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Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if the Government will publish in full the ERM consultants' analysis report of the responses to the draft hedgerow regulations; [19006]

Mr. Clappison: Copies of the full report on the analysis of the responses to the Government's consultation have been placed in the Library of the House, and are available, price £10, from Environmental Resources Management. In addition, the executive summary of the report is available free from my Department and arrangements have been made for individual responses to be placed on deposit in the library of my Department.

Some 465 responses were received by 23 December 1996. A total of 100 comments related to the landscape and amenity value of hedgerows, most of which were in favour of incorporating landscape and amenity importance as explicit criteria in the draft Regulations.

The Government have responded positively to these criticisms by providing a new criterion, which recognises the particular landscape and amenity value of hedgerows that run alongside public rights of way. In addition, landscape importance is an inherent feature in almost all the criteria. For example, historic field patterns are

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fundamental landscape features, and the diversity of plant species and features--such as trees and hedge banks--that attract a range of wildlife may also give a hedge its significance in the landscape.

Local Government Reorganisation

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many non-metropolitan counties will exist in England when the outcome of the recent review is fully implemented; and by how many the number will have changed since 1 April 1992. [18885]

Sir Paul Beresford: There will be 75 non-metropolitan county areas in England when the recent review is fully implemented, compared to 39 at 1 April 1992. However, only 36 will have county councils. The remaining 39 will be served by unitary councils and 36 of these will be part of historic counties for ceremonial purposes, the exceptions being Bristol, Herefordshire and Rutland.

Energy Efficiency Grants

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many house energy efficiency scheme grants were paid in the periods (a) 1 April 1995-31 December 1995, (b) 1 April 1996-31 December 1996 and (c) 1 April 1995-31 March 1996; [18887]

Mr. Clappison: The numbers of grants paid under the home energy efficiency scheme in the specified periods are as follows:
1 April 1995 to 31 December 1995: 451,063
1 April 1996 to 31 December 1996: 310,992
1 April 1995 to 31 March 1996: 627,383.

During 1996-97, I expect well over 400,000 grants to be paid; some 4,000 are likely to be at the 25 per cent. grant rate. Already, more than 2 million grants worth around £350 million have been paid since this highly regarded scheme began, helping the most vulnerable people to keep warm and use less fuel.

Private Finance Initiative

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will provide a breakdown by project of PFI schemes for which his Department is responsible as identified in table 5.5 of the Red Book. [18925]

Mr. Robert B. Jones: Within the Department of Environment's area of responsibility PFI contracts have been signed for:

Capital investment in the survey period will be £103 million.

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Further capital investment of £123 million is anticipated during the survey years on contracts under negotiation for:

Payment of Bills

Mr. Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of bills to his Department were paid (a) in accordance with agreed contractual conditions and (b) within 30 days of receiving goods and services or the presentation of a valid invoice where no contractual conditions applied in the last year for which figures are available. [18804]

Sir Paul Beresford: I refer to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Spring) on 17 December 1996, Official Report, columns 506-7. Any additional information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Water Pollution

Mrs. Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last (a) commissioned and (b) published a report on the prevention of cryptosporidium contamination of drinking water supplies. [18886]

Mr. Clappison: Following a waterborne outbreak of cryptosporidiosis in 1989, my Department jointly with the Department of Health set up an expert group under the late Sir John Badenoch which made a study and published its first report in 1990. The recommended research was put in hand and the group published its final report in 1995. These reports made a number of recommendations on good practice, particularly on monitoring and the operation of treatment works. Both reports were widely circulated to water companies, local authorities and health authorities.

Cancer Studies

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment for which cancer-causing organism the Health and Safety Executive in 1994 temporarily banned the research which was being conducted by Birmingham university department of caner studies; and if he will place papers relating to the experimentation in the Library. [18996]

Sir Paul Beresford: The work at Birmingham university involved the expression of oncogenes--genes implicated in the cancer process--in adenovirus vectors and oncogenes in retroviral vectors. Following an HSE inspection, two prohibition notices were issued, which required the university to undertake full risk assessments and also to improve the standard of containment. The university subsequently compiled with these notices.

I will shortly place in the Library papers relating to the above work at the university, which are in HSE's possession.

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Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if the Health and Safety Executive approved and subsequently monitored the experiments conducted by the Oxford university institute of virology at Wytham Woods in 1994; and if he will make a statement. [18991]

Sir Paul Beresford: The Secretary of State for the Environment, acting jointly with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, issued a consent on 12 April 1994 to the institute of virology and environmental microbiology to carry out experiments at the university farm, Wytham, Oxfordshire. The consent was issued in accordance with part VI of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) Regulations 1992 which require the agreement of the Health and Safety Executive. A copy of the consent was placed on the public register in accordance with the legislation.

The experimental site was inspected by one of Her Majesty's specialist inspectors of biosafety from the Health and Safety Executive in June 1994 and again in September 1995. The inspections covered both human health and safety issues and environmental issues as specified in the consent.

Housing Corporation Loan Portfolio

Mr. Bernard Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 10 February, Official Report, column 84, what further progress has been made with the sale of the Housing Corporation's loan portfolio. [19568]

Mr. Curry: Contracts were exchanged with NatWest Markets on Wednesday 5 March, which establish the terms on which the portfolio will be sold.

Because the purchase price is subject to changes in the underlying portfolio and to movements in the gilt rate between now and when completion takes place at the end of March, I cannot yet provide a precise figure for the final receipt. However, at today's rate, a substantial premium over book value will be paid. Some £500 million will be received before the end of this financial year, as anticipated in spending plans, and I confidently expect that the further £500 million anticipated in next year's plans will be exceeded when the balance is received on 1 April.

The receipt will be subject to subsequent adjustment should any of the loan characteristics differ from those described in the contract, in any way that results in a financial loss for either party. This was anticipated in the minute I laid before Parliament on 10 February. No other warranty, apart from the undertaking about the ownership of the loans, has been given.

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