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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions intends to commission later this year a project to prepare a practical handbook that draws together existing knowledge on tree roots and their interaction with soil, man-made structures and objects. In addition, a proposal is being formulated for a project to assess the effect of pruning on the water uptake of trees and the consequential abstraction of water from the soil.
Baroness Hayman: Information about the incidence of tree species implicated in subsidence damage was included in Tree Roots and Buildings published in 1981 by Dr. Cutler and Dr. Richardson. Their work was based on the Kew Tree Root Survey (1971-79). Much of the survey data on the tree root systems was obtained from investigations carried out during the assessment of alleged subsidence damage. The text was republished in 1989 to take account of additional information or data about the structure of root systems.
The National House Building Council and the then Department of Environment commissioned research between 1979-1985 and 1989-1994 to quantify the seasonal and long-term changes of soil drying and moisture deficit in the vicinity of trees on clay soils. The results of this work have been published in technical journals, and are to be published in the proceedings of the conference Arboricultural Practice: Present and Future, held in 1995.
The Building Research Establishment, through research commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, has over recent years investigated the effect of trees on ground movements and building foundations. Current work, funded up to 1998, is primarily concerned with the determination of ground movement prior to and following the removal of trees (a possible solution to subsidence damage known to be caused by trees) at locations close to and remote from trees. The results of this work, to date, have been published in conference papers, and in the journal of the Institution of Structural Engineers. BRE also established a database, under contract from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to log subsidence damage and factors relevant to each case. The data have not been analysed for publication.
All this work has informed the development of various British Standards, and codes of practice--most notably NHBC Standards Chapter 4.2, which deals with the construction of foundations close to trees.
Baroness Hayman: Our proposals for a separately elected mayor and assembly for London will be set out in a Green Paper to be published in late July. Subject to the views of Parliament, we propose to hold a referendum on 7 May 1998. If the people of London vote against our proposals they will have voted for "no change".
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): As my right honourable friend announced in another place yesterday, in view of the current situation in Sierra Leone, it has been decided to declare that that country has undergone such a fundamental change in circumstances that the return of a person to that country would not normally be ordered for the time being. The effect is that a Sierra Leonean national who entered the United Kingdom previously and applies for asylum within three months of this declaration being made becomes eligible to claim social security benefits while his or her application is considered by the department. No decisions will be made on asylum applications made by Sierra Leonean nationals until the situation stabilises.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): NATO has identified a military operational requirement for a theatre ballistic missile defence capability for deployed forces. Work is in hand to consider the options for addressing this requirement together with their associated costs, including the extent to which NATO's Air Command and Control System (ACCS) can contribute to an Alliance capability in this area.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Long-term projections of the prison population in England and Wales are produced annually and were last published in the Home Office Statistical Bulletin 7/97 on 3 April 1997, a copy of which is in the Library. The figures requested are set out in the attached table A.
|Year||England and Wales Average population||Percentage increase on previous year per cent.|
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Future trends in staffing levels are difficult to predict accurately, because a rapid increase in posts is required for new accommodation as it opens, while elsewhere staffing levels may need to reduce to achieve efficiency targets. Our best estimate is that there will be a net increase in staff numbers during 1997-98 of just over 1,000. Governors have
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Members of Parliament wishing to visit a Prison Service establishment in England and Wales in an official capacity may do so on request to the governor or controller. A request to visit an immigration detention centre is normally referred to Immigration Service Headquarters in order that Ministers may be routinely advised. The request will normally be granted, subject to any operational or security considerations.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The Government are strongly opposed to age discrimination in employment. The Government have already announced that they intend to consult widely on how best to move forward in this very complex area. This will include an examination of the possible role of legislation.
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