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Mr. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make it his policy to require planning permission for a window to be inserted in an existing house wall which faces a window in a separate house and is less than 20 metres away; and if he will make a statement. [113183]

Mr. Raynsford: The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 grants a general planning permission for a range of minor works of development to dwellinghouses, including the insertion of windows. In granting permitted development rights, we have to strike a balance between giving freedoms to individual householders to improve their homes, and protecting the amenity of neighbouring properties. We are not aware of any significant problems in the exercise of permitted development rights relating to windows and therefore have no plans to change these at the present time. We will, however, continue to monitor any representations received on this issue.

Renewable Energy

Angela Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to promote a strategic approach to planning for renewable energy development; and if he will make a statement. [113479]

Mr. Raynsford: A positive, strategic approach to planning for renewable energy is essential to help to deliver the Government's targets and goals for renewable

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energy and climate change, which are central to achieving sustainable development, while continuing to protect the landscape. This was underlined in "New and Renewable Energy: Prospects for the 21st Century: Conclusions in Response to the Public Consultation", published by my right hon. Friend, the Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe, on 1 February 2000.

In order to promote this strategic approach from the regional level downwards, the Government Offices for the Regions are initiating work to prepare regional assessments and targets for renewable energy provision based upon--and, where necessary, updating--existing resource studies. On 9 February 2000, DETR published "Guidance on Preparing Regional Sustainable Development Frameworks". The guidance indicated that the Government hope that the frameworks will draw upon this work and elaborate a regional approach to renewable energy, including regional targets which flow from the assessments of each region's capacity to generate electricity from a range of different sources. The Government would like to see frameworks in place in all regions by the end of 2000.

The frameworks will work alongside Regional Planning Guidance (RPG) and Regional Development Agencies' Economic Strategies in promoting sustainable development. Thus we envisage RPG taking forward in land-use terms a region's strategy for delivering renewable energy targets by defining broad locations for renewable energy development and setting criteria to help local authorities select suitable sites in their plans. We would encourage regional planning bodies to set targets in RPG, where sensible to do so, for the structure plan and unitary development plan areas within the region consistent with the regional targets provided by the regional sustainable development frameworks. Advice on this will be set out in the final version of the revised "Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) note 11: Regional Planning". This will be published shortly.

Together with the national planning policy guidance in "PPG 22: Renewable Energy", RPG--as taken forward through structure plans and Part I unitary development plans--will provide a strategic framework for policies and proposals for renewable energy development in local plans, including the identification in those plans of suitable sites. This, in turn, will feed through to decisions on individual planning applications.

More positive planning at regional and local levels will contribute to greater public familiarity with, and acceptance of, prospective renewable energy developments. It remains important, however, for operators to prepare the ground with local authorities, environmental organisations and local people before formal planning applications are submitted and to develop proposals in consultation with them.


M25 Murder

Mr. Radice: To ask the Solicitor-General if, following the recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the M25 murder case, he will take steps to expedite the appeal procedure for similar cases. [112628]

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The Solicitor-General: This case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. It will be for the Court of Appeal to decide whether in due course the convictions are to be quashed. I have no power to expedite such hearings, nor am I aware of any other similar cases awaiting a hearing in the domestic courts.

Serious Fraud Office

Mr. Nicholls: To ask the Solicitor-General what criteria the Director of the Serious Fraud Office is required to follow in exercising his discretion not to institute criminal proceedings in return for the person concerned giving evidence for the prosecution; what administrative procedures must be carried out before the exercise of his discretion, in particular if he is required to carry out inquiries into the antecedents of such a person; how many times the Director has exercised his discretion since 1995; if the prohibition against convicted criminals being able financially to benefit by their crimes extends to such a person; and if he will make a statement. [112407]

The Solicitor-General: In deciding whether to prosecute, the Director of the Serious Fraud Office applies the evidential and public interest tests set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Because fraud cases present particular problems of complexity it is sometimes necessary for investigators to have the assistance of one of the participants in a fraud in order to break it. Usually such a participant is on the periphery of the wrongdoing. In such cases the Director will consider all the information available at the time (including any information as to the financial or other benefits received as a result of the participation in the fraud) and may consult the Law Officers for advice. The Director will always consult the Law Officers before granting a formal written immunity from prosecution. [If the offence does not relate to serious or complex fraud the Director will seek the assistance of the Director of Public Prosecutions.] The number of times the Director has exercised his or her discretion since 1995 cannot be ascertained without incurring disproportionate cost.


Stakeholder Pensions

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what consultations he has had with ministerial colleagues in the Department of Social Security regarding the administrative costs of stakeholder pensions to small businesses with more than five employees. [111807]

Ms Hewitt: Officials from the DTI were involved in the consultation on stakeholder pensions and continue to be involved in the communications working group. In addition, a consultative panel which included employer representatives, was formed to discuss all issues relating to the scheme, including compliance costs. Concerns over burdens on business contributed to the decision to introduce an exemption for small businesses with less than five employees. However, we are aware that there will be administrative responsibilities for those businesses with five employees or more, and officials from the newly formed Small Business Service (SBS) are in discussion

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with their DSS counterparts to consider what can be done to minimise the requirements of the administrative process.

Ilisu Dam

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment the Government have made of Balfour Beatty's suitability as an applicant for ECGD support in relation to the Ilisu Dam Project. [112416]

Mr. Caborn: Balfour Beatty's application for support in respect of Ilisu is being considered by ECGD. ECGD is satisfied that they have the financial and technical competence to carry out their role in the Ilisu project, and have no reason to regard them as ineligible for ECGD support.

Mr. Savidge: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what account will be taken of past and present disputes between Turkey and neighbouring states over water resources in making the decision about ECGD support for the Ilisu Dam. [112787]

Mr. Caborn: As my hon. Friend will know, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has raised the issue of downstream flow as one of the four areas of concern we have about the Ilisu project. We are continuing to monitor developments on all four issues.

Lesotho Highlands Project

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of Balfour Beatty's membership of the Lesotho Highlands Project Contractors' consortium. [112415]

Mr. Caborn: Allegations of corruption have been made against the Lesotho Highlands Project Contractors' consortium, of which Balfour Beatty was a member, and are the subject of court proceedings in South Africa. Balfour Beatty have said that there is no truth in the allegations.

It will be for the Courts to decide, and their verdict is expected later this year. Meanwhile, the members of the consortium must enjoy the presumption of innocence.

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