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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 3 February 2000


Senior Salaries Review Body

Mr. Geraint Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the report and recommendations of the Review Body on Senior Salaries on the Greater London Authority. [107864]

Mr. Prescott: The Review Body on Senior Salaries report on the initial pay, expenses, pensions and severance arrangements for the Mayor of London and members of the London Assembly is published today. Copies are available in the Libraries of the House. The Prime Minister and I are grateful to the Chairman and Members of the Review Body for their work.

The main recommendations of the Review Body with regard to pay are:

Deputy Mayor51,743
Assembly member34,438

The Review Body recommended that pay levels should be uprated annually beginning on 1 April 2000 by the same percentage as the average of the movements in the mid-points of the nine senior civil service pay bands below permanent secretary and that an independent review of pay levels should take place in 2002 and then at intervals of three years.

The Review Body also recommended that a Mayor of London, Deputy Mayor or an Assembly member who is also an MP, an MEP or a salaried Office-Holder in the House of Lords should receive an abated salary in respect of his or her GLA role equal to one third of the relevant GLA salary; the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Assembly members' pension arrangements should be provided through the Local Government Pension Scheme; and that severance payments should be made only to the Deputy Mayor, and only if he or she loses that role other than at an election. The Review Body also expressed the view that members of the Authority should receive travel and subsistence payments similar to those available to staff of the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

The Government have decided to accept the Review Body's recommendations on pay, expenses, pensions and severance arrangements in full. We recognise that it has been extremely difficult to evaluate the weight of responsibilities for unique positions which do not yet exist. In particular, the Review Body concluded that there was currently insufficient evidence about additional

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responsibilities of the Chair of the Assembly and of membership of a functional body to reach a view on whether there should be additional remuneration for these roles.

The Government acknowledge the uncertainties, and have therefore decided to invite the Review Body to carry out an early review of remuneration and pensions. This review would begin nine months after the new Authority became fully operational. It would therefore progress on a basis of fact and experience rather than on the inevitable current basis of anticipation of roles and responsibilities. The statutory guidance on ethical standards, issued under section 66 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, will require the Authority to have due regard to the SSRB's recommendations in deciding future salaries.

Game Managers and Pigeon Fanciers

Ms Ward: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he is taking to address the concerns of game managers and pigeon fanciers with respect to predation of game birds and racing pigeons by birds of prey; and if he will make a statement. [108604]

Mr. Mullin: The issues arising from the recovery of some bird of prey populations and their impact on game bird and moorland management and on racing pigeons have been addressed by the UK Raptor Working Group.

This group, jointly chaired by my Department and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and comprising experts from the fields of bird conservation, game management and pigeon racing, has funded significant research and considered information from a wide range of sources including leading authorities and relevant specialists. The group has now agreed a package of recommendations and submitted its final report to UK Ministers. Copies are available in the House Libraries.

I welcome the publication of these recommendations and hope they will help provide an integrated solution to the problems presented by birds of prey to game bird managers and pigeon fanciers. Implementation of these recommendations will of course be a matter for the devolved administrations and I will be asking English Nature for advice with respect to implementation in England.

Water Industry Act 1999

Mr. Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement about the use of his powers under the Water Industry Act 1999. [108816]

Mr. Meacher: We have today published "Water Industry Act 1999: Delivering the Government's Objectives", which will be available in the Library of the House, or from the Department's website (www.environment.detr.gov.uk).

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This document is the final part of a series of publications associated with the Water Industry Act 1999. It comprises:

    Regulations, protecting vulnerable groups, and prescribing conditions where metering is permitted, which were laid on 22 December.

    responses to consultation on both the guidance and the regulations, and regulatory appraisals for each set of regulations.

The proposals in this document deliver the Government's key water charging objectives: fair and affordable water charges--particularly for vulnerable customers--and the sustainable use of water supplies and protection of the aquatic environment.

The guidance sets out the Government's approach to key water charging issues. It encourages water companies to develop charging systems that are fair and affordable, and take account of environmental considerations. Customers should expect stable and predictable bills, and charges should be transparent and closely related to services provided.

The Water Industry (Charges) (Vulnerable Groups) Regulations 1999 offer new, additional protection to customers who might face hardship affording their bills because they use large amounts of water for essential purposes and pay on a measured basis. Customers will qualify for assistance if they are in receipt of income related benefits or tax credits (Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Working Families Tax Credit, Disabled Person's Tax Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit) and either

    (b) they have a medical condition requiring significant extra water use (these are defined as kidney failure requiring home dialysis, abdominal stomas, desquamation, weeping skin disease and incontinence).

Customers in these circumstances will be entitled to pay the average charge for the company that supplies them, rather than their actual measured charge. This represents a significant new step to tackle water poverty.

The Water Industry Act 1999 restricts water companies' powers to impose meters on customers. However, the Government accept that metering may be acceptable in some circumstances, such as when a customer is using a large volume of water for discretionary purposes. The Water Industry (Prescribed Conditions) Regulations 1999 therefore set out conditions when companies will continue to be permitted to require customers to have water meters. These include circumstances such as automatic garden watering, automatic replenishment of a large pond or swimming pool, very large baths, high consumption showers and certain types of water softening unit. These Regulations also give the Secretary of State power to permit metering in designated areas of water scarcity. No such areas are designated at present. Any application for designation would need to be considered by the Secretary of State, consulting the Director General of Water Services, the Environment Agency and bodies representing customers in the relevant area.

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Trunk Roads

Mr. Leslie: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many schemes in the targeted programme of trunk road improvements will start in 2000-01. [108704]

Mr. Hill: A start will be made in 2000-01 on 13 of the 37 schemes in the targeted programme of improvements announced in "A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England"--six more than previously planned. The acceleration of six schemes by bringing their starts forward from 2001-02 reflects our commitment to modernising the country's transport system. All the schemes in the targeted programme were assessed using the New Approach to Appraisal against our criteria of safety, environmental impact, economy, accessibility and integration.

The full list of starts now planned for 2000-01 is as follows:

    A6: Great Glen Bypass, Leicestershire

    A6: Clapham Bypass, Bedfordshire 1

    A11: Roudham Heath-Attleborough, Dualling, Norfolk 1

    A27: Polegate Bypass, East Sussex

    A41: Aston Clinton Bypass, Buckinghamshire

    A43: Whitfield Turn, Brackley Hatch Improvement, Northants

    A43: Silverstone Bypass, Northants

    A43: M40-B4031 Dualling, Oxon/Northants 1

    A66: Stainburn and Great Clifton Bypass, Cumbria 1

    A500: Basford, Hough, Shavington Bypass, Cheshire 1

    A650: Bingley Relief Road, Bradford 1

    A1033: Hedon Road Improvement, Hull.

    1 Start previously planned for 2001-02.

In addition to these 13 schemes work is planned to start later this year on the privately financed Birmingham Northern Relief Road and we are at the final stages of letting the design, build finance and operate contract for improvements to the A13 in East London. Work will also start soon on widening the M2 between the A2 at Cobham and junction 4 at Rochester.

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