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Ms Roisin McAliskey

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blatch: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

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Letter to Lord Pilkington of Oxenford from the Director of Operations South, the Prison Service, Mr. Alan Walker, dated 13 March 1997.

Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about the conditions in which Roisin McAliskey is being held at Holloway prison.

Following a routine review of her security status, Roisin McAliskey remains a Category A prisoner but has been downgraded from high risk to standard risk within that category. As a result, some of the security arrangements which have been in operation have been relaxed.

The number of strip searches to which Roisin McAliskey had been subject has already been reduced and she is no longer being strip searched before and after every open visit within the prison. She is now only being strip searched on the same basis as all other prisoners at Holloway. This means before leaving the prison for court appearances and on return to the prison; as part of a cell search and drug testing procedures; on a random basis; or if there were reasonable suspicion she had secreted something about her person.

Further relaxations as a consequence of the security review will take effect from now on. She will be able to attend chapel, to use the gym and the swimming pool, and to attend ante-natal classes with other prisoners. The number of overnight security checks will be reduced so that the light in her cell can be extinguished for most of the night.

Separately from the review of her security status, Roisin McAliskey applied on 14 February to be located on the Mother and Baby Unit at Holloway with her baby after it is born. Her application was considered, following the normal processes which apply to all expectant mothers, by the Admissions Board at Holloway, who considered the views of independent experts in the development needs of babies, as well as logistical issues.

The Assessment Board has now advised the Governor that Roisin McAliskey's application should be approved, the Governor has recommended approval and I have accepted this recommendation. She has been told that she may keep her baby with her after the birth. She will, as do all other mothers, have to sign a compact agreeing to be of reasonable behaviour and to co-operate with the ethos and regime of the unit. Babies in the unit normally remain with their mothers until the age of nine months.

Both the reduction in security classification and the decision to allow Roisin McAliskey to keep her baby have followed the standard procedures and processes that would apply to any other prisoner.

Air Quality: National Strategy

Viscount Addison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the final National Air Quality Strategy.

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The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Following extensive consultation on proposals for a United Kingdom National Air Quality Strategy, and careful consideration of the responses, the Government have decided to press ahead with steps to achieve by 2005 major reductions in the principal air pollutants which threaten health in the United Kingdom.

During a three-month consultation period, the Government received around 450 responses, 210 of them from local authorities. Most offered broad support for the general principles and approach proposed by the Government. They recognised the need for a strategic, integrated approach which is health-based and objective-led. While some responses urged even tighter objectives, and others raised concerns about the impact of costs on industry, a clear majority endorsed them and accepted that the target of achievement by 2005 was appropriate.

The strategy sets out standards and objectives for the control and reduction of the eight main health-threatening air pollutants in the United Kingdom--nitrogen dioxide, particles, ozone, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, benzene and 1,3 butadiene. The standards are health-based, on recommendations either by a panel of independent medical and scientific experts, or the World Health Organisation. Achievement of the objectives set out in the strategy should minimize the impact of air pollutants on human health in the United Kingdom.

The strategy is the first of its kind in Europe. It will offer everyone, even those most sensitive to air pollution, a very high level of protection. The objectives are ambitious and in some cases go beyond what is likely to be achieved by measures currently in place. However, the Government believe that protection of human health should be paramount and they will introduce further measures if necessary to achieve their pollution control objectives.

Air quality in the United Kingdom has improved considerably since the 1950s and 1960s. However, advances in scientific knowledge since then have led to a better understanding of the health effects of major air pollutants, and provided new technologies to tackle these. The Government have committed themselves, therefore, through the strategy, to the improvement of localised areas of poor air quality, to the reduction of any remaining significant risks to health, and to ensuring consistently good air quality throughout the country by 2005.

The strategy sets out the contribution which key sectors, including industry, transport and local government, will need to make towards the achievement of the objectives. It brings together the existing systems for controlling pollution and introduces a new system of local air quality management to complement them and help clear up pollution "hot-spots". Because of remaining uncertainties over the exact reductions in emissions needed or achievable, for some pollutants, some of the objectives remain provisional. The strategy will be subject to periodic reviews, the first in 1999, to assess progress towards meeting the objectives and ensure their continuing relevance and the cost effectiveness of the proposed measures.

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The improvements we seek will not come without cost. We are committed to achieving our objectives through the application of the principles of BATNEEC (Best Available Techniques Not Entailing Excessive Cost) and BPEO (Best Practicable Environment Option). The costs are likely to fall on industry, business, motorists and consumers alike. The Government will ensure, therefore, that the right balance is struck and that pollution control measures are proportionate and represent the most cost-effective solutions available.

Some contributions to air pollutants in the United Kingdom come from outside our borders and their control necessitates common action with our partners in Europe. The strategy is designed to be consistent with forthcoming EC requirements on air quality--and we will continue to work closely with the EU countries to tackle transboundary air pollutants, especially ground-level ozone.

Water: European Directives

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their estimate of the amount which the United Kingdom has spent or is committed to spend to comply with each European water directive currently in force; how much it has spent or is committed to spend during the period covered by those directives on water infrastructure and supply; and how much the other EU member states have similarly spent or are committed to spend.

Earl Ferrers: The Director General of the Office of Water Services allowed £24,000 million of capital expenditure during the 10-year period from 1995 to 2005 (financial years), when he set price limits for the water and sewerage companies in England and Wales. Of this, £12,000 million was for the maintenance of assets and £1,000 million for improving water resources and to reduce the risk of flooding from sewers, and £11,000 million was for quality improvements in response both to national priorities and to the requirements of European Community Directives.

Many of the existing European water directives were agreed in the 1970s and 1980s and full information on spending is not available. Nor is it possible to separate historic costs associated with individual directives. Current best estimates for the most significant directives, though, are:

    Bathing Water Directive: £2,000 million; and

    Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive: £8,000 million.

The cost to the water industry in England and Wales of meeting the requirements of the Water Quality Regulations for drinking water between 1990-91 and 1994-95 was £2,600 million. Further improvements to the quality of drinking water planned for the period 1995-2005 would cost in the region of £3,900 million.

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We do not have comprehensive information on expenditure by other member states to meet European Community directives.

London Underground: Derailments

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many trains on the London Underground have suffered derailment in the past 12 months, and what was the equivalent figure (a) five years ago; (b) 10 years ago; (c) 15 years ago.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): I understand from London Underground that there has been one derailment this year and that there were four in 1996, two in 1991 and 10 in 1986. Figures were not collected on the same basis in 1981. These figures are for derailments of passenger trains in service operated by London Underground, where at least one wheel of one vehicle left the rails.

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