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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 14 June 1994

ENVIRONMENT

Local and Regional Government

Mr. Straw : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information his Department collects on the functions of government which are undertaken in whole or in part by local or regional authorities in other countries in the European Union.

Mr. Gummer : The information that the hon. Member requires is produced by the Steering Committee of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and relates to "Structure and Operation of Local and Regional Democracy" in member states.

Private Members' Bills

Ms Lynne : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on what occasions since April 1992 Ministers from his Department have (a) requested parliamentary counsel to assist in preparing amendments to private Members' Bills on behalf of other private Members and (b) authorised officials to instruct parliamentary counsel to prepare amendments which were subsequently passed to private Members.

Mr. Gummer : Parliamentary counsel drafts not on behalf of private Members but on the instructions of Departments acting on the authority of Ministers.

With the authority of Ministers, amendments were drafted by counsel on instructions from my Department and subsequently passed to private Members in respect of the following private Members' Bills : the Local Government (Overseas Assistance) Bill ;

the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Bill ;

the Hedgerows Bill ;

the Energy Conservation Bill.

Amendments to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill on matters of concern to my Department were drafted by parliamentary counsel on instructions from the Department of Social Security with the assistance of officials from my Department and subsequently passed to a private Member.

Ministers have authorised officials to instruct parliamentary counsel to prepare amendments to the following Bills which were subsequently passed to Peers :

the Local Government (Overseas Assistance) Bill ;

the New Towns (Amendment) Bill ;

the National Parks Bill.

Minewater Contamination

Mr. Hoon : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps are being taken to prevent contamination by minewater of the Erewash and Leen rivers and of groundwater in Nottinghamshire following the closure of Annesley Bentinck colliery ; and if he will make it his policy that the present regime will be continued for as long as necessary to prevent such contamination.


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Mr. Atkins : It is for British Coal, in consultation with the National Rivers Authority, to assess any environmental effects of colliery closures and to consider what action may need to be taken to avoid water pollution. In the case of the Annesley Bentinck colliery, I understand that the two parties are currently participating in a joint study to assess the environmental consequencies of ceasing minewater pumping.

Consultants

Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list for each of the last five years the cost to public funds of consultancy work provided by (a) KPMG Peat Marwick, (b) Touche Ross, (c) Price Waterhouse, (d) Ernst and Young, (e) CSL, (f) Prime, (g) Basis, (h) Theodore Goddard, (i) Dibb Lupton Broomhead, (j) Capita and (k) Shreeveport to his Department ; and if he will list any other firms which have provided consultancy work and the costs to public funds for each of the last five years.

Mr. Baldry : The information requested is not held centrally by my Department and is obtainable only at disproportionate cost.

Water Pollution, Worcester

Mr. Luff : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects (a) to receive and (b) to publish the report of the drinking water inspectorate into the pollution of water supplies in Worcester on 15 April.

Mr. Atkins : The drinking water inspectorate's investigation will be completed as soon as possible. Publication of its report may be delayed if a prosecution of Severn Trent Water Ltd. is pursued.

Mobile Homes

Mr. Mills : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the protection for tenants in the Mobile Homes Act 1983 against unreasonable landlords ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir George Young : The Mobile Homes Act 1983 gives certain rights and protection to all residents whose agreements with their site owner allows them to live in their mobile home as their main residence. These include security of tenure and the right to sell their mobile home on site. Many site owners also give additional rights to residents in excess of the statutory requirements. An industry-backed code of good practice, the residents charter launched in January this year, aims to encourage high standards on mobile home sites.

The rules governing reasonable behaviour apply to mobile home site owners just as they apply to all citizens. In addition, local authorities have the power to start legal proceedings against site owners who are harassing their residents.

Housing Renovation Grant

Mr. Spellar : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimate his Department has made of the job creation effect of housing renovation grants.

Sir George Young : The diverse nature of the work assisted through house renovation grants makes it difficult


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to give precise estimates of the job creation effects. However data in research work undertaken for the Department suggest that up to 17, 000 man years work in the construction industry could potentially be attributable to house renovation grant expenditure in 1993-94.

Consultation Papers (Responses)

Mr. Battle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 12 April, Official Report, column 132-33, on which matters of widespread interest his Department received more than 9,500 responses ; and whether those matters were presented in the form of a Green Paper.

Mr. Baldry : The consultation exercise that started in November 1992 relating to the authorisations for radioactive waste discharges at Sellafield drew approximately 80,000 responses ; a second round of consultation based on the justification for nuclear fuel processing at the site, launched in August 1993, drew some 42,000 individual letters plus petitions containing about 25,000 signatures. Neither of these matters was presented in a Green Paper. The consultation exercise, launched with the November 1993 publication, "London : Making the Best Better", which was not a Green Paper, drew almost 11, 000 responses.

Sewers

Mr. Speller : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 19 May, Official Report, column 532, what regulations his Department has placed on the sewerage undertakers to provide protection for public health against sewer blockages or collapses.

Mr. Atkins : Each sewerage undertaker has a statutory duty under section 94 of the Water Industry Act 1991 to maintain sewers so that the area for which it is responsible is effectively drained and to make provision for emptying sewers and effectually disposing of the contents. It is for each sewerage undertaker to decide how to comply with the legislation. The duty is enforceable by the Director General of Water Services.

Environmental Action Fund

Sir Richard Body : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are his criteria for deciding whether to give or refuse grants under the environmental action fund.

Mr. Atkins : The environmental action fund exists to assist voluntary organisations with work in England which advances the Government's environmental policies as set out in the White Paper "This Common Inheritance". Successful applicants must satisfy financial criteria, undertake work that supports the Department's policy objectives or carry out projects within defined priority areas, and promise value for money. Particular emphasis in 1994-95 was given to supporting organisations with innovative approach and those new to environmental work. Grants are awarded to those who score highest against these criteria. Funds are not available for projects which could get grant under any other programme.

Government Information

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he plans to publish his departmental guidance on the implementation of the code of practice on


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access to Government information, as promised at paragraph 3(ii) of the code issued on 4 April ; and what has been the cause of the delay in publishing the departmental guidance.

Mr. Baldry : My Department relies on the central guidance on interpretation, which has been placed in the Library of the House. In addition, guidance is being prepared on the charging arrangements operating in my Department, which should be available by the end of June. A copy will be placed in the Library of the House.

Unitary Authorities

Mr. Frank Cook : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Redcar of 19 May, Official Report, column 533-34, how many representations he has received for, and how many against, the need for shadow elections to be held before the unitary authorities coming into existence ; and if he will place copies of such representations in the Library.

Mr. Curry : My officials wrote to the four districts and the county council in Cleveland on 25 February, informing them that, because of the judicial review case brought by the county council, it would be impossible for us to lay an order providing, inter alia, for elections to be held in May this year. We therefore sought the views of the majority and minority groups on the relevant local authorities on three options :

(a) elections later in 1994, with a start-up date for the unitary authorities in 1995 ;

(b) start-up in April 1995, with elections in May 1995 ; (

(c) elections in May 1995, with the unitary authorities not being established until April 1996.

Option (a) was preferred by the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups on Middlesbrough borough council and the Liberal Democrat groups on Langbaurgh -on-Tees and Stockton-on-Tees borough councils. Option (b) was the first choice for all three groups on Hartlepool borough council, for the Labour and Conservative groups on both Langbaurgh-on-Tees and Stockton-on-Tees borough councils and for the Conservative group on Middlesbrough borough council. Option (c) was the preference for all three groups on Cleveland county council. The county council was supported in this view by the Association of County Councils.

Representations were received in favour of option (a) from the National Association of Local Councils and in favour of a shadow period of about 11 months between the elections to, and implementation of, the new unitary authorities from Unison. I have placed copies of all these representations in the Library.

Waterways Ombudsman

Dr. Wright : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many complaints have been received by the waterways ombudsman from the date of appointment by the British Waterways Board in August 1993.

Mr. Atkins : Since the date on which the waterways ombudsman was appointed, six complaints have been received.


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Colliery Spoil

Mr. Tipping : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list those individuals and organisations who responded to minerals planning guidance note 3, on coal mining and colliery spoil disposal ; and if he will place copies of those responses in the Library.

Mr. Baldry : I am arranging for copies of the responses to be placed in the Library of the House together with a list of those who responded to the consultation exercise.


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National Parks

Mr. Dafis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish for each local authority and for England as a whole (a) the total area, (b) the area occupied by national parks and (c) the percentage of area occupied by national parks.

Mr. Atkins : The figures are as follows. Those local authorities which are not listed do not have land designated as a national park within their boundaries.


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                          |Total area (ha)   |Area occupied by  |Percentage of                        

                                             |national park (ha)|area designated                      

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

Devon CC                  |671,096           |114,438           |17.0                                 

West Devon DC             |115,973           |52,001            |44.8                                 

Teignbridge DC            |67,600            |26,264            |38.8                                 

South Hams DC             |88,693            |15,985            |18.0                                 

Mid Devon DC              |91,539            |283               |0.3                                  

North Devon DC            |108,620           |19,905            |18.3                                 

                                                                                                      

Somerset CC               |345,120           |48,732            |14.1                                 

West Somerset DC          |72,720            |48,732            |67.0                                 

                                                                                                      

Cumbria CC                |681,000           |250,517           |36.8                                 

Allerdale DC              |125,729           |55,980            |44.5                                 

Eden DC                   |215,814           |45,440            |21.0                                 

Copeland DC               |73,711            |51,150            |69.4                                 

South Lakeland DC         |155,066           |97,947            |63.2                                 

                                                                                                      

Northumberland CC         |503,165           |104,949           |20.9                                 

Alnwick DC                |108,012           |34,430            |31.9                                 

Berwick DC                |97,606            |19,037            |19.5                                 

Tynedale DC               |222,096           |51,482            |23.2                                 

                                                                                                      

North Yorkshire CC        |831,297           |293,468           |35.3                                 

Hambleton DC              |131,158           |21,400            |16.3                                 

Ryedale DC                |159,822           |55,000            |34.4                                 

Scarborough DC            |81,678            |61,100            |74.8                                 

Craven DC                 |117,994           |80,851            |68.5                                 

Richmond DC               |131,710           |75,117            |57.0                                 

                                                                                                      

Cleveland CC              |59,090            |6,100             |10.3                                 

Langbaurgh DC             |24,050            |6,100             |25.4                                 

                                                                                                      

Derbyshire CC             |262,858           |88,646            |33.7                                 

Derbyshire Dales DC       |79,548            |45,904            |57.7                                 

High Peak DC              |54,079            |40,382            |74.7                                 

North East Derbyshire DC  |27,667            |2,360             |8.5                                  

                                                                                                      

Cheshire CC               |232,846           |8,557             |3.7                                  

Macclesfield DC           |52,523            |8,557             |16.3                                 

                                                                                                      

Staffordshire CC          |271,754           |20,500            |7.5                                  

Staffordshire Moorland DC |57,624            |20,500            |35.6                                 

                                                                                                      

Oldham Metropolitan       |14,112            |2,899             |20.5                                 

Barnsley Metropolitan     |32,863            |2,999             |9.1                                  

Kirklees Metropolitan     |40,992            |4,200             |10.3                                 

Sheffield Metropolitan    |36,755            |14,496            |39.4                                 

                                                                                                      

England                   |13,047,800        |960,501           |7.3                                  

Carbon Dioxide

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment which Governments have adopted the target of a 20 per cent. cut in carbon dioxide on 1988 levels by 2005 ; and what plans he has to adopt this target.

Mr. Atkins : As far as I am aware, only the Governments of Denmark, Germany and Luxembourg have formally and unconditionally adopted such a target. The United Kingdom is committed, though its ratification of the United Nations framework convention on climate change, to take measures aimed at returning emissions of


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carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2000. The Government have no plans at present to adopt a different target.

Local Government Reorganisation

Mr. Rowe : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether local authorities and council tax payers outside the reorganised areas will be protected from the increased costs of local government reorganisation.

Mr. Curry : In most cases reorganisation should, over time, lead to reduced costs. There would need to be significant non-financial benefits to justify a reorganisation


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that did not lead to net savings. We would expect savings and, exceptionally, any net costs, to be confined to the areas being reorganised.

Mr. Pickthall : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how it is proposed that the transitional costs of local government reform in England will be met in 1995-96 and in subsequent years.

Mr. Curry : Authorities subject to reorganisation in 1995 will be able to borrow to meet transitional costs incurred this year. Similar arrangements will apply for 1995-96 and later years, but taking account of authorities' ability to meet the costs from savings and receipts generated by reorganisation. We shall be consulting local government on the arrangements later in the summer.

Oslo and Paris Commissions

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what proposals concerning nuclear issues have been tabled for the 16th joint meeting of the Oslo and Paris Commissions, 13 to 17 June ; and if he will place in the Library a summary of them ;

(2) what will be the United Kingdom's policy in respect of the proposals concerning nuclear issues at the forthcoming 16th joint meeting of the Oslo and Paris Commissions ; and what are the reasons for this policy ;

(3) how the recently announced Department of Environment review of radioactive waste management policy alters the position that the United Kingdom will take at the 16th joint meeting of the Oslo and Paris Commissions ;

(4) what representations his Department is prepared to accept from international organisations or Governments such as the member states of the Oslo and Paris Commissions, in relation to the Department of Environment review of radioactive waste management policy ; (5) what representations his Department has had from Parcom member states regarding the forthcoming 16th joint meeting of the Oslo and Paris Commissions.

Mr. Atkins : Draft recommendations on nuclear issues have been presented jointly by Denmark, Iceland, Ireland and Norway concerning :

--the management of spent nuclear fuel ;

--environmental impact resulting from discharges of radioactive substances ; and

--increases in radioactive discharges from nuclear reprocessing plants ;

The Netherlands has submitted proposals concerning a revised reporting format proposal and Greenpeace has submitted papers on United Kingdom discharge policies and a non-reprocessing option. Copies of the proposals have been placed in the Library.

It is not for one member of the commissions to disclose what has been said to it by other members in the course of negotiations. The United Kingdom considers that the role of the Oslo and Paris Commissions in radioactivity matters is to protect the marine environment with a general objective of ensuring that best available techniques are applied to inputs of radioactive substances within the appropriate regulatory system. The commissions do not have a role in the decision process for individual plants or management options. The preliminary conclusions of the review of radioactive waste management policy, announced by my


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right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment on 19 May, will not be available until later in the summer. The Department of the Environment will, of course, give full consideration to all representations made in relation to the review.

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the voting record of the United Kingdom on nuclear issues at the meeting of the Oslo and Paris Commissions.

Mr. Atkins : Since 1987 there have been seven Paris Commission recommendations on radioactive issues. The United Kingdom has accepted all of these except for the most recent, recommendation 93/5, concerning increases in radioactive discharges from nuclear reprocessing plants where, together with other contracting parties, the United Kingdom reserved its position.

Somerset Levels and Moors

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will list the number of staff employed in the management of the Somerset levels and moors national nature reserve for each year from 1987 to the present ;

(2) if he will list the area covered by management agreements in the Somerset levels and moors for each year since 1987 for agreements between the Nature Conservancy Council/English Nature and owners or occupiers of sites of special scientific interest ;

(3) what has been the total sum of money paid out and the average payment per hectare on management agreements in the Somerset levels and moors for each year since 1987 for agreements between the Nature Conservancy Council/English Nature and owners or occupiers of sites of special scientific interest ;

(4) what was the area in each moor, in the Somerset levels and moors national nature reserve in high water level management consistent with maintaining and enhancing its wetland nature for each year since 1987 ;

(5) how many management agreement exist in regard to the Somerset levels and moors between English Nature and owners or occupiers of sites of special scientific interest and the number which are due to be reviewed in 1994-95 ;

(6) how many staff have been employed in the negotiation and administration of management agreements on sites of special scientific interest in the Somerset levels and moors for each year since 1987 by the Nature Conservancy Council/English Nature ; (7) what is the expenditure proposed by English Nature on the management of (a) the Somerset levels and moors candidate special protection area and (b) the Somerset levels and moors national nature reserve for the years (i) 1994-95, (ii) 1995-96 and (iii) 1996-97.

Mr. Atkins : From 1987-1990, one, and from 1990 to date, two staff have been employed in the management of the Somerset levels and moors national nature reserve. From 1987 to 1993, four permanent staff, and from 1993 to the present, three permanent staff, were involved in the negotiation and administration of management agreements in the Somerset levels and moors.

There are 191 management agreements relating to the Somerset levels and moors, of which 12 are due for review in 1994-95. Information about payments under these agreements and the area covered is not available in the form requested. In 1993-94 the total sum paid out in annual


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payments under management agreements in the Somerset levels and moors was £335,681, and the average payment was £151 per hectare per annum. As at 31 March 1994, 2,218.52 hectares were covered by management agreements.

Estimated expenditure within the Somerset levels potential special protection area is expected to be at a similar level for 1994-95 and subsequent years. Net expenditure on the national nature reserve is negligible as the land is owned by English Nature and attracts receipts in excess of £15,000 per annum.

Since 1987, the only area within the Somerset levels included in the experimental high water level area is Southlake, which covers some 130 hectares.

Climate Change

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what is his policy on changes in greenhouse gas emissions from human- made sources within the United Kingdom after the year 2000 ; (2) which measures he will take to prevent an increase in carbon dioxide emissions from the United Kingdom from the year 2000 onwards ;

(3) what targets he has adopted or will adopt with respect to carbon dioxide emissions from the United Kingdom after the year 2000 onwards.

Mr. Atkins : The Government's position on action under the climate change convention was set out in chapter 10 of the United Kingdom's climate change programme, published in January. This commits the United Kingdom to making a full and appropriate contribution beyond 2000 to achievement of the convention's ultimate objective, and makes it clear that our national programme to achieve the current commitments in the convention will be reviewed and developed in the context of the international response.

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has submitted a report or communication to the secretariat of the intergovernmental negotiating committee for a framework convention on climate change on the views of the United Kingdom Government for the review of the adequacy of commitments in article 4 of the convention ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins : The United Kingdom has not at this stage submitted any papers on this subject to the secretariat.

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he plans to attend the 11th session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee for a framework convention on climate change, to be held in New York in February 1995.

Mr. Atkins : No decision has yet been made on United Kingdom representation at the 11th session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee.

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy on the negotiation of protocols under the United Nations framework convention on climate change.

Mr. Atkins : We are willing to consider any constructive proposal for protocols to the convention.

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he plans to attend the 10th session of the


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intergovernmental negotiating committee for a framework convention on climate change, to be held in Geneva from 22 August to 2 September ; and what matters will be discussed there.

Mr. Atkins : Officials from my Department and others will represent the United Kingdom at the 10th session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee. The agenda for the meeting has not yet been issued.

Out-of-town Shopping Centres

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the planning applications (a) granted or (b) pending to build out-of-town shopping centres.

Mr. Curry : Planning applications are made to the local planning authority in the first instance and there is no central record of applications received or granted. We are monitoring major applications, and those which could have a cumulative impact. This helps inform the Secretary of State should he consider calling them for his own decision. That power is used sparingly.

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many warehouse clubs are currently under construction in England ; and how many have planning permission but have not yet started construction ;

(2) how many (a) out-of-town shopping centres and (b) out-of-town warehouse parks are under construction in England. (3) how many (a) out-of-town shopping centres and (b) out-of-town warehouse parks currently have planning permission but have not yet started construction in England.


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