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Cardiff Bay Barrage

Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) on what date he received the formal request from the Environment Directorate of the European Commission for his observations on the complaint in respect of the Cardiff bay barrage; when he expects to make his response; and if he will place a copy of his response in the Library; [20521]

Mr. Clappison: The European Commission decided not to proceed with the complaint in respect of the Cardiff bay barrage in February 1996. It confirmed that they were satisfied with the compensatory measures put forward by the Government. Since then we have kept the Commission closely informed of progress on these measures, both in correspondence and in a series of discussions between the relevant officials. The Government have received no formal request for information from the Commission pursuant to any further complaint.

Environment Agency (Charging Schemes)

Sir Jim Lester: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about the Environment Agency charging schemes for Integrated Pollution Control and Radioactive Substances Act Regulation for 1997-98. [20823]

Mr. Clappison: The Environment Act 1995 requires the Environment Agency to make charging schemes to recover the cost of carrying out its regulatory functions.

With the consent of Treasury, and of the charging schemes for Radioactive Substances Act Regulation, the consent of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and following consultation with those likely to be affected by the schemes, the Environment Agency has now made charging schemes for Integrated Pollution Control and Radioactive Substances Act Regulation for 1997-98. The schemes will take effect from 1 April 1997. I have placed copies of them in the Library.

The subsistence charge for integrated pollution control has been set at £1,755 to effect full cost recovery. This is a reduction of £50 on the charge in 1996-97. There are some minor changes to the charging schemes. Copies of the schemes will be sent to relevant operators and to other interested bodies shortly.

Planning Inspectorate

Mr. Sykes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what performance targets he has set for the Planning Inspectorate agency for the financial year 1997-98. [20804]

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Mr. Robert B. Jones: I have today set key targets for the Planning Inspectorate in England in furtherance of the dual objectives of securing improved efficiency, and safeguarding the impartiality and quality of the agency's work. These targets form part of the phased programme of performance which I initiated last year. The targets for 1997-98 are: Timeliness

Council Leaseholders (Service Charges)

Sir Jim Lester: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what further plans he has to assist council leaseholders facing difficulties with service charges. [20822]

Mr. Clappison: We issued the Social Landlords Discretionary Reduction of Service Charges (England) Directions 1997 and the Social Landlords Mandatory Reduction of Service Charges (England) Directions 1997 on 4 February. We issued a further direction on 13 March giving Wandsworth borough council discretion to waive or reduce service charges for works in respect of defects on the Ackroydon and Queensmere estates. We have no plans at present to issue further directions, but we shall consider carefully any requests that are put to us.

Greening Government Initiative

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the greening government initiative. [20821]

Mr. Gummer: Green Ministers have taken stock of the Government's approach to the environmental appraisal of its policies and to green housekeeping.

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The Government's commitment to assess the potential environmental impact of new policy proposals has been restated in successive White Paper annual reports on sustainable development, and "Questions of Procedure for Ministers" requires all Departments to ensure that papers for Cabinet and ministerial committees should, where appropriate, cover any significant costs or benefits to the environment. Green Ministers have specifically reaffirmed that their Departments will carry out environmental appraisal of policies where appropriate and agreed to ensure that departmental procedures are in place to check that this happens and to keep them under review. They have also agreed to consider publishing those appraisals where there is a significant environmental impact. In 1991 my Department published "Policy Appraisal and the Environment" giving extensive guidance on how to integrate environmental considerations into Government policy. Consultants (KPMG) have been appointed to evaluate the practical application of environmental appraisal and are due to finalise their report shortly.

The Government are also fully committed to running their own operations and buildings in accordance with best environmental practice as an integral part of their contribution to the UK's sustainable development strategy. All Government Departments have had green housekeeping strategies in place since 1992 and have achieved a great deal. Energy efficiency on the Government estate has improved by almost 15 per cent. in the five years to March 1996 and a new target of an overall 20 per cent. improvement by March 2000 has been endorsed by the Prime Minister.

New Government buildings and major refurbishment will be assessed under the Building Research Establishment's environmental assessment method, or an equivalent scheme. The Department of the Environment's office services division has achieved accreditation for its environmental management system under BS 7750 and ISO 140001; this makes the United Kingdom one of the small number of countries that are investigating the application of such techniques in central Government. Work is under way by Government Departments to review the scope for reducing the impact of their travel and transport patterns on the environment and the scope for introducing green commuter plans to encourage staff to switch from the car to public transport, walking or cycling.

Green Ministers have now agreed a further programme of action to take forward the green government initiative. The KPMG report and its case studies will be published as soon as it has been finalised. Green Ministers agree with the thrust of KPMG's emerging findings on the environmental appraisal of policies. Specifically they have agreed to:

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The Government's corporate strategy on green housekeeping signals the Government's determination to build on the action already taken and to follow sound environmental principles across its operations. In particular, the Government will work to the target of a 20 per cent. improvement in energy efficiency over 1990 levels by 2000, and explore new ways of measuring performance by standard performance indicators. We shall ensure that new buildings and major refurbishments are designed to achieve high standards of environmental performance.

The Government will also monitor targets set by Departments for reducing their waste in accordance with the UK strategy for sustainable waste management and promote the concepts of reduction, re-use, recovery and recycling with disposal as the least favourable option. New guidelines will be issued to Government Departments on taking environmental factors into account in purchasing goods and services consistent with the need to achieve value for money.

Departments will reduce the use of hazardous substances, materials and goods and, where they are essential, dispose of them safely and in an environmentally preferable manner. Furthermore, Departments will minimise the environmental impact of the transport needs of Government operations, promote environmentally sensible choices in the way staff travel to work and provide them with the information and training they need to carry out their duties with the minimum impact on the environment.

Green Ministers recognise that the achievement of improved environmental performance requires the commitment of all staff from senior management downwards and depends on Departments developing proper management systems. Where they have not already done so, Departments will consider whether it would be practicable, and whether it would bring extra value, to seek accreditation under BS 7750 and ISO 14001 or to have their systems assessed by auditors trained in environmental management.

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