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Burnley and Pendle Transport

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 9 January, Official Report, column 8, what are the implications of the refusal to grant a dispensation to vote for councillor Jill Gilhespy for her chairing the council meeting which will consider a report on the sale of Pendle's stake in Burnley and Pendle Transport. [12229]

Sir Paul Beresford: The decision to decline Councillor Gill Gilhespy's application for a dispensation to vote need have no implications for her chairing the meeting which will consider a report on the sale of Pendle's stake in Burnley and Pendle Transport, except that the chairman's casting vote will not be available to her.

Wildlife Habitats

Mr. Chris Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what protection for ponds as wildlife habitats is offered by existing planning legislation. [12311]

Sir Paul Beresford: Section 38 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 requires local planning authorities to include in their development plans policies in respect of the natural beauty and amenity of the land. Regulation 37 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats and etc.) Regulations 1994 provides for such policies to include policies encouraging the management of landscape features which are of major importance for wild flora and fauna, such as ponds.

Mr. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what (a) grants and (b) other financial assistance his Department makes available for the construction, conservation and management of ponds as wildlife habitats. [12288]

Mr. Clappison: My Department supports grant assistance for the creation or management of ponds under the countryside stewardship scheme, and SSI management agreements. In the light of stewardship's successful pilot phase, and in advance of its transfer to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 1 April 1996, my right hon. Friend the Minister announced in November that an extra £5 million will be available for new management agreements under countryside stewardship for each of the years 1996-97 and 1997-98. This is in addition to the existing £11.625 million already available under the scheme.

31 Jan 1996 : Column: 789

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food also provides support for work on ponds under the environmentally sensitive areas scheme, and the Government fund conservation advice provided by ADAS and the farming and wildlife advisory group, including advice on ponds.

Domestic Gas Appliances

Mr. Hanson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the number of households that are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from gas appliances. [12439]

Sir Paul Beresford: None. Every household containing a gas appliance may be potentially at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning. The best means of prevention is to ensure that gas appliances are correctly installed and regularly maintained by gas installers who are registered with the Council for Registered Gas Installers.

Repossessions

Mrs. Bridget Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many repossessions there have been in each region since 1992. [12569]

Mr. Clappison: Data are not held centrally on the number of repossessions in each region.

British Gas (Contaminated Land)

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the amount of land officially designated as contaminated land which is owned by British Gas plc; and if he will list all such land. [12616]

Mr. Clappison [holding answer 30 January 1996]: At present, there is no statutory system in force for designating contaminated land. When section 57 of the Environment Act 1995 is implemented, it will provide a statutory definition of contaminated land and procedures for its identification.

Mr. Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what amount of money has been notified to his Department as having been spent by British Gas plc in the decontamination of land within its ownership in each financial year since privatisation. [12614]

Mr. Clappison [holding answer 30 January 1996]: British Gas plc has not notified the Department how much it has spent in the decontamination of land within its ownership since privatisation.

Mr. Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the total spending contribution towards the decontamination of land within British Gas plc's ownership by (a) local authorities, (b) the Department of the Environment, (c) English Partnerships (d) the European Union and (e) other public bodies in each financial year since privatisation. [12615]

Mr. Clappison [holding answer 30 January 1995]: When the Department of the Environment contributes to the costs of decontamination of land, this is normally only one element of a wider package of support for individual reclamation or redevelopment projects. Central records do not exist of the amounts of the various different cost elements.

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English Partnerships has not spent any money on decontamination of land within British Gas plc's ownership since its privatisation.

The Department does not systematically collect information on spending on decontamination of land by local authorities, the European Union or other public bodies.

Home Energy Efficiency Scheme

Mrs. Ray Michie: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he will take to ensure that the current number and value of grants paid to householders receiving funding for the home energy efficiency scheme will be maintained. [10800]

Mr. Robert B. Jones: We expect the number and value of home energy efficiency scheme grants paid to low-income households to be at least maintained. We intend that better-off elderly householders will have to contribute to the cost after 1 April 1996, and we expect many will take advantage of the substantial discount that the scheme will offer them on the cost of installing basic insulation. Their contributions will supplement the £73 million allocated to the scheme for 1996-97, and we anticipate that considerably more than 400,000 grants will be paid next year. Local authorities will, following implementation of the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995, have a key responsibility to identify appropriate ways of improving the energy efficiency of homes in their areas.

Homelessness

Mr. Alex Carlile: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will estimate the average number of homeless people in England and Wales for each of the years (a) 1980, (b) 1985, (c) 1990, (d) 1992, (e) 1993, (f) 1994 and (g) 1995; and if he will make a statement. [12458]

Mr. Clappison: The numbers of households for which local authorities in England accepted responsibility to secure accommodation under the homelessness provisions of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 and the Housing Act 1985 in the years requested were as follows:

Number
1980(18)60,400
198591,010
1990140,350
1992142,890
1993132,380
1994122,660
1995 (January-September only)92,650

Note:

(18) This figure is not strictly comparable with those for the later years because of changes to reporting arrangements made in 1980 (for non-metropolitan districts) and 1982 (for London boroughs and metropolitan districts).

Source:

Quarterly P1(E) returns.


For information in relation to Wales, I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

31 Jan 1996 : Column: 791

Sustainable Development

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to implement paragraph 46 of the report of the Government's panel on sustainable development, published on 25 January. [12684]

Mr. Clappison: We intend to publish a considered response to the recommendations made in the panel's second report, including that in paragraph 46, at the end of March 1996.

Building Research Establishment

Mr. John Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what changes have been made to the membership of the advisory group overseeing the study into options for privatisation of the Building Research Establishment. [13224]

Mr. Robert B. Jones: Mr. Roger Courtney, chief executive of the Building Research Establishment invited the Department in mid-January to consider his position as a member of the advisory group which would shortly be asked for their guidance once consultants had completed their study of privatisation options. He indicated that he would wish to be able to participate in future management arrangements for BRE; this could include being involved in any proposal for a management and employee buy-out if Ministers, in the light of the consultants' report, decided that this was an option to be pursued. In those circumstances, he and the Department judged that he should not be privy to those parts of the consultants' report which contained commercial assessments as this could place him in an advantageous position compared with any other potential purchasers. Mr. Neil Milbank, deputy chief executive of BRE, who will retire during 1996 and will therefore not be involved in the future management of the establishment, has taken Mr. Courtney's place on the advisory group.


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