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Urban Design

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the outcome of the skills seminar on urban design held on 13 July; and if he will place in the Library copies of the papers arising. [131992]

Mr. Raynsford: The seminar which I chaired considered how to raise the level of urban design skills in the light of the recommendations of the Urban Taskforce. It drew on findings from two research projects commissioned earlier this year. These reviewed provision of training for urban design and the availability of design

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skills in local planning authorities in England. Copies of the reports, delegate pack and DETR news release have been placed in the Library of the House.

Participants at the seminar agreed to set up a working party, to be chaired by Sir Stuart Lipton, chair of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, to consider how to train a new generation of urban designers. Its members will be drawn from the key professional institutions and it will promote a new multi-disciplinary approach to training in design.

Ocean Habitats

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the measures needed to protect ocean habitats. [131997]

Mr. Mullin: At its annual meeting in Copenhagen on 26 to 30 June, the OSPAR Commission adopted and launched the Quality Status Report on the whole of the North-East Atlantic, the "QSR 2000", along with reports covering the five regions of the OSPAR maritime area. The UK participated, in particular, in the preparation of the reports on the Greater North Sea (Region II) and the Celtic Seas (Region III). Together, these reports comprise the first detailed assessment of the health of the North-East Atlantic.

The assessment concludes that worsening trends in the pollution of the North-East Atlantic have been reversed, and that many significant sources of pollution have been stopped. Nevertheless, the North-East Atlantic is still under threat. The main fields where action is needed are the sustainable management of fish stocks, the continuing impact of some fisheries on fragile ecosystems, and the elimination of inputs of hazardous substances. Organotin compounds from antifouling treatments of ships and concerns about endocrine disrupters are particularly highlighted as problems.

Other important issues identified by the OSPAR Commission are climate changes resulting from human activities and the consequent effects on the marine environment, the need to protect marine biodiversity and ecosystems from human activities, and the impacts of oil spills and discharges of ballast water from shipping.

The Government consider, in line with the conclusions of the Quality Status Report, that the long-term OSPAR strategies, adopted by the Ministerial Meeting in 1998 at Sintra (in which my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister played a leading role) and subsequently, provide a sound framework for future action on hazardous substances, radioactive substances, eutrophication, the protection of marine biodiversity and habitats and the offshore oil and gas industry. The Government will also pursue action in other relevant international forums, including the Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, the International Maritime Organisation (particularly on tributyl tin) and the European Community (particularly on the further development of the Common Fisheries Policy).

The assessment also shows that, in spite of major scientific efforts of OSPAR Commission parties over the last 25 years, there are still major gaps in our understanding of the marine environment, and that improvement of our knowledge base remains a priority.

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The Government will be working, with our OSPAR partners, to develop effective programmes to remedy such gaps.

The Government are also considering the implications of last autumn's judgment by the High Court that the EU Habitats Directive extends beyond the limits of the territorial seas. They expect to consult before the end of this year on regulations to transpose the Directive to cover the marine environment within UK jurisdiction outside the territorial seas and have begun the process of identifying possible candidate Special Areas of Conservation in that area.

Luton Airport Parkway

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what estimate he has made of the net present cost of the Luton Airport Parkway project under the private finance initiative; what the value is of the public sector comparators in (a) pre-risk and (b) risk-adjusted terms; what risks are identified as having been transferred; and if he will make a statement. [131937]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The Luton Airport Parkway Station project was carried out by Railtrack, who took all the design, construction and operational risks. The final cost of the scheme was £23 million and a fixed £2.8 million contribution to the scheme was made through our local transport allocations for the Luton/Dunstable area.

The Station was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in November last year and has been very successful. 23 per cent. of passengers at the rapidly expanding airport are now using public transport, with 16 per cent. using the new station. Railtrack worked very hard to complete the complicated scheme which they took over from the previous promoters. In addition to an intensive service operated by Thameslink, Midland Mainline services started calling at the station in May.

Combined Heat and Power

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the Government intend to publish their strategy for delivering their target for combined heat and power of at least 10 GWe of CHP by 2010; and if he will make a statement. [131673]

Mr. Meacher: We are currently formulating a strategy to achieve our target. It will include a range of policy, regulatory and fiscal measures, a number of which have already been announced.

A cornerstone of the strategy is the encouragement of Good Quality CHP, which is key to maximising environmental and economic benefits. We are implementing a CHP Quality Assurance programme (CHPQA) to enhance the quality of CHP and determine eligibility to a range of benefits, including exemption from the climate change levy.

We plan to issue a draft CHP strategy for consultation in the autumn when CHPQA is in place.

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Fuel Poverty

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the component parts will be of the Government's new definition of fuel poverty, including specific exclusions; and if he will make a statement. [130935]

Mr. Meacher: The information is as follows.

1. The Inter-Ministerial Group on Fuel Poverty, chaired jointly by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe and my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, has reviewed the commonly applied definition of fuel poverty, namely a household that needs to spend more than 10 per cent. of income to achieve a satisfactory heating regime. The Group has taken account of responses to last year's consultation on the new Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES), which sought comments on the definition, and in particular:

Some 60 per cent. of the 252 respondents commented on one or both of the questions.

2. The Group has concluded as a consequence that the 10 per cent. threshold is appropriate for defining fuel poverty. On non-heating fuel, the Group noted that 54 per cent. of respondents to the new HEES consultation had commented that all fuel costs should be taken into account; 6 per cent. had other suggestions; and the other 40 per cent. did not comment. The Group believes that the definition should be based on all fuel use.

3. As regards the treatment of housing costs, the Group noted that 34 per cent. of respondents suggested that they should not be excluded from the calculation of household income; 20 per cent. that some allowance should be made; 6 per cent. offered other suggestions; and 40 per cent. did not comment. The Government's Poverty Strategy has shown income data both with no allowance for housing costs, and excluding costs met by Housing Benefit or Income Support for Mortgage Interest (ISMI). The Group has taken account of responses to the consultation exercise and the difficulty of producing definitive figures, and has concluded that the draft Fuel Poverty Strategy which will be issued in the autumn will focus mainly on the first basis, but will identify the number of fuel poor on both bases. But the Government will consult further and will invite comments on this, when they publish their draft Strategy.

4. Some commentators have argued that all mortgage, rent and other housing costs should be excluded in calculating household income. On this basis, however, more than one in three households in England would have been classed as fuel poor in 1996, based on the English House Condition Survey. Although fuel poverty is unacceptably widespread, this definition would include many households who would not be regarded--or regard themselves--as being in material fuel poverty.

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