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Environment Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what was the outcome of the Environment Council held in Luxembourg on 22 and 23 June; and if he will make a statement. [128030]

Mr. Meacher: I represented the UK at the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 22 June 2000, accompanied by Sarah Boyack, Scottish Executive Minister for Environment and Transport. Political agreement was reached on two proposals, along with one set of Council Conclusions.

Agreement was reached on two important air quality measures which will deliver significant reductions in transboundary pollutants contributing to problems of acidification and ground level ozone (summer-time smog) throughout the European Union. The first, the National Emissions Ceilings Directive, sets national emission ceilings for 2010 on four air pollutants (sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, volatile organic compounds and ammonia). I agreed to ceilings of 585, 1,167, 1,200 and 297 thousand tonnes respectively for each of the pollutants. A second common position, on an amendment of the 1988 Large Combustion Plants Directive, sets stricter limit values for emissions of oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and dust from new plant. For existing (pre-1988) plant, limit values will need to be applied from 2008, or equivalent overall reductions achieved through a National Emissions Plan. However, plant with less than 20,000 hours operating life remaining on 1 January 2008 may be exempted. This agreement will see a reduction in acidifying emissions, while flexibility for industry, particularly the power sector, is safeguarded.

In advance of the Sixth Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, due to take place at The Hague in November, Council Conclusions were agreed setting out the EU position on some of the key issues. Ministers agreed that eligibility for the Clean Development Mechanism should be on the basis of a positive list of safe environmentally sound projects, which excluded nuclear, and that the use of carbon sinks such as forests should not be extended, unless concerns about their scale, scientific and other uncertainties were addressed. The Conclusions also welcomed a Commission communication on a proposed European Climate Change Programme, and its Green Paper on Emissions Trading.

The Presidency gave brief progress reports on proposals to promote sustainable urban development and to establish a priority list of dangerous substances of European significance whose release to the aquatic environment should be controlled. The Presidency also summarised the environmental legislation adopted under the co-decision procedure during the last six months, and highlighted the

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increasing importance of this procedure in the Presidency' work. Final outcomes were agreed on six dossiers: a Decision to monitor the CO 2 emissions from new passenger cars; a Regulation controlling substances that deplete the ozone layer; a Directive amending Directive 74/150/EEC limiting gaseous and particulate pollutants by agricultural tractors; a Directive limiting noise emission by equipment used outdoors; a Directive on end of life vehicles; and the third EU LIFE Regulation.

The Commission reported on the progress of a new Community strategy for chemicals, expected by the end of 2000 and a draft new framework for environmental state aids, on which there was a brief exchange of views between Member States. The Commission also gave a report on the progress towards completing risk assessments for brominated flame retardants, based on work carried out by the UK.

The Commission presented two recently published proposals; one for a Directive on renewable energy, the other for a Directive ensuring proper treatment and disposal of waste from electrical and electronic equipment. Presentations were also given to Council on forthcoming proposals to integrate environmental consideration into public procurement rules and to update the 1991 Directive on batteries and accumulators containing dangerous substances.

On a Danish point under Any Other Business, the Commission noted that it would be meeting an umbrella grouping of NGOs on 12 July to discuss their participation in the EU standardisation process. The Council also noted an Austrian intervention calling for a ban of tributyltin (TBT) in products with which human beings come into contact, following traces of TBT and other organotin compounds being found in nappies in Germany.


Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions took place between his Department's (a) Ministers and (b) officials and members of SERPLAN prior to the vote by SERPLAN on house-building in the South-East on 12 June; and if he will list the members of SERPLAN involved in each case. [128163]

Mr. Raynsford: My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and I held a meeting with members of SERPLAN on 24 May 2000. 22 planning authorities from across the region attended. Throughout the consultation there have been a number of meetings with a wide range of interest groups including economic partnerships and environmental groups, some of which would have included members of SERPLAN.

Abandoned Vehicles

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he will be taking to monitor the (a) number of abandoned vehicles on public highways and private property and (b) cost to individual local authorities of removing abandoned vehicles; and if he will make a statement. [128465]

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Mr. Hill: There are no plans at present to maintain official records of such cases. The existing arrangements with local authorities will be reviewed as we develop proposals for implementing the proposed European End-of-Life Vehicles Directive in the UK.

Tenant Compacts

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress has been made on the establishment of tenant compacts; and if he will make a statement. [128340]

Mr. Raynsford: Local housing authorities are expected to introduce tenant participation compacts from 1 April 2000. I have myself witnessed the signing of these compacts in recent months. We have recently commissioned a major policy evaluation programme of research to look at how best value in housing and compacts are being introduced and developed across the country. The project is expected to run for three to five years; the initial findings will feed into policy development on these issues and will be available next year.

SSA (Lincoln)

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) by what date he requires the population data for Lincoln, in order to calculate the standard spending assessment for the coming three financial years; and if he will make a statement; [128366]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The method of revenue grant distribution in future years depends on the outcome of the review of revenue grant distribution now taking place. A Green Paper will be published later this summer setting out options for revenue grant distribution. This follows open and lengthy discussions between representatives of local and central government.

Grants for 2001-02 will be based on the existing standard spending assessment (SSA) system. We announced in the White Paper "Modern Local Government--In Touch With The People", that during the review we intended to keep up to date the data on which grants are based. This would mean that grants for 2001-02 would use the Registrar General's estimates of population at 30 June 1999. These data should be available by 3 October 2000, the deadline for most data for use in the 2000-01 SSA calculations.

The Registrar General continually looks for ways of improving his population estimates. I understand that his estimates for 30 June 1999, due to be published in August, will incorporate improvements to the internal migration component of the estimates that have been discussed with local government and other experts. The estimates will include new migration estimates for the previous year based on the new data source. This increases the population estimate for Lincoln for mid-1998 by over 200. I am aware that this matter and others have been the subject of recent correspondence between the council and the Office for National Statistics. The council had been

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concerned that the improvements would not be made until information from the 2001 census was available. The Registrar General does not intend to wait until then.

Houses in Multiple Occupation

Miss Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what recent representations he has received from Lancaster City Council about amending the compulsory licensing scheme for houses in multiple occupation operating in Morecambe. [128355]

Mr. Raynsford: None, though we are aware that the City Council have been considering various aspects of their current registration scheme.

Miss Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many houses in multiple occupation there are in Morecambe and Lunesdale. [128356]

Mr. Raynsford: Based on the information given to my Department by Lancaster City Council in July 1999, there are 1,800 houses in multiple occupation in the local authority area.

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