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Mobile Phone Masts

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many responses to the consultation on mobile phone masts planning rules have been received (a) in total, (b) from members of the public, (c) from local authorities and other public bodies, (d) from mobile phone companies and associated businesses and (e) from hon. Members; of (a), how many were (i) broadly supportive of the

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Government's proposals and (ii) opposed; when he plans to announce changes to the rules; and if he will make a statement. [136942]

Ms Beverley Hughes: At the end of the day, 7 November 2000, we had received 301 responses in total. Of these, 45 were from members of the public; 230 were from local authorities and other public bodies; 18 were from mobile phone companies and associated businesses; and eight were from hon. Members. The Department is currently analysing the responses. We will announce any changes as soon as practicable.

Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions are taking place between his Department and Liverpool City Council concerning (a) the future running and ownership and (b) the lease of the Philharmonic Hall. [136946]

Ms Beverley Hughes: There are no discussions taking place between my Department and Liverpool City Council about the Philharmonic Hall.

Rents

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what average proportion of their income working tenants of (a) local authorities, (b) registered social landlords and (c) private landlords paid in rent in the last 12 months. [136813]

Mr. Mullin: Estimates from the Family Resources Survey are shown in the table.

Rent paid(1) as a percentage of disposable household income(2): renting households containing at least one person in work: England: 1998-99

Median percentage(3)
Local authority tenants12
RSL tenants15
Private landlord tenants21

(1) Rent paid by the household--does not include any amount met from Housing Benefit.

(2) Disposable household income means total income of household members less Income Tax and National Insurance contributions. It does not include any Housing Benefit received by the household.

(3) Rent paid as a percentage of disposable income is calculated for all households in the sample individually, and the median value shown here.

Source:

DETR analysis of DSS Family Resources Survey


Housing Stock Transfer (Debt Repayment)

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what rates of interest Burnley borough council and Coventry city council were paying on debts redeemed under the arrangements for stock transfer; and what interest rates are expected to be paid on the new investment being raised by the successor bodies. [136817]

Mr. Mullin: For the purpose of calculating interest on notional Housing Revenue Account (HRA) debt, an individual Consolidated Rate of Interest (CRI) is calculated

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for each authority. The CRI is a weighted average of actual interest payable on external debt during the year and notional interest on--or the opportunity cost of--internal debt. In the case of Burnley borough council and Coventry city council, the most recent CRI prior to their stock transfers were 6.85 per cent. and 8.37 per cent. respectively.

The methodology for an authority to determine the proportion of debt repaid as a consequence of its stock transfer was announced to the House by my hon. friend the Minister for Housing and Planning on 16 November 1999, Official Report, column 250W. The actual amount of debt repaid is a matter for Burnley borough council and Coventry city council.

The rates of interest payable by the successor Registered Social Landlords (RSLs)--Burnley and Padiham Community Housing, Whitefriars Homes North Ltd. and Whitefriars Homes South Ltd.--are a commercial matter for each organisation.

Flooding

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact of recent heavy rainfall and flooding on the replenishment of depleted aquifers; and if he will make a statement. [136944]

Mr. Mullin: The UK's hydrological situation is monitored jointly by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the British Geological Survey and monthly reports are published. This regular monthly monitoring shows that only a small minority of aquifers were slightly below their average capacity in early October. Recent heavy rainfall will have helped replenish those remaining depleted aquifers.

Rural Areas

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what rural statutory duties have been placed on the regional development agencies; and which of these relate explicitly to agriculture. [136680]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 6 November 2000]: The statutory purposes of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) relate to: economic development and regeneration, business efficiency, investment and competitiveness, employment, skills and training and sustainable development. They apply as much in relation to the rural parts of their areas as to the non-rural parts. In addition there is at least one member of every RDA Board with experience in rural issues. The statutory guidance on the preparation of RDAs' strategies states that RDAs should take account of the particular features of the region's rural areas including the role of land-based industries such as agriculture.

Waste Disposal Authorities

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what sanctions his Department operates in respect of waste disposal authorities which do not include incineration as an option within their waste local plans. [137247]

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Mr. Mullin [holding answer 7 November 2000]: There are no specific sanctions. However, a waste local plan is required to set out credible land use policies to deliver the waste management strategy determined by the local waste disposal authority. The Secretary of State will scrutinise waste local plans and can make objections to any of the policies of a plan, which will be considered by an Inspector at a public inquiry. He may also object to any of the policies as proposed to be modified after such an inquiry. Should the Secretary of State and the relevant authority fail to agree on the policies he may direct that changes be made. The Secretary of State would not normally issue directions about particular sites or technical options, but would address plans which did not contain satisfactory policies to manage or dispose of the waste likely to arise in the authority's area. In exceptional circumstances the Secretary of State could call in part or all of a plan for his own determination.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will publish the guidance his Department issues to waste disposal authorities on incineration. [137246]

Mr. Mullin [holding answer 7 November 2000]: The Government are currently publishing no such guidance.

MV Derbyshire

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on Mr. Justice Colman's report following the re-opened formal investigation into the loss of the MV Derbyshire. [137362]

Mr. Prescott: On 17 December 1998 I ordered that the Formal Investigation into the loss of the MV Derbyshire be re-opened in the High Court. Today the Honourable Mr. Justice Colman has published his report following a reading of his executive summary at the Royal Courts of Justice, London. The Court sat for a total of 54 days from the 5 April 2000 and concluded its oral hearings on the 26 July. I am grateful to Mr. Justice Colman for presiding over the hearings in the way he did and for producing such a comprehensive and conclusive report.

My gratitude also extends to all those who contributed to the underwater survey of the wreck, the subsequent analysis of the survey material, the related research and the Court hearings. I particularly applaud the fortitude of the relatives and friends of those who died with the vessel. The demands of the investigation will have been difficult for many.

Copies of Mr. Justice Colman's report have been placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Justice Colman finds that the ship sank through progressive collapse of the main hatch covers following significant flooding of some bow spaces through broken ventilators and air pipes located on the foredeck as a result of prolonged exposure to the sea states generated by Typhoon Orchid. He concludes that the officers and crew of the vessel were in no way to blame for the vessel's loss and specifically rejects any suggestion that the bosun's stores hatch on the foredeck was left unsecured by the crew.

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The report concludes that the exposure to risk of bulk carriers of the size of the Derbyshire whose hatch covers do no more than comply with the International Load Line Convention of 1966 poses an unacceptable risk to the safety of those vessels and their crews. Further, Mr. Justice Colman wishes to consider the results of a series of model tests relating to hatch cover strength initiated during the closing states of his investigation's oral hearings and may issue an Addendum to his report, if necessary.

While Mr. Justice Colman is critical of the construction of the vessel at frame 65 he concludes that this did not contribute to the actual loss of the vessel and presented a very low additional safety risk to those on board.

Mr. Justice Colman makes a total of 24 recommendations to enhance bulk carrier safety and safety generally. These are addressed, to the Department, Lloyds Register of Shipping, the International Association of Classification Societies and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). In consultation with the others to whom recommendations are addressed the Department will prepare a response to each of the recommendations. This response will be presented to Parliament. In this respect the Department will give urgent consideration, in particular, to the recommendations that the IMO should revise the relevant provisions of the International Load Line Convention 1966 and that any enhanced requirements concerning hatch cover strength should also apply to existing ships.

I hope that Mr. Justice Colman's report will finally provide the answers to the many questions surrounding the sinking of the MV Derbyshire in September 1980. I have every reason to believe that the work that has been done will enhance future bulk carrier safety. Though nothing can compensate them for their loss, I trust that this will provide some comfort to the relatives and friends of the 44 people who so tragically lost their lives with the ship.


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