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London Underground

Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when contracts for the Public-Private Partnership for London Underground will be signed; and if he will make a statement. [137038]

Mr. Hill: As we have made clear in the past, we have not given specific deadlines. We have learned the lessons of the rail privatisation debacle when best value was compromised by working to a politically driven timetable. The position on the PPP is that bids have been received for the sub-surface lines contract, and best and final offers have been invited for the two deep tube contracts. Contracts will be signed when the bids have been evaluated and negotiations are complete, subject to the bids representing best value.

Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what has been the cost to date of (a) legal and (b) financial consultancy fees incurred in relation to the Public-Private Partnership for London Underground. [137037]

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Mr. Hill: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 18 May 2000, Official Report, column 252W. I shall shortly be reporting London Transport's expenditure on external consultants for work on the PPP and restructuring London Underground up to the end of the first half of the current financial year, and a forecast of the expected final outturn.

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the findings of the Independent Review of the Public-Private Partnership carried out on behalf of the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority by Mr. Will Hutton; and if he will make a statement. [137009]

Mr. Hill: The review contains a wide-ranging discussion of issues relating to London Underground funding, and has a great deal that is positive to say about the PPP. It says,
"The PPP will provide a framework in which higher investment can be insulated from Treasury cuts and planned over a 30-year period." It goes on to say that,
"The contract outlines we have inspected offer a workable framework for improved performance for most aspects of the Underground," and that the
"rewards and penalties together should incentivise investment, cost control and good management." I particularly noted its statement that
"The Review does not subscribe to the argument that the PPP structure is inherently unsafe and it recognises the special effort made by Government in ensuring that safety is managed centrally and rests ultimately in public sector hands."

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what reports he has received on the quality of service on the Circle Line in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [137046]

Mr. Hill: The Secretary of State has received no specific reports in the past 12 months on the quality of service of the Circle Line. However we do monitor the service across the whole network and I meet regularly with London Underground senior management.

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Crematoriums (Emissions)

Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what research he has (a) undertaken and (b) commissioned into emissions from crematoriums; and what plans he has to conduct further research. [137039]

Mr. Meacher: Emissions from crematoriums are regulated under the air pollution control system established by Part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. As such, emissions must be controlled in accordance with the Best Available Techniques Not Entailing Excessive Cost. Guidance on BATNEEC for crematoriums was published in 1991 and revised in 1995. A second review of the guidance by the Environment Agency's Local Authority Unit is currently in progress and the revised guidance will also be applicable when crematoriums become regulated under the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999.

My Department, on behalf of Government and the devolved Administrations, has established a programme of monitoring levels of airborne lead and heavy metals (cadmium, arsenic, nickel and mercury) in the UK. This includes measurement in the vicinity of the Sutton Coldfield crematorium. Weekly measurements started in October 1999, and interim results will be posted on the internet shortly ( A fuller report of the work will be published on the internet, at the same internet address, early next year.

In 1997 my Department commissioned Entec UK Ltd. to carry out tests to investigate the effectiveness of selenium ampoules as a means of abating mercury emissions from crematoria.

My Department has commissioned a report on sources, sinks and levels of atmospheric mercury from DERA. The report will include a review of knowledge of UK emissions of mercury into the atmosphere, details of all the available sources of data on concentrations of mercury in the atmosphere, and a review of the current state of knowledge on the behaviour of mercury in the environment.

The DERA report is expected shortly from the research report pages of the National Air Quality Information Archive on In the light of that and the advice of the Environment Agency's Local Authority Unit, we will consider commissioning further work on whether any action needs to be taken to reduce mercury emissions from crematoriums and what options are available and in line with BATNEEC.

The most recent air emissions inventory for mercury can be found in the National Air Quality Information Archive at the web address given above.

You may also like to be aware that the Health and Safety Laboratory has carried out mercury analysis on a small number of urine and dust samples collected in crematoriums, and levels have been found to be low.

Climate Change

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what strategic measures he is taking to allow for environmental changes induced by climate change. [137180]

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Mr. Meacher: We published our first assessment of the impacts of climate change in 1990, and our second in 1995. In 1997, my Department established the UK Climate Impacts Programme to help organisations assess their vulnerability to climate change and assist them in planning responses to adapt to it. In addition actions have already been taken by Government to build adaptation into its own policies, in sectors such as flood defence, land use planning and water resources.

The Government's forthcoming Climate Change Programme, which presents a strategy for delivering our commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, also considers how the UK might adapt to what is now unavoidable and continues the debate on priorities for adaptation.

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with other Governments concerning action to reduce the harmful effects of climatic change and global warming, in advance of the Hague summit in November; and if he will make a statement. [138069]

Mr. Meacher: The Government have continued to play a leading role in the international response to climate change. The Conference of the Parties in The Hague later this month will be a crucial step towards our goal of effective international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In recent months, the Deputy Prime Minister has discussed climate change with Governments from 14 countries, including China, India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Algeria, Malaysia and Jamaica, as well as with the Prime Minister of Japan and Vice-President Al Gore. On 7 November, the Deputy Prime Minister and I attended the Special EU Environment Council on climate change. I discuss climate change regularly with my EU colleagues, and take the opportunity of raising it whenever I meet Environment Ministers from around the world. In June and October I also attended preparatory meetings organised by the President of the forthcoming negotiations, Minister Jan Pronk of the Netherlands, in Warsaw and Muiden. These informal consultations were attended by around 30-40 Ministers from key countries in the climate negotiations. Discussions focused on the central issues in the negotiations and a range of possible options for resolving them, in advance of the key political choices which will have to be taken at The Hague summit.

GM Crops

Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received from Leicestershire local authorities about farm scale evaluations of GM crops; and if he will make a statement. [137070]

Mr. Meacher: Officials from my Department attended a meeting in October, at the invitation of Woodhouse parish council, to explain the nature of the farm scale evaluation of GM oil seed rape being conducted in their parish. The borough of Charnwood, which includes Woodhouse, has also invited an official to attend a future meeting on GM crops.

Oil Industry

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action

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his Department (a) has taken and (b) intends to take to address the environmental impact of using oil as an energy source. [137220]

Mr. Meacher: The Government are taking action to tackle climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, including those from the use of oil and other fossil fuels as an energy source. The climate change programme, which will be published shortly, will outline the scale of the challenge facing the UK and make clear that emission reductions of 60-70 per cent. or more are likely to be needed globally in order to avoid dangerous climate change. The programme will set out the policies and measures that will begin to move the UK towards a low carbon economy. And it will detail how the Government intend to help and assist the development of new, sustainable and renewable technologies.

One area where oil is still used as a primary energy source is in the transport sector. The Government are taking forward a range of policies that will improve the fuel efficiency and emissions performance of vehicles, encourage people to buy smaller, cleaner and more fuel- efficient cars, and stimulate the development and use of alternative fuels and technologies. The Government are also addressing the environmental impact of traffic growth through the Ten Year Plan for transport and planning policies.

The use of oil as an energy source can also have serious air quality impacts. The Government and the devolved Administrations published the Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in January 2000. This sets out a programme of action that will be taken at international, national and local levels to tackle air pollution from all sources. In the transport sector, the fuels that are used today are significantly cleaner than those used only a few years ago. This is largely the result of progressively tighter European fuel quality standards, but is also due in part to our incentivisation of the use of cleaner fuels (such as ultra-low-sulphur petrol and diesel) across the UK through favourable duty rates. This has led to significant reductions in emissions of the most harmful air pollutants. We will continue to play an active role in discussions at a European Union level on the possible further tightening of vehicle and fuel standards.

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