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Private Finance Initiative

Mr. Alan Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions in how many of his Department's PFI contracts KPMG has been an adviser. [132868]

Ms Beverley Hughes: KPMG has acted as financial adviser only to the Highways Agency's A13 Thames Gateway Design Build Finance Operate project, signed in April this year.

Farm Woodland Management

Mr. Alan W. Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will assess the possibility of establishing an intermediary organisation to administer and encourage farm woodland management as a carbon sink to offset the climate change levy for energy-intensive manufacturing companies. [131272]

Mr. Meacher: The Government are already committed to the establishment and sustainable management of woodland for a wide range of public benefits. Advice and grant aid is provided through the Forestry Commission's Woodland Grant Scheme and the Agriculture Department's Farm Woodland Premium Scheme.

Government have already stated that--subject to certain restrictions--companies with emission targets under the climate change levy agreements will be able to use traded emission credits to meet their obligations. This is likely to work through the wider UK Emissions Trading Scheme, under which trades are expected to take place from April next year, alongside the launch of the levy. Under the trading scheme there will be scope for creation of emission credits by projects which reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the Government are taking a cautious view on the inclusion of forestry projects in the scheme. There are concerns about the security and permanence of carbon fixed in this way, as well as monitoring and verification issues, that will need to be addressed before such projects can be permitted.

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The climate change levy is designed to be revenue neutral for the private sector and, moreover, expected to be broadly neutral between manufacturing and services.

Regional Development Agencies

Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the Regional Development Agencies have prepared annual accounts and reports for 1999-2000; and if he will make a statement. [133601]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The Regional Development Agencies' annual reports and accounts for 1999-2000 have been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library. These cover the period from 1 April 1999 through to 31 March 2000. The Government welcome the continued progress made by Agencies and their commitment to improving the economic regeneration, skills and competitiveness of the regions. The Agencies are producing real benefits for their regions.


Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will report on the responses to the consultation paper on high hedges. [133610]

Mr. Mullin: We intend to publish the results from my Department's consultation on possible solutions to the problems caused by high garden hedges, and our decision on the way forward on this issue, during August. I will write to hon. Members with further information when the announcement is made.

Aerodromes and Navigation Facilities

Mr. Paul Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals he has for changes in the arrangements for safeguarding aerodromes and navigation facilities. [133613]

Mr. Mullin: The safeguarding of certain aerodromes and navigation facilities is a process under which local planning authorities are directed to consult the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on development proposals which may have consequences for the safe operation of those aerodromes or navigation facilities. The CAA has no powers to prevent development, but where it considers that a proposed development would affect protected airspace it can advise against it. Planning authorities are obliged to take such advice into account in making their decisions.

We consider that it would be more appropriate that those aerodromes which are currently safeguarded by the CAA should be safeguarded by the aerodrome operators themselves. Navigation aids which are provided for aerodrome navigation purposes should also be safeguarded by the aerodrome operator. The CAA will provide full training in this task and, as part of its responsibility for aerodrome licensing, will audit and oversee aerodrome operators' performance of the task.

Where a technical site is owned and operated by NATS, NATS should safeguard the facilities, subject to monitoring by the Authority as part of its regulatory assessment process.

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We shall be consulting local government and others concerned about the revision of the departmental circular and the statutory direction. Meanwhile, when a local planning authority consults the CAA about a planning application arising within a safeguarded area, the CAA will obtain the views of the relevant aerodrome on that application and, if it agrees with their views, forward them to the relevant planning authority with an indication of its support for them.

Compulsory Purchase

Mrs. Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he intends to publish the recommendations of the advisory group set up to undertake a Fundamental Review of Compulsory Purchase Laws, Procedures and Compensation and the results of the associated research into the operation of the Crichel Down rules. [133614]

Mr. Raynsford: I am pleased to be able to announce that my Department has today published two reports. The first sets out the final recommendations of the advisory group set up in June 1998 to undertake a Fundamental Review of Compulsory Purchase Laws, Procedures and Compensation. The second sets out the findings of Gerald Eve and the University of Reading on the operation of the Crichel Down rules. Copies of both documents have been placed in the Library of the House.

We are publishing the findings of the advisory group in order to give interested parties an opportunity to comment before we in Government prepare our own response. The response will also take into account the many views which we have already received, including those from the Urban Task Force, on ways in which the compulsory purchase system might be improved. It is unlikely that any compulsory purchase arrangements could please everyone, but I welcome this opportunity for debate both to help clarify key concerns and to indicate the level of consensus likely to be achievable.

The advisory group have said that they consider that the current compulsory purchase arrangements are basically sound. However, they have identified a number of ways in which the existing procedures could be speeded up and the compensation provisions made simpler, more equitable and quicker to apply.

They also explored the scope for using existing compulsory purchase powers for regeneration purposes. The group concluded that, although local authorities could make greater use of their existing powers than most of them currently seem prepared to do, there would be advantage in clarifying the position by making an appropriate specific statutory provision.

The group found no justification for making any additional blanket payments over and above market value to compensate for the compulsory purchase of all properties, but they do suggest a proposal for "business-loss" payments aimed at small businesses and payable on a similar basis to the current "home-loss" payments. They also propose a power for those whose property is being compulsorily acquired which would enable them to serve the equivalent of a "notice to treat" on the acquiring authority; and one of their suggestions is that acquiring authorities should have explicit powers to ensure that, in tightly defined circumstances in areas

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where local collapses in the property market have resulted in very low open market values, owner-occupiers can be provided with adequate replacement housing.

Turning to the operation of the Crichel Down rules, the Government acknowledge the shortcomings which the researchers have identified. They have confirmed the suspicions, which led to the commissioning of the research, that the current arrangements are not working well and, again, we need to establish a dialogue. We therefore invite views not only on the detailed operation of the rules but also on such fundamental concepts as the purpose of the rules, whether they are needed at all and, if so, whether they should be statutory and to which bodies they should apply.

We look forward to receiving views on the two reports. All comments received by my Department by Friday 13 October 2000 will be taken into account in preparing the Government's response. That will represent the second stage of the Fundamental Review and, as a third stage, we will then consult formally on those proposals.

Thames Ditton Lawn Tennis Club

Mr. Casale: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he proposes to take following the court's decision in the Thames Ditton Lawn Tennis Club case. [133615]

Mr. Raynsford: My Department has today issued a consultation paper inviting views on whether to introduce controls over the demolition of sports buildings. The paper proposes that a planning application should in future be required for the demolition of buildings used for sporting purposes and for essential ancillary purposes, where no planning permission exists for the redevelopment of the site.

The proposals issued today are designed to safeguard local sports facilities. This small but important measure further underlines the Government's commitment to creating sporting opportunities for everyone, as set out in our sports strategy "A Sporting Future for All", which was issued jointly by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education and Employment in April 2000.

The consultation paper is being sent to a wide range of planning and sports bodies. Comments are requested by 27 October 2000. Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Library.

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