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National Roads Programme

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: Under the previous government the department commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory to carry out a feasibility study into this subject. We have now received the study report, copies of which have been placed in the Library. The report highlights a number of practical difficulties about the way in which the total environmental impact can be

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defined and measured. As recommended, we are now seeking the views of interested statutory bodies and others. We will consider how best to proceed in light of those consultations, taking account of the Strategic Roads Review which my right honourable friend the Minister for Transport announced on 19 June (Official Report, cols. 278-79).

Minicabs in London

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will consult on their commitment to regulate London's minicabs.

Baroness Hayman: We have today published a consultation paper on how best to regulate London's minicabs. Copies have been placed in the Library. Comments are invited by 15 September.

Water Industry Costs: EU Directives

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much money the UK has spent since 1972, and how much it should expect to spend in the foreseeable future (a) as a result of European Water Directives; and (b) on water storage, infrastructure and supply; whether they can supply similar statistics for the other 14 member states of the EU; and, if not, whether they will ask the European Commission to supply them.

Baroness Hayman: Full information on spending since 1972 is not available. Some of the existing European water directives were agreed more than 20 years ago and it is not possible to separate historic costs associated with individual directives. Current best estimates for the most significant directives in terms of costs 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 requirement 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.

In setting price limits for the water and sewerage companies in England and Wales in 1994, the allowance made by the Director General of the Office of Water Services for capital expenditure from 1995-96 to 2004-05 was £24,000 million. 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; £11,000 million was for quality improvements in response both to national priorities and to the requirements of European Community directives.

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We do not have comprehensive information on expenditure to meet European community directives by other member states. Information for the period since 1972 is not collated by the European Commission and consequently is not available on a comparable basis for all member states.

Harbour Authorities and Pilotage

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that each United Kingdom port has a sufficient number of pilots for its safe operation; and, if not, whether they are satisfied by the action being taken by the relevant harbour authority to rectify the situation; and

    Why the United Kingdom exemption from compulsory pilotage rules is less stringent than the exemptions of other European countries; and whether they propose to review the situation; and

    Whether, in progressing towards risk analysis in the marine environment, they will require competent harbour authorities to consult with their pilots; and

    Whether they will review the process whereby competent harbour authorities obtain revision orders under the Pilotage Act 1987 so as to ensure that all relevant parties and experts are consulted.

Baroness Hayman: I refer to the Answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, on 16 July, relating to publication of the report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch on the "Sea Empress", in which I referred to the Deputy Prime Minister's decision that the department should undertake a review of the Pilotage Act 1987. The Act places upon the competent harbour authority a duty to keep under review the need for pilotage in their harbour areas, to ensure that they have sufficient pilots and to regulate the issue of pilotage exemption certificates: these are operational matters for those authorities. The procedures for making harbour revision orders to amend an authority's pilotage jurisdiction already include provision for all interested parties to make representations and for public inquiries where there are objections.

Queen Elizabeth II Bridge

Baroness Platt of Writtle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why a lane was closed on the Queen Elizabeth II bridge at Dartford on 27 July 1997 when no work was in progress.

Baroness Hayman: There were no lane closures on the Queen Elizabeth II bridge at Dartford on Sunday 27 July 1997. Cones have been placed between lanes 3 and 4 of the bridge as part of a contingency plan should works to the adjacent tunnel require traffic to be diverted. This contingency has never been implemented and traffic continues to have normal access to all four lanes of the bridge.

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VAT Reduction on Domestic Heating Fuels

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the reduction in VAT on domestic heating fuels will, by reducing the increase in the RPI, negate any potential gain for those dependent for their income on index linked benefits.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): We have cut VAT on fuel to the lowest possible level as part of our commitment to reducing poverty. This will have only a minor effect on the retail prices index and people in receipt of index linked benefits will remain better off after uprating.

Civil Court Claims

Lord Ackner asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, since the introduction in January 1997 of increased court fees, there has been a reduction of claims brought; if so, what are the figures in:

    (a) The County Courts;

    (b) The Queen's Bench Division of the High Court, other than the Commercial Court;

    (c) The Family Division of the High Court;

    and what are the like figures in respect of claims by litigants in person.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The question concerns a matter which has been assigned to the Court Service under the terms of its Framework Document. I have therefore asked the Chief Executive to respond.

Letter to Lord Ackner from the Chief Executive of the Court Service, Mr. M. Huebner, dated 31 July 1997.

The Lord Chancellor has asked me to reply to your question about whether there has been a reduction of claims issued in the civil courts since the increase in fees in January this year.

The table below sets out the information requested. It is not possible to say what (if any) proportion of the decrease in claims is attributable to the fee increase as the number of actions issued in the courts has decreased steadily over the last few years.

    County Court

    Number of summonses issued:

    January to June 1996--1,206,076

    January to June 1997--1,094,561

    High Court: Queen's Bench Division

    Number of writs and originating summonses issued:

    January to June 1996--75,154

    January to June 1997--64,106

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    High Court: Principal Registry of the Family Division

    Number of divorce petitions issued:

    January to June 1996--4,390

    January to June 1997--4,012

The information you request on the number of actions issued by litigants in person is not currently available and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. Figures will however be available in December.

University Tuition Fees

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much the proposed charges to university students in the form of a contribution to their tuition fees will raise in a year; and

    How much the proposed abolition or reduction of maintenance grants to university students will save in a year.

Lord Whitty: The following table shows the estimated savings associated with the introduction of tuition fees and the replacement of grants with loans, along with the associated costs of extending loans, under the Government's preferred approach to the future funding of higher education announced on 23 July. Figures are shown for the financial years 1998-99 to 2000-2001 and are at 1995-96 prices. The net savings are therefore notional and have been derived independently of current expenditure plans. They are also dependent on the phasing of the introduction of the new loans arrangements.

£ millions

Additional loans expenditure(4)(400)(750)(1,100)
Grants savings250600850
Tuition fee savings150250400
Net savings0100150

(4) Costs are shown in brackets.

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