Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Explanatory Memorandum from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (EST 98A)

PART II—COMMENTARY ON THE SUPPLY ESTIMATES

CLASS VI, VOTE 3: ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND WATER, ENGLAND

  More details can be found in the Annual Report 1998: chapter 10 and Tables A3, A9, A11, A14, A15, B24 and B25.

Vote total

£000

Final net provision 1996-97355,260
Provision sought 1998-99335,513
Change-19,747
Change (Per cent)-6 Per cent
Final net provision 1997-98355,187
Provision sought 1998-99335,513
Change-19,674
Change (Per cent)-6 Per cent


  The Vote comprise nine Sections, and 30 separate programmes, most of which are in the field of environmental protection, although there are some miscellaneous programmes (pneumoconiosis and planning redevelopment grant). The programmes provide support in a number of different ways, but primarily through grant regimes, grant in aid to bodies and contractual arrangements. Seventy-five per cent of the provision is directed throughout four programmes: grant in aid to the Environment Agency; support to low income households for energy efficiency measures through the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme; grant in aid to the British Waterways Board; and environmental protection research and monitoring.

  There are no new programmes on the Vote. Certain functions have been transferred to the Environment Agency from elsewhere; the outturn figures for past years have been adjusted in the estimates to take account of these.

  The reduction in overall provision is due primarily to: provision for the Environment Agency being reduced as extra grant in aid towards the cost of its setting up in 1996-97 and 1997-98 is no longer required (section C); provision for the Energy Saving Trust also being higher in its initial first full year of support by the Department (1996-97) than in 1997-98 and 1998-99 (section A); and a large one off commutation payment being made in 1997-98 for planning redevelopment (Section I).

  Individual Sections where the level of provision has changed significantly are:


Section C—Environment Agency

£000

Final net provision 1996-97112,980
Provision sought 1998-99100,912
Change-12,068
Change (Per cent)-11 Per cent
Final net provision 1997-981113,646
Provision sought 1998-99100,912
Change-12,734
Change (Per cent)-11 Per cent

1 There are differences between the figures in the Annual Report 1998 and Estimates figures given for 1997-98. The figure in the Annual Report (Figure 10a) for the Environment Agency shows actual expenditure and provision, including virements, with notional adjustments reflecting transfers of responsibilities shown on a separate line; the Main Estimates show actual published provision, excluding virements, and include these notional adjustments.


Annual Report 1998—Chapter 10, paragraphs 10.54-10.57; Figures 10a, 10h-10l

  The reduction in the baseline for Environment Agency arises mainly because the extra grant in aid towards the cost of its setting up in 1996-97 and 1997-98 is no longer required, resulting in a net reduction of £12 million after taking account of additional provision for new duties. In terms of its overall income, the reduction in grant in aid to the Agency reflects a smaller proportionate reduction than the above percentages because grant in aid funds less than a fifth of the Agency's overall expenditure.

Section D—Pneumoconiosis compensation, etc

£000

Final net provision 1996-975,845
Provision sought 1998-996,889
Change+1,044
Change (Per cent)+18 Per cent
Final net provision 1997-986,107
Provision sought 1998-996,889
Change+782
Change (Per cent)+13 Per cent


Annual Report 1998—Chapter 10, paragraph 10.36; figure 10d

  This programme comprises compensation payments to sufferers, and dependants of sufferers, of pneumoconiosis and other dust related diseases. The scheme is demand led and the number of claims, and hence levels of expenditure, are expected to continue to rise into the first decade of the next century.
Section E—Water services (including national security)

£000

Final net provision 1996-976,629
Provision sought 1998-995,850
Change-779
Change (Per cent)-12 Per cent


Annual Report 1998—Chapter 10, paragraphs 10.47-10.50 and 10.53; figure 10g

  This Section comprises payments under three separate grant regimes for water supply and sewerage and for the security of water installations. Grants payable under two of the grant regimes under this Section are demand led and payments have generally been declining in recent years. Reduced provision reflects this trend.

Section G—Miscellaneous grants

£000

Final net provision 1996-974,581
Provision sought 1998-99362
Change-4,219
Change (Per cent)-92 Per cent
Final net provision 1997-98446
Provision sought 1998-99362
Change-84
Change (Per cent)-19 Per cent


Annual Report 1998—Chapter 10, paragraph 10.53; figure 10g

  Payments under this Section currently consist of further water and sewerage grant expenditure, in this case to local authorities. In previous years, provision covered clean air grant (which ceased in March 1996) and air quality grant (one off grant largely payable in 1996-97). The reduction in provision is a result of declining expenditure under the demand led water grant scheme, and the ending of clean air grant, following the UK's achievement of the targets set by the European Union. Air quality grant supported pilot studies which took place during 1996-97 following new legislation; support to local authorities is now provided through air quality Supplementary Credit Approvals, funded through provision on the DETR/OES non-voted cash limit.

Section 1—Planning redevelopment

£000

Final net provision 1996-973,150
Provision sought 1998—991,276
Change-1,874
Change (Per cent)-59 Per cent
Final net provision 1997-9811,347
Provision sought 1998-991,276
Change-10,071
Change (Per cent)-89 Per cent


Annual Report 1998-Chapter 10; figure 10a

  This Section provides for payments of grant to local authorities for approved schemes of planning redevelopment. No new approvals have been made and the number of remaining active schemes has been declining as schemes are commuted or declared in credit. Provision, excluding commutations, has been declining for many years, but one-off commutations, particularly the large ones, have distorted the figures by requiring provision to be increased in the years in which they took place. The largest remaining claim, covering schemes in Birmingham, was commuted during 1997-98 and caused a particularly large increase for that year only. At the beginning of 1998-99 there were only a few schemes remaining and this has since been reduced to one.


 
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