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Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment his Department has made of the findings of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's report on dioxins released on 13 September; and if he will reconsider the findings of the Royal Commission on environmental pollution on incineration capacity.
Mr. Aitkins: The United States Environmental Protection Agency's report, though both long and in parts technical, is still a preliminary draft, issued for public comment. Its content and findings will be revised during the coming year in the light of the comments received. The Government are studying the draft report, and intend to complete their own preliminary assessment of it by the end of the year. The Government, in responding to the royal commission, have already given a public reassurance that, in deciding its policy on the use of incineration for waste disposal, it will take into account the advice of the chief medical officer about the implications of this and other major dioxins studies. Chlorine Production
Column 983the European Union, the United Kingdom Government support a science-based approach to evaluating the risk and benefits of substances including chlorine. Existing controls on the production of chlorine are considered to be adequate on the basis of current evaluations of the risks.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans his Department has to introduce legislation to end the importing of another country's toxic waste; and if he will introduce a new classification to cover such categories of toxic material as the scrap metal contaminated with polychlorinated bi-phenyls.
Mr. Atkins: I refer to my answer to the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Benton) on 17 October 1994, Official Report , columns 17 18 . All imports into the United Kingdom of waste for disposal, and of hazardous waste for recovery, are covered by the provisions of the EC Waste Shipments Regulation, 259/93, and the United Kingdom Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 1994, S.I. No. 1137. Scrap metal contaminated by PCBs is therefore covered by existing legislation.
Mr. Tony Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if any Minister in his Department attended a dinner or other function with representatives of Blue Circle and Decision Makers Ltd. at Hampton Court on 12 and 18 June 1993.
Mr. Tony Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) attended a dinner on 25 May 1993 with representatives of Blue Circle, Decision Makers Ltd. and the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame Angela Rumbold) in his official capacity.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the effect of replacing mandatory grants for housing maintenance by loans; and what plans he has to do this.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: Loans are one of the options being considered in the current review of the future of private housing renewal programmes. An announcement on the outcome of the review will be made in due course.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration he has given to the report by the National Home Improvement Council on expenditure on improving unfit homes; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: The National Home Improvement Council has made some interesting comments which we will consider in the framework of the current review of the future of private housing renewal programmes. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to set targets to
Column 984reduce the number of unfit dwellings; and in what time ranges the targets will be set.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: It is not appropriate to set targets to reduce the number of unfit properties to a particular level. We aim to help improve conditions for those people unable to help themselves and to educate those who can.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to issue guidance to local authorities to ensure that high standards of housing improvements are achieved by the grant system.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer (a) to re-introduce MIRAS on loans for housing maintenance and (b) to allow landlords relief for repair costs to be offset against tax rather than rent.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what effect the new formula for standard spending assessments has had on Coventry city council; and where the city would have ranked in England for council tax levels under (a) the old standard spending assessment formula and (b) the new one.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: Between 1993 94 and 1994 45 there was a reduction of 3.7 per cent. in Coventry's SSA attributable to the SSA review and the introduction of 1991 census information. Differences in the information available for 1993 94 and 1994 95 make it impossible to disaggregate this figure further.
RSG is distributed so that if all authorities spent at the level of their SSA, then all taxpayers in a given band could pay the same level of council tax whilst receiving a standard level of service. In practice, council tax levels are determined by the local authority's own decisions on spending levels and the use of reserves, not by standard spending assessments.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced increases in total standard spending for 1995 96 and 1996 7. They were laid before the House in the "Financial Statement and Budget Report 1994 95" on 30 November 1993. Paragraph 5.75, page 104, refers to them.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had with his colleagues on the effects on standard spending assessments of establishing new police authorities and the implementation of universal nursery education.
Column 985contact between officials about development of the formula. Ministers in the Home Office and in my Department are jointly considering the options.
The Government are considering the implications of the commitment to nursery education and will announce its conclusions in due course.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: My right hon. Friend will make a statement on the provisional 1995 96 revenue support grant settlement for local authorities shortly after my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor's Budget statement.
Mr. Ainger: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 25 October, Official Report, column 541, under what United Kingdom legislation environmental assessments are required before consent is given in respect of the operation of any offshore oil and gas production, exploration or appraisal installation within 25 miles of the coast or in environmentally sensitive areas beyond 25 miles.
Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he has taken against those local authorities whose direct services organisations failed to meet statutory financial objectives in 1992 93.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: One hundred and three statutory notices have been served on 71 local authorities concerning the failure of their DSOs to meet the required financial objective in 1992 93. To date, we have announced final decisions on 81 of the notices.
My right hon. Friend has now considered the responses of the remaining authorities on whom notices were served in June, July and August. He has today given 13 directions to the following local authorities:
(a) Allerdale district council (other cleaning, refuse collection), requiring the authority to seek the Secretary of State's consent if it wishes to award work on the defined activity to their DSO following re- tendering which is currently in hand.
(b) Bedfordshire county council (highways and sewerage), preventing the authority from carrying out the defined activity if it fails to meet the financial objective for the work in 1994 95. (c) London borough of Camden (other catering, school and welfare catering, sport and leisure management). The other catering and school and welfare catering direction prevent the authority from carrying out all or some of the defined activity through its own DSO. For sport and leisure management the direction requires the authority to re-tender the work and subsequently seek the Secretary of State's consent if it wishes to award it to their DSO.
(d) Canterbury city council (building maintenance), preventing the authority from carrying out the defined activity if it fails to meet a specific financial objective for the work in 1994 95 and the statutory financial objective for 1995 96.
Column 986(e) Corby district council (sport and leisure management), requiring the authority to re-tender some of the work if they fail to meet the financial objective in 1994 95.
(f) London borough of Ealing (sport and leisure management), requiring the authority to seek the Secretary of State's consent if it wishes to award work on the defined activity to their DSO following re-tendering which is currently in hand.
(g) Kerrier district council (sport and leisure management), requiring the authority to re-tender all of the work if it fails to meet the financial objective in 1994 95.
(h) Leicester county council (building cleaning), preventing the authority, from carrying out the activity through its own DSO from 1 January 1996.
(i) Rochester upon Medway city council (sport and leisure management), requiring the authority to re-tender the work and subsequently seek the Secretary of State's consent if it wishes to award it to their DSO, and,
(j) Slough borough council (sport and leisure management), requiring the authority to seek the Secretary of State's consent if it wishes to award work on the defined activity to their DSO following re-tendering which is currently in hand.
The Secretary of State has also decided to take no further statutory action on this occasion against Camden (other cleaning), Kingswood (sport and leisure management), Northampton (building maintenance), Peterborough (building maintenance), Selby (sport and leisure management), South Bedfordshire (sport and leisure management), Stafford (sport and leisure management), and Wellingborough (highways and sewerage, building maintenance). A statutory financial objective is set for local authority DSOs to ensure that bids are realistically priced and services delivered at that price.
For the financial year 1992 93, 350 DSOs out of a total of 2,400, failed to meet the prescribed financial objectives. This underlines the need for local authorities to take firm steps to address and correct any financial problems in DSOs, and for the Secretary of State to use the powers given to him by Parliament to ensure that this happens.
In 70 per cent. of the cases notified to the Department, local authorities had already taken action to reduce costs, improve management or, in some cases, withdraw from the activity concerned, and no statutory action was called for.
Over the year, statutory notices were served in respect of 103 accounts, leading to 39 directions. In the remaining cases, the authorities' responses and proposals for action were sufficient for the Secretary of State to be satisfied that no further statutory action was necessary. In addition, 30 out of the 39 directions reflected authorities' projections that their DSOs would meet the prescribed financial objective; the directions required retendering of work or closure of the DSO only if the projected results were not in the event achieved.
The remaining nine directions required authorities to take further action beyond that already proposed--in four cases this involved the closure of the DSOs in question.
I should emphasise that the great majority of DSOs deliver services successfully and meet the prescribed financial objectives. Where problems arise, authorities have the primary responsibility for taking the necessary steps, and the majority of authorities do so without any intervention or prompting by the Department. Their responsible action is to be commended.
Local authorities are required to submit DSO accounts for 1993 94 to the Department not later than today, 31
Column 987October. My right hon. Friend will consider shortly what action would be appropriate in respect of any accounts that fail to meet the statutory financial objective in the year.
Mr. Spearing: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will state, in relation to his decision to open the docklands light railway to an offer of franchise (a) to whom the franchise will revert at the conclusion of the stated period, (b) whether Railtrack will own the railway infrastructure and (c) what is the current ratio between current fare-box takings, including joint ticketing income and annual revenue costs.
Sir Paul Beresford: The Docklands Light Railway Limited (DLR Ltd) will let a vertical franchise to the private sector, transferring specific responsibilities in relation to both DLR infrastructure and operations. Reversion will be to DLR Ltd. The Government have no plans to transfer the infrastructure to Railtrack. The current ratio between the current farebox takings, including joint ticketing income, and annual revenue costs is 1:3.4.
Mr. Dorrell: The present ITV ownership rules allow the takeover of a Channel 3 company provided that no one company holds more than two licences. The rules are being looked at as part of the review on cross- ownership.
Mr. Sproat: Public sector support for the performing arts on Teesside is provided through a partnership between Northern Arts, which is largely centrally funded by the Arts Council, and the local authorities in the area. In 1993 94 this support amounted to over £1.3 million, with approximately £700,000 from Northern Arts and more than £300,000 each from Cleveland county council and the district councils.
Mr. Dorrell: The Millennium Commission has been directed that it must take account of the objective of ensuring that major projects are supported in each country of the United Kingdom when considering applications for lottery funds.
Mr. Sproat: I consider competitive sport in schools to be of the utmost importance in enabling children to learn to work together as a team within a framework of rules. This is an essential skill for adult life and we are currently working with the Department for Education on proposals for putting competitive sport back at the heart of school life.
Mr. Sproat: The Sports Council supports the community use of school sports facilities and has provided £12 million for upgrading existing facilities or building new ones over the last 11 years. In addition, schools satisfying certain criteria will be eligible to receive national lottery funds for dual use facilities when they come on stream in 1995.
Mr. Dorrell: Over the last 20 years, businesses have increasingly recognised the commercial benefits that flow from their links with excellence in the arts. The Government have welcomed and actively encouraged this trend, and the resulting strengthening of the arts economy. Growth in business sponsorship has been developed and maintained by the efforts of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts, and through the Government's own business sponsorship incentive scheme, which since it inception in 1984 has attracted more than £82 million in new money to the arts.
Mr. Dorrell: I believe that the channel tunnel is an exciting opportunity for the United Kingdom tourism industry. With more than 60 per cent. of visitors to the United Kingdom already coming from western Europe, and France--our second largest market in terms of overseas visitors--there is clearly great potential for the industry to exploit.
Mr. Dorrell: The Department of the Environment's building research establishment undertakes research into the selection and availability of building materials in the British Isles. It has published the following relevant reports:
|Year of Title |publication ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Building Limestones of the British Isles |1993 The Building Sandstones of the British Isles |1986 The Building Magnesian Limestones of the British Isles |1988 The Building Slates of the British Isles |1991
English Heritage is shortly to commence a study into the problems facing the fissile stone slate industry in the Cotswolds and the Peak district. English Heritage is also funding research into supplies of lime for conservation mortars, plasters and renders and will be publishing a directory of small-scale lime burning and ready mixed materials traditionally used in conservation work.
Mr. Sproat: We received more than 150 responses to our public consultation paper on a new library and information commission, of which most were strongly in favour. The Government have therefore decided to proceed with the establishment of the commission from January 1995, thus providing an influential new forum for the development of policy on library provision.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the costs of training (a) an Insolvency Service examiner, (b) an E grade examiner and (c) a D grade examiner .
Mr. Heseltine: The direct costs associated with the basic professional and technical training of an E grade examiner are £7,000 and for a D grade are £8,500. These do not include the salary cost of the examiner or of internal presenters and tutors.
In addition, examiners undergo development and management training and have the opportunity to progress to full accountancy qualification.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the future of the Insolvency Service's LOIS computer system in the event of the recommendation of Stoy Hayward in respect of contracting out Insolvency Service work being accepted.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many creditors' committees were appointed for each of the last three years for (a) creditors' voluntary liquidations, (b) compulsory liquidations and (c) individual bankruptcies.