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Energy Efficiency

Mr. Eric Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to promote more efficient energy use. [10593]

Mr. Clappison: My Department actively promotes energy efficiency through a wide range of initiatives and programmes across all sectors, including information and advice, voluntary schemes, and selective use of grants, incentives and regulation.

I am pleased that we were able to announce in the Budget an increase in funding for the Energy Saving Trust. Planned funding for the years 1997-98 to 1999-2000 has been increased by a total of £21.5 million.

Genetically Altered Food

Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on genetically altered food imports; and if he will make a statement. [10609]

Mr. Clappison: A number of representations from various sources have been received on this issue. The importation and release of genetically modified organisms are controlled by part VI of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and regulations made under it. In accordance with this legislation, the Secretary of State, acting jointly with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, may grant a consent for the release of genetically modified organisms after evaluating the impacts and risks posed to human health and the environment. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has the general responsibility for the safety of genetically modified food.

Walton Bridge Replacement

Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will announce the starting date for the public inquiry into Surrey county council's proposals for a replacement Walton bridge over the River Thames and into the associated compulsory purchase orders. [11308]

Sir Paul Beresford: Arrangements for the public local inquiries into the proposed Walton bridge replacement are being held in abeyance pending expiry of the objection periods for the side roads order, compulsory purchase order and bridge schemes applications submitted to the

22 Jan 1997 : Column: 649

Secretary of State for Transport in relation to the proposal. It seems probable that joint inquiries into these applications and related planning and exchange land certificate applications will need to be convened. I can assure my hon. Friend that he will be notified as soon as a date for the inquiries has been agreed.

Standard Spending Assessment

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment for what reasons the month of August was chosen for the count of income support claimant case load for each local authority in order for his Department to work out the standard spending assessment levels; and what consideration was given to seeking the most representative month. [11945]

Sir Paul Beresford: The Benefits Agency carries out its annual count of claimants in August as a matter of managerial practicality. Similar counts for other months are not available.

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many income support claimants his Department was unable to allocate to local authorities on a postcode basis used for the standard spending assessment calculations; and how these claimants were finally taken into account. [11943]

Sir Paul Beresford: For 98.5 per cent. of income support claimants, it is possible to allocate them to a local authority area by reference to a postcode. The assumption made in relation to the remaining 1.5 per cent. of claimants is that, within each benefit office, the distribution among local authorities of claimants whose postcode is unknown is in the same proportions as for claimants at the same benefit office whose postcode is known.

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the expected benefits in moving from a sample count of income support claimants four times per year to a 100 per cent. count on one date for use in the standard spending assessment calculations; and how seasonality is taken into account in the change. [11948]

Sir Paul Beresford: We wish to base the standard spending assessments on the most reliable data available. We received representations from local government that the 100 per cent. count provided more reliable data than the quarterly 5 per cent. samples. The main advantage of a 100 per cent. count is its comprehensiveness, compared with the quarterly 5 per cent. samples. The advantages and disadvantages of both sources of data were discussed with the local authority associations. The data were also examined by the Office for National Statistics, which tested whether there were seasonal effects on the data. It advised that an adjustment should be made on this account in relation to a few authorities. Adjustments have been made in the light of its advice.

Standard Spending Assessment (Pupil Numbers)

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he is taking to check pupil numbers in Birmingham used in the standard spending assessment calculations in respect of information given to him by the local education authority. [11946]

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Sir Paul Beresford: The numbers of pupils used in the calculation of standard spending assessments are as estimated by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. The Department for Education and Employment has been asked to investigate the representations about pupil numbers which we have received.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the local authorities which have had meetings with Ministers in his Department regarding the provision of revenue support grant for 1997-98. [11947]

Sir Paul Beresford: The table lists authorities which have had meeting with Ministers in the Department of the Environment during the consultation period on the proposed local government finance settlement for England for 1997-98.

Many other local authorities have raised revenue support grant issues in the course of meetings held throughout the year.

1997-98 settlement consultation meetings with local authorities
Total number of meetings: 79

1. County councils (21 meetings)
Bedfordshire9 JanuaryMr. Curry
Derbyshire6 JanuaryMr. Curry
Devon7 JanuaryMr. Curry
Dorset6 JanuaryMr. Curry
Durham6 JanuaryMr. Curry
Gloucestershire8 JanuaryMr. Clappison
Hampshire10 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Hereford and Worcester9 JanuaryMr. Curry
Kent9 JanuaryMr. Curry
Lancashire7 JanuaryMr. Curry
Lincolnshire8 JanuaryMr. Clappison
Norfolk7 JanuaryMr. Clappison
Northamptonshire16 DecemberMr. Curry
Northumberland8 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Nottinghamshire7 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Oxfordshire7 JanuaryMr. Clappison
Shropshire9 JanuaryMr. Curry
Somerset6 JanuaryMr. Curry
Staffordshire9 JanuaryMr. Curry
Suffolk9 JanuaryMr. Curry
Warwickshire9 JanuaryMr. Curry
2. Shire districts (26 meetings)
Blaby (Leicstershire)8 JanuaryMr. Clappison
Castle Point (Essex)8 JanuaryMr. Clappison
Castle Morpeth (Northumberland)7 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Copeland (Cumbria)6 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Darlington (Durham)7 JanuaryMr. Curry
Derby (Derbyshire)8 JanuaryMr. Curry
East Hampshire10 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Harlow (Essex)10 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Hertsmere (Hertfordshire)8 JanuaryMr. Curry
Leicester (Leicestershire)17 DecemberMr. Curry
Luton (Bedfordshire)8 JanuaryMr. Curry
Milton Keynes (Buckinghamshire)6 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Northampton (Northamptonshire)7 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Nottingham City (Nottinghamshire)7 JanuaryMr. Curry
Plymouth City (Devon)8 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Poole (Dorset)6 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Purbeck (Dorset)8 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Rutland (Leicestershire)9 JanuaryMr. Curry
Salisbury (Wiltshire)7 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Stoke on Trent (Staffordshire)18 DecemberMr. Curry
Warrington (Cheshire)9 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Waverley (Surrey)13 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
West Lindsey (Lincolnshire)8 JanuaryMr. Clappison
West Somerset10 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Woking (Surrey)8 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
York City (North Yorkshire)7 JanuaryMr. Curry
3. Metropolitan districts (12 meetings)
Barnsley (South Yorkshire)6 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Bradford (West Yorkshire)9 JanuaryMr. Curry
Birmingham (West Midlands)9 JanuaryMr. Curry
Coventry (West Midlands)9 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Doncaster (South Yorkshire)7 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Manchester (Greater Manchester)7 JanuaryMr. Curry
Newcastle upon Tyne6 JanuaryMr. Curry
Rotherham (South Yorkshire)6 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Sheffield (South Yorkshire)8 JanuaryMr. Curry
South Yorkshire districts8 JanuaryMr. Curry
Stockport (Greater Manchester)6 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Wolverhampton (West Midlands)10 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
4. London boroughs (10 meetings)
Brent7 JanuaryMr. Curry
Greenwich8 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Hammersmith and Fulham8 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Harrow7 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Havering6 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Hillingdon7 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Kingston upon Thames9 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Merton8 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Redbridge7 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Richmond upon Thames7 JanuaryMr. Clappison
5. Unitary authorities (seven meetings)
Bristol City8 JanuaryMr. Curry
Ex Cleveland Unitaries10 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Isle of Wight8 JanuaryMr. Clappison
Middlesbrough10 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
Redcar and Cleveland7 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
South Gloucester7 JanuaryMr. Clappison
Stockton on Tees10 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
6. Police authorities (one meeting)
Greater Manchester8 JanuarySir Paul Beresford
7. Fire authorities (two meetings)
Humberside Fire6 JanuaryMr. Curry
Tyne and Wear FCDA6 JanuarySir Paul Beresford

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Mr. Rooker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on how many occasions in each of the past four years Ministers of his Department have met elected representatives of each metropolitan district and London borough to discuss levels of and calculations about the standard spending assessments, revenue support grant settlements and capping limits. [11949]

Sir Paul Beresford: The table lists those metropolitan districts and London boroughs which had meetings with Ministers in the Department of the Environment during the consultation period on the local government finance settlements in each of the last four years.

Standard spending assessments, revenue support grant and capping limits have also been discussed in other meetings held by Ministers over the years.

1996-97 settlement consultation
Meetings with local authorities December 1995 to January 1996;

Metropolitan districtsLondon boroughs
Core Cities groupCamden
St. HelensKensington and Chelsea
SheffieldKingston upon Thames
South Yorkshire districts groupMerton

1995-96 settlement consultation
Meetings with local authorities December 1994 to January 1995;

Metropolitan districtsLondon boroughs
Core Cities groupGreenwich
NewcastleKingston upon Thames
St. HelensMerton
South Tyneside
South Yorkshire districts group

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1994-95 Settlement consultation
Meetings with local authorities December 1993 to January 1994

Metropolitan districtsLondon boroughs
KnowsleyHammersmith and Fulham

1993-94 settlement consultation
Meetings with local authorities (December 1992 to January 1993)

Metropolitan districtsLondon boroughs
North TynesideHaringey
St. HelensHavering
SheffieldKensington and Chelsea

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what allowance is made for regional functions and factors in respect of metropolitan districts' level of standard spending assessments and revenue support grants. [11950]

Sir Paul Beresford: Regional functions are reflected in the formulae for standard spending assessments, and hence the revenue support grant allocations, by the inclusion of numbers of commuters, day visitors and overnight visitors.

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