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Mr. Straw : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the current projects included in his Department's research budget ; and what proportion of his Department's research budget is spent on research to improve standard spending assessments.
Mr. Gummer : My Department is currently funding over 800 research projects. As the list of these projects runs to several pages, I will write to the hon. Member with a copy of the list.
It is not possible to provide an accurate estimate of the proportion of my Department's current research budget which will be spent on research to improve standard spending assessments until the research is commissioned, but it is not expected to exceed 0.05 per cent. in 1994-95.
Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to review current noise disturbance legislation.
Mr. Atkins : In 1990 an independent noise review was established by my Department to consider all forms of control over noise pollution. It made several useful recommendations relating to improvement of the legislation which were considered carefully. As a result provisions were introduced into the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to strengthen the existing statutory nuisance duties and powers to control noise from domestic, industrial and commercial premises. These powers have been further extended by the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 to control noise from vehicles, machinery and equipment in the street. We continue to monitor the effectiveness of existing environmental noise legislation and are keen to ensure that it is used to its full effect.
My Department continues to discuss all aspects of noise pollution and disturbance, including the scope for further improving the operation of the relevant legislation, with other Departments and a wide range of professional and voluntary organisations concerned with these issues.
Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the estimated average annual water bill per household (a) before water metering and (b) after water metering ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : The average household unmeasured water supply bill in England and Wales in 1994-95 is £94 and for a metered water supply it is £97. The average household charge for combined water and sewerage services is £199 for both measured and unmeasured services. Charges should not discriminate against metered customers. I am pleased that this year average measured household bills have fallen--by 1 per cent. for water and 3.8 per cent. for
sewerage--ensuring a fairer balance in tariffs between measured and unmeasured customers.
Mr. Tipping : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to increase the planned level of total standard spending for 1995-96 to meet the transitional costs arising from local government reform in England.
Mr. Curry : For 1994-95 local authorities subject to reorganisation will be able to borrow to meet transitional costs. I expect that similar arrangements will apply for 1995-96 and subsequent years, and we shall take account of those arrangements in the local government finance settlement each year. The amount in 1995-96 will depend on decisions about areas to be reorganised which have yet to be made.
Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will place in the Library a copy of the report on the cost benefit analysis for flow restoration to the River Darent approved by his Department in December 1993.
Mr. Atkins : Yes. Copies will be placed in the Library.
Mr. Clifton-Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice he has given to the Director General of Water Services in respect of the cost implications to water services plcs of action to be taken on those sites of special scientific interest and rivers identified as being adversely affected by water abstraction.
Mr. Atkins : The Director General of Water Services has been advised of the proposals by Thames Water Utilities Ltd. to spend £6 million on the river Darent low flow alleviation scheme, and of proposals by Suffolk-- now Essex--Water to spend £0.65 million in helping to restore water levels in Redgrave and Lopham fen. Discussions are continuing on the cost implications of additional schemes for completion over the next few years.
Mr. Clifton-Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what notification he has received from (a) the National Rivers Authority and (b) the statutory nature conservation agencies, regarding the investment necessary to remedy the adverse impacts of abstraction boreholes affecting rivers and sites of special scientific interest.
Mr. Atkins : The National Rivers Authority identified costs for remedial action for the River Darent of £7 million with an additional £5 million should subsequent testing under drought conditions indicate the need for further augmentation, and for Redgrave and Lopham fen, £2.8 million, approximately half of which is to be funded from the EC LIFE programme.
The National Rivers Authority reported on 40 rivers requiring remedial action in its report "Low Flows and Water Resources", published in March 1993.
Mr. Clifton-Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list those rivers and sites of special scientific interest that have suffered adverse impacts of water abstraction boreholes.
Mr. Atkins : The National Rivers Authority listed 40 sites requiring remedial action in its report "Low Flows and Water Resources", published in March 1993.
Mr. Fabricant : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made towards ratifying the United Nations convention on biological diversity.
Mr. Atkins : The United Kingdom ratified the convention on biological diversity on 3 June 1994. Before ratifying we had already demonstrated our commitment to the aims of the convention, domestically and internationally, through the production of our biodiversity action plan and through the financial and other assistance we have made available to help developing countries preserve their biodiversity. We look forward to playing a constructive and positive role in the convention and its meetings.
Mr. Streeter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will provide policy guidance on waste imports and exports.
Mr. Atkins : Last month a new control regime on waste shipments was introduced. The EC Waste Shipments Regulation and the United Kingdom's associated Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 1994 came into effect on 6 May. This legislation enabled the United Kingdom to fulfil its obligations under the Basle convention, to which the United Kingdom became a party on 8 May.
These obligations are based on the principle of national self-sufficiency in waste disposal. This principle is the means by which countries can be encouraged to take responsibility for disposing of the waste they generate. Thereby they are encouraged to minimise wastes--especially hazardous wastes --and to reuse and recycle, and to pursue policies of sustainable development.
We must also have regard for other environmental responsibilities arising from our membership of the European Union and the global community. In implementing the Basle convention, we should not lose sight of these wider considerations.
As a developed country, with ample disposal facilities to meet our waste arisings, we ourselves will have no need to export wastes for final disposal in other countries. The EC regulation prohibits such exports to countries outside the EC and EFTA the European Free Trade Association. We shall go further by proposing a complete prohibition on such exports to all countries.
There is no equivalent case for a general ban on exports of wastes for recovery. But special considerations apply to the export of hazardous wastes for recovery in developing countries and countries in transition. At the second conference of the Basle convention in March, it was recognised that there is a high risk that such exports will not be managed in environmentally sound ways in the country of receipt. It was decided that, except in exceptional circumstances, trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to non- OECD states for the purposes of recovery should be prohibited. In the Government's opinion, this decision has now taken effect.
Our policy towards imports is based on similar principles. In future, the presumption will be that wastes should not be imported for final disposal in this country. This applies both to landfill, either directly or indirectly,
Column 570and to incineration, and also to disposal under the guise of recovery--so-called "sham recovery". However, imports for genuine recovery operations, including energy recovery, will continue to be allowed.
For most wastes, all other countries should now develop adequate final disposal facilities and there seems to be no reason to delay a prohibition of imports. There may, however, be special circumstances where imports of certain wastes for specialist disposal processes--and in particular for high temperature incineration--might be justified on wider environmental grounds for very limited periods and quantities. This would apply on a transitional and reducing basis where a country had not yet completed specialist disposal capacity or was dealing with a backlog inherited from a former communist regime in eastern Europe. We propose to develop strict criteria which would regulate any such continued imports. Our criteria would take account of the technical and environmental characteristics of the waste stream, and the circumstances of the exporting country. Except for small quantities particularly from developing countries, we would propose that the transitional period should not exceed three years at most. We do not contemplate importing from countries in a position to develop their own disposal facilities, but taking no action to do so. That would be quite contrary to our policy towards self-sufficiency. Nor would we allow imports which could not be safely handled and managed within the existing disposal capacity in the United Kingdom. We shall be making more detailed proposals on exports and imports in the form of a draft waste management plan. Associated with the plan will be technical guidance designed to assist competent authorities in making decisions. There will be a full opportunity for consultation on the draft plan and technical guidance before it is issued.
Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he proposes to make any changes to the cash limits in 1994- 95.
Mr. Gummer : Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary revised estimate, the cash limit for class VII, vote 8--revenue support grant, payments of non-domestic rates, Valuation Office services, etc., England--will be reduced by £2,900,000 from £29,635, 066,000 to £29,632,166,000. This comprises a reduction of £4,400,000 in provision for Valuation Office rating services and an offsetting increase of £1,500,000 for Valuation Office banding and valuation services. Some £1,550,000 of the savings will be used to support increased expenditure on class VII, vote 12--council tax transitional reduction grant, community charge grants, emergency financial assistance to local authorities, non-domestic rates outturn payments, etc., England. The remaining savings of £1,350,000 will be surrendered to the Consolidated Fund.
Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary revised estimate, the cash limit for class VII, vote II--PSA Services--will be reduced by £25,000,000 from £123,693,000 to £98,693,000, and the net running cost limit on this vote will reduce by £25,000,000 from £123,293,000 to £98,293,000. The reduction reflects savings achieved in the residuary functions, and reductions
Column 571in severance figures and secondee numbers arising out of most recent forecasts following the sales of the former PSA building management businesses.
In addition, and subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit for class VII, vote 13--sale of PSA businesses--will be increased by £9,449,000 from £401,000 to £9, 850,000. The increase will not constitute a claim on the reserve as it will be netted off the proceeds from the Government's privatisation programme. The provision is sought, as provided for in the sales agreements, to fund adjustments to cash assets following reviews of the completion statement of the PSA building management businesses post-sale, and to contribute to the costs incurred by the purchasers of both PSA projects and the building management businesses in making transferred staff redundant.
Increases on votes 8 and 12 will be offset by reductions in other cash- limited expenditure and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.
Mrs. Peacock : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made in preparing updated guidance for local authorities on energy efficiency in council housing in follow up to interim guidance published last year.
Sir George Young : I am pleased to inform the House that updated and consolidated guidance was published on 13 June. A copy of the guidance, entitled "Energy Efficiency in Council Housing", has been placed in the Library.
Improving energy efficiency in council housing brings benefits to tenants, landlords and the environment. Tenants benefit from warmer, healthier homes which are cheaper to heat. Landlords gain from lower maintenance and management costs. The environment benefits from reductions on carbon dioxide emissions.
Since last year, all local housing authorities have been expected to take account of energy efficiency in their housing strategies and investment programme submissions. Performance here is one of the factors taken into consideration in determining housing investment programme allocations.
The guidance, which draws on lessons from my Department's successful green house demonstration programme and the Energy Efficiency Office's best practice programme, provides practical assistance on how to go about developing an effective energy efficiency policy. Accompanying the main guidance is a series of guides providing further advice on key themes such as funding sources for energy efficiency work, tenant consultation and the benefits that can flow from integrated packages of measures.
Some authorities have been making great strides on energy efficiency. I welcome that. But much remains to be done not only to combat environmental problems but to maximise the scope for cost-effective energy efficiency action and getting added value from planned investment.
I look to authorities to translate this important guidance into action.
Mr. Shersby : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy towards the development of a motorway service area on green- belt land owned by Cape plc of Uxbridge and adjoining the M25 motorway ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gummer [holding answer Friday 20 May 1994] : The proposal referred to is that between junctions 15 and 16 of the M25 at Woodlands Park, near Iver. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has directed refusal of this application. There is also an article 14 direction in place restricting the grant of permission in respect of this development. I have received the representations of my hon. Friend on behalf of his constituents and as far as policy is concerned, I refer him to my answer of 18 May at column 507.
Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations her Department has received from Parcom member states regarding the forthcoming 16th joint meeting of the Oslo and Paris Commissions.
Mr. Tyler : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations she has received on the application of environmental conditions to livestock headage payment schemes ; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Jack : We received 40 responses to the consultation paper on the application of environmental conditions to livestock headage payment schemes which we issued on29 March 1994, from a range of bodies including the main farming and environmental interests. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced, on 10 June, that measures to prevent over- grazing similar to those already operating in the hill livestock compensatory allowance scheme would be introduced into the other livestock premium schemes when they are renewed. We have written to all those who responded to the paper to inform them of this decision.
Mr. Tyler : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what evaluation she has made of the National Farmers Union proposals for preventing over-grazing ; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Jack : The NFU received a detailed response to its proposals for preventing over-grazing from the Minister of Agriculture earlier this year.
On 10 June the Minister of Agriculture announced that measures to prevent over-grazing similar to those already operating in the hill livestock compensatory allowance scheme would be introduced into the other livestock premium schemes when they are renewed.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in what circumstances it is her Department's practice, when issuing a public consultation
Column 573document, to inform those consulted that their responses will be made public unless they explicitly ask for them to be kept confidential ; and if she will arrange for her Department to do so in all cases in future.
Mr. Jack : It is commonplace for the Department, when issuing a public consultation document, to inform those consulted that their responses may be made public unless they explicitly ask for them to be kept confidential. This practice is being codified in departmental guidance to ensure that it is followed in all cases.
Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how the recently announced Department of Environment review of radioactive waste management policy will affect the position that the United Kingdom will take at the forthcoming 16th joint meeting of the Oslo and Paris Commissions ;
(2) what position the United Kingdom will be taking at the forthcoming 16th joint meeting of the Oslo and Paris Commissions on proposals concerning nuclear issues ; and if she will set out her reasons in each case.
Mr. Jack : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. friend the Minister of State for the Environment and Countryside on 14 June, at column 337.
Mr. Milburn : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many job offers were reported by staff in her Department under the requirements of the rules on the acceptance of outside appointments in each of the last 10 years by (a) staff of grade 3 and above, (b) staff below grade 3, (c) staff in sections concerned with procurement or contract work, under section 15 of the rules of 1 February 1993 and (d) staff in other sections, under section 14 ; and how many of these reports were followed by an application to join the company concerned.
Mr. Jack : The table shows the number of job offers reported by staff in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in each of the last 10 years. All but one of these reports resulted in an application to join the company concerned.
Number of job offers reported by MAFF staff 1984 to date |Grade 3 and |Below grade 3 |Concerned with|Concerned with |above |procurement/ |other work |contract work ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1993 |- |10 |1 |9 1992 |- |8 |1 |7 1991 |1 |10 |- |11 1990 |2 |12 |- |14 1989 |2 |3 |- |5 1988 |3(1)<1> |6 |- |9(1)<1> 1987 |0 |12 |1 |11 1986 |6 |12 |- |18 1985 |- |5 |- |5 1984 |- |5 |- |5 Figures include job offers reported by staff for which application was not required under the rules. <1>Non-executive director.
Sir Geoffrey Pattie : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she plans to continue the decommissioning scheme for fishing vessels; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Jack : On 14 December 1993, when I announced the suspension of the introduction of days-at-sea restrictions, I said that we would be reviewing the way forward for the other elements of the fisheries conservation package, in particular decommissioning. That review has now been completed and I am pleased to announce that the two further rounds of decommissioning, this year and in 1995-96, are to go ahead as planned. Of the total of£25 million for 1993-94 to 1995-96, £8.9 million will be made available this financial year. This includes an amount corresponding to the balance remaining from last year's scheme. I hope that a further significant reduction in fleet capacity will be achieved so contributing, with licence aggregation penalties, towards our Community effort reduction targets or multi-annual guidance programme. We shall be exploring further with the industry and with the Commission what other measures we might adopt to help us to achieve our MAGP targets. We are looking particularly at technical conservation measures and at
Column 574possible changes to the licensing system, but these considerations need not delay progress on the decommissioning front.
We have always made it clear that we want the decommissioning scheme to provide real long-term benefits to the fishing industry. By enabling the pressure on fish stocks to be reduced the scheme can help fisheries conservation and improve fishing prospects for the future. But the scheme will not achieve this result if the remaining vessels increase their fishing effort and so undermine the impact of decommissioning. This would be unwelcome for both the fishing industry and for taxpayers who will want to see that the expenditure is effective and provides good value for money. So as decommissioning progresses we intend to monitor the fishing effort of the remaining fleet. If it increases, we shall have to take suitable effort control measures to deal with the situation. I hope the industry will collectively exercise restraint, and so make the use of such controls in the context of this scheme unnecessary.
The Fishing Vessels (Decommissioning) Scheme 1994 was laid before Parliament today. The rules of the scheme are broadly the same as under the 1993 decommissioning scheme, as I believe that the 1993 scheme was welcomed by most in the industry and successfully removed the maximum active capacity for the available funds. Vessel owners are invited to submit tenders for the amount of
Column 575decommissioning grant for which they would be prepared to scrap their vessel and surrender its licence. Applications will be ranked in terms of pounds per vessel capacity unit. Eligibility criteria similar to those in the 1993 scheme will apply but the 1994 scheme will be focused on those vessels in respect of which full pressure stock licences have been issued. This means that decommissioning will remain widely accessible but will be targeted at those vessels fishing the stocks which are the most at risk.
To be eligible for decommissioning grant, vessels must meet the following main criteria :
(a) The vessel must be registered in the UK, be over 10 m in overall length and over 10 years old at the date of application ; (
(b) The vessel must have spent at least 100 days at sea on fishing trips in Community waters as a UK registered vessel during each of 1992 and 1993 ;
(c) A current full pressure stock licence must be held in respect of the vessel ;
(d) The vessel must be seaworthy : vessels over 12 m in overall length must have either a valid Department of Transport safety certificate or a letter confirming the completion of a satisfactory survey at the time of application ;
(e) It must not have been approved for decommissioning under the 1993 scheme and then withdrawn ;
(f) Grants will be paid only when vessels are scrapped. The applicant must provide proof that the vessel has been removed from the register and has been scrapped within the European Community using a method approved by Ministers before any grant is paid ; (
(g) An application for a grant must be approved before the vessel is scrapped or the vessel will not be eligible for grant ; (
(h) Successful applicants must submit proof of scrapping and deregistration and surrender all licences in respect of the vessel before 1 March 1995 ; otherwise they lose their right to a decommissioning grant.
Application forms for decommissioning grants and the accompanying explanatory leaflets will be available in local fishery offices later this week. All fishermen who have expressed an interest or whose application was unsuccessful in the first round will be sent a leaflet and form. The deadline for receipt of applications is 15 August 1994.
Sir Geoffrey Pattie : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the International Whaling Commission's 46th annual meeting.
Mr. Jack : The International Whaling Commission's 46th annual meeting was held at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico from 23-27 May. The United Kingdom delegation was composed of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, assisted by officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of the Environment and representatives of environmental organisations.
The principal achievement of the meeting was the creation of a circumpolar Southern Ocean sanctuary for whales, within which commercial whaling will be banned indefinitely. The northern boundary of the sanctuary is 40 deg south except in the eastern Pacific, between 130 deg west and 50 deg west, where it is 60 deg south ; in addition, below the existing Indian Ocean sanctuary the boundary is 55 deg south, the southern boundary of that sanctuary, so that the two sanctuaries do not overlap.
The new sanctuary will cover the main feeding grounds of all southern ocean baleen whales, including those populations of fin and sei whales that feed between 60 deg
Column 576south and 40 deg south of the south Atlantic and western Pacific. There are few records of whale activity in the same latitudes in the eastern Pacific, which for this reason fall outside the sanctuary. The creation of a Southern Ocean sanctuary represents a major step forward for the conservation of whales. It ensures that should the current moratorium on commercial whaling ever be lifted, the whale stocks in the Southern Ocean will remain protected. I am pleased to say that the United Kingdom delegation played a prominent role in devising the proposal which was ultimately adopted.
At the meeting, we restated the United Kingdom's continuing strong support for the moratorium. We accordingly voted against a request by Japan for an interim quota of 50 minke whales, to be taken by traditional whaling communities. This proposal was defeated and I am pleased to report that the moratorium remains intact.
Some progress was made on the revised management procedure, a key element in the proposed revised management scheme. The IWC's scientific committee reported that it had completed its work on the RMP, which it recommended for adoption. This was consistent with the remit it was given, when the moratorium was agreed, to devise new management procedures. In response to this recommendation, a resolution was adopted accepting that the scientific committee's work on the RMP completes the main scientific component in the development of the RMS, but making it clear that the RMP cannot be formally adopted in advance of the RMS. The resolution also emphasises that nothing it contains justifies any activity that is contrary to the moratorium.
The United Kingdom played an active role in the preparation of this resolution, which meets our own key requirements. In particular, it states clearly that the RMP will not be adopted in advance of the RMS and sets out the elements that will have to be satisfactorily included in the RMS before it can be considered for adoption. A good deal of work on these will be required. In this context, we attach particular importance to the securing of a fully effective, enforceable and internationally credible inspection and observation scheme that would ensure that any whaling operations in the future are properly controlled. Without such measures, it would not be possible for the United Kingdom to support any form of RMS. We once again reaffirmed the importance we attached to ensuring that any whales taken in whaling operations are killed humanely. Together with New Zealand, we secured the adoption of a resolution criticising the use of the electric lance as a method of secondary killing. This drew on new research which strongly suggests that the electric lance is both ineffective and cruel. The resolution calls on Governments using this technique to develop alternative methods of secondary killing and requests the IWC to look into the matter again next year, in the light of the advice of the forthcoming workshop on humane killing. The meeting also agreed the terms of reference we proposed for this workshop, which will meet immediately before next year's annual meeting.
Last year, United Kingdom proposals on whale watching were accepted by the IWC. These led to the production of a useful report on the economic importance of whale watching. In the light of this report, the United Kingdom was able to secure support for a further proposal, which was adopted by consensus, requiring the IWC and its scientific committee to provide advice to national
Column 577Governments on whale watching and to keep developments under review. This will ensure that the IWC has a permanent role to play in this expanding new industry.
It was agreed that two scientific workshops on environmental threats, dealing with the potential effects of pollution and of climate change, should be held over the next two years. We took a prominent role in the discussion of these issues in the scientific committee, and helped promote a resolution underlining the importance that the IWC attaches to the impact on whale stocks.
During the meeting, the United Kingdom delegation expressed concern about reports of illegal international trade in whale meat, and supported a successful resolution calling on all members to ensure that existing restrictions on trade in whale meat and whale products were strictly enforced and asking Governments to report all attempted evasions to the IWC.
The United Kingdom delegation also took the opportunity to criticise strongly Norway's decision to resume commercial whaling and to urge the Norwegian Government to reconsider. We were supported by a number of other delegations.
Overall, this was a very successful meeting for the United Kingdom. We achieved all our main objectives and made useful progress on a range of issues. I believe that we are now well placed to make further progress at the IWC's 47th annual meeting in Dublin next year.
The IWC remains the only effective world forum for the discussion of whaling issues ; it continues to operate as a result of those countries who wish to remain its members.
Ms Short : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many (a) decisions, (b) disallowances and (c) warning letters were issued in each region and Great Britain as a whole in each quarter since April 1990 in respect of actively seeking employment ; and if he will make a statement.