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Regional Planning Guidance (West Midlands)

Ms Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what procedures have been put in place by his Department to monitor the environmental impacts arising from the implementation of regional planning guidance for the west midlands. [252]

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The regional planning guidance followed the principles set out in "Policy Appraisal and the Environment". During its three-year development, a number of alternative courses of action were considered and environmentally appraised. The west midlands local authorities held a conference at which a wide range of organisations expressed their views on a series of strategic planning options for the region. The authorities then submitted their advice to my Department and there was a period of consultation on that advice. My Department published draft regional planning guidance and again a period was allowed for consultation. The final guidance included numerous modifications to the original advice reflecting the view expressed by environmental organisations and others. I do not intend to publish a separate environmental appraisal in addition to the material already published.

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We have asked the west midlands local authorities to keep the guidance under regular review in partnership with the Government office for the west midlands and others. Follow-up studies are required on particular aspects. The authorities' attention is particularly drawn to the aim of achieving a more sustainable pattern of development in the region.

Invoices

Mrs. Barbara Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what is the average length of time it takes for his Department to pay invoices; [932]

Sir Paul Beresford: The Department only holds central data on its performance in paying invoices within 30 days or the agreed credit period where this is different. It does not hold a central record of the amount owed to businesses not paid within the agreed period. This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost. The Department's payment practices are publicised in its terms and conditions of contract and its annual report.

Water Conservation

Ms Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what alternative courses of action from those detailed in "Water Conservation: Government Action" were considered in any environmental appraisal undertaken by his Department; [248]

Mr. Clappison: "Policy Appraisal and the Environment" sets out an approach whereby environmental effects can be taken into account in policy development, while recognising that this will vary from case to case depending on the complexity and significance of the impacts. "Water Conservation: Government Action" outlines the Government's policy for England and Wales on the various issues surrounding the conservation of water resources, including the proposed approach to the future method of charging for water. The Government's position is that, before additional resources are developed, existing resources should be used as far as possible, taking into account economic and environmental consideration.

The general policy and the specific proposals were developed following widespread consultation. They are designed to reduce the potential environmental impact of increased demand for water by measures to promote its efficient distribution and use.

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The effectiveness of the policy and the specific proposals will be monitored by the Department of the Environment, the Office of Water Services and the National Rivers Authority.

Rural Policy

Ms Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if the White Paper "Rural England" (Cm 3016) was (a) subject to, and (b) modified on account of an environmental appraisal using the guidance contained in "Policy Appraisal and the Environment" produced by his Department; and if he will publish the appraisal; [300]

Mr. Clappison: The rural White Paper "Rural England" sets out the Government's vision for the future of the countryside, looking at economic, social and environmental issues together. The White Paper was formulated in line with the Government's commitment to sustainable development.

Environmental considerations are an essential element of policy considerations and will be taken into account in following up the commitments contained within the White Paper.

Regional Staff

Mr. Byers: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many staff his Department employs on a regional basis in each standard English region; what is the cost of running these regional operations; what was the total budget for each region in 1994-95; and what are the main purposes for which the budget is used. [266]

Sir Paul Beresford: Detailed information on Department of Environment staff employed in the Government offices for the regions, their budgets and activities is provided in GO-MINIS 1, copies of which were placed in the Library in July 1995.

Biological Diversity

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the achievement of the meeting, referred to in his answer of 8 November 1995, Official Report, column 995, of the convention on biological diversity in Jakarta, 6 to 17 November in regard to the transfer of living modified organisms between countries. [1631]

Mr. Clappison: The second conference of the parties to the convention on biological diversity, held in Jakarta, Indonesia from 6 to 17 November 1995, decided to set in hand the development of a biosafety protocol which will specifically focus on the transboundary movement of living modified organisms. The conference also recognised the importance of the United Nations environment programme international technical guidelines

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on safety in biotechnology as a possible interim measure during the development of the protocol and as a complement to it after its completion.

Other important decisions included the acknowledgement of the importance of parties establishing national strategies and in-situ conservation measures, the establishment of a three-year scientific work programme on coastal and marine ecosystems, the establishment of a pilot phase of the clearing house mechanism to facilitate the sharing of information and the choice of Montreal as the location for the biodiversity convention secretariat.

As last year, it was not possible to reach agreement on voting provisions on financial issues. These will be considered again at the third conference of the parties to be held in November 1996.

Environmental Technology Industry

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what was (a) the total output and (b) the percentage of GNP of the United Kingdom environmental industry for each year since 1990-91; and if he will provide an estimate for the current financial year; [1163]

Mr. Ian Taylor: I have been asked to reply.

Information on the environmental technology and associated industries is very limited. Using a definition of the environmental products industries as producing


The available information on this topic, which was derived by the Department's statisticians, has been published in "Statistical News; Summer 1995" and is available in the Library of the House. No further assessment has yet been made on the growth of this sector.


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