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Mahogany for RN Ships: Source

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): It is our policy to purchase all the mahogany that we require from sustainably grown sources and we require specific certification to this effect from our contractors. The Brazilian mahogany to which the article in the Observer of 1 February 1998 referred was purchased on this basis and we hold certificates of conformity provided by our contractor from his suppliers assuring us that the timber was from a legal source. We have seen no evidence to substantiate or support the allegations in the Observer article, but, should such evidence come to light, we would take the matter up with the contractor concerned.

Right to Roam: Urban Areas

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The Government plan shortly to issue a consultation paper setting out proposals for increasing access to open countryside. We do not envisage that these proposals will encompass land in urban areas.

Salisbury Transport Study

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: The terms of reference for the Salisbury Transport Study are as set out in a newsletter (Issue No. 1) published by the Government Office for

19 Feb 1998 : Column WA56

the South West in December 1997, a copy of which will be placed in the Library.

National Bus Company Pension Fund

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will reply to a request from the National Bus Company (NBC) Pension Trustees Ltd for funds to commence a legal action on the National Bus pension fund following a decision by the Pensions Ombudsman.

Baroness Hayman: After fully considering the legal advice and the relevant background, we have authorised the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions to reply to NBC Pension Trustees Ltd offering to meet the trustees' costs with respect to a legal action on the National Bus Pension Fund.

This offer is consistent with our hope that all outstanding legal matters concerning the former National Bus Company pension funds are satisfactorily resolved as soon as possible.

Lead in Drinking Water

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to release the report commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on the cost benefit analysis of reducing lead in drinking water.

Baroness Hayman: This report has now been published and we have arranged for copies to be placed in the Library of the House. This is an interesting study which attempts to cost the health and non-health benefits associated with reducing levels of lead in drinking water to the 25 g/l and 10 g/l levels required by the new EC Drinking Water Directive.

The report indicates that in some circumstances it is cost effective to replace lead water pipes, although if the cost of pipe replacement could be reduced the case for action would be clearer. It also concludes that it is cost effective to introduce water treatment to reduce exposure even when benefits appear to be low.

The report provides a useful input to the debate about the costs and benefits of reducing lead levels in water. However, this is a difficult area and further work will be necessary on the assumptions and approaches used.

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