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Regional Airports

Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what powers he has to regulate the cost of air travel from regional airports. [136280]

Mr. Mullin: On routes within the European Economic Area (EEA), air fares are governed by EC Regulation 2409/92, under which there is a presumption that airlines are free to charge the fares they wish. However, the Secretary of State may require the lowest fully flexible fare to be withdrawn if it is excessively high to the disadvantage of users, taking into account airline costs, the whole fare structure for the route, and the competitive market situation.

In addition, EC Regulation 2408/92 allows a member state to impose a public service obligation (PSO) to protect services, which would otherwise not be provided on a purely commercial basis, on routes serving airports in peripheral regions and thin routes to any regional airport which is vital to the economic development of the region. The Regulation allows for PSO routes to be restricted to a single carrier, subject to an open competitive tender, and for the remuneration of operating losses incurred by carriers selected to operate these routes. PSOs may include a tariff obligation limiting fare levels or requiring concessionary fares for certain categories of passenger.

On routes outside the EEA, it is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which has the power to regulate air fares. The CAA's intervention is limited primarily to circumstances where passengers are being substantially overcharged as a result of an airline abusing a position of market power, normally because bilateral government imposed restrictions are preventing free market entry. The CAA's aim is to ensure that flexible on-demand travel is available at a price reasonably related to the cost of its provision, including a return on capital.

Planning Applications

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the guidance given to planning inquiry inspectors on the degree of attention which should be given to local community opinion on planning applications. [136292]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Under the provisions of the relevant inquiries procedure rules (the Town and Country Planning (Inquiries Procedure) (England) Rules 2000 (S.I.2000 No. 1624) and the Town and Country Planning (Determination by Inspectors)(Inquiries Procedure) (England) Rules 2000 (S.I.2000 No. 1625)) local views

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and any other written or oral representations received on a proposed development must always be taken into account by Planning Inspectors in handling a planning appeal or case called-in by the Secretary of State. Like any other material consideration, the precise weight an Inspector gives to such views is a matter for his or her judgment. An Inspector will make a decision (or recommendation in those cases called-in or appeals recovered by the Secretary of State for his determination) on the basis of all the facts presented to him or her, taking into account all the relevant policy guidance.

Quarry Excavations

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what environmental protection measures are in place to mitigate the effects on groundwater of water run-off from quarry excavations. [136291]

Mr. Mullin: The Environment Agency has powers under the Water Resources Act 1991, the Groundwater Regulations 1998 and the Anti-Pollution Works Regulations 1999 to take action where pollution is threatened or occurring. Under the Groundwater Regulations, for instance, it can prohibit, or place conditions upon, an activity such as quarrying where groundwater could be threatened. The exact measures which it might take would depend upon the circumstances of the individual case. Local authorities have a statutory duty to consult the Environment Agency when considering planning consents for quarries and are able to impose conditions to protect groundwater. Minerals Planning Guidance 2 "Applications, permissions and conditions" (1998) contains advice on this.

Advertising Controls

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to amend the regulations relating to areas of special control of advertisements; and if he will make a statement. [135333]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 6 November 2000]: At the end of June, following consultation on a range of measures to improve the control of outdoor advertisements, I published a proposal to limit the geographical scope of Areas of Special Control of Advertisements (ASCAs) to land within National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and conservation areas. We are carefully considering the representations received about ASCAs since the June announcement before coming to a final decision.

Operation Stack

Mr. Howard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to be able to announce alternative arrangements to Operation Stack. [136439]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 6 November 2000]: A feasibility study was commissioned by the Channel Road Transport Group in August 1999 to consider the economic and operational requirements for alternatives to Operation Stack. The Group is chaired by Kent County Council and includes, among others, the Highways Agency and

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Government Office for the South East. The Group is currently considering its report and will make recommendations to Ministers for consideration in due course.

Waste Incinerator, Shrewsbury

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the proposed waste incinerator in North Shrewsbury. [136833]

Ms Beverley Hughes: This is a matter for Shropshire County Council as the waste planning authority. I understand that the County Council is currently investigating a number of sites for possible waste transfer stations and civic amenity (recycling) facilities, none of which are in Shrewsbury and Atcham district. Land at Battlefield in North Shrewsbury was provisionally earmarked by the County Council earlier this year for a range of waste facilities, but this location is no longer considered viable. I understand that the County Council has no plans at present for a waste incinerator.

Playing Fields

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the Sports Council is a statutory consultee on planning proposals affecting playing fields. [136754]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 6 November 2000]: The English Sports Council, now Sport England, was made a statutory consultee on 5 August 1996 for planning applications involving the development of playing fields. Details of the consultation requirements, including the definition of "playing field", are set out in The Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure)(Amendment) Order 1996 (Statutory Instrument No. 1817).

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many planning applications have been referred to his Department by Sport England since the Town and Country Planning and Playing Fields England Directive 1998. [136756]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 6 November 2000]: Since The Town and Country Planning (Playing Fields)(England) Direction 1998 came into effect on 23 December 1998, 37 planning applications have been referred to the Secretary of State.

Earnings

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 31 October 2000, Official Report, columns 405-06W, on New Earnings Survey data, if he will publish data for hourly wages for the smallest area covering South Gloucestershire Local Authority which does not breach his confidentiality agreement. [136305]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 6 November 2000]: Part A of the ONS publication 'New Earnings Survey 1999' lists the average hourly wage (excluding overtime) in South Gloucestershire Unitary Authority as £9.95. This incorporates employees in all occupation groups.

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The Area Cost Adjustment (ACA) methodology only uses occupation groups that are considered relevant to local authority employment. Applying the ACA methodology to the 1999 New Earnings Survey data produces an average hourly wage (excluding overtime) in South Gloucestershire Unitary Authority of £9.72. As indicated in my reply of 31 October, this value for South Gloucestershire contributes to the 'Rest of England' average hourly wage (excluding overtime) figure of £9.91.

Local Authority Wage Information

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 31 October 2000, Official Report, columns 405-06W, on local authority level wage information, for what reason the provision of data for the City of London Authority does not breach confidentiality rules. [136501]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 6 November 2000]: The figure provided for the City of London in my answer of 31 October does not breach the ONS confidentiality agreement, as it is the average figure for the City of London. It therefore does not reveal the disaggregate data which is covered by the confidentiality agreement.


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