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17 Oct 1996 : Column WA229

Written Answers

Thursday, 17th October 1996.

Ministerial Appointments

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Prime Minister is free to recommend any member of his parliamentary party to join the Government in any position he chooses; or whether his choice is influenced or restricted and if so in what way; and if there is no formal process, whether private consultation takes place and if so with whom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The Prime Minister is free to decide how best to deploy those of his colleagues who form the administration, subject to constitutional conventions and the provisions of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 and the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975.

Public Record Office: Chancery Lane Building

Lord Denning asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the answer of Earl Howe on 25th July, whether they have decided on the future of the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane and whether it will be maintained in its existing state or be transformed by internal reconstruction into something different.

Earl Howe: Responsibility for the use of the Public Record Office building in Chancery Lane has been delegated under the terms of its framework document to the Property Advisers to the Civil Estate under its Chief Executive, Mr. Neil Borrett. The agency is therefore responding to the question.

Letter to Lord Denning from the Chief Executive of the Property Advisers to the Civil Estate,

Mr. N. E. Borrett, dated 16th October 1996.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Earl Howe, has asked me to respond to your Question regarding the above.

The future of the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane is still under investigation. This important building is listed as Grade II starred. Agreement has been reached with English Heritage on the scope of limited internal alterations which would be appropriate for future uses. No decision on the building's future use has been made.

Eurofighter: Costs

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total cost of the new military equipment announced by the Secretary of State for Defence and by the Deputy Prime Minister.

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Earl Howe: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced on 2nd September our readiness in principle to proceed to the production and in-service support phases of the Eurofighter programme. The estimated total cost of the programme to the UK is £15.4 billion.

NATO: Counter-proliferation Costs

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the anticipated cost of correcting the shortfalls in NATO counter-proliferation capabilities identified by the NATO Senior Defence Group on Proliferation.

Earl Howe: No assessment of such costs has been made.

MoD Properties: Leaseback Costs

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be the total annual cost of renting the Armed Forces accommodation which they have sold to the private sector.

Earl Howe: The initial rent for the properties leased back by MoD is just under £111 million. The cost in future years will depend upon the speed and extent of further MoD releases of surplus quarters (which will reduce the overall cost to MoD), and the outcome of periodic rent review against the market.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be the total accumulated cost of correcting the shortfalls in NATO counter- proliferation capabilities, eastward enlargement of NATO, eastward enlargement of the European Union, the purchase of that military hardware that has recently been announced, and renting back the Armed Forces housing that has been sold to the private sector.

Earl Howe: I refer the noble Lord to the answer given to him by my noble Friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and to the answers I gave to his other questions today.

EU: Eastward Enlargement Costs

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What range of costs they anticipate in the eastward enlargement of the European Union.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Although it is not yet possible to predict the exact costs of EU enlargement to the east, we are determined to ensure that the EU budget after enlargement will remain within or below the ceiling

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agreed at the Edinburgh European Council, that is, 1.27 per cent. of EU GNP.

Water Resources and Supply Arrangements

Viscount Mersey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their views about public water resources and supply arrangements in the longer term.

Lord Lucas: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment commissioned in September 1995 a review of water resources and supply arrangements in England and Wales in the longer term. It has been undertaken with the full involvement of representatives of the water companies and their regulators--the Environment Agency, the Office of Water Services and the Drinking Water Inspectorate. Other organisations have contributed views.

As a result of that work, the Department of the Environment and the Welsh Office are publishing today a paper entitled Water Resources and Supply: Agenda for Action. Copies are available in the Library of the House. The paper confirms that the framework within which public water supplies are provided and developed is sound. It discusses the various factors which need to be considered in refining longer-term arrangements and identifies actions which the Government will take, together with actions for the water companies and their regulators.

Prominent among these are steps which should be taken to build upon work on climate change, such as that which informed the report of my department's Climate Change Impacts Review Group which was published in July. Reliable yields of existing water resource systems need to be re-assessed from recent data and against climate change scenarios. Water companies need to study in more detail how water is used by households and how that may change with changing climate.

Demand on existing water resources needs to be managed in order to reduce the need for new resources. This can be done by encouraging efficient use of water, through the development of effective and equitable charging arrangements for water supply, and by companies reducing leakage to economic levels. Against the background of maximum economic use of demand management and a clear understanding of the capabilities of each discrete water resource and supply system, there needs to be a dialogue between water companies and their customers on the balance to be struck between higher security of supply and higher costs, taking full account of the need for sustainable development.

A case for new water resource development will be compelling only if there is insufficient scope for deployment of existing resources to meet properly managed demand. Where there are local resource pressures, water companies need to consider the scope for bulk transfers of water or redistribution of water abstraction licences. The Government believe that it is important that market mechanisms, including price signals, provide incentive for this and will publish a

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consultation paper on economic instruments in relation to water abstraction in early 1997.

The Environment Agency has the central role in the planning of water resources at the national and regional levels. However, water companies have the duty to develop and maintain water supply systems and it is their responsibility, with full involvement of their regulators, to draw up plans for the timely development of new resources if the projected demand for water in particular areas cannot be reasonably or reliably managed to remain within the capacity of all the available existing resources. Where the existing resources are most finely balanced against projected demand increases, new resource planning should proceed in parallel with the continued implementation of measures to meet demand from the existing resources and against the background of continued review of that balance. Each of these organisations will no doubt publicise their response to those actions in due course.

The paper also draws attention to the various contributions which water companies, manufacturers of water-using equipment and water consumers can all make to the sustainable management of water resources through water conservation. This Agenda for Action is for us all and outlines a strategy for the environmentally sustainable provision of water supplies in the longer term.

Special Areas of Conservation

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will be sending further candidate Special Areas of Conservation to the European Commission under the EC Habitats Directive.

Lord Lucas: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment indicated in his written reply to the honourable Member for Hexham on 9th January 1996 that further candidate Special Areas of Conservation would be sent to the European Commission once points raised in public consultation had been considered and satisfactorily resolved. A further list of 44 sites was sent to the Commission on 14th October.

Consideration continues to be given to the remaining sites.

The list of sites sent to the Commission is as follows:-

Achmore BogScotland
Beinn DeargScotland
Beinn a'GhloScotland
Beinn Iadain and Beinn na h'UamhaScotland
Ben Alder and Aonach BeagScotland
Ben HeasgarnichScotland
Ben LawersScotland
Ben LuiScotland
Berwickshire and North Northumberland CoastEngland/Scotland
Border Mires, Kielder-ButterburnEngland
Chesil and the FleetEngland
Claish Moss and Kentra MossScotland
Coalburn MossScotland
Creag MeagaidhScotland
Essex EstuariesEngland
Fal and HelfordEngland
Flanders MossesScotland
Loch Eport LagoonsScotland
Loch MaddyScotland
Loch of StennessScotland
Loch Roag LagoonsScotland
Loch Sunart WoodlandsScotland
Meall na SamnhaScotland
Moidach MoreScotland
Monach IslandsScotland
Moray Firth (marine)Scotland
Morecambe BayEngland
North HarrisScotland
North RonaScotland
North Ulst MachairScotland
Papa StourScotland
Plymouth Sound and EstuariesEngland
Solent and Isle of Wight LagoonsEngland
Solway FirthEngland/Scotland
Solway Mosses (part)England
Sound of ArisaigScotland
South Uist MachairScotland
St. KildaScotland
Thanet CoastEngland
The VadillsScotland
The Wash and North Norfolk CoastEngland
Usk Bat Sites/Safleoedd Ystlumod WysgWales

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