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Road Traffic Reduction Act: Draft Guidance

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Hayman: Draft guidance to local authorities on implementing the provisions of the Road Traffic Reduction Act is being issued for public consultation today. Comments on the draft guidance are being sought by 20 April 1998. I am arranging for copies of the consultation documents to be placed in the Library.

Cavity Wall Insulation: Research Report

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the latest results of the research into rain penetration in cavity walls.[HC219]

Baroness Hayman: On behalf of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) has undertaken research into water penetration in cavity walls filled with insulation.

As part of the ongoing programme of research into rain penetration in cavity walls we have asked for precautionary checks to be carried out on the condition of galvanised steel wire wall ties in a representative sample of homes with cavity walls filled with insulation. This follows the preliminary results of research which indicate that there is a possibility that the life expectancy of green coloured galvanised steel wire wall ties might be shortened when used in conjunction with urea formaldehyde foam cavity fill. The tests were undertaken on dwarf walls without the protective features found in real houses. We wish, therefore, to establish whether the effects indicated in the BRE research occur in real houses.

We want to stress that there is no conclusive evidence of a safety risk involving galvanised steel wire wall ties in cavity wall insulation. But it would be wrong if, as a result of the preliminary findings, we did not investigate quickly and thoroughly whether or not the possible problems with green coloured galvanised steel wire wall ties in some cavity fills were occurring in people's homes. This is a prudent, precautionary measure and we have asked that further research be carried out as soon as possible.

The expert, independent, advice we have received from the BRE is that while they believe that their initial findings indicate the need for a wider study, they are strongly of the view that it would be premature to place any firm interpretation on their findings until it can be established whether they are representative of conditions in the UK housing stock.

While the number of homes containing galvanised wire wall ties with a green film in cavity wall insulation is a small portion of the housing stock, it is prudent to carry out these precautionary checks which will be extended to examine other forms of galvanised wire wall ties in cavity fill.

BRE's test results show:

    Accelerated corrosion has occurred to galvanised steel wire wall ties which have been coated with a green identification film when embedded in moist urea formaldehyde foam cavity insulation.

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    While there was visual evidence of corrosion of "grey" (without the green film) galvanised steel wire wall ties embedded in moist cavity fill insulation, the measurement of loss of zinc was too small to be significant.

    No significant corrosion was found in either form of galvanised steel wire wall tie embedded in moist blown mineral wool or mineral wool batt cavity insulation.

    There was some visual evidence of corrosion on both types of galvanised steel wire ties at the gap which occurs between the masonry and all three types of wet insulation.

    Stainless steel wire ties showed no signs of corrosion irrespective of the cavity fill material and exposure.

These results were obtained from experimental walls after 12 and 18 months subject to regimes of accelerated exposure. Copies of BRE's research report have been placed in the House Library.

London: Transport Funding from EU

Lord Bethell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much money has been made available from the European Union budget, in each of the past three years, for transport infrastructure in the London area; and whether they will give details of each individual project which has received funds.[HL3]

Baroness Hayman: ERDF funding of £2,954,500 was committed to transport infrastructure projects in London under the East London and Lee Valley Objective 2 Programme 1994-96, as follows:

Project title199519961997
Stratford station subway extension (LB Newham)£170,000----
Seven Sisters interchange (LB Haringey)£125,000----
Stratford Regional station (LB Newham)£1,430,000----
Tottenham Hale LUL station upgrade (LB Haringey)£1,066,000----
Cycle parking at rail stations (LB Haringey)--£29,500--
Lea Bridge Road bus priority measures (LB Waltham Forest)--£94,000--
Access strategy for East London and Lea Valley (LB Waltham Forest)--£40,000--

In addition, between 1995 and 1997 about £66 million was awarded from the EU's Trans-European Networks (TENs) budget to the development of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and initial stages of the West Coast Mail Line upgrading and modernisation. However, it is not possible to identify separately the proportions applicable to infrastructure in the London area.

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Lowlands Canals: Repair Project

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the project to repair the Lowlands Canals is still viable; and whether there is a new problem with the funding of the project.[HL32]

Baroness Hayman: Funding for this project, which is being led by British Waterways, has been sought from a number of sources. All the funding is in place other than a contribution from the European Regional Development Fund. Recommendations from the two Scottish Office chaired programme committees which appraise ERDF applications in Scotland would leave a funding shortfall of some £7 million. However, the final decision rests with the European Commission. BW would have to reconsider the project's viability in the light of such a decision.

Millennium Dome

Lord Sefton of Garston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements have been made with any company or organisation regarding the Millennium Dome, and in particular:

    (a) whether tenders were requested before the Government agreed to the constructions;

    (b) whether the financial provisions were approved by HM Treasury;

    (c) whether they will recover any costs;

    (d) when each company involved was registered; and

    (e) who are the directors of each company involved.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The New Millennium Experience Company Ltd (NMEC) has responsibility for building the dome and for developing and operating the Millennium Experience at Greenwich and an associated national programme of events and activities. The NMEC operates according to company law but it is also a non-departmental public body (NDPB) and follows the appropriate procedures for the procurement of works, goods and services.

The grant memorandum between the Millennium Commission and NMEC provides for the Millennium Commission to oversee the procurement procedures implemented by the NMEC and, in certain cases, the Commission's or the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's approval is required before contracts are entered into. The Treasury has no role with respect to individual contracts.

NMEC (then called Millennium Central Ltd) became operational in February 1997. Tenders for works, goods and services sought during the period between February 1997 and 19 June 1997--the date on which the Government made a final decision to proceed with the project--were made on the basis of an interim grant contract with the Millennium Commission which

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contained provisions to cover the project being cancelled following any review. In a few cases the NMEC took over procurement processes already begun by the Millennium Commission as part of its developmental work on the project prior to the Commission's formal award of grant to the NMEC.

The only contract that NMEC has cancelled to date was that with Koch Hightex, which contained a cancellation clause to cover just such an eventuality.

The NMEC is now party to over 90 works, goods, and services contracts. It does not hold details of the directors of each of the companies involved or when each of the companies was registered. The costs of compiling such details could only be done at disproportionate cost to the taxpayer.

BSE and nvCJD: Inquiry

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will institute an inquiry into bovine spongiform encephalopathy and new variant CJD.[HL65]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): Since the announcement by the then Secretary of State for Health and Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 20 March 1996 of the probable link with a new variant of Creutzfeld Jakob Disease, there have been many calls for a public inquiry into Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. These calls come from consumer opinion and from the scientific community, as well as from the families of nvCJD patients, for whom the Government have the deepest sympathy. Comparisons have been drawn with the full investigations which follow transport accidents and major commercial failures affecting the public, whose human and economic implications are often much less.

Further to the statement made by my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 22 December 1997, the Government have decided to invite Lord Justice Phillips to carry out a non-statutory inquiry with the following terms of reference:

    "To establish and review the history of the emergence and identification of BSE and nvCJD in the United Kingdom, and of the action taken in response to it up to 20 March 1996; to reach conclusions on the adequacy of that response, taking account of the state of knowledge at the time; and to report on these matters by 31 December 1998 to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."

In carrying out the inquiry, Lord Justice Phillips will be supported by a scientific assessor and by an assessor experienced in public administration.

This will be a non-statutory inquiry, whose main purpose is to establish facts and the respective roles of a range of commercial players and public authorities,

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not to lay blame at the feet of individuals. The Government urge all concerned to co-operate fully with the inquiry; and will of course expect serving and retired public officials to do so.

The inquiry will begin its work this month. Parties wishing to make representations to the inquiry can write to them at 3 Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 2HH.

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