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N-Viro

Dr. Michael Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to ensure that the N-Viro product from Great Stambridge is subject to the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989 and the 1996 Code of Practice for agricultural use of sewage sludge. [68370]

Mr. Meale: All sewage sludge used on agricultural land, including that treated by the N-Viro process is subject to the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989 and the associated Code of Practice. The regulations are enforced in England and Wales by the Environment Agency.

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Dr. Michael Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the appraisal by the Environment Agency into the Waste Management Licence application by Anglian Water for the N-Viro process at Great Stambridge will be completed and issued. [68371]

Mr. Meale: The Environment Agency expects to complete the appraisal of the application by Anglian Water for a Waste Management Licence for the N-Viro process at Great Stambridge by early summer. An interim report will be produced by the Environment Agency in February and processing of sludge from Southend will not begin until the Waste Management Licence has been granted.

Barking to Gospel Oak Railway

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps are being taken by his Department to promote improved services on the Barking to Gospel Oak railway line. [68342]

Ms Glenda Jackson: Silverlink operate this line under a franchise agreement with the Franchising Director. This includes a contractual obligation to replace the existing slam door rolling stock with sliding door rolling stock by May 1999. It also includes contractual commitments to upgrade the passenger information systems at stations along the route. Railtrack have reinstated a signal between two of the stations on the line: this has increased the capacity of the track and should reduce delays caused by conflicts with other operators using the line.

Leisure Complex (Crosby)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the progress of the PFI bid submitted by Sefton Metropolitan Authority to build a new swimming and leisure complex in Crosby. [66765]

Mr. Raynsford: The Metropolitan Borough of Sefton was told on 27 August 1998 of the inter-departmental Project Review Group's decision to agree to my Department's recommendation that their project be included in the updated list of local authority PFI projects the Government intend to support. That list was the subject of a press release the same day. It is now for the local authority to bring the project to contract signature.

Taxi Accessibility

Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to produce further proposals for taxi accessibility; what discussions he has held with (a) vehicle manufacturers and (b) suppliers to ensure the availability of vehicles which conform with taxi accessibility regulations; and if he will make a statement. [68641]

Ms Glenda Jackson: We have held extensive consultation on our proposals for taxi accessibility under the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 with manufacturers, operators, local authorities and with organisations representing disabled people.

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We are reviewing our proposals in the light of this consultation and we will be publishing a further round of consultation, including draft regulations and a regulatory impact assessment, later this year.

My Department is also in close and regular touch with vehicle manufacturers and converters and we believe that a range of vehicles which meet the regulations will become available to address the new market which will be created.

Signal Equipment Safety

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the safety of signal equipment owned by Railtrack. [68466]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The proper design, installation and maintenance of the signalling system is paramount to railway safety. The responsibility for the railway infrastructure lies with Railtrack. The Health and Safety Executive have advised me that they are satisfied with Railtrack's strategies for achieving the safety of their signalling systems including the management of any problems.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what safety guidelines his Department issues in relation to the maintenance and renewal of signal equipment on railway lines. [68467]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The responsibility for the safe maintenance and renewal of signalling equipment lies with Railtrack, who issue safety guidelines in these matters. The Health and Safety Executive's Railway Inspectorate undertakes routine monitoring of the way Railtrack discharges its responsibilities for the safe operation of the railway network and would take appropriate enforcement action if necessary.

West Coast Line

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with the Rail Regulator concerning the cleanliness of trains on the West Coast Line; and if he will make a statement. [68001]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The cleanliness of trains if a matter for the Franchising Director rather than the Rail Regulator. Virgin is required under its franchise agreement to carry out regular customer satisfaction surveys. These measure satisfaction with, among other things, cleanliness of the trains. The latest available published figures (for the period to July 1998) show that the cleanliness level on Virgin Trains was at or above the agreed benchmarks.

Virgin Trains

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with Virgin Trains on the discounting of void days from punctuality and reliability tables; and if he will make a statement. [68000]

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Ms Glenda Jackson: Train operators are entitled to declare days void where they have been unable to run an effective service for the day. For every void day, the operator has to offer one day extension or refund on season tickets. The number of days voided by each train operator will be included in the Franchising Director's next and future quarterly Performance Bulletins. OPRAF are considering how the statistics in the Bulletin can be made to reflect more accurately the experience of passengers.

Concessionary Bus Fare Schemes

Mr. Lepper: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the local authority areas in which no concessionary bus fare scheme for pensioners is in operation. [68590]

Ms Glenda Jackson: My information is that there are 10 local authorities that have no concessionary fare scheme for their resident pensioners. These are the District Councils for Caradon, Eden, Hambleton, Kennet, Kerrier, Malvern Hills, North Cornwall, Penwith, Scarborough and South Holland.

Waste Incinerators

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many incinerators used for disposing of public waste materials in the UK (a) are currently operational and (b) were operational five years ago. [68133]

Mr. Meale: In England and Wales, ten municipal waste incinerators are currently operational. Twenty three such incinerators were operational in 1994.

Gas Vehicle Manufacturers (Tax Incentives)

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what tax incentives are available to manufacturers of motor vehicles powered by road fuel gases. [68163]

Ms Glenda Jackson: There are no specific tax incentives available for manufacturers of motor vehicles powered by road fuel gases. Government action to support the wider uptake of these fuels focuses principally on assisting with the purchase and operation of gas powered vehicles. Duty on road fuel gases has been frozen for the last two Budgets, and the Government are committed to at least maintaining the 1997 duty differential between road fuel gases and ordinary diesel. My Department is also funding the Powershift programme which provides grants to help cover the additional cost of purchasing gas powered vehicles. These measures should provide some certainty to the road fuel gas market, and help to encourage manufacturers to invest in the production in gas powered vehicles.

Waste Recycling

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will list (a) the recycling targets and (b) the level of achievement of these targets currently being achieved by the Brighton and Hove Unitary Authority, for (i) glass (clear and green), (ii) plastics, (iii) aluminium cans, (iv) steel cans and (v) paper and cardboard; [68138]

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Mr. Meale: When the previous Government published their White Paper "Making Waste Work" in 1995, they set a number of indicative targets for waste. One of the primary targets was to increase recycling and recovery so that they dealt with 40 per cent. of municipal waste by 2005. There was also a subsidiary target to recycle or compost 25 per cent. of household waste by 2000. These indicative targets were set for the whole of England and Wales and it is up to each individual local authority to determine their own priorities in the light of these targets.

The latest figures for municipal waste relate to 1996-97--the first year after publication of "Making Waste Work". Recycling and energy recovery of municipal waste stood at around 13 per cent., with recycling running at around 7 per cent. of household waste. No comparable figures are available for five years ago.

The Department is not able to release details of the recycling rate of an individual authority, or for individual materials within this rate, because the figures that are supplied to it for the Department's Municipal Waste Survey are done so on a confidential basis.

The Government are currently preparing a new waste strategy. The consultation paper "Less Waste: More Value" confirmed their support for the targets in "Making Waste Work", but considers that there is a need for a substantial increase in recycling and recovery, going beyond the targets set by the previous Government.

We believe that, for targets to be effective in changing behaviour towards a desired end, they have to be challenging but achievable, underpinned by a clear course of action, and capable of proper measurement and public explanation. Targets also need to be justified against the principles of good regulation: accountability, transparency, targeting, consistency, and proportionality.


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