation timetable for CCT for the management of on-street parking services.
Mr. Curry : The consultation paper on reform of old mineral permissions granted between 1948 and 1981 is to be published today. This consultation paper follows on from the options paper issued by my Department two years ago in March 1992 as part of the review of the operation of the Minerals Act 1981. That paper received a wide ranging and diverse response which has informed today's specific proposals for reform.
The Government recognise that minerals are vital to our economy and I am very pleased that the minerals industry recognises that it has a duty to the public to operate to high environmental standards and to be considerate neighbours to those communities most affected by mining. We want to develop and extend the good work done by the industry and are determined to secure improved operating and environmental standards for all old mining permissions granted between 1948 and 1981.
One of the points made most forcibly to us in the response to the 1992 paper was the need to establish a level playing field between minerals operators regardless of the date when their permissions were granted. At the moment holders of modern permissions and reformed IDO permissions granted between 1943 and 1948 are perceived to be at a disadvantage. We are determined to update standards as a whole across the range of these permissions and are concerned that quicker action has not been taken under the existing powers introduced by the Minerals Act 1981. We are therefore proposing a statutory timetable for reviews and for the updating of conditions. There are also particular proposals for dealing with ancillary mining development, compensation, and change to the 2042 expiry date for pre-1982 permissions as well as consideration of other issues including minerals waste tipping.
Mr. Patrick Thompson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what conclusions he and his right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, have reached on the response to last July's consultation paper on planning controls in conservation areas.
Mr. Curry : We accept that conservation areas merit protection from unharmful change. We aim to achieve this objective without unreasonable restrictions on houseowners or unacceptably increasing the workload of local planning authorities.
We have concluded that each planning authority should be enabled to identify conservation areas which merit additional protection and to introduce stricter control in those areas. We propose a new power for planning authorities to make a direction withdrawing "permitted development" rights for a prescribed range of development materially affecting some aspects of the external appearance of dwelling houses, such as doors, windows, roofs and frontages. There would be no requirement to obtain the Secretary of State's approval for a direction but authorities would have to publicise their proposals in
Column 865advance and have regard to the views of local people. We shall be consulting about the detailed arrangements but hope to include the new power in amendments to the General Development Order to be laid before Parliament as soon as possible.
Mr. Day : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the drinking water inspectorate has completed its consideration of the report of the review of the process of technical audit of water companies, carried out by the late Professor Stott ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : I am pleased to announce that the drinking water inspectorate has today published its response to the report of the independent review of the technical audit process. I have placed a copy of the inspectorate's response in the Library.
Professor Stott confirmed the validity of the system and methods devised and developed by the inspectorate for checking the compliance of water companies and the regulatory requirements. His main recommendation was that water companies should develop quality assurance systems to assist them in meeting their statutory obligations consistently and to enable the inspectorate to determine whether the statutory requirements have been met.
The inspectorate agrees that quality assurance systems should become more widespread as a means of ensuring consistently high quality drinking water. As such systems are introduced the inspectorate will adapt its techniques of inspection so that it can be satisfied that those systems are fully observed and that they remain appropriate for delivering wholesome drinking water and protecting public health.
Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his future policy on the importation of wastes for treatment and disposal into the United Kingdom subsequent to the new powers available to him to prohibit waste imports after 6 May.
Mr. Clifton-Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what decisions were made at the March meeting of the European Council of Environmental Ministers on (a) the environmental appraisal of goods to be traded under the general agreement on tariffs and trade and (b) the EC birds directive ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : The Council did not discuss the question of environmental appraisal of goods to be traded under GATT. The Council considered an amendment to the birds directive to clarify the arrangements for protecting birds. My right hon. Friend obtained important assurances that this proposal would not reduce the level of protection for birds and that scientific and conservation criteria would be
Column 866used in implementing the proposal. The amendment will now be referred to the European Parliament for consideration.
Mr. Mullin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from the National Rivers Authority regarding the Coal Industry Bill ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : My Department is in regular contact with the National Rivers Authority about the pollution which might result from colliery closures and is aware of its views. The Coal Industry Bill is a matter for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.
(2) what support he proposes for the United Kingdom waste to energy industry ;
(3) what assessment he has made of the environmental benefits of integrated waste management schemes incorporating waste to energy ; (4) what plans he has to incorporate targets for energy from waste within revised recycling targets for local authorities.
Mr. Atkins : In its report on incineration published last year, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution concluded that there are significant environmental benefits in integrated waste management schemes incorporating waste to energy. It recommended that such schemes should play an increasingly important role in our future waste management practices. The Government broadly welcome the conclusions of the Royal Commission in this respect and we are preparing a detailed response which I hope will be completed in the summer.
In the meantime, the Government are taking steps further to encourage the development of incineration with energy recovery in the United Kingdom. In general, waste to energy schemes should be operated on a normal commercial basis. However, the Government recognise the environmental benefits of using waste as a renewable fuel source and so support waste to energy schemes through the non-fossil fuel obligation, under which operators can be paid a premium for the electricity they generate. A third NFFO order was announced last July. In addition, my Department is currently reviewing the guidance given to local authorities on tendering for waste disposal contracts. The updated guidance will re-emphasise the importance of taking environmental factors into account in that process, such as the benefits of the waste to energy option in appropriate locations. We hope to consult on draft guidance later this year.
We have no plans to revise our target for local authorities to recycle 25 per cent. of household waste by 2000 to include targets for waste from energy.
Mr. Dafis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will commission a new and independent study into the cost of cleaning up rivers and water supplies to comply with European Union legislation.
Mr. Atkins : The costs of meeting current obligations arising from European Community legislation for cleaning up rivers and water supplies fall in the main to water companies. These costs are currently being assessed by the Director General of the Office of Water Services as part of his periodic review of water price limits.
Mr. Boyes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the total cost of official entertaining in his Department in each year since 1990-91 ; if he will list the receptions held in each year at his Department's expense ; and what was the cost of each reception.
Mr. Gummer : The total cost of official entertainment in the years from 1 April 1990 was £313,200 and is included in the running cost expenditure for my Department which is published every year in the annual report ; figures for 1993-94 are not yet available. The entertainment budget is used for a variety of functions including receptions. Separate figures are not kept for individual functions.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many countries had submitted their sustainable development plans to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development by 21 March ; and to whom Her Majesty's Government have made available the United Kingdom sustainable development report in addition to the United Nations Commission.
Mr. Atkins : I understand that 22 countries, including the United Kingdom, have submitted their reports to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Copies of the United Kingdom's report have been placed in the Library and are being sent to all member countries of the Commission on Sustainable Development and to other interested parties. Further copies are available from the Department of Environment.
Mr. David Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 20 January, Official Report, column 833, on oil pollution at Bournemouth, what evidence he has that the incidence of such pollution is more frequent at and around bank holiday periods ; and if he will consider the monitoring of the English channel during such periods.
Mr. Atkins : The Government have no evidence that incidences of oil pollution are more common at bank holiday periods. Surveillance for oil pollution in the English channel and elsewhere around the United Kingdom coast is already carried out.
Mr. Cash : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had with the packaging producer responsibility group on the role of converting waste to energy in meeting national environmental targets on greenhouse gas emissions.
Column 868responsibility for industry group's proposals set out in its plan of 7 February, a copy of which is in the Library. The report of the group's technical committee on waste to energy reflects the view of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution that increased incineration of waste, with energy recovery, could make a significant contribution to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. We are considering with the group, and other interested parties, how the 7 February plan can best be taken forward.
Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has received from the Environment Directorate of the European Union in relation to a delay in adjudicating on the complaint by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the World Wide Fund for Nature regarding the Cardiff Bay barrage and the Cardiff Bay site of special scientific interest.