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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 8 March 2001


Waste Regulation

Ms Bridget Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what checks the Environment Agency makes before providing individuals with waste management licences and waste carrier licences. [148730]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: Under section 36(3) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Environment Agency may reject an application for a waste management licence if it is not satisfied the applicant is a "fit and proper person" or if rejection is necessary to prevent pollution of the environment or harm to human health. There are three components to the "fit and proper person" test: conviction for a relevant offence, technical competence and financial provision. Guidance on these provisions has been provided to the Environment Agency in Waste Management Paper No. 4 "Licensing of Waste Management Facilities"; and Waste Management Paper No. 4A "Licensing of Metal Recycling Sites".

Under section 3 of the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989, and Regulation 5 of the Controlled Waste (Registration of Carriers and Seizure of Vehicles) Regulations 1991, the Environment Agency may reject an application for registration as a carrier of controlled waste if, among other reasons, the applicant has been convicted of a prescribed offence, and in the opinion of the Agency it is undesirable for the applicant to be authorised to transport waste. Guidance on the refusal by the Environment Agency of applications for waste carrier registration has been provided in DOE Circular 11/91 (paragraphs 1.27-1.47).

The Coastguard

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if it is his policy to allow the coastguard to use public funds for non- operational purposes, including publicity; and if he will make a statement. [151445]

Mr. Hill: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is responsible for the operation of the Coastguard service. The Agency uses public funding for non-operational purposes such as publicity and educational material to raise safety awareness, promote maritime safety generally and to protect the marine environment.

Mobile Telephone Masts

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what weight will be given to health risks when deciding on planning permission for mobile telephone masts. [151656]

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Ms Beverley Hughes: Health considerations and public concern can in principle be material considerations in determining applications for planning permission and prior approval. Whether such matters are material in a particular case is ultimately a matter for the courts. It is for the decision-maker (usually the local planning authority) to determine what weight to attach to such considerations in any particular case. However, it is the Government's view that if a proposed development meets the guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) on limiting public exposure to electromagnetic fields it should not be necessary for an authority, in processing an application, to consider health effects further.

Road Works

Mr. McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to review the provisions of the New Roads and Streetworks Act 1991 in relation to the control of roadworks undertaken by private telecommunications contractors. [152048]

Mr. Hill: Regulations under section 74 of the New Road and Street Works Act 1991 were laid before the House on 26 February. These will come into force on 1 April and allow highway authorities to levy charges on utilities, including telecommunications companies, who fail to complete street works by an agreed deadline. The Government also took powers in the Transport Act 2000 to make regulations permitting highway authorities to levy daily charges on utilities from the outset of works (so-called "lane rental"). The lane rental powers are being kept in reserve at this stage. However, we will activate them if it becomes clear that the section 74 powers have failed to reduce sufficiently the disruption which works cause to road users. We have also made it clear that we are prepared to introduce further measures, including revisiting other provisions of the 1991 Act.

Bus Vehicle Inspectors

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many licences have been withdrawn from bus companies by bus vehicle inspectors in each of the last three years. [152003]

Mr. Hill: Vehicle Examiners from the Vehicle Inspectorate notify the results of their maintenance inspections to Traffic Commissioners who are responsible for licensing operators of public service vehicles. The numbers of licences revoked by Traffic Commissioners as a result of operators failing to maintain their vehicles adequately are:

All figures relate to Great Britain.

Turnham Green Tube Station

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 26 February 2001, Official Report, column 317W, on Turnham Green tube station, on how

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many occasions Piccadilly Line trains have made special stops at Turnham Green tube station since the current engineering works began. [152156]

Mr. Hill: This is an operational issue for London Underground who inform me that between 3 February and 6 March 2001 there have been 12 special stops in the morning and five special stops in the afternoon of Piccadilly Line trains at Turnham Green tube station. The majority of these stops were made outside the peak hours.

LUL have also informed me that there have been three additional periods, two in the morning peak and one between 8pm and 10pm when Piccadilly Line trains have stopped but the actual number of trains that have stopped during each period has not been recorded for those occasions.

London Underground

Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 23 January 2001 to the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Coleman), Official Report, column 525W, on London Underground, what factors underlay the difference between (a) the original figure for London Underground's gross operating margin for 1999-2000 and the revised figure, (b) the original operating loss of London Underground Ltd. for 1999-2000 and the revised loss, (c) the original budgeted gross operating margin of London Underground Ltd. for 2000-01 and the revised figure and (d) the original budgeted investment programme for London Underground Ltd. in 2000-01 and the revised figure. [152370]

Mr. Hill: As was made clear in the Answer referred to in the Question, these differences result from London Underground's adoption of the accounting standard Financial Reporting Standard 15, which governs the treatment of tangible fixed assets. The underlying figures are unchanged.

Motorway Safety Signs

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the criteria governing the siting of Tiredness Kills notices on motorways. [152263]

Mr. Hill: Decisions on the provision of signs at specific locations are made locally and, based on conditions at the site concerned. In most cases, however, "Tiredness Can Kill" signs are provided no more than around two miles in advance of a motorway service area. This ensures that motorists who take the advice to have a break from driving do so at a motorway service area, where they can park safely.

Vehicle Excise Duty

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many road fund licences were unpaid in (a) Essex and (b) Kent at the end of February; what the procedure for collecting the moneys due for unpaid road fund licences is; and what the penalties for non-payment are. [152595]

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Mr. Hill: A roadside survey conducted in 1999 estimated that there were 43,000 unlicensed vehicles in Essex and 44,000 in Kent.

Vehicle excise duty (VED) evaders are required to pay an out-of-court settlement or in more serious cases face prosecution. Some 612,000 were penalised last year. In addition a scheme is in place to wheelclamp, impound and dispose of unlicensed vehicles. Over 333,000 motorists have been encouraged to relicense thus far as a result of the scheme over the three and a half years it has been in operation.

The maximum fine for VED evasion is a £1,000 or five times the annual rate of duty, whichever is the greater. In addition a penalty equal to the amount of duty owed must be paid, together with costs.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action the Government are taking to enforce the requirement for all vehicles to display a valid tax disc. [152489]

Mr. Hill: Following a roadside survey in 1999, it is estimated that the level of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) evasion has been cut for the first time from 4.1 per cent. in 1994 to 3.9 per cent., representing a saving of £17 million a year.

The payment of VED is enforced by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). Action includes offering out-of-court settlements and prosecuting where appropriate. Last year over 612,000 motorists were penalised and some £86 million in total was recovered in fines, penalties and relicensing revenue.

Part of DVLA's enforcement role is to administer a nationwide scheme to wheelclamp, impound and dispose of unlicensed vehicles. The scheme has encouraged over 333,000 motorists to relicense their vehicles voluntarily bringing in over £39 million in increased revenue over the last three and a half years. The police work closely with DVLA on VED enforcement and take part in a programme of high profile VED enforcement campaigns throughout the country. Last year, 26 such campaigns were undertaken.

A new initiative to detect and deter unlicensed vehicles will make use of mobile automatic number plate readers. A trial is due to take place shortly. It is planned to introduce this camera technology on a nationwide basis later this year.

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