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Telecommunications Masts

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to require planning permission to be sought for the erection of telecommunications masts less than 15 metres high; and if she will make a statement. [9016]

Ms Keeble [holding answer 18 October 2001]: I have been asked to reply.

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We have no plans to require planning permission to be sought for the erection of telecommunications masts less than 15 metres high. Such masts do, however, require approval by local planning authorities under a simplified planning procedure known as prior approval.

We have significantly improved the planning procedures and guidance for telecommunications mast development in order to:

These changes came into force on 22 August this year.

Water Safety

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if her Department has tested and analysed the quality of (a) the holding lakes either side of Faggs Road and Princes Lake, Bedfont, (b) the River Crane and (c) drinking water supplied to London residents in the last 12 months. [8304]

Mr. Meacher: No. The Environment Agency is responsible for testing and analysing water quality in rivers and lakes; and Water Companies in England and Wales carry out daily testing of supplies to consumers for compliance with regulatory standards. In the London area this duty is fulfilled by Thames Water Utilities, Sutton and East Surrey Water Company and Three Valleys Water Company.

Milk (Packaging Waste Directive)

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the implications of the EU Packaging Waste Directive for doorstep milk deliveries and the use of milk bottles. [8338]

Mr. Meacher: The EC Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste 94/62/EC, requires certain recovery and recycling targets to be met and encourages reuse of packaging. This includes drinks containers such as milk bottles. The UK Regulations implementing the Directive also encourage reuse by allowing obligated businesses to exclude from the calculation of their tonnage recovery and recycling obligation, tonnages of packaging that are being reused. Milk bottles are reused for between 10 and 40 trips, so this provision will apply to the proportion of milk bottles that are being reused.

We expect a proposal from the European Commission next month for new targets for 2006. We are not aware that the proposed revisions will in any way threaten the UK doorstep milk delivery service.

GM Crops

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what monitoring of glufosinate ammonium is being carried out in water courses and supplies in the vicinity of GM crop trials. [4464]

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Mr. Meacher: Before glufosinate ammonium was authorised for use in GM crop trials, the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) considered scientific data, which included data relevant to the risk of the compound entering water. The Government accepted the ACP's advice that winter use could be allowed in the trials (which are subject to a number of conditions including a limit on the treated area); the ACP did not advise that monitoring of water was needed.

The ACP noted that the data provided did not rule out that one of the metabolites of glufosinate ammonium might locally exceed the 0.1 g/l standard set for drinking water. Although any exceedance would be localised and short-term, the ACP recommended that winter use should not be allowed on a commercial scale until the company had provided further data.

The Pesticides Safety Directorate is working with the Environment Agency to develop arrangements that will ensure that all sites for experimental field use of pesticides are kept away from vulnerable ground waters. This is a precautionary step as existing restrictions on experimental use are designed to prevent damage to the environment irrespective of the location of the experimental site.



Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to increase the 25p addition for pensioners aged over 80. [8347]

Mr. McCartney: This Government have done much to help older pensioners since we came to office. The free television licences for those aged over 75 is worth over £100 a year. The Winter Fuel Payment is worth £200 per household and the Minimum Income Guarantee has been increased this year to £92.15 a week for a single pensioner and £140.55 for a couple. Under this Government, older pensioners are sharing in rising prosperity. The 25p addition for pensioners aged over 80 was introduced in 1971 and, like all benefits, is kept under constant review.


Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to enable the Disability Rights Commission to support disabled individuals wishing to sue under the Human Rights Act 1998. [7400]

Maria Eagle: As we made clear in "Towards Inclusion", which set out our response to the Disability Rights Task Force's report, we are committed to considering giving to the Disability Rights Commission the power to assist individuals in proceedings under the Human Rights Act. This is also an issue for the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality. We therefore want to take a holistic approach and consider the matter in relation to all equality commissions, in the light of any recommendations the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights may make on whether there should be a Human Rights Commission.

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Staff Training

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what training was given to his Department's staff with regard to the regulations under the Social Security (Incapacity Benefit) Miscellaneous Amendment Regulations issued on 22 November 2000 before they came into effect. [6741]

Malcolm Wicks: This is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Mr. Andrew George, dated 22 October 2001:

Disability Living Allowance

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what consultations he has had with groups representing people with disabilities regarding the proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for the payment of the lower rate mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance; and if he will make a statement; [8975]

Maria Eagle: Proposed regulations to clarify the circumstances in which fear or anxiety about walking out of doors without guidance or supervision from another person may satisfy the conditions of entitlement to the lower rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance are currently being considered by the Social Security Advisory Committee. The Committee recently consulted publicly and asked for comments on the draft regulations by 14 September. The Committee is considering the responses it has received and we await its report.

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A SSAC press release that included a copy of the draft regulations and an explanatory memorandum are available in the Library.

The proposed regulations do not alter the basic qualifying criteria for the lower rate mobility component. People with severe physical and mental disabilities will still be able to qualify on the basis of those disabilities alone.

The intention of the proposed regulations is to ensure that people who experience fear or anxiety when walking out of doors on unfamiliar routes without supervision or guidance are entitled to lower rate mobility component only if their ability to walk independently is directly affected by a severe mental disability. This is to ensure that the scope of the lower rate mobility component remains within the parameters set out when the component was first introduced.

We are not aware of any available research which considers fear or anxiety in the context of eligibility for the lower rate mobility component.

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