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Garden Composters

Mr. Bennett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what evidence he has obtained as to whether councils which have provided, free, subsidised or cost price garden composters have ensured the equipment has been used for 12 months or longer. [104294]

Ms Armstrong: None. This is a matter for individual councils.

Fluorescent Lights

Mr. Bennett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what percentage of used fluorescent lights from Government buildings are recycled. [104293]

Mr. Meacher: The percentage is small. Only some 25,000 fluorescent tubes have been recycled under the Government-wide call off contract which the Disposal Sales Agency awarded to Biffa Waste Services Limited in June 1998. The potential market was estimated at 800,000 tubes a year. But contracts of this nature take time to bed down. The extra cost of recycling is deterring some premises managers from using the contract. Others are bound by existing contracts and must wait until they expire. The time intervals for replacing tubes can also vary between two and several years depending on circumstances. There are also logistical considerations such as storage space. Efforts continue to encourage managers to use the contract.

Commonhold Legislation

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to introduce commonhold legislation. [104264]

Mr. Mullin: As was announced in the gracious speech given on 17 November 1999, Official Report, columns 4-7, the Government will be publishing a draft joint Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Bill for consultation during this session. The Commonhold aspects of the draft Bill are the responsibility of my right hon. noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor.

Footpath Network

Mr. Casale: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to include the pedestrian footpath network in London within the scope of his report on improving rights of way in England and Wales. [104261]

Mr. Mullin: Our consultation paper, "Improving Rights of Way in England and Wales", was sent to all the local authorities in London and a number of London organisations. We are considering their responses carefully, together with almost 2000 others, in preparing new legislation on rights of way.


Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what guidance he has given to local authorities about improving the quality of life of their tenants through estate management. [104052]

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Mr. Mullin: This Department has been represented on several of the policy action teams (PATs) set up in response to the Social Exclusion Unit's report "Bringing Britain together: a national strategy for neighbourhood renewal", including PAT 5 on Housing Management and PAT 8 on Anti-social Behaviour. PAT 5 found that good housing management is crucial in ensuring that tenants in social housing enjoy a high quality of life. The work of both teams will feed into the Social Exclusion Unit's overall strategy on neighbourhood renewal, to be published later this year.

The quality of life for tenants can be greatly improved by involving tenants more effectively and more thoroughly in the management of their homes, including tenant management if that is what the tenants themselves want. From April this year all councils will be introducing tenant participation compacts. This Department published guidance for local authorities in June last year to help them develop, implement and review their local compacts.

We are also broadening our programme of grants paid under section 16 of the Housing and Planning Act 1986 to promote and develop greater participation. Guidance on the full range of grants available for this purpose will be published in the spring.

Under Best Value, local authorities will need to review their housing services, including those relating to estate management, with a view to securing improvements, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. This Department will shortly be publishing guidance for local housing authorities on the application of Best Value to housing.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what administrative measures are available to enforce tenancy agreements between local authorities and their tenants. [104053]

Mr. Mullin: Tenancy agreements set out both the rights, and responsibilities, of tenants. Local authorities should ensure that their agreements are clear and unambiguous, so that there can be no doubt about the standards expected and the circumstances in which the authority will take action if there are problems. In the event of a breach of a tenancy agreement, local authorities may wish to begin possession proceedings using the grounds set out in Part I of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1985 (as amended by the Housing Act 1996).

Local authorities may, alternatively, wish to seek an injunction against the tenant concerned to prevent further breaches of the tenancy agreement. The 1996 Act enables the courts to attach a power of arrest to such an injunction if there is violence, or a threat of violence.

Environmental Schemes

Mr. Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what criteria were applied in determining how many and which environment schemes would be deleted from proposals put to him by the Environment Agency and South West Water; under what statutory authority that decision was made; whether the criteria relating to pollution of the water environment are the same in every region; and if he will make a statement. [104161]

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Mr. Mullin: Proposals for investment by water companies in schemes to protect and improve the environment in England were put to the Secretary of State by the Environment Agency as part of the Periodic Review of water company price limits. This is a non- statutory process, led by Ofwat, which sets the price framework by reference, among other factors, to foreseen investment needs over the forthcoming pricing period, in this case 2000-05.

The Director General of Ofwat requested guidance from Ministers about the level of investment which companies should be required to make to achieve environmental objectives within this period. We were advised in that task by the Environment Agency, which put forward a list of specific proposals for consideration. A large proportion of these arose from the need to meet statutory water quality standards, many of them arising from European legislation. All these schemes were included in the programme as a matter of course. On other parts of the programme, principally schemes to improve river water quality and those to improve intermittent sewage discharges, it was possible for the Government to exercise a degree of discretion over the timing or the nature of the objectives.

In "Raising the Quality", which was published in September 1998, we indicated a general aim to eliminate at least half the existing shortfall in compliance with river quality objectives by 2005 and to accelerate the rate of improvement for intermittent discharges, so that at least two thirds of remaining unsatisfactory discharges would be improved by 2005. Within these national objectives, however, the Government made clear it would take a view on the pace of investment for particular companies taking account of the need to avoid unacceptable impacts on water prices in different parts of the country, and to reflect local environmental priorities.

In the south west, where customers were already experiencing water bills considerably higher than for any other water company, and which already had the highest rate of compliance with river quality objectives in England, we decided to undertake a lower proportion of investment to meet river quality objectives and improve intermittent discharges than elsewhere. These decisions were based on assessments of the costs and benefits of the investment schemes concerned. However, the south west will still benefit from a substantial environmental programme, which includes further improvements to protect bathing waters and shellfish waters, key priorities for the region.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will estimate the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions over a 10 year period that would be achieved by replacing two 1,200 MW coal-fired power stations with two gas-fired power stations of the same capacity. [104274]

Mr. Meacher: My Department estimates that replacing two 1,200 MW coal fired power stations by two gas fired power stations of the same capacity would save about 75 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over a ten year period, assuming the power stations would operate on base load.

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Political Parties (Donations)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he is taking to ensure that large donations to political parties are declared. [104183]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Part IV of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill will give effect to our manifesto commitment to require the disclosure of large donations made to political parties. The registered treasurer of a political party will be required to report to the Electoral Commission, on a quarterly basis, the source and amount of donations of £5,000 or more accepted by the central organisation and of £1,000 or more accepted by a constituency association or other sub-unit of the party's organisation.

In the immediate run up to a general election, reports must be submitted on a weekly basis. All donations so reported would be included on a register of recordable donations, which will be open to public inspection.

In addition, Part IX of the Bill amends the Companies Act 1985 so as to strengthen the requirements on companies to disclose, in the directors' report, donations to political parties which, in aggregate, exceed £200 in a financial year.

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