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23 Jul 1997 : Column WA161

Written Answers

Wednesday, 23rd July 1997.

De-mining Operations: UK Support

Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What funds and other resources they will make available for humanitarian mine clearance operations.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The UK has committed over £31 million, including our share of European Commission activities, to humanitarian de-mining operations since 1991. We remain committed to an active programme of humanitarian mine clearance, focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable. We wish to help develop de-mining capacity in affected countries as part of our efforts to support poverty eradication.

Mr. Sayed Al Khatib

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their sponsorship of a visit by Sayed Al Khatib, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the National Congress of Sudan, is consistent with the spirit of the UN Security Council sanctions against the Government of Sudan; what encouragement the visit will give to the Government of Sudan; and whether this is in keeping with Her Majesty's Government's commitment to a foreign policy which upholds human rights.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The proposed visit to the United Kingdom of Sayed Al Khatib will not now be taking place.

Iraq: Sanctions Violations

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the estimate by the Iraqi National Congress, that Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party is making at least $1 million a day from the illegal exports of oil products from Iraq, contrary to Security Council Resolution 986; and, if so, whether they will seek to include this traffic, and the gas oil being smuggled out through the Gulf, in the $1 billion limit on the export by Iraq of oil products permitted by the resolution.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have insufficient information to be able to verify the quantity of experts referred to by my noble friend. We take seriously all reports of violations of sanctions against Iraq. We remain committed to maintaining these sanctions.

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ISDN Services: Pricing

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will encourage OFTEL to consider whether it would be appropriate for BT to reduce the current prices charged for residential ISDN lines in order to make them a competitive option for domestic Internet access.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): BT has commercial freedom as to how it prices its ISDN services provided they are not offered on anti-competitive or unduly discriminatory terms or conditions. Although BT has gone some way towards lowering its prices, encouraged by OFTEL, there remains scope for further reductions. OFTEL will therefore continue to encourage BT in this direction. ISDN provision in the UK is set to become more competitive with the introduction of radio-fixed access services and emerging competition from the cable companies.

Scottish Parliament: Powers

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that, subject to national constitutional guarantees of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the elected representatives of the Scottish people in a proposed Scottish parliament should be entitled to enact criminal legislation for Scotland, including legislation prescribing the conditions in which pregnancies may lawfully be terminated.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The Government's proposals, including those for criminal and other legislation, will be set out in the White Paper to be published on 24 July.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss and War Pensions: Review

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the recently promised independent review of the science of the assessment of noise induced sensorineural hearing loss for the purposes of claims to War Pensions.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The Government are pledged to an independent review of the medical evidence behind the approach to the assessment of noise induced hearing loss in War Pensions. We hope that the review will provide a conclusion which is clear and unambiguous.

The review will be chaired by Sir Kenneth Calman, the Chief Medical Officer. The other members of the

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review team will be Professor Adrian Davis of the Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research, Professor Mark Lutman of the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, Professor Linda Luxon of the Institute of Laryngology and Otology at the University College London Medical School and Dr. Guy Lightfoot of the Department of Clinical Engineering at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. Dr. Anne Braidwood of this department will serve on the team and act as Secretary.

The review team is expected to meet in September.

Greenwich Millennium Site: Pollution

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Polluter Pays Principle has been applied and continues to be applied throughout the Greenwich project.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): Yes.

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In relation to the Millennium site at Greenwich, to what depth below original ground level polluted soil extends, what is the minimum depth being treated and where the excavated soil is being dumped.

Baroness Hayman: The depth of contamination on the site to be occupied by the Greenwich Experience varied widely. The majority of contamination was contained within the surface layer, which varied between 2 and 4 metres in depth. In isolated instances the contamination extended up to a maximum of 14 metres. The treatment applied to each part of the site has depended on the type and depth of the contamination. No part of the site has been treated to a depth of less than 2 metres and in places the treatment has extended to 14 metres. In order to minimise the quantity of material that requires off-site disposal, techniques such as screening, and possibly soil washing, are being used to reclaim materials which are acceptable for reuse on the site. A limited amount of excavated soil is being taken to a variety of licensed waste disposal sites.

The approach to the treatment of the site has been approved by both the Environment Agency and the Environmental Health Department of the London Borough of Greenwich. It is also consistent with government policy on contaminated land and its commitment to the "suitable for use" approach as part of a sustainable development strategy.

Greenwich Millennium Site

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the purchase price of the Greenwich Millennium site by English Partnerships from British Gas; and

    Whether they will list any current rights or obligations of British Gas in respect of the Greenwich Millennium site both now and after the Millennium.

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Baroness Hayman: English Partnerships acquired British Gas's interest in the Greenwich Peninsula for £20 million. An average payment equating to 7.5 per cent. of the gross proceeds of any land sales is also payable to British Gas. In respect of the southern third of the site, the minimum payment due is £4.3 million.

British Gas's principal rights and obligations under the conveyance of the land are:

    (i) To comply with the Polluter Pays Principle in full by ensuring that the statutory remediation of the land at the Greenwich Peninsula is undertaken to the satisfaction of the Environment Agency and the London Borough of Greenwich;

    (ii) To comply with the agreement with London Underground by meeting the cost of the new North Greenwich Station.

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much has been spent at the Greenwich Millennium site on dealing with contaminated land, and what were the sources of funds for this work.

Baroness Hayman: As at 30 June 1997, English Partnerships' expenditure on reclamation and servicing totalled £8.6 million met from public funds.

London Transport Bus Route Contracts

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the number of London bus route contracts, by year of award and length of contract.

Baroness Hayman: I am advised by London Transport Buses that the information, based on the date tenders that were submitted for current live contracts, is as follows:

Year of tenderNumber of contracts

Contracts are normally awarded for five years. Some older contracts were extended when a full tendering programme was compiled prior to the privatisation of London Transport's bus operating subsidiaries.

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