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River Levels (Wildlife)

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what recent assessment he has made of the impact on wildlife of the present abstraction levels from rivers; and if he will make a statement. [50933]

Mr. Meacher: The Environment Agency is responsible for licensing water abstraction in England and Wales, a function it exercises in conjunction with its other statutory duties which include the conservation of flora and fauna which are dependent on an aquatic environment. In its May 1998 submission to the Government entitled A Price Worth Paying, which is in the Library of the House, the Agency, in consultation with English Nature and the Countryside Council of Wales, has listed sites which are considered to be affected by abstractions. A number of these sites are designated for their international importance for birds or other wildlife. We shall take the Agency's advice on these sites into account in determining the guidance we give to the Director General of Water Services on the environmental obligations which water companies will be expected to meet through the Periodic Review of water prices.

Recycled Land

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 13 July 1998, Official Report, columns 9-10, concerning recycled land, what completion date he has set for local authorities undertaking the identification work. [50935]

Mr. Raynsford: Data collection from local authorities for phase one of the National Land Use Database, which covers vacant previously developed land which may be available for redevelopment, is scheduled to take place between August and October. This should enable English Partnerships to publish information on an initial set of sites suitable for redevelopment by the end of the year, and DETR to publish summary statistics based on information on all sites by March 1999.

Greater London Authority

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will assess the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Society, contained in the report Predictable and Unaccountable, with reference to the electoral arrangements for the Greater London Authority. [50941]

Mr. Raynsford: Following extensive consultation, which included representations made by the Electoral Reform Society, we set our proposals for electoral arrangements for the Greater London Authority in the White Paper, "A Mayor and Assembly for London". The proposals were endorsed by the people of London in the Referendum held on 7 May. We intend to bring forward legislation to implement our proposals as soon as the legislative timetable permits.

NHS Staff (Accidents)

Ms Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many NHS employees in Wales were killed or injured at work in each year since 1991. [51236]

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Angela Eagle: The information is as follows:

Injuries in Wales to employees in the NHS as reported to HSE 1991-92 to 1997-98

YearFatalMajorOver 3 dayTotal

(1) 1997-98 figures are provisional


1. Years commence 1 April

2. 1996-97 and 1997-98 non-fatal injury figures cannot be directly compared to previous years' figures as they were reported under different legislation (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR 85 and RIDDOR 95)

3. 1997-98 figures are provisional

Roads Review

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the forthcoming Roads Review will announce the completion of the dualling of the A11. [50959]

Ms Glenda Jackson: We shall be announcing the conclusions of the Roads Review shortly.

Fishing Vessels

Mr. Ainger: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what was the number of registered British fishing vessels (a) under 12 metres and (b) over 12 metres in length and the number of fishermen's lives lost from each in each of the last five years. [46477]

Ms Glenda Jackson [pursuant to her reply, 23 June 1998, c. 434]: The number of vessels on the UK fishing vessel register at 31 December in each of the last 5 years, both under 12 metres and 12 metres and over in length, and the numbers of fishermen's lives lost from vessels in those length ranges in each year are as follows:

Fishing vessels under 12 metres Fishing vessels 12 metres and over
YearVessels on registerLives lostVessels on RegisterLives lost

(2) The total figure for the number of deaths for 1995 is reported as 16 in the MAIB Annual Report 1995 but has since been revised to 19 following the assumption of 3 deaths aboard the missing fishing vessel Provider


RSS for numbers of registered fishing vessels by calendar year (Note MSA Annual Report 1997-98 will quote MAFF figures for 1993 to 1996 and RSS for 1997). MAIB for the numbers of deaths by calendar year.

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OSPAR Convention

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on his objectives at the forthcoming Oslo-Paris convention in Lisbon. [49322]

Mr. Meacher: The main purposes of this first Ministerial Meeting of the Commission established by the 1992 OSPAR Convention for the protection of the marine environment of the North East Atlantic are to round off certain aspects left unresolved by the 1992 Convention and to set the strategies for the Commission over the next generation.

When the OSPAR Convention was negotiated in 1992, the then French and UK Governments insisted that the Convention should preserve a potential future option for France and the UK to re-start the dumping at sea of low-and intermediate-level radioactive waste. Last September the UK and France announced that they would give up that option. The Ministerial Meeting is expected to approve a formal instrument to terminate the option. There will thus be a complete ban on dumping radioactive waste.

In 1992, there was insufficient support for extending the competence of the OSPAR Commission beyond land-based discharges, dumping, the offshore oil and gas industry and the monitoring and assessment of the marine environment. Largely as a result of UK initiatives, the Ministerial meeting is expected to approve a new Annexe to the Convention on the protection of marine wildlife and habitats. This will fill an important lacuna.

The Ministerial Meeting will also aim to adopt new rules on the disposal of disused offshore installations. The UK is committed to returning all disused offshore installations to land wherever it is safe and practicable to do so. The problem is to settle how to deal with the exceptions.

There is substantial agreement to a regime which would provide for a general ban on dumping such installations or leaving them in place, subject to:

a. derogations for some large steel installations, all existing concrete installations and exceptional and unforseen circumstances; and
b. an assessment framework and consultation procedures before such derogations can be allowed.

The definition of the category of large steel installations where derogations are to be allowed remains to be agreed. There is also a question about future concrete installations.

The UK is making a new proposal on large steel installations. We have already accepted that it will generally be safe and practicable to return all topsides to land. Discussion of large steel installations has therefore been about the substructures. So far, all parties have considered these substructures as a whole. We now think that it would be helpful to distinguish between the footings of the substructures and the rest of them.

In order to help achieve consensus, the UK is now prepared to accept a general obligation to return all the parts of all large steel structures above the footings to land

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for recycling or final disposal. My hon. Friend the Minister for Science, Energy and Industry has played a large part in developing this idea. This would mean that there would be a complete ban on dumping steel installations, which is what many have sought. Such a ban would also prohibit the toppling of all steel installations. Footings will be considered on a case by case basis but with a presumption that they will be removed wherever practicable and safe to do so.

With the new Convention, Ministers from the Contracting Parties need to agree the basis on which the officials will work internationally over the next decades. We want to agree strategies that are demanding but achievable and which will guide the work of the OSPAR Commission over the next twenty years or more. These strategies need to be acceptable to all the Contracting Parties, and we shall therefore be considering with our colleagues the various proposals on the table. We must be satisfied of our ability to deliver on any commitments we enter into. The strategies under consideration are:

a. Hazardous substances: The proposed strategy on hazardous substances represents a major new initiative. The strategy should make a clear commitment to ultimate goals of reducing concentrations of hazardous substances in the marine environment to background levels for naturally occurring substances and close to zero for man-made synthetic substances, and to a time frame of moving towards the cessation of discharges of hazardous substances by 2020. There should also be a mechanism to identify the hazardous substances that we should be tackling as priorities. This strategy would be a major new step, working in parallel with the EC Framework Directive on Water. The strategy should also provide for new efforts to identify and tackle endocrine disruptors.
b. Radioactive substances: At the September 1997 meeting of the OSPAR Commission, we restated our wish to make progress on reducing radioactive discharges to sea and we will fulfil this commitment. To ensure that we are able to foresee and avoid problems related to radioactive discharges in future, we shall be asking nuclear operators to prepare forward looking strategies for the next twenty years.
c. Nutrients: The main action to reduce the substances that cause eutrophication comes from the EC Nitrates and Urban Waste Water Directives. The proposed strategy would complement these by setting up a mechanism to identify eutrophication problem areas and potential problem areas, and to develop further actions to deal with these where existing programmes are not good enough.
d. Wildlife: To flesh out the new Annexe on Wildlife, the proposed strategy would provide for assessing a wide range of human activities that may adversely affect wildlife at sea, and the development of measures to address the problems which are identified. This would represent a new departure in trying to get international agreement on programmes that will protect marine wildlife outside territorial waters.
e. Offshore oil and gas: Work in this field has been concentrated on the proposed decision on the disposal of offshore installations. But we will support commitments to develop a long-term strategy to validate environmental management systems and to set their goals.

Finally, we want to find ways of getting wider membership of OSPAR. The Czech Republic (through the Elbe) and the Russian Federation are important for OSPAR waters: we would like to open a dialogue with them. We also need to find ways to help the lessons OSPAR has learnt to be applied in other regions.

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