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Nuclear Electric (Privatisation)

Mr. Ainger: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the future ownership of Lambeeth farm, Hundleton, Pembrokeshire following his announcement of the privatisation of Nuclear Electric.[15773]

Mr. Eggar: The Government are considering which land and property currently held by Nuclear Electric plc should be allocated to British Energy, and which should stay in the public sector with Magnox Electric. The final decision on Lambeeth farm has not yet been made.

Leukaemia (Electromagnetic Fields)

Mr. Tipping: To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what assessment he has made of the research undertaken by Professor Denis Henshaw, a copy of which has been sent to him, on child leukaemia and electromagnetic fields; and if he will make a statement; [15632]

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Mr. Page [holding answer 16 February 1996]: My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade receives advice from the National Radiological Protection Board on the issue of electromagnetic fields and any effects on human health, including the possibility of a link with childhood leukaemia.

Both the NRPB and other independent bodies conduct research into possible causes of leukaemia and other cancers, supported by funding from Government. An important five-year study into possible causes of childhood leukaemia is at present being conducted by the UK Co-ordinating Committee on Cancer Research, due to be completed in about two years' time. The Government are funding this research together with various bodies and, when complete, it will be evaluated by NRPB and its advisory group on non-ionising radiation and the findings will be published.

The NRPB acknowledges the link between randon deposition and electromagnetic fields but advise that the theory in recently published research, suggesting an increased risk of cancer due to the effects of fields on radon and its decay products, is speculative. There is still no convincing evidence that electromagnetic fields from power lines or domestic appliances are harmful to health and no biological mechanism has been established to change this view.

Energy Council

Ms Quin: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the outcome of the informal Energy Council held on 3 and 4 February in Bologna. [15092]

Mr. Eggar [holding answer 16 February 1996]: I represented the United Kingdom at the informal Council in Bologna. It is a rule of procedure within the European Union that informal councils cannot reach decisions or adopt text. The main matters discussed at the meeting were as follows:

The Council considered the latest position on the proposed electricity liberalisation directive and the Italian presidency compromise proposal. This involves fixing a percentage of electricity markets to be opened to competition with member states deciding how this is to be achieved. I called for the maximum possible opening, as in the United Kingdom, to ensure full economic benefit for consumers and for European competitiveness. There was no consensus on the appropriate percentage or whether such opening should be achieved in a single step or over a period of time. The presidency concluded that further work was required at official level.

The Council considered the Commission's energy policy White Paper in the light of possible future trends and rising energy consumption. The presidency called for new policies and common objectives, including completion of the single market in energy. I welcomed

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the White Paper's emphasis on the single market but expressed my frustration that there was a call for new instruments when there was so little progress on electricity liberalisation. Member states welcomed the White Paper but views differed in emphasis. Further work will be required at official level and each proposal in the annexed work programme will be subject to the usual procedures.

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The presidency presented its views on the need for increased energy co-operation with southern Mediterranean countries in the light of growing demographic pressures in the region. In particular, the president saw a need to improve investor protection and enhance development of energy networks. The presidency also announced meetings with the southern Mediterranean countries at official ministerial level.

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TRANSPORT

2182KHz Distress Watch

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will make a statement as to the resources available to monitor 2182KHz transmissions; [15010]

Mr. Norris: I have asked the chief executive of the Coastguard Agency to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from C. J. Harris to Ms Joan Walley dated 19 February 1996:


Rail Privatisation

Mr. Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action he intends to take against the officials who were involved in preparation of documents marked "not for National Audit Office eyes" in relation to the sale of British Rail Maintenance Ltd. [15724]

Sir George Young: None. They acted properly and in accordance with long-standing guidelines agreed with the National Audit Office and the Treasury.

Mr. Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the cost of (a) the Price Waterhouse report and (b) the Ernst and Young report on the sale of the British Rail Maintenance Ltd. depot at Eastleigh. [15725]

Sir George Young: The Price Waterhouse report, which covered only the sale of the Eastleigh depot, was commissioned by the British Railways Board. I understand that it cost about £30,000. The separate Ernst and Young study commissioned by the Department of Transport embraces the sale of all six depots. The price is not expected to exceed £45,000.

Mr. Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the documents prepared by his officials in relation to the rail privatisation programme in the past 12 months, which are marked "not for National Audit Office eyes" or subject to similar restrictions. [15726]

Sir George Young: No. Documents designated "not for NAO eyes" are held on files with that privacy marking. In accordance with Treasury guidance of 15 July 1988, such files retain their privacy marking until one year after the publication of the relevant Treasury Minute. All such files are subject to regular scrutiny by Department of Transport Internal Audit and copies of their reports are sent to the National Audit Office.

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Mr. Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he first received reports of criticisms of the Eastleigh sale contained in the Price Waterhouse report; and what action he took. [15727]

Sir George Young: Officials first became aware of BR concern about the sale of the Eastleigh depot in September 1995. An early draft of the Price Waterhouse report on the sale of the Eastleigh depot was shown to my Department in October 1995. Officials urged the British Railways Board to widen the study remit to cover the sales of all the six depots and to establish explicitly whether the agreed sale procedures had been properly followed. A further report was received in my Department on 13 December. It gave comfort on the value BR obtained for the Eastleigh sale, but pointed to shortcomings in sales procedures; and dealt only with the Eastleigh sale. Following discussion with the Treasury and with the National Audit Office, whose own examination of the BRML sales had started in June 1995, my Department commissioned Ernst and Young to examine the sale of all six depots. The National Audit Office, at the request of my Department, accompanied the Ernst and Young investigating team. Ernst and Young's emerging findings--which will be placed in the Library--show that the BRML sales were competitive and fair, but confirm that BR procedures needed some improvement. The BR board has strengthened its procedures and will ensure that they are properly implemented. Ernst and Young expects to complete its work shortly.

Mr. Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the circumstances in which it was decided to replace Price Waterhouse with Ernst and Young, as consultants on the Eastleigh British Rail Maintenance Ltd. sale review. [15728]

Sir George Young: I refer the hon. Member to my answer to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) on 14 February, column 574. The Price Waterhouse study was commissioned by the BR board. The Ernst and Young review has been separately commissioned by the Department of Transport.


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