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14. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what arrangements he has made to issue guidelines in relation to the liaison between local authorities and local water authorities after local government reorganisation.
Mr. Baldry : None. It is a matter for a local authority and a local water company what links are established between them, provided that they comply with statute. That applies whether local government structure is reorganised in their area or not.
18. Mr. McFall : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what further representations he has received on local government reforms.
Mr. Curry : My right hon. Friend receives a number of representations from time to time relating to the reform of local government in England. Local government in Wales is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.
19. Mr. Faulds : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to make further announcements about the process of taking forward the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the Rio earth summit.
Mr. Atkins : The Government published in January this year a comprehensive strategy on sustainable development and national plans on climate change, biodiversity, and
Column 531forests. We are taking a full part in international action to follow up the earth summit, including preparations for the next meeting in May of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.
21. Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to review private rented housing.
Sir George Young : The private rented sector has already expanded considerably since deregulation in 1989. We have in hand a number of other initiatives to ensure that this revival continues.
22. Mr. Brandreth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received concerning his policy on out-of-town shopping developments ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gummer : We have received a number. The majority have been supportive of our policy of encouraging shopping development in or next to existing town centres and concentrations of people.
23. Mr. Carrington : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has to alter the planning regulations to give additional protection to listed buildings ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Curry : Provisions in schedule 3 to the Planning and Compensation Act 1991 considerably strengthened the regime for enforcing listed building control. We will consider any additional provisions that my hon. Friend wishes to propose.
24. Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to review the law relating to the right to buy.
Sir George Young : I have no plans for a major review. I am, however, considering one or two minor clarifying amendments for introduction when a suitable opportunity arises.
25. Sir Michael Neubert : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he has received on the licensing of markets ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Baldry : Ministers receive representations on the licensing of markets from time to time.
26. Ms Glenda Jackson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has for changing the methods of financing capital investment by local authorities.
Mr. Curry : The system established by the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 fosters an appropriate pattern of investment while maintaining control of public expenditure.
27. Mr. Enright : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent discussions he has had with the National Rivers Authority about the impact on watercourses of closed coal mines.
Mr. Atkins : My Department maintains regular contact with the National Rivers Authority about this and other issues.
28. Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will appoint a Royal Commission on local government.
Mr. Curry : No. My right hon. Friend sees no reason for the appointment of such a commission.
29. Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will review the need for a derogation from the European Union requirement to end North sea sewage sludge dumping.
Mr. Atkins : The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive does not provide for a derogation from the requirement to ban dumping of sewage sludge at sea by the end of 1998.
30. Dr. Spink : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what the average council tax is for a band D property.
Mr. Baldry : The average headline council tax for a band D property for English authorities, based on information returned to my Department, is £580. This represents an increase of 2.2 per cent. on the 1993-94 average which was £568. Most households pay band C or less. The comparable band C figure for 1994-95 is £516.
38. Mr. Batiste : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the differences in council tax levels between local authorities.
Mr. Baldry : The average headline council tax (band C, two adults) ranges from £218 set by Westminster to £770 set by Liverpool. The average headline council tax (band C, two adults) for
Conservative-controlled authorities is £429 while the average for Labour-controlled authorities is £560.
31. Mr. Pope : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish the average level of rent set by each local authority for the years 1993-94 and 1994-95.
Sir George Young : The information so far available to my Department from local authorities' returns has been placed in the Library. It represents returns from 329 of the 366 housing authorities in England. My Department's estimate of the average council rent for 1994-95 is £35.70, an increase of £2.00 a week on 1993-94.
34. Mr. Raynsford : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the five London boroughs
Column 533with the highest average council house rents, and the five lowest ; and if he will give the political control of each of those councils.
Sir George Young : Local authorities report information on average rents on housing revenue account claim forms. The London boroughs with the five highest and five lowest average rents for 1994-95, based on the latest available information, are as follows :
|Average weekly rent|Political control |1994-95 (£) ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Redbridge |63.75 |Conservative Harrow |62.97 |Conservative Westminster |61.43 |Conservative Kensington and Chelsea |60.28 |Conservative Kingston upon Thames |60.27 |No overall control Hounslow |39.97 |Labour Newham |39.88 |Labour Tower Hamlets |37.71 |Liberal Democrat Havering |36.91 |No overall control Barking |33.15 |Labour
Rent levels reflect a number of factors, including the arrangements for setting guideline rents for HRA subsidy purposes. These arrangements are related to capital values, which generally lead to higher rent levels in areas where the average value of council dwellings are higher.
32. Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he made of the responses to his London questionnaire on the changes in the quality of life for Londoners over the past 10 years.
Mr. Gummer : Our analysis of the responses did not reveal any comments on changes in the quality of life for Londoners over the past 10 years.
33. Mr. Grocott : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to devolve power from central to local government.
Mr. Curry : The distribution of power between central and local government is guided by the principle of subsidiarity, which requires responsibility to be delegated to the level which is most consistent with competence, practicality and cost-effectiveness.
35. Mrs. Maddock : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many letters he has received concerning the Energy Conservation Bill ; what proportion are in favour ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : My Department has received some 500 letters in support of the Energy Conservation Bill.
36. Mr. Garnier : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about the implementation of planning policy guidance notes 6 and 13.
Mr. Gummer : These planning policy guidance notes play a key role in our sustainable development strategy by
Column 534helping to maximise the potential of existing centres, and encouraging development in locations where there can be a choice of means of access--and which can help to reduce the need to travel. It is for local authorities to reflect this approach in their plans and planning decisions in the first instance. The principles will also apply to decisions on planning appeal and call-in.
37. Mr. Bates : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received about local government reorganisation in Cleveland ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Curry : We have received more than 300 representations about local government reorganisation in Cleveland since the Local Government Commission issued its final report last November. When we lay an implementation order for Cleveland we shall place a summary of these in the Library. Individual representations will be made available if requested unless the writers intended their views to be treated in confidence.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the estimated total cost of the refurbishment of Charles house, London W14.
Sir George Young : This property, with an area of 33,000 sq. metres, is held on a lease expiring in June 2010 at an historically low rent. The refurbishment is being undertaken jointly by Property Holdings and Inland Revenue (the major occupier) at a total cost of £3.7 million, inclusive of fees and VAT. It will upgrade the accommodation to provide good value central London offices and at the same time enable the surrender of other premises showing an estimated annual saving of £4.3 million.
Mr. Raynsford : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many of the responses to the consultation paper on "London : Making the Best Better", raised topics on which responses were not specifically invited ; and if he will list each such topic, indicating the level of support from the public which it attracted.
Sir George Young : Question 1 of the questionnaire in "London : Making the Best Better" invited respondents to select aspects of London they appreciate from a list of 62 topics, with space to write in other aspects if they wished. All the other questions were open-ended and gave respondents free rein to raise the issues which concerned them about London. Distinctions between topics on which views were or were not specifically invited did not, therefore, arise and all the views expressed were taken into account in the analysis.
Mr. Loyden : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to increase or extend the availability of housing renovation grants.
Sir George Young : We will announce our conclusions on the future of private sector renewal programmes following last year's consultation exercise in due course.
Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much land he expects to be used for public housing for (a) council and (b) housing association development during the current year ; at what cost to public funds ; and if he will make a statement.
Sir George Young : New house building by local authorities is now negligible. Housing associations are now the main providers of new social housing.
Forecasts of the amount of land expected to be used for the provision of social housing, and the cost to public funds of the land, are not collected by the Housing Corporation or the Department. Housing association bids for funds from the Housing Corporation's approved development programme take into account the total cost of a scheme including any requirement to purchase land but do not identify the cost of the land separately.
Mr. Byers : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much has been spent on consultants' fees by each urban development corporation since the corporations' inception.
Mr. Baldry : Urban development corporations contract our project management, legal, planning, architectural and engineering design and a range of other services to private sector consultants. In addition consultants are commissioned to produce reports, although this represents only a small proportion of the total expenditure. Expenditure from inception to 31 March 1994 on consultants' fees is as follows :
Urban development |£ million corporation ---------------------------------------------------------- Birmingham heartlands |0.54 Black country |27.68 Bristol |6.40 Central Manchester |6.00 Leeds |4.93 London docklands |<1>52.70 Merseyside |24.40 Plymouth |0.58 Sheffield |11.14 Teesside |<2>26.92 Trafford Park |22.03 Tyne and Wear |25.49 <1>Figures from 1 April 1990 to 31 March 1994-project consultancies only. Figures from inception to 31 March 1990 not available. <2>Figures up to 31 March 1993.
Dr. Wright : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give figures on the distribution of the coalfield areas fund and on the share of the fund that is being made available in relation to the closure of Littleton colliery in south Staffordshire.
Mr. Baldry : The full £5 million available under the Coalfield Areas Fund was allocated last year, in response to bids from local authorities, as follows :
DOE Region and |Bids approved Authority |(£) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Merseyside St. Helens MBC (Parkside/Sutton Manor) |150,000 North West Wigan MBC (Parkside) |120,000 North Easington DC (Vane Tempest/Easington) |164,000 Durham Co.C (Vane Tempest/Easington) |86,000 West Midlands Stoke-on-Trent Ci C (Trentham) |560,400 Staffordshire Co. C (Trentham) |266,000 East Midlands Ashfield DC (Silverhill) |336,108 Rushcliffe BC (Cotgrave) |293,232 Nottinghamshire Co. C (Coalfield area/Cotgrave/ Bevercotes/Clipstone) |384,500 Bolsover DC (Bolsover/Shirebrook) |544,393 Newark and Sherwood DC (Clipstone) |72,756 Chesterfield BC (Bolsover) |214,000 Bassetlaw BC (Bevercotes) |193,800 Mansfield DC (Coalfield area/Clipstone/Shirebrook) |359,800 Derbyshire Co. C (Coalfield Area) |50,500 Yorkshire and Humberside Doncaster MBC (Rossington/Markham Main) |648,150 Wakefield MDC (Sharlston) |288,000 Rotherham MBC (Maltby) |291,000 |------- Total |5,022,639
Although communities affected by the closure of Littleton colliery have not been assisted by the Coalfield Areas Fund, they will benefit from other elements of the Government's £200 million package of assistance announced last year by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.
Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the kinds of tidal movements in Torbay ; and if he will categorise the bay as less sensitive under the urban waste water directive.
Mr. Atkins : I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave him on 18 April at column 361 .
Mr. Betts : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list for each local authority, together with an indication of political control, (a) the budget submitted for 1994-95, (b) the spending at standard spending assessment, (c) the percentage over standard spending assessment which the budget represents, (d) the percentage over the 1993-94 budget which the 1994-95 budget represents, (e) the provisional cap and (f) the approved cap.
Mr. Baldry : I am arranging for the information to be placed in the Library of the House.
Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what account he takes of the impact of fixed spending on capital financing costs in his policies on the capping of local authority expenditure.
Mr. Baldry : Provision for capital financing costs is included within authorities' standard spending assessments. In determining his principles for capping my right hon. Friend has regard to all relevant considerations. The cap proposed for any authority designated in accordance with those principles takes account of all the available information on its circumstances.
Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 24 November, Official Report , columns 43-44 , in what way his final proposals on capital financing standard spending assessments took into account responses to the consultation on his original proposals.
Mr. Baldry : The Secretary of State considered carefully all the representations which we received during the consultation period, including those relating to the capital financing element, and any other relevant information before taking his final decisions on the 1994-95 revenue support grant settlement.
Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will present to the European Commission the Government's proposals for directing future European structural funds assistance towards regions in England seriously affected by industrial decline ; and if he will make a statement.
Sir George Young : I have arranged for the regional conversion plans for the nine regions in England designated by the Commission for assistance under structural funds objective 2 to be presented to the European Commission today. Funding under objective 2 contributes towards the development of regions (including employment areas and urban communities) seriously affected by industrial decline. The plans cover the period 1994- 96, for which £1,195 million has been allocated to England.
The nine regions, with 1994-96 allocations, are North East England, £239 million ; West Cumbria and Furness, £19 million ; Yorkshire and Humberside, £243 million ; East Midlands, £62 million ; West Midlands, £287 million ; Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire, £255 million ; East London and Lee Valley, £57 million ; Thanet, £11 million ; and Plymouth, £22 million.
The plans have been lodged in time to ensure that the eligible date for expenditure on objective 2 programmes is 1 January 1994. Under the Structural Funds Regulations, the Commission is required to reach a decision on the plans within six months of receipt.
Mr. Battle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish the guidelines issued to the rent officers to assist them in the setting of rent levels.
Sir George Young : When setting fair rents, rent officers follow the provisions of section 70 of the Rent Act 1977. When considering the reasonableness of market rents for housing benefit purposes, they follow the provisions of the Rent Officer (Additional Functions) Order 1990 (SI 428) as amended. The Secretary of State has no powers to issue guidelines about setting rents to rent officers, and has therefore not done so.
The Education Trust of the Institute of Rent Officers has established a working party to examine issues surrounding the determination of fair rents, and its report will be published during May.
Mr. Bates : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration he has given to the recommendations of the construction deregulation task
Column 538force in relation to the contracting-out of the processing or planning applications and the introduction of a twin- tracking approach to technical assessment.
Mr. Baldry : The way in which planning authorities manage planning applications is best left to their discretion in the light of local circumstances. Planning authorities are already free to put the preliminary functions out to tender if they wish. But they must satisfy themselves that this would not compromise their statutory responsibilities, undermine the need to reach decisions on the basis of objective evidence or lead to conflicts of interest.
Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what percentage of public appointments made by his Department in 1993 were of (a) Asians and (b) black people ; and if he will list their names.
Mr. Sproat : In 1993, 146 appointments were made to the bodies for which the Department of National Heritage is responsible. Of these, two appointments were of Asian people and two of black people, representing 1.37 per cent. in each case or a total of 2.7 per cent. It would not be appropriate to identify individual appointees in the way requested.
Mr. Ashton : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will list all recent statements made by Ministers in his Department in respect of alteration of the policy of all-seater stadiums for premier league and first division football clubs.
Mr. Brooke [holding answer 15 April 1994] : There have been none. The all-seater policy remains unchanged.
Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the situation in Rwanda with particular reference to international action to end the violence.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The priority for the moment is to establish a cease-fire and create conditions in which the Arusha peace process and humanitarian relief efforts can be relaunched. The United Nations, countries of the region and the Organisation for African Unity are all playing a role in this.
Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will set out the differences in content, format, text, or other respect between the treaty on European Union published as Cm. 1934 in May 1992, and the treaty published as Cm. 2485 in March 1994 ; and when he expects to present to Parliament, in a similar fashion, the consolidated and amended treaties establishing the European Economic Community, Coal and Steel Community, Atomic Energy Community and European Union together with their protocols and declarations.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Cm. 1934 is the text of the treaty on European union, as signed at Maastricht, and presented to Parliament in may 1992 as part of the European Communities series. Cm. 2485 contains the same text, but was published in the treaty series in March 1994, following the treaty's entry into force, in accordance with normal practice. It includes the date of the treaty's entry into force and the dates of ratification by the 12 member states. The consolidated text of the treaty establishing the EC, as amended by the treaty on European union, has already been published by the office for official publications of the European Communities. It is available in the Library of the House and through HMSO. An accompanying volume containing the consolidated texts of the ECSC and EURATOM treaties will be published shortly.
Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what attitude the Russian Government are taking at the United Nations on the continuation of the sanctions against Serbia ; and what assessment he has made of developments in this attitude.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : There have been no recent discussions of sanctions in the United Nations Security Council. The Russian Government have not proposed revoking any of the Security Council resolutions which impose sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro.
Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had and with whom on the present talks taking place on the confidence-building negotiations on Cyprus ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Since the start of this year, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has discussed the United Nations Secretary- General's package of confidence-building measures for Cyprus with the Turkish Prime Minister, the Turkish, Greek and Cypriot Foreign Ministers, the United Nations Secretary-General and his Special Representative on Cyprus, the United States Secretary of State and with his European colleagues. Most recently I discussed Cyprus with the Cypriot Foreign Minister at the EC/Cyprus Association Council held in Luxembourg on 18 April.
We believe that the package offers substantial benefits to both communities. We welcome President Clerides' acceptance of the United Nations plan for its implementation and note that the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Denktash, continues to have objections. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wrote to the Turkish Prime Minister on 6 April urging her to encourage Mr. Denktash to adopt a more constructive approach to the negotiations.
Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Prime Minister of Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary most recently discussed
Column 540the issue of Kashmir with the Prime Minister of Pakistan at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Limassol on 22 October 1993. We have continued to be in regular communication with the Government of Pakistan on the issue.
Mr. George : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many private security firms have been employed by his Department for each of the last 10 years ; what has been the annual value of the contracts ; and if he will estimate how many guards have been employed for each of those years.
Mr. Goodlad : To the best of our knowledge, only one private security company has been employed by the FCO in this country in the past 10 years. Southern Security Guards Ltd. were employed between October 1992 and April 1993 to guard Wiston house conference centre. Two to four guards are employed at a cost of £2,998.52.
No central record is kept of security companies employed by our overseas posts.