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Mr. Dorrell: The Independent Television Commission has awarded 95 licensable programme services licences, of which 35 are operational and providing local programming. Local programming is produced in Telewest's south London and Avon franchises, Devanha group's Coventry and Aberdeen franchises, Telecential's Swindon franchise, the Cable Corporation's Windsor franchise, the Comcast-managed Birmingham franchise, LCL Cable Communications' Leicester franchise, IVS Cable Holdings in Andover and in Videotron's London holdings.


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Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what requirements are imposed on holders of cable television licences to provide community television channels.

Mr. Dorrell: Under broadcasting legislation, there are no requirements on holders of cable television franchises to provide a community service channel.

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what action he is taking to ensure that the provision of local community television channels by holders of cable television licences do not become subject to the monopoly control or influence of existing news providers.

Mr. Dorrell: The cross-media ownership restrictions in the Broadcasting Act 1990 prevent local newspapers, local radio and regional Channel 3 companies from controlling cable franchises if there is a significant overlap in the areas served.

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what action he is taking to ensure that all holders of cable television licences fulfil their requirement to provide a community television channel.

Mr. Dorrell: Under broadcasting legislation, there are no requirements on holders of cable television franchises to provide a community service channel.

Cable Television

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what guidance has been issued on access to community television channels provided by cable television companies under the terms of their licence.

Mr. Dorrell: If community television channels are provided by cable television companies, it is for individuals to decide whether they wish to subscribe to them.

Cross-media Ownership

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans his Department has for encouraging a European Commission resolution on pluralism and cross-media ownership.

Mr. Dorrell: I will consider my response once the European Commission launches its consultation exercise and provides details of its proposals.

ENVIRONMENT

Edwardes Committee

18. Mr. McFall: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made following the Edwardes committee report on the development of national parks.

Sir Paul Beresford: Part III of the Environment Bill, which is being considered in another place, includes provisions which take forward our commitments to primary legislation for the national parks. These commitments are set out in our 1992 policy statement, "Fit for the Future", which we issued in response to the report of the Edwardes committee.


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Local Government Review (Shropshire)

19. Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the recommendation of the local government review affecting Shropshire.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The Local Government Commission published its final report on Shropshire last Wednesday. Following publication, there is a six-week period during which interested parties can make representations to us before we take any decisions on the commission's recommendations.

Compulsory Competitive Tendering

23. Mr. Tredinnick: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how he foresees the development of compulsory competitive tendering on housing management.

Mr. Curry: We have put in place the legislative framework extending compulsory competitive tendering to housing management. The first contracts are due to be in operation from April 1996. I am pleased to say that local authorities are making good progress with their preparations.

Latham Report

24. Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about progress in implementing the Latham Report.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The review implementation forum, which is chaired by Sir Michael Latham, reported to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 19 December, with recommendations for taking forward the proposals in the Latham report. The report will be discussed at a meeting of the construction industry's standing strategic group, which is chaired by my right hon. Friend, on 7 February.

Conservation Sites

25. Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the designation of conservation sites under the European habitats directive.

Sir Paul Beresford: Work is well advanced on a draft list of possible sites which will be published shortly for public consultation in preparation for the submission of a list of candidate special areas of conservation. Formal designation of sites will take place only after agreement has been reached between the Government and the Commission and after the list of those sites has been adopted in accordance with the directive.

Landfill Tax

26. Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the impact of the proposed landfill tax on the operation of waste landfill sites in residential areas.

Mr. Atkins: The proposed landfill tax is not expected to raise issues which are specific to landfill sites in residential areas. However, we will issue a consultation paper shortly on the detailed operation of the tax, which will provide an opportunity for representations to be made. I will place a copy in the Library in due course.


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Air Pollution (London)

29. Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about air pollution in London.

Mr. Atkins: Ambient concentrations of sulphur dioxide and lead in London have been declining for many years. Levels of traffic-related pollutants are also expected to decline significantly as catalyst-equipped cars replace older more polluting models in the vehicle parc.

Repossessions

30. Mr. Bill Michie: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the latest estimate of the number of households likely to lose their home through repossession for mortgage arrears in the next 12 months.

Mr. Curry: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) on 30 November 1994, Official Report , column 731 .

Building and Construction Industry

31. Sir Michael Neubert: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his current assessment of the prospects for the building and construction industry; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: Construction output began to increase last year after three and a half years of decline. New orders are increasing and growth is expected to continue.

The latest state of the construction industry report is currently being produced jointly by the Department of the Environment and representatives of the construction industry. Copies will be placed in the Library in due course.

Environmental Protection

32. Mr. Jacques Arnold: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made in environmental protection over the last year.

Sir Paul Beresford: A full account will be given in this year's annual report on "This Common Inheritance", which we will publish in the spring. It will report progress during 1994 both on the commitments in the environment White Paper series and on those in the sustainable development strategy published in January 1994.

Retail Development

33. Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the effect on consumer choice and price competition of encouraging new retail development in the centre of our towns and cities.

Mr. Gummer: Locating new retail developments in or on the edge of town centres ensures that they are accessible to the largest number of people. This enables comparison shopping to be made, thereby increasing choice for all consumers and price competition.

Ministerial Visits

34. Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what visits he has recently received from eastern European water Ministers.


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Sir Paul Beresford: My right hon. Friend has received no recent visits from any eastern European water ministers, nor from any eastern European environment ministers with responsibility for water interests.

Single Regeneration Budget

35. Ms Corston: To ask the Ssecretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has for a second round of bidding for the single regeneration budget.

Mr. Curry: My right hon. Friend announced on 5 December 1994 that a second bidding round of the single regeneration budget will be launched later this year, under which £40 million will be available in 1996 97 for early funding of approved bids and £200 million in 1997 98.

Air Pollution (Eastern Europe)

36. Mr. Patrick Thompson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what contribution the United Kingdom Government are making to improving air pollution in eastern Europe.

Mr. Atkins: The United Kingdom is a signatory, along with other states including those from Eastern Europe, of the United National Economic Commission for Europe convention on long range transboundary air pollution and plays an active part in the convention's various subsidiary bodies. Protocols under the convention control a range of air pollutants from sources within eastern and western Europe. The United Kingdom has made voluntary contributions to a UNECE trust fund to facilitate the participation of Eastern European countries in relevant meetings and in the convention.

In addition to its contribution to multilateral programmes of assistance to central and eastern Europe, the United Kingdom has also established the environmental know-how fund, which includes projects to combat air pollution in central and eastern Europe. Help is also being given for the restructuring of the energy sector in central and eastern European countries, with benefits to the environment, under the main know-how fund.

Legislation

37. Mr. Grocott: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many new items of legislation affecting the work of his Department have been introduced as Government Bills since 1979.

Mr. Gummer: Since 1979, there have been 79 Acts of Parliament on subjects for which the Department of the Environment is currently responsible. Of these, 64 were Government Bills, including 12 consolidation Bills. The remainder were introduced as private Member's Bills.

River Thames

38. Mr. Jessel: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to put the River Thames to better use for residents and tourists.

Mr. Gummer: I shall shortly publish the report of the study of the Thames that I announced last year. This will be followed in the spring by draft strategic planning guidance for the Thames, on which I shall consult widely. The report and guidance will give encouragement to


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maximising the use of the river and the valuable resources it offers for resident and tourist alike.

Merseyside Development Corporation

Mr. Parry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the future of Merseyside development corporation.

Sir Paul Beresford: The Merseyside development corporation is to be wound up on 31 March 1998. The corporation is discussing succession arrangements with local partners.

Negative Equity

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 30 November 1994, Official Report , column 726 , if he will now update the table on negative equity with the latest figures available.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The estimates in the answer given on 30 November were in respect of the third quarter of 1994. Estimates based on Department of the Environment house price data for the fourth quarter will be available in February.

Leisure plc

Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to require Leisure plc to conform to the requirements of the Audit Commission Publication of Information (Standards of Performance) direction 1994.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The requirements of the Publication of Information (Standards of Performance) direction, issued by the Audit Commission, apply to the local authority irrespective of whether the services are provided by the council or are contracted out to the private sector. We have no plans to review these arrangements.

Private Landlords

Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to require private landlords to meet the same standards as local authorities are required to meet under the Audit Commission Publication of Information (Standards of Performance) direction 1994.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: None. It would not be appropriate to apply to private landlords the publication requirements imposed on public sector bodies.

Transitional Relief

Mr. Heppell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what level of transitional relief in (a) actual and (b) real terms Nottingham city council has received compared to the average district council;

(2) what level of transitional relief in (a) actual (b) real and (c) percentage terms Nottingham county council has received in each of the last five years; and what level was received in each case by the average shire county.


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Mr. Robert B. Jones: The table shows the amounts of community charge transitional relief grant paid to each billing authority in Nottinhamshire in respect of 1990 91, 1991 92 and 1992 93, the amounts of council tax transitional relief grant claimed by each billing authority


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in respect of 1993 94 and 1994 95, and the percentage of the total grant paid in England for each year which each claim represents. Grant is paid to billing authorities; no grant is paid to county councils.


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Amounts of community charge and council tax transitional relief grant paid to each billing authority in Nottinghamshire         

                          |1990-91         |1991-92         |1992-93         |1993-94<1>      |<1>1994-95                       

                          |£               |£               |£               |£               |£                                

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

Ashfield                  |384,194         |3,673,827       |3,604,396       |162,276         |37,659                           

                          |(0.2 per cent.) |(0.4 per cent.) |(0.4 per cent.) |(0.1 per cent.) |(0.1 per cent.)                  

Bassetlaw                 |519,195         |4,266,115       |4,157,831       |523,009         |157,305                          

                          |(0.2 per cent.) |(0.4 per cent.) |(0.4 per cent.) |(0.1 per cent.) |(0.1 per cent.)                  

Broxtowe                  |736,134         |2,767,579       |2,697,999       |400,197         |99,545                           

                          |(0.3 per cent.) |(0.3 per cent.) |(0.3 per cent.) |(0.1 per cent.) |(0.1 per cent.)                  

Gedling                   |591,515         |2,546,494       |2,545,633       |472,552         |123,235                          

                          |(0.3 per cent.) |(0.2 per cent.) |(0.3 per cent.) |(0.1 per cent.) |(0.1 per cent.)                  

Mansfield                 |595,775         |5,007,145       |4,846,980       |327,347         |126,214                          

                          |(0.3 per cent.) |(0.5 per cent.) |(0.5 per cent.) |(0.1 per cent.) |(0.1 per cent.)                  

Newark and Sherwood       |727,530         |3,808,439       |3,699,602       |810,254         |288,362                          

                          |(0.3 per cent.) |(0.4 per cent)  |(0.4 per cent.) |(0.2 per cent.) |(0.2 per cent.)                  

Nottingham                |1,025,521       |11,360,503      |10,744,316      |692,040         |224,148                          

                          |(0.4 per cent.) |(1.1 per cent.) |(1.1 per cent.) |(0.2 per cent.) |(0.2 per cent.)                  

Rushcliffe                |376,559         |1,578,363       |1,523,778       |1,011,437       |300,128                          

                          |(0.2 per cent.) |(0.2 per cent.) |(0.2 per cent.) |(0.3 per cent.) |(0.3 per cent.)                  

Average claim per billing                                                                                                       

 authority                |642,076         |2,803,279       |2,721,311       |1,038,251       |327,869                          

<1> 90 per cent. of an authority's estimated claim for council tax transitional relief grant is paid during the relevant        

financial year, with any outstanding amounts paid in the following financial year.                                              

Aquifers

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what was the annual rate of replenishment of chalk, limestone and sandstone aquifers in (a) 1970, (b) 1980 and (c) 1990;

(2) what assessment he has made of run-off from the land as a proportion of the annual rainfall in England and Wales and by water authority for the year 1964, 1970, 1980 and 1990.

Mr. Atkins: The available data, which are not in precisely the form sought, are published annually in "Hydrological Data UK" by the Institute of Hydrology and the British Geological Survey.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what considerations underlay his decision to increase capping limits for county councils for 1995 96 by less than the predicted rate of inflation.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The considerations were set out in my right hon. Friend's statement on the local finance settlement on 1 December, Official Report, column 1333.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the level of local government expenditure in Blyth Valley in each year since 1988.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The information is as follows:


Blyth Valley expenditure<1>                     

                |£ 000                          

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

1988-89         |6,375 (outturn)                

1989-90         |7,077 (outturn)                

1990-91         |8,153 (outturn)                

1991-92         |8,533 (outturn)                

1992-93         |8,570 (outturn)                

1993-94         |8,169 (outturn)                

1994-95         |8,304 (budget)                 

<1> Total Expenditure 1988-89 to 1989-90. Net   

Revenue Expenditure 1990-91 to 1994-95.         

Rented Housing

Mr. Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the average level of public, private and housing association rents for each year since 1979.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The available information is given in the table:


Average rents in England, 1979-80 to 1993-94                            

            |Local                  |Housing    |Private                

Financial   |authority  |Calendar   |association|sector                 

year        |rents      |year       |rents<1>   |rents<1>               

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

1979-80     |6.49       |1979       |n/a        |n/a                    

1980-81     |8.19       |1980       |n/a        |n/a                    

1981-82     |11.53      |1981       |n/a        |n/a                    

1982-83     |13.58      |1982       |n/a        |n/a                    

1983-84     |14.03      |1983       |n/a        |n/a                    

1984-85     |14.79      |1984       |n/a        |n/a                    

1985-86     |15.63      |1985       |n/a        |n/a                    

1986-87     |16.48      |1986       |20         |24                     

1987-88     |17.40      |1987       |24         |26                     

1988-89     |19.01      |1988       |23         |29                     

1989-90     |20.86      |1989       |22         |31                     

1990-91     |23.92      |1990       |27         |43                     

1991-92     |27.59      |1991       |30         |51                     

1992-93     |30.84      |1992       |37         |55                     

1993-94     |33.70      |1993       |38         |63                     

<1> These figures are from the Family Expenditure Survey and are        

subject to sampling error.                                              


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Tyne and Wear

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what impact the work of the Tyne and Wear development corporation has had on employment levels in the shipbuilding, ship repair, heavy engineering, offshore and mining industries in Tyne and Wear.

Sir Paul Beresford: Since its inception, the Tyne and Wear development corporation has made strenuous efforts to assist the shipbuilding, ship repair, heavy engineering, offshore and mining sectors. It has given support worth £3.1 million to companies and initiatives that have created or safeguarded 3,300 jobs in these sectors.

Water

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the cost of removing sediment and treating discoloured water in reservoirs in (a) the uplands and (b) the lowlands of England and Wales (a) in total and (b) by water authority in each of the last three years for which figures are available.

Mr. Atkins: This information is not held centrally.

Absenteeism

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the absenteeism rate for his Department in each year since 1991.

Sir Paul Beresford: The table shows for each year the number of days lost through sick absence per member of staff and the percentage of the working days in the year which the days of absence represent.


                |Average days   |Percentage of                  

                |lost per member|working days                   

Year            |of staff       |lost                           

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

1991            |9.3            |4.1                            

1992            |9.5            |4.2                            

1993            |10.2           |4.5                            

1994            |9.0            |4.0                            

The table excludes the staff of the Building Research           

Establishment, The Buying Agency, the Queen Elizabeth II        

Conference Centre and the Security Facilities Executive. The    

figures relate only to staff currently employed by the          

Department: information for staff who left the Department       

during the period is not readily available.                     

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the absenteeism rate for the Buying Agency in each year since 1991.

Sir Paul Beresford: The information available is:


                    |Percentage of                          

                    |working days                           

                    |lost through sick                      

                    |absences                               

Year                |(Self Certified and                    

                    |Certified)                             

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

1991                |3.0                                    

1992                |3.6                                    

1993                |4.2                                    

1994                |3.4                                    

Tenant Deposits

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many tenants under the age of 21 years were unable to recover deposits from their former landlords in 1993 and 1994;


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(2) how many students in full-time education were unable to recover tenant deposits in 1993 and 1994;

(3) how many took legal action against former landlords for non-repayment of tenant deposits in 1993 and 1994;

(4) how many landlords refused to return tenant deposits in 1993 and 1994;

(5) what assessment has been made of the number of tenant deposits that were not returned in 1993 and 1994; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The arrangements for holding and return of deposits for private tenancies are for negotiation between the landlord and tenant at the outset of the tenancy. Although we are aware that problems with the return of deposits sometimes arise, we have no figures on the number of cases where deposits have been withheld or action has been taken.

Dioxins and Furans

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the contamination by (a) dioxins and (b) furans in each local government area in England and Wales; and what action he proposes to take.

Mr. Atkins: No assessment has been made by local government area, as this would be prohibitively expensive. However, a general assessment has been made of contamination, including dioxins and furans, in soil across England and Wales on a 50 km grid basis. This was published in November 1989 by Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution. A programme was also started in 1991 measuring various micropollutants in air, which includes dioxins and furans, in five towns and cities.

Private Rented Housing

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the impact of the demand of student rented housing on the availability of private rented housing for non-students.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: None. The composition of the private rented sector in any locality will be subject to the supply of property available and demand for it. As students comprise only 5 per cent. of households in privately rented accommodation, we have no reason to believe that demand for student housing is likely to make it more difficult for non-students to find accommodation except, perhaps, in a limited number of localities.

Housing in Multiple Occupation

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many councils in England and Wales have introduced a registration scheme for houses in multiple occupation.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: Since 30 April 1991, when local authorities were given powers to charge for registering houses in multiple occupation, 49 councils in England have introduced registration schemes. Registration schemes do not necessarily cover the whole of an authority's area, but may be for a specified district. Records for the period prior to 30 April 1991 are incomplete, but we believe that there are a further 19 councils in England operating registration schemes.


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The figures for Wales are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

Energy Saving Trust

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what estimate he has made of the income of the Energy Saving Trust in each year from 1994 95 to the year 2000, and for each year, the percentage of this income to be derived from each identifiable source;

(2) what estimate he has made of the percentage of the income of the Energy Saving Trust to be derived from levies on consumers' fuel bills in each year from 1994 95 levies on consumers' fuel bills in each year from 1994 95 to the year 2000;

(3) what estimate he has made of the expenditure of the Energy Saving Trust in each year from 1994 95 till the year 2000.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The Energy Saving Trust is an independent company. The detailed financial implications of its contribution to the Government's climate change programme must properly be a matter for the trust.

Rents

Mr. Khabra: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the average rent paid by tenants of private landlords; and what were the equivalent figures for 1978 79 in actual and real terms.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The only figure available for 1978 79 is for median rent, and this measure is used for both years. Estimated private rents in England were a median of £48.50 a week in 1993 94 and £4.75 a week in 1978 79, the latter being equivalent to £13 a week at 1993 94 prices.

These estimates are from the 1993 94 survey of English housing and the 1978 79 private renters survey, and are subject to sampling error.


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