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Local Government Finance

Mr. Rooker : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will make a statement on the relationship between the new index of local conditions and the Z score of deprivation as used by his Department to distribute resources to local government ;

(2) what plans he has to change the resource distribution methodologies to reflect the deprivation of Birmingham as measured by the index of local conditions.

Mr. Baldry : The index of local conditions and its predecessor based on Z scores are not used to determine resource distribution. The index is one of the factors which Government offices of the regions may take into account in assessing bids for funding through the single regeneration budget. There are no plans to include the index of local conditions in the standard spending assessment system used to distribute revenue support grant. As well as many other indicators reflecting higher spending need, the SSA system already includes economic and social indices.

Local Government Review

Mr. Tyler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimate he has made of the cost of the local government review to local government.

Mr. Baldry : We have no estimates for the expenditure incurred by local authorities on the local government review.

Mr. Tyler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimate Ordnance Survey has made of the costs of revising maps to show new local authority boundaries resulting from the current local government review.

Mr. Baldry : The provisional estimate is for a cost between £1.5 million and £3.5 million. Ordnance Survey will make a more precise estimate when results of the local government review are known.

Mr. Tyler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the costs to date and estimated future costs of (a) the Local Government Commission, (b) the Staff Commission and (c) the Audit Commission in relation to the local government review.


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Mr. Baldry : The Local Government Commission incurred expenditure of £2.056 million in 1992-93 and received grant in aid of £5.124 million in 1993-94. We are making available £8.300 million to fund the Commission's activities in 1994-95, and have announced provision of £2.500 million and £1.500 million for the years 1995-96 and 1996- 97.

The Local Government Staff Commission (England) incurred expenditure of £270,692 in 1993-94. We are making available £363,000 to the staff commission in 1994-95, and intend to make available £374,000 in 1995-96, and £386,000 in both 1996-97 and 1997-98. Where the Local Government Commission invited the Audit Commission's views on proposals for reorganisation, its costs were reimbursed. The Audit Commission has also produced a consultation paper on local government reorganisation--"Time for Change"--at a cost of £46,603. Future work and associated costs will be determined by the response to that consultation paper.

River Water Quality

Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has received regarding river water pollution from mining or former mining works in each region in England during the last 12 months ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins : In the past year, some 60 representations have been received expressing concern specifically about potential or actual mine water pollution in the National Rivers Authority's Northumbria and Yorkshire region ; eight in the Severn-Trent region, two in the North West region and five in the South Western region. In addition there have been some 20 general representations.

Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what changes have taken place in each of the last 10 years in river water quality in the north-west ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins : The relevant five-year river quality surveys for 1985 and 1990 are available in the House Library. The most recent report on river quality by the National Rivers Authority, published in May 1994, shows a significant improvement in the north-west, with the proportion of good quality rivers increasing from 42 per cent. to 53 per cent. between 1990 and 1992, and the proportion of poor or bad quality rivers declining from 27 per cent. to 19 per cent.

Road Crossing Facilities

Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make additional financial resources available for the provision of road crossing facilities for (a) the visually disabled and (b) other disabled ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Baldry : Resources for revenue spending by local authorities on the provision of road crossing facilities for the disabled are included within their standard spending assessment for highway maintenance. Provisional decisions on the highway maintenance standard spending assessment for 1995-96 will be announced shortly after the Budget as part of the proposed local authority finance settlement.


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Local authorities may also include the provision of such facilities within their annual transport policy programmes which receive funding from the Department of Transport.

The provision of road crossing facilities for the disabled is at the discretion of individual local authorities, which are best placed to decide on the level of provision taking account of local circumstances and their own spending priorities.

Wildlife

Mr. Morley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) pursuant to his answer of 3 February, Official Report, column 879-80, how many more nature conservation orders he has granted or refused under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in England ; how many are still in force ; and if he will make a statement ; (2) pursuant to his answer of 15 March, Official Report, column 576, how many further prosecutions have been taken under sections 28 or 29 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in England ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins : Since 31 December 1993, one new nature conservation order has been made and three orders have been revoked. There are now 16 orders in force.

There have been no further prosecutions under section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and one under section 29.

Departmental Housing

Mrs. Golding : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when the Government will publish the report of the empty homes task group.

Sir George Young : We intend to publish shortly the report of the task force on Government Departments' empty houses, along with a Government response to its recommendations.

Medway Special Protection Area

Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment for what reasons Her Majesty's Government excluded Lappel bank from the Medway special protection area.

Mr. Atkins : My right hon. Friend's reasons for excluding Lappel bank from the Medway special protection area are set out in my officials' letter of 10 December 1993 to the chief executive, English Nature, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

Water Meters

Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has agreed that the Director General of Water Services should be able to make it a condition that water companies intending to expand their system should be required to extend also the installation of meters.

Mr. Atkins : This is a matter for the Director General of Water Services, the NRA and water companies. When expanding their systems, water companies are expected to assess the relative merits of demand management measures, such as metering or leakage control as compared with resource development. I understand that all but five water companies have a policy of metering water supplies for new connections.


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Coal Extraction

Mr. Trotter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what policies he proposes to include in revised planning guidance for coal extraction in the light of responses to the public consultation ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what policies he proposes to include in revised planning guidance for coal extraction in the light of responses to public consultation ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Curry : The draft guidance that we published in December last year provides a stronger environmental framework than the guidance published in 1988. The Government believe that the planning framework for coal extraction should be based on the same general principles as for other mineral extraction. To avoid any misunderstanding, we have decided to delete the statement in the draft guidance that "it would be against the national interest to refuse permission for coal extraction". It is clear from the responses to consultation that the reference to "the national interest" in paragraph 15 of the draft guidance has been wrongly interpreted as giving an extra presumption in favour of coal mining development.

The Government wish to see the development of the largest economically viable coal industry for the longer term within its broad objectives of encouraging competition, promoting economic growth and assisting the creation and maintenance of employment. This must, of course, be consistent with land use planning criteria, and the best way of striking the balance between the economic importance of this indigenous energy resource and the protection of the environment is through the careful consideration of individual applications within the framework of the development plan-led system.

The Government's policy is that, where the development can be carried out in an environmentally acceptable way and consistent with the principles of sustainable development, there is no case, in land use planning terms, for placing more restrictions on coal extraction and colliery spoil disposal than are necessary to ensure full and proper protection of the environment.

We hope to publish final guidance before the summer recess to provide a planning framework which will ensure that the industry can develop the mineral resource in a way that has proper regard to local concerns and is fully compatible with economic growth, the protection of the environment and the principles of sustainable development. I am confident that with careful planning and a sensitive approach to local concerns the industry will be able to come forward with proposals that contribute to economic growth and which provide an environmentally sound foundation for the future.

Single Regeneration Budget

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if education projects with particular reference to the teaching of English to children of New Commonwealth origin are eligible as bids under the single regeneration budget ; for how many such bids he has made provision ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Baldry [holding answer 27 June 1994] : The single regeneration budget encourages local partnerships to come


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forward with bids that reflect the needs of their areas and which meet the SRB objectives. These objectives embrace proposals which "promote initiatives of benefit to ethnic minorities" and which "enhance the employment prospects, education and skills of local people, particularly the young and those at a disadvantage, and promote equality of opportunity". It is for local partnerships to decide what their local priorities are and to say how these fit within the strategic approach to regeneration which the SRB bidding guidance requires.

On present estimates some £100 million will be available nationally in 1995-96 to support new local bids.

DEFENCE

Al Yamamah Agreements

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library tables showing the value of orders placed with British industry each year under (a) the Al Yamamah I intergovernmental agreement and (b) Al Yamamah II intergovernmental agreement valued in cash in US dollars and sterling with the exchange rate used for translation ; and if he will estimate the value of sub-contracts on such orders placed outside Britain.

Mr. Aitken : No. It has been the practice of successive Governments not to comment on detailed matters concerning individual defence export sales.

Ballistic Missile Defence

Mr. David Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what are the terms of the pre-feasibility study contract on ballistic missile defence ; how many bids he has received ; from whom ; and when he expects to announce the award of the contract.

Mr. Aitken : The United Kingdom ballistic missile defence pre- feasibility study is the subject of a competitive tendering exercise. Tenders were received on 23 June 1994 from two consortia led by British Aerospace plc and Logica UK Ltd. The two tenders are being assessed against the invitation to tender. It is intended that the contract award will be announced in the autumn.

Search and Rescue Services

Mr. Ainger : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what comparison he has made of the cost of basing search and rescue at RAF Brawdy and RAF Chivenor following the decision to mothball Chivenor and base 14 Signals Regiment at Brawdy.

Mr. Hanley : All factors, particularly the operational case but also the financial arguments, were taken into account in reaching our decision to transfer the SAR flight from RAF Brawdy to RAF Chivenor. I have no plans to conduct any further financial appraisal of this matter following my recent decision to base 14 Signals Regiment at Brawdy ; my Department is currently considering alternative defence uses for RAF Chivenor.


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Historic Buildings

Mr. Congdon : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements have been made for independent expert advice to be given to the Ministry of Defence on the care of historic buildings which it owns or occupies.

Mr. Hanley : The Ministry of Defence takes seriously the Government's commitment to aim for the highest standards of conservation for its historic buildings. To assist in achieving that aim, my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence has appointed a historic buildings advisory group.

The terms of reference of the group are that--

It will assist my Department to manage the historic buildings on its estate by providing a source of informed advice on the care and maintenance of buildings, adaptation for new uses and disposal. It will offer expert advice on idividual buildings or groups of buildings, and their setting, and on any associated archaeological aspects as appropriate. Members of the group will provide a link to outside experts and specialists as necessary.

It will provide advice on the development of my Department's general policy and strategy with a view to establishing priorities in allocating limited resources, and to devising disposal strategies for large or difficult sites. It will thus contribute to the effective management within the available resources of the Department's historic estate, in line with the Government's aim to achieve the highest standards of conservation.

My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence will chair this group whenever possible ; otherwise the vice-chairman, Sir William Whitfield, CBE, will lead. Other outside members of the group are

Mr. Alan Baxter

Mr. Stuart Lipton

Mr. Ian McIvor

Mr. Les Sparks

In addition, Mr. John Ledlie, a deputy under-secretary in my Department, is a member of the group.

Army Technical Branches

Mr. Carrington : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has for the organisation of the Army's technical branches and authorities.

Mr. Hanley : A review has been completed into the organisation and grouping of the Army's technical branches and authorities. The review reported its initial findings in August 1992.

One of the recommendations of the review was that the spares divisions located at Chilwell and Donnington should be amalgamated into one division operating from a single site, with ensuing economies of scale. This recommendation has now been subjected to operational and financial appraisals. The most cost-effective solution which has emerged is that the two provisioning and procurement divisions, the vehicle spares division Chilwell and technical equipments division Donnington, should be collocated within a rented building in Telford, near Donnington, achieving savings of some £6,000,000 per annum. I have decided to accept this recommendation as the basis for consultation with the trades unions and other interested parties. Final decisions will only be taken in the light of representations made.

I am placing a copy of the consultation document in the Library of the House.


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Small Arms Ammunition

Mrs. Angela Knight : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on future orders for small arms ammunition.

Mr. Aitken : A long-term contract was won by Royal Ordnance plc last October for the supply of various types of ammunition, including small arms ammunition, during the period 1993-94 to 1997-98. The contract included an option to extend all or part of the contract for a further two years. We have now reached an agreement with Royal Ordnance to extend the small arms element of the contract to cover the years 1998 to 1999 and 1999 to 2000. This increases the value of the contract to Royal Ordnance by some £40 million and should help maintain jobs at Royal Ordnance's Radway Green factory which employs nearly 600 people.

Operation Granby

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what specific assessments have been made by his Department, the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, or by the United States Defence Department with his knowledge, of the possibility that some of the Iraqi targets bombed during Operation Granby released chemical warfare agents into the environment that may have contaminated British service men and women.

Mr. Hanley [holding answer 24 June 1994] : This is a matter for the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, CBDE, under its framework document. I have asked the chief executive, CBDE, to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Graham Pearson to Mr. Llew Smith, dated 24 June 1994 :

1. Your Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Defence asking him what specific assessments have been made by his Department, the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, or by the United States Defense Department with his knowledge, of the possibility that some of the Iraqi targets bombed during Operation GRANBY released chemical warfare agents into the environment that may have contaminated British servicemen and women has been passed to me to answer as Chief Executive of the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment.

2. During Operation GRANBY, the potential hazard to Service personnel resulting from the bombing of Iraqi targets at which chemical weapons were stored was recognised by the Ministry of Defence. The Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment made an assessment of the potential downwind hazard distances based on various assumptions for the quantity of agent that might be released as a result of a bombing attack and for the associated meteorological conditions.

3. The result of the assessment indicated that even assuming simultaneous release of the majority of agent from several bunkers under meteorological conditions which favoured the downwind travel of the agent cloud and ignoring the fact that chemical agents are organic materials which are destroyed by combustion, the maximum distance at which there would be any hazard was of the order of a few tens of kilometres. In practice, simultaneous release is unlikely to occur, agent will be destroyed by combustion and meteorological conditions will be less favourable resulting in a significantly reduced downwind hazard distance.

4. The conclusion was that there was no evidence that British Servicemen and women would be exposed to chemical warfare agent as a result of bombing attacks. Our appreciation is that the US Department of Defense carried out similar studies and reached similar conclusions.


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SCOTLAND

Water and Sewerage

Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the amount charged to council tax payers for water and sewerage charges in each of the regional and island councils of Scotland in 1994-95.

Sir Hector Monro : Households receiving a public water supply pay council water charges levied along with their council tax. Sewerage is one of the services funded from within council tax. Details of council water charges and expenditure on sewerage are given in the leaflet recently issued to households in Scotland. A copy is in the Library.

Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what effect the proposed local government reorganisation will have on the amount of revenue and capital grant paid to the proposed water boards.

Sir Hector Monro : The present grant system applicable to local authorities will not apply to the new water and sewerage authorities. Their arrangements will be determined by a new financial control regime. Provision is made in the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill for grants to be made to the new water and sewerage authorities under clause 83.

Wildcats

Mr. Meale : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many licences have been issued for the killing or taking of wildcats in each of the past five years.

Sir Hector Monro : One licence was issued for the taking of wildcats in 1989. In 1990 and 1991 no licences were issued, but in 1992 two were issued to take the species followed by a further such licence in 1993.

Arable Area Payments Scheme

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list by county the amount of European Union arable subsidy received for the latest year for which figures are available ; and what were the figures for each of the previous four years.

Sir Hector Monro : I refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) on 14 June, Official Report, columns 462-63. The arable area payments scheme was introduced in 1992 and the first payments were made in 1993. There are therefore no comparable figures for previous years.

Gaelic-medium Education

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) if he will make a statement on the future of funding arrangements for Gaelic- medium education ;

(2) if he will initiate a strategy aimed at ensuring the continuation of Gaelic-medium education into secondary schools ; (3) how many responses he has received to Her Majesty's inspectors' report on Gaelic education ; and if he will place a summary of the responses in the Library.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The Scottish Office Education Department has received 123 responses to Her


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Majesty's inspectorate report "Provision for Gaelic Education in Scotland". These are currently being analysed and summarised, and a copy of the summary will be placed in the Library in due course. We intend to take account of the inspectorate report and the comments which have been received on it in formulating future policy for Gaelic education, on which I will make an announcement in due course.

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many children are now receiving Gaelic-medium education in primary schools, by local authority areas.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The 1993 school census showed that 1, 144 primary school pupils were receiving Gaelic medium

cross-curricular instruction. This figure is broken down by local authority areas as follows :-


?

Local Authority Area |Number of                                

                     |Pupils                                   

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

Highland             |414                                      

Strathclyde          |398                                      

Western Isles        |309                                      

Grampian             |17                                       

Tayside              |6                                        

                     |-------                                  

Total                |1,144                                    

This figure excludes primary school pupils receiving bilingual Gaelic/English instruction or other Gaelic instruction.

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to safeguard the place of Gaelic-medium education following the reorganisation of local government.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I see no risk to Gaelic education arising out of local government reorganisation, as the new authorities will have the same responsibilities as the old. The Scottish Office Education Department will issue guidance to education authorities after the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill receives Royal Assent.

Accountancy Firms

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many contracts and for what total sum were let out by his Department and agencies for which it is responsible to (a) Coopers and Lybrand, (b) KPMG Peat Marwick, (c) Ernst and Young, (d) Price Waterhouse, (e) Arthur Andersen, (f) Touche Ross, (g) Grant Thornton, (h) Robson Rhodes and (i) Pannell Kerr Forster for (i) privatisation, (ii) market testing, (iii) management advice, (iv) accounting, (v) audit, (vi) consultancy and (vii) other services in (1) 1980 to 1983, (2) 1984 to 1987, (3) 1988 to 1991 and (4) 1992-93.

Mr. Lang : A full reply could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, I refer the hon. Member to my replies to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) on 21 February 1994 Official Report, columns 51- 52, and to the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) on 16 March 1994, Official Report, columns 659-60 which contain much of the information sought.


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Forestry Commission

Mr. Morley : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) if consultation on the future of the Forestry Commission will take place on the full range of options considered by the working group ; (2) if he will make a statement on the timetable for consultation on the future of the Forestry Commission and on the method of consultation.

Sir Hector Monro : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 9 May 1994, Official Report, column 48.

Tourism

Mr. McMaster : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to launch additional initiatives to promote Scotland in the tourist market as the home of golf ; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The statutory agency with responsibility for the promotion of Scotland as a tourist destination is the Scottish tourist board. The board recognises that golf is an important attraction to potential visitors to Scotland and features it prominently in its promotional activities both within the United Kingdom and overseas. Promotional initiatives are an operational matter for the board and I have therefore arranged for its chairman to write to the hon. Member.

Glenfeshie

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what weight he has attached in his consideration of Glenfeshie to policies of planting set-aside areas with trees nearer to sawmills than the south Cairngorms.

Sir Hector Monro : Glenfeshie is a private estate, and thus tree planting on the estate is a matter for its owner.

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his assessment of the value of Glenfeshie and Mar Lodge as attractions for tourism in Scotland.


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