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Housing Subsidies

Mr. Hinchcliffe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the current housing need for under 25-year-olds; what plans he has to meet that need; and if he will make a statement. [5151]

Mr. Clappison: The Government estimate that newly arising need for subsidised housing for all age groups for England lies within a range of 60,000 to 100,000 units a year between 1991 and 2001.

We estimate that Housing Corporation funding over the next three years--1996-97-1998-99--together with homes being provided from other resources, are intended to provide an average of around 60,000 new social lettings a year.

The estimates of newly arising need and the planned new lettings are not subdivided by age group.

Neighbourhood Noise

Mr. Robert Atkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the Government's response to

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the consultation on the review of the effectiveness of neighbour noise controls. [5762]

Mr. Clappison: The review of the effectiveness of neighbour noise controls made recommendations relating to the management of local authority noise services; liaison between local authorities and the police; powers of confiscation; and the introduction of a night-time noise offence.

On 27 March this year, we consulted on these recommendations and we received 354 responses. A list of the responses has been placed in the Library of the House: copies of individual responses may be obtained through the Department of the Environment's library.

We have carefully considered the recommendations made by the working party, together with the responses to the consultation exercise and the results of initial trails of the proposed night-time noise offence. The recommendations represent a package of proposals which have a great deal of support and we propose to accept them in full. We believe that they will bring substantial improvements in the four areas identified in the review.

First, as the working party recognised, there is a wide variation in the type of noise complaint service provided by individual authorities. Some authorities provide excellent and very effective services and, of course, the level of service is a matter to be decided locally in terms of what is appropriate for the area taking account of local circumstances and resources. However, many people are concerned by the disparity between levels of service provided by neighbouring authorities with similar levels of problem and uncertainty as to the responsiveness and effectiveness of the service being offered. We therefore propose to encourage local authorities, largely through the dissemination of best practice and professional guidance, to adopt a graduated service standard which will clearly identify the type of noise service which is being offered.

The second area studied by the working party was the role of the police in dealing with noise complaints. There are many examples of excellent liaison locally between environmental health officers and the police. We want to encourage these informal arrangements by supporting the representative bodies in drawing up a code of practice on effective liaison between the agencies.

The police will, of course, continue to have responsibility to support local authority staff where there is a threat to public order, though the judgment about the support required remains an operational matter for the police.

There is overwhelming support for clarification of the current powers under which some authorities temporarily confiscate noise-making equipment. Many respondents to the consultation paper take the view that confiscation has a significant deterrent effect.

The fourth area is the creation of a new offence to deal with excessive noise from domestic premises during the night-time period. Noise makers would be given a warning by a local authority officer to reduce the noise below a measured standard, based on the World Health Organisation guidelines of 35dB(A) as necessary for the restorative process of sleep. Failure to comply with this warning would be a criminal offence. There would be a fixed penalty set initially at £40; alternatively the offender

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could be prosecuted by the local authority. This new offence would supplement the existing statutory nuisance regime and local authorities would have a choice as to whether to adopt it for their area.

The third and fourth elements of the package will require new legislative powers and we will look for an early opportunity to introduce these. We will also wish to consult further with local authorities on the detailed definition and operation of the new powers and what supporting guidance on their use may be appropriate.

We believe that this package of measures represents a major step forward in tackling the problems of noise nuisance from domestic premises.

Renewable Energy

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to encourage local authorities to become involved in renewable energy projects. [4714]

Mr. Page: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 11 December 1995, Official Report, column 467.


Energy Efficiency

Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made towards cutting energy consumption in Government buildings for which he has responsibility in each year since 1990. [1454]

Mr. Soames: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister for State for the Environment on 17 May 1995, Official Report, columns 259-62. The figures for 1994-95, currently being compiled, are not expected to differ significantly from the achievement over the previous three financial years.

Departmental Efficiency Savings

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the total efficiency saving implied by his Department's public expenditure settlement. [4874]

Mr. Soames: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to him on 4 December, Official Report, column 3.

Dr. Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his reply of 4 December, Official Report, column 3, if he will provide a breakdown of the £3 billion-worth of savings as a result of his Department's efficiency programme. [4873]

Mr. Soames: A year-by-year breakdown of MOD's efficiency gains since 1988 is set out in figure 6 of the Ministry of Defence departmental report 1995, Cm 2801. Taken together with our current estimate of efficiency gains in 1995-96, the total exceeds £3 billion. Analyses of these efficiency gains have been published in successive departmental reports.

Low Flying

Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the dates, locations and circumstances of

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each of the incidents since 1992 which have led to his Department paying compensation for personal injury involving low-flying aircraft; what is the statutory basis for such payments; and what is his policy on the payment of compensation for personal injury in respect of low-flying incidents. [5184]

Mr. Soames: It would not be appropriate to publish details of individuals' claims, but from the beginning of financial year 1991-92 to the end of 1994-95, a total of £268,000 compensation has been paid in respect of 72 personal injury claims arising from military low-flying activity in the United Kingdom.

The basis on which the Ministry of Defence pays compensation in respect of loss or damage sustained as a result of military low flying was set out in Lord Drumalbyn's statement on 22 November 1971, Official Report, column 838, in another place.

Compensation paid as a result of loss or damage arising from military low-flying activity is calculated on the basis of normal common law principles.

RAF Fast Jet Aircraft

Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list those manoeuvres in respect of each RAF fast jet aircraft type for which standard operating procedures require the use of reheat. [5174]

Mr. Soames: The manoeuvres for which the Tornado GR1, F3 and Jaguar aircraft require reheat are:

Reheat may also be required during air combat manoeuvring--above 5,000 ft--and in the interests of flight safety.

Tomahawk Missiles

Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which weapons ranges will be used for test, practice and exercise firing of the Royal Navy's Tomahawk missiles. [5168]

Mr. Soames: Due to the long range of Tomahawk and the infrastructure required to support Tomahawk missiles firings, the current intention is that test, practice and exercise firings of the Royal Navy's Tomahawk missiles will be conducted on US Tomahawk ranges. The US has ranges on both the west and east coasts of the USA.

Highlands Restricted Area

Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many aircraft are permitted to operate in the highlands restricted area at any one time (a) in formation with each other and (b) independently of each other; and what changes have been made to these limits since the establishment of the highlands restricted area. [5178]

Mr. Soames: Regulations do not specify a maximum number of aircraft which are permitted to operate in the highlands restricted area. However, the area is allocated

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to a single squadron at a time, with that squadron then responsible for ensuring the safe deconfliction of its aircraft. There have been no changes to these regulations since the establishment of the highlands restricted area.

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