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Hammersmith Bridge

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: Arrangements for reopening Hammersmith Bridge are unchanged from those I reported on the 4 November (Hansard, Vol. 582, col. 290).

The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has started consulting on the future use of the bridge through the Internet Web. This process will gather public opinion on options for the bridge's future and assist decisions about its role in an efficient road network.

Asylum Seekers: Accommodation

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: The Government are currently undertaking a comprehensive spending review of asylum policy, including a review of the policy for providing support to asylum seekers. We recognise that some local authorities, particularly in London, are experiencing difficulties in accommodating asylum seekers to whom various statutory duties are owed.

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Consequently, in response to a request from the Association of London Government, the Government propose to make an order under Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 which will allow local housing authorities in England and Wales to grant non-secure tenancies and licences in their own housing stock to asylum seekers to whom they owe a statutory duty to provide accommodation.

Authorities will also be able to let their housing stock to other landlords who intend to sub-let the accommodation, on a temporary basis, to asylum seekers who are owed a duty.

Additionally, we intend to invite the Housing Corporation to consider relaxing its guidance, in respect of the use of registered social landlords' long-term stock, to allow them some flexibility in supporting local authorities which owe a statutory duty to accommodate asylum seekers.

These proposals will form temporary arrangements only, and are without prejudice to the outcome of the comprehensive spending review.

Lead Shot: Use over Wetlands

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to restrict the use of lead shot over wetlands.

Baroness Hayman: The Government are considering the best legislative options to prohibit the use of lead shot over wetlands in the United Kingdom. Legislation will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time permits. This will enable the United Kingdom to meet its commitment under the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement to endeavour to phase out lead shot over wetlands by the year 2000. In the meantime the voluntary phase-out of the use of lead shot over wetlands will continue.

Environment Council, 16 December

Lord Puttnam asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Environment Council on 16 December.

Baroness Hayman: Both my right honourable friend Michael Meacher, Minister of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and my honourable friend Angela Eagle, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council on 16 December 1997.

The Council reached a common position on a regulation establishing common rules and procedures for the export of certain types of Community waste to certain non-OECD countries which will complete the regulatory regime controlling the export of non-hazardous waste to non-OECD countries.

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The Council agreed conclusions on the Community's proposed strategy to combat acid rain. Ministers supported the Strategy in principle, but noted that the costs of the Commission's proposals were excessive and called for further work to be done to establish a sounder methodology. Conclusions were also agreed on the Community's Biodiversity Strategy, calling upon the Commission to produce the strategy, which is required under the Biodiversity Strategy, by the end of January 1998.

In the discussion on the proposed directive to reduce emissions from light commercial vehicles, the Council reached a general understanding on the way forward, but the European Parliament's opinion is needed before Common Position can be reached. The Council also reached a broad measure of common understanding on the proposed Landfill Directive but again a decision on a Common Position must await the European Parliament's opinion.

The Commission reported on progress on the Water Framework Directive and on environmental indicators and green national accounting. The Commission also made presentations on proposals for a directive to reduce emissions for heavy goods vehicles, a revised directive on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms, and a communication on Environment and Employment.

Over lunch, Ministers discussed the EU's approach to climate change in light of the outcome of the recent Kyoto conference. There was broad agreement that more work needed to be done urgently in a number of areas, including sinks, the clean development mechanism and emissions trading in the run up to the next negotiating session. This will be a priority during the UK Presidency, as will work to finalise the burden sharing among member states on the EU target and to take forward common and co-ordinated policies and measures. Brief discussions were also held on the Community mechanism for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions and on Community action needed to control CO 2 emissions from cars.

After the conclusion of business, as is customary for the incoming Chair of the Council, we thanked the Luxembourg minister and his team for their hard work during their Presidency. We announced that the environment would be one of the key themes of the UK's Presidency overall and that, in the Environment Council, we would take forward work on climate change, including the proposals on a CO 2 monitoring mechanism and CO 2 from cars; continue the work on landfill, emissions from light vans, sulphur content of liquid fuels, the Solvents Directive, revision of Directives on Biotechnology and the Water Framework Directive; and start discussion of new proposals on the Air Quality Daughter Directive, a directive on emissions from heavy goods vehicles, the European Environment Agency regulation, the Zoos Recommendation and the EU Biodiversity Strategy. We would prepare the EU position on a number of international events, including the Commission on Sustainable Development, the fourth Conference of Parties to the Biodiversity Convention and the Environment for Europe Conference. Finally, we also announced that there would be a joint session

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of the Environment and Transport Councils on 17 June and an Informal Council on 24-26 April, again with a joint session of environment and transport ministers.

Driving Licences: Holders' Photographs

Lord Borrie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made to include a photograph of the holder on driving licences.

Baroness Hayman: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency will introduce photocard style driving licences from next summer.

Construction Contracts

Lord Borrie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to bring into effect the provisions on construction contracts which are contained in Part II of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.

Baroness Hayman: We gave an assurance when we came into Government that we would implement the previous adminstration's legislation on fair construction contracts which had been introduced with cross-Party agreement. We are delighted now to be fulfilling that promise.

We have today laid an order which sets out the arrangements which need to be followed where construction contracts fail to contain adjudication and payment provisions which comply with the 1996 Act. We have also laid an order excluding certain types of contracts, and especially contracts under the Private Finance Initiative, from the terms of the Act.

These proposals are the result of detailed and comprehensive consultation with all sections of the construction industry. The adjudication provisions will help resolve construction disputes quickly and simply. We are looking forward to the legislation coming into effect in the spring.

Sustainable Development: Government Panel's Report

Lord Borrie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the response to the Government Panel on Sustainable Development's Third Annual Report will be published.

Baroness Hayman: The Government's response to the Third Annual Report of the Government Panel on Sustainable Development has been published today. We are pleased that we have been able to respond positively to many of the panel's recommendations. The panel is a valuable source of advice for government in the achievement of sustainable development, an issue which this Government have pledged will be at the heart of all policy-making. We wish to express our gratitude to the Convenor of the Panel, Sir Crispin Tickell, and his

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colleagues for their continued commitment to helping to identify new sustainable ways of enhancing the quality of life and prosperity for everyone.

Examples where the Government have been able to respond positively to the panel's recommendations are:

    on subsidies: action is being taken to see whether the objectives of subsidies are compatible with sustainable development;

    on aviation fuel: the Prime Minster pressed for action at the UN Special Session in June;

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    on climate change: the Government have set the pace internationally on targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions;

    on environmental education: the Government have announced a new Environmental Education Panel, under the chairmanship of Sir Geoffrey Holland; commissioned the Council for Environmental Education to draft a code of good practice; and provided additional resources for the Environmental Action Fund;

    on housing and land use planning: the Government are looking at ways of using fiscal incentives to meet environmental objectives.

I am placing copies of the response in the Library.

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