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Waste Recycling

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what recent assessment he has made of the accuracy of the formula applied to calculate recycling rates of local authorities. [153432]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: Information on the amount of waste collected and recycled by local authorities is obtained on an annual basis through the Department's annual Municipal Waste Management Survey. It is this information that is used to calculate household waste recycling rates at the national and local level. The proposed methodology for calculating the percentage of household waste recycled by local authorities in England was published in the consultation document "Best Value and Audit Commission Performance Indicators for 2001-02" in October 2000. The responses to the consultation exercise were taken into account in producing the final methodology published in Annexe A of the "Guidance on Municipal Waste Management Strategies" on 5 March 2001. A copy of the guidance has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what studies he has commissioned into the establishment costs of local authorities, as distinct from those related to the size or needs of their populations, and any consequent implications for the studies of local government finance. [153399]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The Green Paper "Modernising Local Government Finance", notes that future revenue grant distribution formulae could distinguish more clearly between fixed costs and the costs that vary according to the number of people for whom a service is provided.

To help us explore how such formulae could be developed, we commissioned a scoping study from PricewaterhouseCoopers. The aim of the study was to review the existing evidence, and make recommendations as to the most promising avenues for further research if that was found to be needed. The study will shortly be published on the LGA website: It

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suggests that fixed costs that do not vary much according to the size or needs of authority populations are most likely to relate to authorities' corporate administration costs. Examples are the costs of statutory external audits, and the costs of completing statements of accounts, annual reports and Best Value Performance Plans.

We are currently considering the implications of the scoping study as part of our review of the local government finance system, including whether we need to commission more detailed follow-up research.

Airport Operators Association Environmental Guidance Manual

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the AOA environmental guidance manual. [153289]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: We welcome AOA's initiative to produce an environmental guidance manual. Any initiative which helps to mitigate the environmental impacts of aviation is to be welcomed. We hope that the manual will assist AOA members in consolidating and improving their environmental performance and building on existing good practice.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Maritime Sector)

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress has been made in implementing measures to tackle alcohol and drug abuse in the maritime sector; and if he will make a statement. [153376]

Mr. Hill: The Queen's Speech on 6 December outlined the Government's intention to draft a Safety Bill. We will use this opportunity to introduce a prescribed blood/ alcohol limit for professional and recreational mariners with accompanying powers for the police to test suspects. We also intend to take permissive powers to allow testing for drugs.

We propose to set a 80 mg per 100 ml blood/alcohol limit for mariners of all types of civil waterborne transport in UK waters, including non-UK vessels. It will be illegal for mariners, on duty, on board any commercial vessel or fishing vessel to be above the limit or to be unfit to fulfil their duties due to being intoxicated through drink. In the interest of passenger safety on passenger vessels or ferries the limit will apply to off-duty crew having a safety critical function in the event of an emergency. Those involved in the navigation or propulsion of recreational craft while in motion and not moored will also be included.

The proposed measures follow from recommendations made by Lord Justice Clarke in his Thames Safety Inquiry report published in December 1999 and a consultation exercise conducted by my Department last year. Responses to the consultation paper were largely supportive of the proposals and a summary has been placed in the Library of the House and a compilation of the full response is available in my Department's library.

Computer Failures

Mr. Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment

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of risk he has made of the impact of a major computer disaster on the work of his Department; what steps he has taken to minimise the effects of such a disaster; and what the standard of compliance is to protect his Department from its effects. [152546]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Risk assessments have been made of the potential impact on DETR(C)'s business of any major incidents, including those affecting computer systems. Measures are in place to minimise the effects of such an incident, including back-up of information, off-site storage and the identification of alternative work locations. Extensive plans are also in place to maintain essential operations and restore normal working with the minimum of delay. DETR(C)'s computer systems comply with Government Information Security Standards and the Department is currently working towards compliance with BS 7799 in the Security Management of key information processes.

National Air Traffic Services

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if all of the bidders for NATS are committed to the development of the air traffic control centre at Prestwick. [153281]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: Yes. It is a fundamental requirement of all bidders. Furthermore, the commitment to develop and complete major air traffic control projects is enshrined in the Transport Act 2000, in clause 51 (3). This clause is specifically aimed at ensuring that Prestwick is completed.

Waste Transfer Station, Sompting

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he received the Inspector's report on the public inquiry into the Halewick Lane Waste Transfer Station at Sompting, West Sussex. [153124]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions received the Inspector's report on the proposed waste management centre on 16 February 2001.

Transboundary Air Pollution

Mr. McCabe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, transport and the Regions when his Department's national expert group on transboundary Air Pollution will publish its report into acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone in the UK. [153495]

Mr. Meacher: The report of the national expert group on Transboundary Air Pollution will be published today on the internet as a "draft" for comment. I will also arrange for copies to be placed in the House Libraries at that time.

The draft conclusions of the expert group show a mixed picture on the impact of air pollution on ecosystems in the UK. For instance the reduction in sulphur emissions has led to a 50 per cent. reduction in 'acid rain' in the UK in the last 12 years, and as a result, some ecosystems are showing signs of recovery. However, following recent scientific developments, the expert group concludes that the continued impact of air pollution on ecosystems may be more widespread than previously calculated.

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The report is being issued in draft to allow the scientific community and other interested parties the opportunity to review and comment on the scientific developments and draft findings before the group publish their final report in August or September 2001.

The draft report will also be available via the DETR's Environment Protection web pages, http://

Buildings (Non-occupational Accidents)

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how much money has been spent annually by his Department since 1997 on research undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive and by the Building Research Establishment into the prevention of non-occupational injuries related to building regulations and design features. [153177]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Falls on stairs has been identified as the main type of non-occupational accident that involves design features. Research work in this area has been funded by Building Regulations Division, with support from HSE. The research, which was carried out by the Building Research Establishment, has concentrated on improving the design of guarding and stairs. The annual cost of this research to date has been:

The work is expected to continue.

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