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Post Offices

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to require councils to allow people to pay (a) rents and (b) council tax at post offices. [115485]

Ms Beverley Hughes: There is a range of payment facilities which local authorities offer to local tax and rent payers, including payment at Post Offices.

Since the costs of payment facilities vary, we believe it is right that individual local authorities should be able to decide which facilities to offer in the light of local circumstances.

Zoos and Safari Parks

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what controls exist in respect of the methods used to cull diseased stock at (a) zoos and (b) safari parks; and if he will make a statement. [115276]

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Mr. Mullin [holding answer 21 March 2000]: In accordance with the Zoo Licensing Act 1981, all zoos and safari parks in the UK must be licensed by the appropriate local authority.

Inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State make recommendations to local authorities whether to grant a licence. In doing so, they are required to take account of the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice.

There is no guidance on culling in the existing Standards issued in 1988. Earlier this month, I published new Standards which include a requirement that zoos and safari parks must have a policy that ensures humane and timely euthanasia to minimise suffering. Such a course of action may be justifiable under certain conditions, particularly if an animal poses a serious and unavoidable threat to human safety. However, it should not take place without guidance from a veterinary surgeon. The actual method involved will vary depending on the species of animal in question. The new Standards come into force on 3 April.

Aviation Expenditure

Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will publish an itemised breakdown of the £27 million additional expenditure for aviation on Page 55 of the supply estimates 1999-2000. [115634]

Mr. Mullin [holding answer 21 March 2000]: A breakdown of the application of the £27 million additional funding provided to the Civil Aviation Services section of the Transport Industries Vote during the Spring Supplementary Estimates is given in the table.

Description £ million
Shortfall in Eurocontrol Receipts(1) 8.0
Costs of Bechtel(2) 2.0
National Air Traffic Services (NATS) Public Private Partnership (PPP) Consultants(3) 6.0
Other Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)/NATS Costs(4) 11.0
Total 27.0

(1) Eurocontrol--This is mainly due to a shortfall in Eurocontrol receipts, which results from a reduction in the UK Government's entitlement, to adjust for an over-recovery two years previously.

(2) Costs of Bechtel--This is the Government's share in the cost of employing Bechtel, who were jointly hired by NATS and DETR to manage the New Scottish Centre air traffic control project. Bechtel expect to make savings of £80-£100 million on the cost of the project.

(3) NATS PPP Consultants--Cost of employing professional advisers to assist the Government in preparing for NATS PPP.

(4) Other CAA/NATS Costs--Government reimbursement to CAA and NATS of separation of the two, eg physical separation of CAA and NATS within CAA House in London, and separation of previously common functions. Under the terms of the Civil Aviation Act 1982, NATS and the CAA are entitled to reimbursement from the Government for the costs of advisers to help them to prepare for the NATS PPP.

Interactive Website

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans his Department has to set up an interactive website. [114822]

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Ms Beverley Hughes: The central DETR has had an interactive website (at since November 1997. The site provides access to a wide range of information about the Department and its policies and, in addition to the normal interactivity of any website, includes more than 300 inquiry e-mail addresses, which can be used to contact any area of the Department, four searchable databases, streamed video and audio and now a sub-domain for schools. There are plans for further developments in interactivity this year.

Draft Structure Plan (Avon)

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to reach a final decision in response to the draft structure plan for the former Avon area. [115853]

Ms Beverley Hughes: On 17 March the Secretary of State directed the four unitary authorities in the former Avon area not to adopt the structure plan before he has decided whether or not he should intervene. Every effort will be made to reach a final decision as quickly as possible.

Flooding (Copeland)

Dr. Jack Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will provide financial assistance to Copeland Borough Council under the Bellwin Scheme in respect of costs incurred following flooding in the area on 5 November 1999. [116066]

Ms Beverley Hughes: I am satisfied that financial assistance under the Bellwin scheme is justified in the case of Copeland Borough Council given the exceptional nature of the flooding and the damage caused. A scheme will, therefore, be established under section 155 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. Grant will be paid to the authority to cover 85 per cent. of its eligible costs above a threshold, which have been incurred by the authority in dealing with the flooding.

Property Advisory Group

Mr. Watts: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what are the findings of the Financial Management and Policy Review on the Property Advisory Group; and what is the Government's response. [116104]

Mr. Raynsford: The Property Advisory Group (PAG) advises DETR Ministers and officials on commercial property issues. Established in 1978, the PAG is a link with the property world, providing access to sources of expertise on property, financial and legal matters. The Group's current terms of reference are:

As a non-Departmental public body, the PAG is subject to a financial management and policy review every five years, carried out internally. The review takes account of consultations both with the Group and relevant external bodies. This review has now been completed, and found in the first stage of its work that the Department had a

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continuing need for regular impartial advice from external sources on property matters, and that the Group was the most cost-effective means of providing this.

The second stage of the review considered the operation of the Group, with a full review of its term of reference and the scope of its work as well as its composition, working methods, and public profile. The overall impression was favourable, but the review made a number of detailed recommendations in these areas. We accept these recommendations, and will be taking them forward in co-operation with the Chairman, Robin Broadhurst, and members of the Group.

Green Ministers

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when was the last meeting of Green Ministers; what was discussed; and which Departments were represented by (a) Ministers and (b) officials. [116205]

Mr. Meacher: Green Ministers held their first meeting of this year on 16 March. The Committee agreed the publication of a series of guides to help promote sustainable development and the greening of Government across Whitehall and beyond. "Work of Green Ministers" lists all of the Government's targets and commitments in this area. It is also a good summary for those who would like to understand more about the role of Green Ministers and their work. "Sustainable development--what it is and what you can do" helps to explain sustainable development for the ordinary civil servant. The other leaflets will help public sector bodies prepare sustainable development awareness raising strategies and address biodiversity issues.

At the meeting, Green Ministers discussed progress on environmental management systems, travel plans and integrating the environment into policy. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, their Green Minister, outlined progress on greening the police and prison service as well as the main department.

Green Ministers agreed:

    to continue their work to make the Government's funding regimes, such as the Spending Review and the Private Finance Initiative, as sustainable as possible, including taking account of the environment.

    target a number of associate bodies (including non-departmental public bodies and executive agencies) and help them become models for best practice on sustainable development, encouraging others to follow suit.

Since Green Ministers' last meeting in November, the Government have agreed proposals for new energy targets. From 1 April, Government will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1 per cent. a year. In addition, Green Ministers will continue to make the benchmarking of Government buildings a priority and will investigate the feasibility of reporting on emissions from transport as well as buildings.

The Departments represented by Ministers were: Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions; Cabinet Office; Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Department for Health; Department of Social Security; the Chancellor's Departments; Law Officers

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Departments; Home Office; the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and the Welsh Office. Those represented by officials were: Department for International Development and Department of Trade and Industry.

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