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Newbury Bypass

Sir David Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what are the implications for the Newbury bypass of the discovery of the snail Vertigo moulinsiana in the area; [32065]

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) which contractor has won the main contract for the construction of the Newbury bypass; [31360]

Mr. Watts: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment explains today in a separate answer to the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel) that public consultation is now under way on a formal recommendation by English Nature, made through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, that various locations in the Kennet and Lambourn valleys be considered as a possible candidate for designation in due course as a special area of conservation under European directive 92/43/EEC--the habitats directive--following the discovery of large populations of the species Vertigo moulinsiana, Desmoulin's whorl snail, in these locations.

One of the locations in question, Bagnor island, is due to be crossed by the Newbury bypass. Part of another area, Speen moor, will be affected by it. My right hon. Friend and I have accordingly considered JNCC's recommendation and the implications for the bypass.

The provisions of regulations 50 to 53 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994, review of existing decisions and consents, do not apply in the case of this site which is not yet a "European site" as defined by the regulations, nor is it yet subject to the policy protection which the Government apply to candidate SACs from the time when they are proposed to the Commission. However, in the light of the acknowledged conservation value of the site, my right hon. Friend and I have considered whether the bypass can proceed in a manner which is consistent with the conservation objectives of the directive.

The site recommended by JNCC consists of a cluster of eight separate locations, six of which are unaffected by the proposed bypass. The conservation objectives of the recommended SAC in the Kennet and Lambourn floodplain would be to seek to ensure that a large and viable overall population of the snail was maintained in the area. English Nature and the Highways Agency have

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discussed measures to achieve these conservation objectives. Porous asphalt will be used to minimise spray and the discharge of run-off will be controlled to reduce pollution. A number of further measures which can be implemented by the Highways Agency have been agreed in principle with English Nature. These will reduce the extent of snail habitat which would otherwise be destroyed by the road, together with other measures to maintain the conservation status of the snail in the area. Areas of new habitat are planned which will be much greater than those lost. The main measures are detailed in paragraphs 4.3 and 4.4 (option 2A) in the report "A34 Newbury Bypass--Impact of the A34 on Vertigo Moulinsiana and Opportunities for Mitigation--May 1996", copies of which have been placed in the Library. English Nature considers that, subject to further detailed discussion, these measures, if successfully implemented, should maintain the overall snail populations within the Kennet and Lambourn floodplain, and extend the distribution of the snail within the area where these measures are to be carried out.

My right hon. Friend and I are in any case satisfied that there are no alternative solutions and that there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest for proceeding with the proposed bypass.

Both the need for the bypass and the choice of route were established following the statutory procedures set out in the Highways Act 1980, which included two public inquiries. In addition to these procedures, my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Transport announced his conclusion on the choice of route following a further assessment in 1995. The assessment took into account changes in appraisal techniques and local circumstances, as well as new traffic and economic data since the public inquiries and the subsequent statutory decision to go ahead with a western bypass. He considered carefully the balance between all the options and concluded that the proposed route was the most effective solution for Newbury. Having considered the new information about Vertigo moulinsiana, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and I are satisfied that it does not change the balance of the weight of evidence, including environmental evidence, in favour of this particular route. As I have already explained, new measures will be adopted with the aim of reducing the effects of the road on the snail population.

The imperative reasons for overriding public interest for proceeding with the bypass are environmental, social and economic. In particular: the bypass will relieve the severe environmental problems along the existing A34 in the town including noise and reduced air quality. At present, around 50,000 vehicles per day use the A34 through Newbury. This figure could increase to 78,000 by the year 2010 if the bypass is not built. In particular, the bypass will reduce heavy lorry traffic through Newbury by up to about 70 per cent.;

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Extensive reviews of the trunk road programme in 1994 and 1995 have confirmed the need for the bypass.

My right hon. Friend and I are satisfied that the proposed course of action is consistent with the conservation objectives of the habitats directive. We have concluded after careful consideration that the bypass should proceed without further delay, and I instructed the Highways Agency to let the main contract for its construction.

Accordingly the main contract for the construction of the bypass has been awarded to Costain Civil Engineering Ltd. York Archaeological Trust has been awarded the contract for archaeological work along the route.


Disabled Employees

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many registered disabled people are employed by his Department; and what percentage this is of the total figure. [30779]

Mr. Michael Forsyth: The number of registered disabled staff employed the Scottish Office core and its executive agencies at 1 April 1996 is shown in the table.

Registered disabled staff in post in the Scottish Office and its executive agencies at 1 April 1996

TotalPer cent.
Registered disabled staff581.1
All other staff5,18098.9

Water and Sewerage Authorities

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what considerations led him to specify 6.5 per cent. as the rate of return he believes to be reasonable for the water and sewerage authorities. [30836]

Mr. Kynoch: The required rate of return reflects an assessment of the opportunity cost to the economy of new investment in activities such as the provision of water and sewerage services which involve low risk.

Ms Celia Urquhart

Mr. Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list the positions to which Ms Celia Urquhart has been appointed by his Department. [31067]

Mr. Kynoch: Ms Urquhart is currently a member of (a) the National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting for Scotland and (b) Scottish Enterprise.

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Fixed Penalties

Mr. Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many cases which have been dealt with by way of fixed penalty by procurators fiscal in Scotland in each of the past five years have also resulted in awards being made by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. [31069]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: This information is not available.

Criminal Injuries Compensation

Mr. Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland under what provisions it is necessary to establish that a crime has been committed before an award can be made by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. [31070]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The board makes ex gratia payments of compensation in respect of eligible applications received up until 31 March 1996, under the provisions of the 1990 criminal injuries compensation scheme.

The terms of the scheme are reproduced in the board's annual reports, copies of each of which have been placed in the Libraries of the House. The scheme defines a criminal injury as one directly attributable to a crime of violence, including arson or poisoning, to an offence of trespass on a railway, or to activities such as attempting to apprehend an offender or prevent an offence being committed.

It is not necessary for an offender to have been convicted of a crime, but the board will not make an award if it is not persuaded that the injury has resulted from a crime of violence and may withhold or reduce compensation if the applicant has not taken, without delay, all reasonable steps to inform the police of the circumstances of the injury and to co-operate with the police in bringing the offender to justice. It is the board's policy to ask the police to investigate compensation applications which may be fraudulent, including those where there is a suspicion that the injury did not result from a criminal act.

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