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Entry Clearance

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will initiate a fast track system for those who have been refused admission under the primary purpose rule to apply for entry clearance. [4008]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: I have been asked to reply.

In cases where an application has been refused solely on primary purpose grounds and an appeal is pending the Home Office will remit the papers to the Entry Clearance Officer for issue of entry clearance, subject to there being no change of circumstances. Cases which were deferred at posts pending an announcement by the Home Secretary will now be reviewed and where primary purpose would have been the only ground for refusal, again subject to no change of circumstances, entry clearance will be issued. Where no application or appeal is pending, applicants may re-apply for entry clearance in the normal way.

ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS

Departmental Staff

Mr. Tom King: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many (a) full-time and (b) part-time persons employed by his Department and its agencies are paid (i) less than £4.00 an hour, (ii) less than £3.50 an hour and (iii) less than £3.00 an hour. [4198]

Mr. Prescott: The number of staff paid less than the levels shown is as follows:

Staff
£4.00 an hour1,246
£3.50 an hour717
£3.00 an hour35

These estimates reflect current salary levels and staff numbers, which will vary considerably over time. Part-time and full-time staff are paid the same hourly rates.

Environmental Task Force

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he plans to set up the environmental task force. [4479]

Ms Angela Eagle: We are proposing to launch the New Deal Programme shortly, including the Environmental Task Force, which will be one of the four options on offer.

Areas of Outstanding National Beauty

Mr. Caplin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the process of consulting on the future funding of areas of outstanding natural beauty; and when a consultation document will be made available. [4613]

Ms Angela Eagle: Ministers will shortly be considering these matters with the Countryside Commission, including the question of a consultation document.

25 Jun 1997 : Column: 516

Water Charges

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has for further consultation on future policy relating to water charges; and if he will make a statement. [5091]

Mr. Meacher: As the Deputy Prime Minister announced at the Water Summit, the Government is to review the system of charging for water in England and Wales. I am launching that review today. The purpose of the review is to ensure that we have a fair and sustainable system of charging for water and sewerage services.

The review will be conducted jointly by my Department and the Welsh Office, in consultation with the Office of Water Services. My Department will be writing today to interested bodies with details of the main issues which the review will address and inviting their representations. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

There is public concern about the system of charging for water. Water and sewerage services have to be paid for, but customers are entitled to expect that the basis on which their charges are levied is a fair one. The method of charging should have the support of customers as well as water companies.

The review will look at the various methods of charging for mains water and sewerage services, including both unmeasured and measured systems. Under Section 145 of the Water Industry Act 1991, water companies must not base their charges on rateable values after 31 March 2000. The review will consider the future use of rateable values and other possible bases for unmeasured charges, such as the use of council tax bands. It will also consider debt recovery arrangements.

We have made clear our opposition to compulsory metering for essential household use of water. We will also want to look very carefully at the issues of disconnection and the use of budget payment meters for household water supplies: no one should be deprived of water because of inability to pay for it. We will consider these issues in the review. But we do want to have views from all the interested parties before we bring forward proposals for changes in the present regime.

The overall level of water charges and the system of price limits set by the water regulator will not be considered in this review.

Telecommunications Masts

Mr. Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to review Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 as it affects the siting and erection of telecommunication masts. [4993]

Mr. Raynsford: We have no immediate plans to review the basic approach of Planning Policy Guidance note 8 to the siting and erection of telecommunication masts. Work is in hand with representatives of local planning authorities and telecommunications code system operators to review the working of the Code of Best Practice for Telecommunications Prior Approval Procedures as applied to Mast/Tower Development, which was published by my Department last year.

25 Jun 1997 : Column: 517

House Building

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will establish a review into the methods by which developments in environmentally friendly design and the use of sustainable materials can be incorporated into future house building programmes; and if he will make a statement. [4878]

Mr. Raynsford: My Department is supporting research on a wide range of projects aimed at increasing understanding and awareness of, and promoting, more sustainable construction. I shall be launching new construction innovation and research business plans on 4 July. Sustainable construction will be a major theme. We are also examining how dissemination and take up of research and best practice can be improved and made more effective.

Organophosphates

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to review the effects on the environment of the use of organophosphates. [4913]

Ms Angela Eagle: The Environment Agency keeps the environmental effects of organophosphates under review through its monitoring programmes. I have arranged for a copy of its recently published report "Pesticides in the Aquatic Environment 1995" to be placed in the Library. The Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, run by the Agriculture Departments, monitors the impact of agricultural pesticides, including organophosphates, on wildlife. Approvals of organophosphate pesticides and veterinary medicines are reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Pesticides and the Veterinary Products Committee. Agricultural pesticides including organophosphates are also subject to the European Community rolling review programme under Council Directive 91/414. The Veterinary Products Committee reviewed organophosphate sheep-dips earlier this year and its recommendations are currently being put into place. There are also many research projects addressing the effects of organophosphates on the environment including those funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. The Government is considering whether any further action to reduce the effects of organophosphates on the environment is necessary.

Mine Water

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will review progress made to date in cleaning contaminated mine water; and what plans he has to enhance the current clean-up programme. [4919]

Ms Angela Eagle: Last year, the Environment Agency and the Coal Authority identified for further study a priority list of 35 serious mine water discharges from abandoned coal mines in England and Wales which need remedial pollution treatment, and which are being monitored by the Environment Agency during 1997. Following discussions with the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, the Coal Authority has undertaken 14 detailed feasibility studies on the most environmentally damaging discharges and

25 Jun 1997 : Column: 518

allocated over £2 million principally to tackle four priority sites during 1997-98. I am reviewing the need for further action to clean-up contaminated mine water sites.

Local Authority Changes

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to revise the current list of charges which local authorities can make. [5074]

Mr. Raynsford: We are currently consulting local authority and business interests on draft Regulations allowing local authorities to recover costs for certain highway and transport services. I have placed a copy of the consultation version of the Regulations in the Library of the House. We hope to lay the Regulations before the summer recess.


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