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GM Crops

Mr. David Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the pesticides applied on the farm scale trial of genetically modified oilseed rape and conventional oilseed rape at Model Farm, near Watlington, in 1999, giving in each case (a) the name of the product used, (b) the rate of application and (c) the date or dates applied. [101757]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 9 December 1999]: Information on all the pesticides (including herbicides) used on both the genetically modified and the conventional crops being grown under the farm scale evaluation programme is recorded in detail by the research contractors as part of their monitoring of field sites. The full information will be passed to the independent scientific steering committee overseeing the farm scale evaluations, and will be published in their report of the evaluations, but is not currently available. Pesticide information will help establish the context of any observed differences in wildlife between the GM and conventional crops, and will be published alongside the results.

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Korean Airlines Crash, Stansted

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment has been made (a) by his Department and (b) by the Air Accident Investigation Board, of the environmental implications of the dispersal of the depleted uranium ballast from the wings of the Korean Airlines aircraft which crashed at Stansted on 22 December 1999. [104703]

Mr. Mullin: I understand from the Environment Agency and the Air Accidents Investigation Board that the depleted uranium was part of the structure of the aircraft and was incorporated as solid weights in the tail section. Sixteen of the 20 weights have been recovered and none of these shows signs of damage such that dispersal would have occurred. A radiological survey of the crash site is being conducted and it is expected this will lead to the recovery of the others. The facts already established about the nature of the fire that occurred after the crash mean that it is extremely unlikely that any dispersal of the uranium will have taken place.

The aircraft was carrying a very small amount of radioactive material used for medical diagnosis. This was contained in 220 vials of iodine-125 bound for China. The quantity of material involved is too small to cause any damage to local people or the environment. This material is of such limited potential risk that it is not required to be notified to the pilot in command among the list of dangerous goods carried. The recovery of residual material from the accident site is in hand and its disposal is regulated by the Environment Agency.

Driving Licences

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the minimum age at which people can hold a driving licence. [104883]

Mr. Hill: The rules governing the age at which people can hold driving licences are set out in The Motor Vehicle (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999.

Measures to improve the safety record of new licence holders are being considered as part of the road safety strategy, which is to be published shortly.

Homeless People

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to issue guidance to local authorities in relation to providing services for homeless people with multiple needs. [104805]

Mr. Mullin: Following consultation last year, the Government propose to issue in the Spring a revised version of the Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness (Parts VI and VII of the Housing Act 1996). This will include specific guidance encouraging housing authorities to work together with all relevant agencies to secure the effective delivery of appropriate support packages to homeless people with housing and other needs.

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Radioactive Waste Management

Advisory Committee

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to fill the vacancies on the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee; and for how long these vacancies have existed. [105078]

Mr. Meacher: At the time of the last round of Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee appointments in November 1998, three positions, out of an agreed Committee complement of 20, were left unfilled. Candidates to fill two of these vacancies, under nuclear and radioactive waste management and health and safety membership template headings, were interviewed towards the end of last year. Appropriate appointments will be made in due course in conjunction with Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly Ministers.

Tourist Attractions

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what is the maximum distance a tourism site may be from a brown tourist attraction sign on a motorway; [105135]

Mr. Hill: Guidelines for signing on motorways in England specify that an attraction should be within 20 miles of the junction from which it is to be signed. Stricter criteria relating to driving time rather than distance apply on the M25 and roads within it. Signs not meeting the criteria may exceptionally be permitted if justified by special local circumstances.


Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what considerations underlie his policy of ensuring that local authority councillors receive a basic allowance. [105520]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Our policy, as set out in "Modern Local Government"--In Touch with the People" (Cm 4014), is that financial support for councillors must reinforce the culture of the modern council and address, as far as possible, any disincentives to serving in local politics. Basic allowance is intended to recognise the time commitment expected of all councillors, including such inevitable calls on their time as meetings with officers and attendance at political group meetings.

Council Housing

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many council houses were (a) sold and (b) built in each of the last 10 years in the London borough of Wandsworth. [105509]

Mr. Mullin: The available information reported by the London Borough of Wandsworth is in the table.

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Number of council-owned dwellings sold and built in London Borough of Wandsworth

YearSalesNew build completions


New house-building figures are based on calendar years.


Sales: DETR Housing Activity P1(B) (quarterly) and Housing Investment Programme (annual) returns.

New build: DETR Housing Activity P2(M) (monthly) returns.

Departmental Smoking Policy

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he is taking to reduce smoking in his Department. [105803]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The Department seeks to create a non-smoking work environment. This is primarily through the creation of smoking rooms, or smoking areas where the size or configuration of the building does not make this feasible, although in some buildings staff have voted for a total ban on smoking. Health promotion activities have complemented this approach with displays, in-house magazine articles and proactive events. When lifestyle screening programmes are run an individual's smoking habits are one of the areas discussed with the screening nurse.

Cable Telecommunications

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will revise planning and development control legislation to bring cable communications development within the ambit of regulations governing radio installations; and if he will make a statement; [105664]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Telecommunications operators are licensed by the Department of Trade and Industry under the Telecommunications Act 1984. These licensed telecommunications code system operators are authorised under Part 24 of Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (GPDO) to install specified telecommunications apparatus without the need to make a planning application to the local authority, ie they have permitted development rights.

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Under the operator licensing arrangements, SI 1999 No. 2450 harmonises the conditions attached to operators' licences and came into force on 27 September 1999. These permit a maximum cabinet size of 1.8 m high by 2.0 m long by 0.8 m wide.

Under the GPDO, operators have permitted development rights for cabinets with a base area of up to 1.5 sq m. However, in areas such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Conservation Areas and the Broads and Sites of Special Scientific Interest the permitted development right is subject to a prior approval procedure. Under this procedure the local planning authority has the opportunity to say whether it wishes to approve, within 28-days, details of a cabinet's siting and appearance. It can refuse approval if it considers this justified.

In all cases, the installation of cabinets with a base size exceeding 1.5 sq m would need a full planning application to the local planning authority.

Currently we have no proposals to amend the provisions of Part 24 of the GPDO.

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