3 May 2000 : Column: 101W

Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 3 May 2000

CHURCH COMMISSIONERS

Church Repairs (VAT)

Miss McIntosh: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what progress has been made in respect of repairs to churches under the EC Directive adopted by the Council of Ministers on 22 October 1999 authorising member states to apply a reduced rate of VAT on a temporary basis for certain labour-intensive services. [119828]

Mr. Stuart Bell: Originally there was a suggestion that the directive might be applied to allow a lower rate of VAT on repairs to all historic and listed buildings including churches. Unfortunately the list adopted did not extend to these and the Churches will continue to press for this to be reviewed at the earliest opportunity.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what plans he has to seek to ensure that VAT costs are reduced for repairs to existing church buildings and to ensure that VAT is charged exclusively on the construction of new church buildings. [119846]

Mr. Stuart Bell: The Churches continue to press the case for VAT relief on repairs to church buildings. The hon. Lady will know that I raised this at a recent meeting with my hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts in the context of the current review of policies relating to the historic environment.

ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND

THE REGIONS

Biodiversity Action Plans

Jackie Ballard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to provide a statutory framework for the UK biodiversity action plans. [120210]

Mr. Mullin: The Biodiversity Action Plan is part of the Government's response to the Convention on Biological Diversity which, as an international treaty, does not require national legislation to give effect to it. Article VI of the Convention specifically requires the preparation of a national strategy. However, the Government are reviewing the need for a statutory basis for the Plan process in the light of representations they have received.

They would in any case wish to avoid breaking down the current highly successful delivery partnerships of statutory, business and voluntary sectors.

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Fifth Freedom Carriers

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many foreign Fifth Freedom carriers operate from the UK to the US; and if he will make a statement. [120085]

Mr. Mullin: Four non-UK carriers currently operate scheduled passenger services from the UK to the US using fifth freedom rights. These are Air India, Pakistan International Airlines, Olympic and Kuwait Airways. An additional four non-UK carriers operate scheduled cargo services from the UK to the US using fifth freedom rights. These are Air France, Cargolux and Lufthansa through Prestwick and El Al through London.

National Air Traffic Services

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what payments regime applies in respect of airlines using the National Air Traffic Services; what changes to such payments are proposed in advance of the Transport Bill being enacted; and if he will make a statement. [120325]

Mr. Mullin: The Civil Aviation (Route Charges for Navigation Services) Regulations 1998 (S.I. 1998/1537 and 2999) made under section 73 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 require the operator, and on notice the owner, of any aircraft in the Flight Information Regions of Eurocontrol Member States to pay Eurocontrol a charge for air traffic services.

These are collected by Eurocontrol and a sum in respect of the services provided by the service provider in each Contracting State is paid by Eurocontrol to the Contracting State. Under article 20 of the Multilateral Agreement, National Air Traffic Services Ltd. (NATS) has been nominated by the UK as being entitled to receive the United Kingdom's share of the route charges.

By directions made by the Civil Aviation Authority under Article 79 of the Air Navigation Order (No.2) 1995 it is the responsibility of the owners or operators of specified aerodromes to procure appropriate services for the control of air traffic in their vicinity. Usually the owner or operator of the aerodrome would include the costs incurred in acquiring these services in his charges to the owners or operators of aircraft using the airport. In some cases, however, contracts have been negotiated by NATS that specify that they will charge the aircraft owners and operators direct.

The duty on the owners and operators to pay the charges is set out in the Civil Aviation (Navigation Service Charges) Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000/599).

No changes to the current charging arrangements are proposed in advance of the Transport Bill being enacted.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) how many people are employed by National Air Traffic Services; and what the basis is of the share allocation under the public private partnership; [120603]

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Mr. Mullin: NATS employs 5,372 people as at 31 March 1999. The final form of the employee share scheme, including the allocation to NATS' staff, and any restrictions on sale will be worked up in due course following consultation with NATS' employee representatives and, when selected, the Strategic Partner.

However, the Government are keen to ensure that the share scheme is designed to ensure that NATS' employees hold a long-term equity stake in their company and that all employees are entitled to participate on an equal basis.

Hazardous Waste Imports

Charlotte Atkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how much hazardous waste was imported into the United Kingdom during 1999 for use as fuel in cement kilns; and what were the countries of origin of that waste. [120341]

Mr. Mullin [holding answer 2 May 2000]: The estimated quantity of hazardous waste imported into the United Kingdom in 1999 for use as fuel in cement and lime kilns, broken down by country of origin, is as follows:

Tonnes
Guernsey13
Ireland6,720
Jersey18

Accurate information about imports solely for cement kilns, rather than for cement and lime kilns, could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Final figures for 1999 will not be available until the summer since, under European law, the kilns have 180 days following receipt of the waste to provide the UK enforcement authorities with a certificate of recovery confirming the actual quantity of waste used as a fuel.

CITES Delegation (Nairobi)

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the members of the UK CITES delegation to COP XI in Nairobi with a financial interest in the trade and supply of endangered species; and if he will make a statement. [120132]

Mr. Mullin [holding answer 2 May 2000]: No member of the UK Delegation to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species' 11th Conference of the Parties in Nairobi has a financial interest in the trade and supply of endangered species. One member of the Delegation is seconded from the Cayman Islands Government Civil Service to the Cayman Turtle Farm, a Crown Corporation wholly owned by the Cayman Islands Government, as the Farm's Research Officer.

Simian Herpes B

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to deal with the potential public health risks from the transformation of the simian herpes B virus from macaques held in zoos and safari parks; and if he will make a statement. [120133]

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Mr. Meacher [holding answer 2 May 2000]: The Government are aware of the potential health risks of simian herpes B virus. Under health and safety legislation, as well as ensuring the health and safety of employees, employers also have to ensure that others, eg members of the public, are not exposed to risks arising from the work. Local authorities are responsible for health and safety in zoos and safari parks. The Health and Safety Executive has alerted local authority enforcement officers to the potential health risks and has given guidance on action to take should any subsequent cases arise.

Cowboy Builders

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what response he has made to the recommendation of the Cowboy Builders Working Group for a mandatory requirement for builders securing a Government-backed quality mark to provide financial protection for customers. [120551]

Ms Beverley Hughes: I announced on 6 December 1999 that the Government accepted the key recommendations of the final report produced by the Cowboy Builders Working Group, including the requirement that all quality marked builders must provide an approved third-party warranty to protect the consumer in the event that he/she experiences difficulties with the completion of the job or standard of workmanship.

Pilots of the quality mark scheme are being run in Birmingham and Somerset. The Birmingham pilot was opened to applications from builders last month, and will open to the public in June or July. The Somerset pilot will be opened to builders later this month and to the public in September or October. The aim of the pilots is to test and develop the arrangements before we take a decision on a national scheme.


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