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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 8 November 2004


Common Land (SSSIs)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what areas of common land classified as sites of special scientific interest in England are in unfavourable condition; and what assessment she has made of the need for changes to regulations to ensure favourable condition of such common land is achieved. [196287]

Mr. Bradshaw: In July 2002, our Common Land Policy Statement set out proposals for addressing the main barriers to the sustainable management of common land. One of our key aims is to enable commoners to manage their own activities more effectively. This in turn will help contribute to the achievement of a number of biodiversity objectives, including the SSSI PSA target.

Following further public consultation in 2003, we have been working up more detailed legislative proposals. We remain committed to introducing legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The areas of common land SSSIs in favourable or unfavourable condition are given in the table and broken down according to English Nature area team.
Area of common land with Sites of Special Scientific Interest

English Nature area teamFavourable or recovering conditionUnfavourable conditionTotal
Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire146189335
Cheshire to Lancashire1,5239062,429
Cornwall and Isles Of Scilly2,6591,6644,323
EMR—Peak District and Derbyshire1791,0501,229
Essex, Hertfordshire and London377261638
Hampshire and Isle of Wight1,2587582,016
Herefordshire and Worcestershire6557871,442
Humber to Pennines1,9368,95910,895
North and East Yorkshire24,25521,17045,425
North Mercia2,7431,5214,264
Somerset and Gloucestershire4,7533,7898,542
Sussex and Surrey6,9802,0098,989
Thames and Chilterns1,319691,388
Grand Total102,86696,793199,659

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Data Protection

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what procedures are in place (a) to check the criminal records of civil servants in her Department and agencies responsible to her Department who have access to computer databases containing confidential information on the public and (b) to ensure that there can be no improper use of computer databases containing confidential information on the public; and if she will make a statement. [194603]

Alun Michael: A basic character check is carried out on all staff before they are allowed unsupervised access to Defra's IT systems. It is also a departmental requirement that staff must declare criminal convictions. Criminal records checks are carried out in cases where staff dealing with particularly sensitive material require formal vetting in line with central Government guidelines. Defra's IT security policy is designed (a) to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer systems and information to a level that meets business needs and (b) to ensure that accounting and audit processes exist. This is achieved by: ensuring all processes and actions are authorised; all authorised users can be identified and monitored; and all systems and associated personnel perform in a consistent manner. The security policy is available to all staff on our internal intranet and regular reminders are issued.

Extensification Payment Scheme

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been paid out under the Extensification Payment Scheme in each county in England in 2003–04; and if she will make a statement. [195510]

Alun Michael: The amount paid out under the Extensification Premium Scheme in each county in England for the 2003 scheme year (1 January 2003–31 December 2003) and paid between 1 April 2004 and 31 October 2004 are set out in the following table. We are currently unable to provide figures for 2004 as the scheme year does not end until 31 December 2004 and payments will not commence until 1 April 2005.
CountyGross amount paid £ million
Isle of Wight186,395
Hereford & Worcester1,985,153
Greater London8,645
Greater London18,964
Tyne and Wear112,132
Scilly Isles2,209
East Sussex932,700
West Sussex670,336
Greater Manchester209,490
West Midlands79,499
South Yorkshire417,433
North Yorkshire4,100,230
West Yorkshire771,885
North Yorkshire143,371

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Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what work her Department has undertaken to update the 1982 Social Survey on the impact of night flights around Heathrow; [195093]

(2) what plans her Department has to conduct a social survey of the impact of night flights around Heathrow. [195094]

Charlotte Atkins: I have been asked to reply.

In December 2000, a report funded by the then DETR was published on Perceptions of Aircraft Noise, Sleep and Health (Diamond et al, http://www.socstats.soton.ac.uk/research/noisereport.doc). This study included surveys in the vicinity of Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, East Midlands, and Coventry airports. A broader study of Attitudes to Noise from Aircraft Sources in England, which covers both night and daytime noise, is currently being undertaken on the Department's behalf, the lead contractor being The MVA Consultancy.

Findings from further social research as well as objective studies of sleep disturbance were summarised in the NATS/DORA (now CAA/ERCD) R and D Report 9964, Adverse effects of night-time aircraft noise, published in March 2000.

In addition to these social survey studies, the Department has consulted regularly on the night restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. The Stage 1 consultation on restrictions from 30 October 2005 was published in July and the consultation period closed on 29 October.
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Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action has been taken by the Government to achieve the targets recommended by the WHO Guidelines for Community Noise; and in which year she expects to attain the targets recommended in the Guidelines. [195095]

Charlotte Atkins: I have been asked to reply as the WHO guidelines bear predominantly on transport noise sources. The Government is a signatory to the WHO Charter on Transport, the Environment and Health, and is thereby committed to take account of the WHO Guidelines.

The noise levels cited in the WHO Guidelines mark the approximate onset of various annoyance and disturbance effects. As such, they are not limits but information to which the Government will have regard when developing policy and seeking to strike the balance between the three pillars of sustainable development. It is not feasible, and will not become practicable in the foreseeable future, to eliminate all such effects, either in the UK or in other signatory States.

The relevance of the guidelines in the context of night noise from aircraft was discussed further in the Department's recent Stage 1 consultation on the night restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, paragraphs 3.8–3.13.

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