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Environmental Assessment

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the environmental assessment regimes for afforestation, land drainage, salmon farming, harbours, electricity lines, pipe-lines and applications under the Transport and Works Act 1992 comply with EU Directive 97/11 on environmental assessment. [86049]

Mr. Raynsford: Responsibility for the consent regimes referred to in this question falls to five Government Departments. For convenience, I am replying on behalf of the other Departments as well as my Department.

Directive 97/11/EC amends Directive 85/337/EEC on environmental impact assessment. The amended procedures have been applied to land drainage projects which require planning permission and to fish farming in marine waters, which includes salmon farming.

Regulations to implement the amended Directive for the other consent regimes have yet to be finalised but these should come into force by the end of the year. Meanwhile extant regulations ensure that projects considered under these consent regimes are subject to environmental impact assessment before they may proceed. Pending entry into force of the amending regulations, administrative arrangements provide for the additional requirements of Directive 97/11/EC to be complied with in most cases.

Local Authority Debt

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the 10 most indebted local authorities in (a) 1997 and (b) 1998, indicating the cost (i) in total and (ii) per council tax payer of servicing the debt; and what plans he has to ensure that the debt level is reduced. [85776]

Ms Armstrong: The available information is given in the table. The cost of servicing the debt has been defined in terms of external interest paid by local authorities in the financial year 1997-98. It should be noted that authorities with high levels of debt are generally those which have undertaken capital investment and that longer term borrowing to finance capital expenditure is regulated by Government through the issue of credit approvals, for which support is provided through the Standard Spending Assessment mechanism.

It is for local authorities to determine arrangements for the prudent management and repayment of debt. We are currently examining options for encouraging earlier debt redemption.

Local authority (8)Total external interest payments (9) (£ million)External interest payments per adult (10) (£)
Tower Hamlets63.6496

(8) 10 authorities with highest level of outstanding debt as at 31 March 1997

(9) Source: Revenue Summary (RS) outturn form for 1997/98.

(10) Data on the number of council taxpayers is not readily available. The figures are based on the number of resident adults, mid-year 1997 population estimates.

8 Jun 1999 : Column: 219

Airports (Runway Space)

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans Her Majesty's Government have to secure the provision of extra runway space in the South-East of England. [85876]

Ms Glenda Jackson: On 11 March 1999, Official Report, columns 360-61, we announced our decision to undertake a study of airport issues in the South-East and East of England. That study will consider future policies for these airports within the framework of the Government's sustainable development principles. It will, among other things, consider whether new runway capacity in the region might be justified, having regard to social, environmental and economic considerations.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will ask the airport co-ordinator with responsibility for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted to make a statement on runway constraints. [85878]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The Airport Co-ordinator is not the appropriate person to make such a statement. The capacity of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted is assessed twice a year, for the summer and winter operating seasons, by the airport operator, in consultation with airport users, air traffic control and the airport co-ordinator. Maximising use of runway capacity may be constrained by airspace availability, terminal capacity, and aircraft stand availability. The assessment is then used by the airport co-ordinator when he comes to allocate take off and landing slots for the season.

Air Traffic

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he plans to take to protect the slots at present allocated to Regional Air Services in the South East from re-allocation to other services. [85836]

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Ms Glenda Jackson: The EC regulation that governs the slot allocation process permits Member States to reserve slots for domestic scheduled services on two grounds:


    Where public service obligations have been imposed on a route (that is, a transport link between two cities or regions rather than an airport specific route).

No slots are currently protected on either ground. The Government said in A New Deal for Transport (Cmnd 3950) that they would press for recognition in any revision of the Regulation of the case for maintaining access from regional airports into major hubs such as Heathrow and Gatwick. Proposals for revision are still awaited from the Commission.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what safeguards exist to ensure that airspace management by NATS of airports and air traffic, where NATS does not provide the services, is impartial. [85841]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The Directions to the CAA under section 72 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 state that NATS must provide air navigation services

If an airport or user has a complaint about the management of airspace by NATS, it could refer to, for instance, the Directorate of Airspace Policy or the Economic Regulation Group, depending on the circumstances. If they were not happy with the outcome, they would have the right to appeal to the Chairman of the CAA.

The ability of NATS to unfairly influence access to airspace from airports is limited. The allocation of slots in NATS airspace for aircraft leaving airports is beyond NATS' control--in fact it is decided by the Central Flow Management Unit in Brussels. The only legitimate circumstances under which NATS could restrict access to airspace would be for reasons of safety.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what has been the change in air traffic movements at (a) Heathrow, (b) Gatwick, (c) Stansted, (d) Glasgow, (e) Manchester and (f) Belfast airports in each of the last 10 years. [85871]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The most recent statistics published by the Civil Aviation Authority cover the period 1987 to 1997. The information requested is set out in the table.

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Aircraft movements (Thousand)

Belfast City2328292938333840434138
Belfast International8083969795979288989395

8 Jun 1999 : Column: 221

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions his Department has held with the British airlines holding slots at South-East airports about their re-allocation. [85837]

Ms Glenda Jackson: None. The current regulation permits slots to be freely exchanged between carriers, or transferred by a carrier from one route or type of service to another. But British airlines should be aware of the Government's view, as set out in A New Deal for Transport, that any revision of the EC Regulation that governs the slot allocation process at congested airports should recognise the case for maintaining access from regional airports into congested hubs such as Heathrow and Gatwick.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will set out the Public Service Obligation rules to protect air services for those airports to which they apply. [85925]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The conditions under which a Public Service Obligation (PSO) can be established on an air route are set out in European Council Regulation 2408-92. The European Court of Justice found (Case T--260/94 Air Inter v The Commission) that a "route" should be defined as a transport link between two cities or regions, and is not airport specific.

A PSO on a regional service to London could therefore be fulfilled by services from any airport in the London airport system. A PSO may be imposed by a Member State in respect of scheduled air services to an airport serving a peripheral or development region in its territory, or on a thin route to any regional airport in its territory. The criterion is that the route must be vital to the economic development of the region in which the airport is situated. PSOs may be used to the extent necessary to ensure on a route the adequate provision of scheduled air services satisfying fixed standards of continuity, regularity, capacity and pricing, which standards air carriers would not assume if they were solely considering their commercial interest. There is provision for the carrier fulfilling the PSO to be reimbursed as appropriate for meeting the specified standards.

"Adequacy" is assessed with regard to: the public interest; the availability of other forms of transport; air fares and conditions; and the combined effect of all air carriers operating or intending to operate on the route.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what were the (a) estimated and (b) actual aircraft movements at the three major south east airports for (i) 1996-97 and (ii) 1997-98. [85879]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The CAA produces forecasts for air transport movements in total UK airspace and for the London Air Traffic Control Centre (LATCC) for planning purposes, but does not break the figures down on an airport by airport basis. The LATCC figures which cover all airports in the London area are as follows:


NATS keep records of the number of actual movements that they handle at each airport. The figures are as follows:

8 Jun 1999 : Column: 222


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