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Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what standards were applied in deciding that the two positive samples collected from Crosshill Quarry, Crumlin, in November 2004 were not considered hazardous (a) for human consumption and (b) to aquatic organisms. 
Angela E. Smith: Asbestos fibres were detected in two water samples collected on 5 November 2004 from (a) the discharge point from Crosshill Quarry, and (b) the receiving waterway 30 metres downstream. Analysis of the samples collected showed that they contained, respectively, twenty one thousand (21,000) and four thousand two hundred (4,200) asbestos fibres per litre of water. To put the above-mentioned number of asbestos fibres in context, the USA Environment Protection Agency has set a limit on the number of fibres allowed in drinking water at seven million (7,000,000) per litre. Moreover, it is the view of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that there is no consistent evidence that ingested asbestos is hazardous to health and thus it is concluded that there is no need to establish a health-based guideline value for asbestos and drinking water. The Department is guided by the WHO advice on the matter.
Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on what dates in (a) July 1984 and (b) February 2004 water and soil samples were collected from Crosshill Quarry, Crumlin; and what the results of each of those samples were. 
Angela E. Smith: Environment and Heritage Service of Department of the Environment did not collect water or soil samples from the Crosshill Quarry site in July 1984 or February 2004. Records held by Environment and Heritage Service contain no evidence that samples were collected by the owners of the site on any date in July 1984 or February 2004.
Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland under what authority the contractor was permitted to cut the railway carriages at Crosshill Quarry, Crumlin, into three sections between 25 November 2003 and February 2004. 
Angela E. Smith:
Antrim borough council was the regulatory authority for Crosshill when the site operator proposed the reburial of the carriages and when work commenced. The Department of the Environment was not in a position to give authority for the work.
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No additional authority was required from the Health and Safety Executive. Nevertheless, the site operators did provide HSE with a method statement for their proposals for the reburial of the carriages.
Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action was taken to identify the source of white asbestos found in Crosshill Quarry, Crumlin, in February 2005; what investigation was undertaken by his Department; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela E. Smith: It has not been possible to be conclusive about the exact source of the asbestos fibres found in the soil samples. This site was used for several years as a landfill for demolition waste, and the asbestos fibres identified are typically found in a range of construction and demolition waste.
The Department undertook an initial soil survey for asbestos at Crosshill Quarry in February 2005, and in light of the results recommended that remedial actions be undertaken by the site operators. On completion of these remedial actions, the Department undertook a further soil survey in July 2005. The remedial actions have been effective in significantly removing the asbestos fibres in the two identified areas in the February tests.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 11 January 2006, Official Report, column 637W, on the Ministerial Car Fleet, from what budget ministerial cars and drivers are paid. 
Mr. Woodward: Cars and drivers for Northern Ireland Office (NIO) Ministers are provided by either the Police Service of Northern Ireland or the Government Car and Dispatch Agency, who then recover their costs directly from the NIO.
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many officers based in (a) England, (b) Scotland and (c) Wales have been (i) transferred and (ii) seconded into the Police Service of Northern Ireland in each year since the implementation of the Patten Report. 
Mr. Woodward: The number of officers transferred and seconded from GB police services into the Police Service of Northern Ireland since the year 2000 to date has been provided in the following tables.
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Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what arrangements are in place to ensure that bodies within the responsibility of his Department comply with the requirements of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. 
Mr. Hain: Historically because the Race Relations Act 1976 did not apply to Northern Ireland it was understood that the provisions of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 did not apply. The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and Executive have a parallel and similarly stringent mechanism through Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1993 which has race as an equality category. However the Department has agreed with the Commission for Racial Equality that the Northern Ireland Office will operate on the principle that section 71(1) of the Race Relations Act and amendment Order applies to all of the Northern Ireland Office functions both in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. It was further agreed that the Department' s equality related statutory duties will be reviewed as part of a wider review of the NIO's equality scheme under section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. The Commission for Racial Equality will review compliance when the reviewed equality scheme is completed.
Dr. Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the possible impact of the cancellation of the speech therapy degree course for 200506 at the University of Ulster on speech therapy waiting lists in Northern Ireland. 
Mr. Woodward: Entry to the speech and language degree course at the University of Ulster is being deferred for the academic year 200607. This decision is part of a phased move to change the duration of the course from four years to three years, which is in line with courses in England, Wales and Scotland. Plans have been put in place to ensure that there will be no year without a supply of graduates available for employment in the Health and Personal Social Services.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 15 December 2005, Official Report, column 2247W, on US Visa Applications, how many applications his Department has discussed with the US Consulate in Belfast in each of the last 15 years. 
Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the potential impact on councils' draft rates estimates of the changes in the Waste Management Grant Scheme. 
Angela E. Smith:
The reduction of £3 million in the Waste Management Grant Scheme will impact on all 26 councils to varying degrees. Only individual councils can define the precise effect this has on the district rate.
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However, the Department of the Environment has conducted a provisional assessment of the impact based on district councils' spending profiles. It indicates that councils which invest in capital projects will be unaffected, whereas others who utilised the scheme for revenue spend may have to raise their rates by between 1 and 2.5p.
Angela E. Smith: The reduction was made in light of the Priorities and Budget exercise for 200508, which took into account the ongoing pressures on all elements of the Northern Ireland block allocation. The £7 million budget for 200607 reflects the pattern of carry over in councils' capital spend.
Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for what reasons local councils were not notified of changes in the Waste Management Grant Scheme before the Northern Ireland Local Government Association Strategic Forum on 12 January. 
Angela E. Smith: District councils were made aware of the possibility of a reduction to the grant and closure of the Waste Management Grant Scheme during the summer of 2005. When this was confirmed in October 2005, councils made adjustments to their spending plans.
In light of pressures on the Northern Ireland budget, Ministers have had no option but to take a firm line on resource funding. Their approval to provide funding for the last year of the scheme, granted at the end of December 2005, was given with the condition that the money should only be used for capital projects as originally planned.
EHS was not in a position to advise councils while it pressed for a relaxation to the resource funding position, which it continued to do until mid-January. When it became clear that there was no prospect of change, the matter was raised at the NILGA meeting on 12 January 2006.
Angela E. Smith: Flexibility in the application of the Waste Management Grant Scheme arose in the past from in-year monitoring, which enabled a degree of both capital and resource spend. Pressure on budget for 200607 means that flexibility is no longer available.
Angela E. Smith:
The basis of the Waste Management Grant Scheme was as a capital grant for the provision of smaller infrastructure elements. Its increased use for associated resource projects has depended upon in-year
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monitoring, enabling flexibility between capital and resource elements, but that flexibility cannot be provided for 200607.
Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what measures are available to him to ensure that local councils in Northern Ireland are able to meet their waste management requirements. 
Angela E. Smith: I fully recognise the difficulties faced by local councils in meeting their waste management requirements, particularly those contained in the EU Landfill Directive. My Department is committed to working in partnership with councils to assist them with these responsibilities and to this end, we have set up a number of important working groups comprising representatives from central and local government.
The Northern Ireland Landfill Allowances Scheme (NILAS) Implementation Steering Group was established in June 2005 with the aim of ensuring that Northern Ireland maximises the possibility of achieving the Landfill Directive targets for the reduction of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill.
One of the key tasks facing local councils is the provision of a network of new infrastructure to ensure that landfill diversion targets are met. In April 2005, the Department established a Waste Infrastructure Task Force to help councils with the planning and procurement of new waste management facilities.
The main work of the task force involves identifying appropriate structural arrangements for the procurement of waste infrastructure; the likely location, type and cost of the facilities; and a suitable procurement and funding package.
From a financial point of view, the Department of the Environment's Environment and Heritage Service continues to support councils through grants for the treatment and safe disposal of fridges and end of life vehicles.
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