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Brown-field Sites

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what financial incentives exist to encourage the development of urban brownfield and derelict sites. [50333]

Mr. Raynsford: English Partnerships, the Government's regeneration agency, supports physical regeneration projects across England. An important part of their programme is the reclamation and development of brownfield and derelict sites. Applications to English Partnerships are handled within the framework of its single Investment Fund. The operation of this Fund emphasises flexible partnerships and funding mechanisms and seeks to maximise private investment. The Challenge Fund, which is part of the Single Regeneration Budget, is also available for local regeneration partnerships and operates in a similar manner to English Partnerships.

In addition, The Government are committed to exploring the scope for using economic instruments to achieve our planning objectives, including modifications to VAT on housing, a greenfield tax, and reform of planning obligations. A key objective of all these options would be to discourage greenfield development and promote brownfield development.

Refrigerant Gases

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he

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is taking to ensure that the fire risk posed by hydrocarbon refrigerant gases is minimised and that these gases are properly and safely disposed of after use. [50577]

Angela Eagle: The use of hydrocarbons as refrigerants is covered by the standards BS EN 60335-2-24 and BS4434. When hydrocarbons are used in refrigerators appropriate safety precautions must be taken, encompassing design, operational and maintenance procedures. The Health and Safety Executive also produce guidance on the safe handling of liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) including hydrocarbon gases used as refrigerants. The guidance, which can be applied to a wide variety of circumstances, gives practical advice on the safe storage and use of LPG and also offers advice on basic fire precautions to be taken when handling such gases.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to ensure that HFCs used in refrigerators are recycled or disposed of properly so that they are not released into the atmosphere. [50576]

Angela Eagle: Sections 33(1)(c) and 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 oblige the producers and holders of waste to prevent its release to atmosphere. The application of these controls to CFC refrigerants is explained in DOE Circular 11/94 paragraphs 4.95-4.103, but the guidance is also applicable to other waste refrigerants.

The Government have also agreed a Declaration of intent with the refrigeration and air conditioning industry with the aim of reducing emissions of HFCs, which are global warming gases. The Declaration recommends that the servicing, maintenance and decommissioning of equipment containing HFCs are carried out only by competent persons. It also encourages all reasonably practicable precautionary measures to minimise refrigerant leakage, and recommends that refrigerants are recovered for re-use, reclamation or disposal during servicing and prior to equipment decommissioning. The Government will be issuing a consultation paper later in the summer on policy options for meeting their commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, including HFCs.

Allotments

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what encouragement he is giving to local authorities to (a) maintain and preserve allotments and (b) provide replacement land where land formerly used for allotments has been subject to development. [50655]

Angela Eagle: The Government are currently considering the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee's report into 'The Future for Allotments', and will produce a formal response in due course. Section 8 of the Allotments Act 1925 provides that the Secretary of State must consent to the disposal of statutory allotment land by a local authority.

(a) Since 25 March 1998, statutory allotment land has been given increased protection by placing a requirement on authorities to demonstrate the steps they have taken to promote allotments in their area before they can dispose of such land.

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(b) Consent under section 8 of the 1925 Act may not be given unless the Secretary of State is satisfied either that adequate provision will be made for displaced plotholders, or that such provision is not necessary or is impracticable.

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to encourage the use of allotments with particular reference to their potential for growing organic vegetables. [50651]

Angela Eagle: The Government are currently considering the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee's report into the 'The Future for Allotments', and will produce a formal response in due course.

Occupational Illness or Injury

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many working days were lost in the last year for which figures are available as a result of occupational illness or injury, separately identifying self-certificated absences; and if he will make a statement. [50631]

Angela Eagle: In 1995 an estimated 19.5 million days were lost due to a work-related illness in Great Britain based on a five day week. There were an estimated 9.8 million days when workers were unavailable for work as a result of occupational injury in 1994-95, the latest year for which figures are available. This figure will include weekends and other days which are not workdays for some workers. The number of self-certified absences due to occupational illness or injury cannot be separately identified.

East London Line

Mr. Linton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals he has evaluated for the re-opening of the East London Line between Dalston and Shoreditch. [50713]

Ms Glenda Jackson: At the request of the Deputy Prime Minister, London Underground prepared a report on the options for extending the East London Line and submitted it to the Deputy Prime Minister in December 1997. The Government are considering with London Transport how best to take the project forward.

London Government

Mr. Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions on what date the official figures from London's local government elections and referendum held on 7 May were disseminated to libraries in London; and by whom this task was carried out. [50822]

Mr. Raynsford: I understand that the London Research Centre will publish "London Borough Council Elections 7 May 1998" (ISBN 1 85261 271 2), a publication containing details of voting figures in London local elections and the referendum, on 27 July, and that copies will be sent to, among others, the Chief Librarian in each London Borough.

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Endangered Species

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the species of (i) flora and (ii) fauna identified as being in danger of extinction within the United Kingdom in (a) 1986, (b) 1991 and (c) 1996. [50931]

Mr. Meacher: I will ensure that the information requested--which is of a complex nature--is made available to the hon. Member shortly. It will be placed in the House Library next week.

Foodstuffs (Seal Oil)

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what is his policy in respect of foodstuffs containing oil derived from seals; and if he will make a statement. [50934]

Angela Eagle: The Department of Health report that there is no evidence that foodstuffs containing oil derived from seals are widely consumed in the United Kingdom.

Monk seals (Monachus spp.), Fur seals (Artocephalus spp.) and the Southern elephant-seal (Mirounga leonina) are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to which the UK is a Party. Under Council Regulation EC 338/97 which implements CITES in the EU, imports and exports of specimens of protected species and their parts and derivatives, including foodstuffs, are controlled under a licensing system. The most endangered species (ie Monk seals, and the Juan Fernandez (Arctocephalus philippii) and Guadelupe (Artocephalus townsendi) fur seals) are banned from international trade. Within the EU this extends to any commercial use, including buying, selling and display.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to improve the legal protection of sites of special scientific interest. [50929]

Mr. Meacher: We are presently considering a number of means for improving the protection and management of Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Officials are preparing a consultative paper which we hope to publish later this year. If legislation proves necessary we will look for a suitable opportunity.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what factors underlie the rate of damage to SSSIs over the last five years. [50930]

Mr. Meacher: The annual reports produced by English Nature summarise the key factors underlying damage to SSSIs. The number of incidents of damage has now decreased to well below 1 per cent. of SSSIs by area per year compared to 3 per cent. in the early 1990s. The main cause of damage is agricultural activities such as under and overgrazing, high levels of fertiliser application and the pollution of water courses. Other impacts include over-abstraction of water and 3rd party damage, such as the use of off-road vehicles. Occasional losses occur for housing, roads, and industrial development, although this has decreased considerably over the last five years.

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