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Iraq Crisis: Broadcast Jamming

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Her Majesty's Government are not aware of any plans to conduct "jamming operations" against broadcast media during the recent Iraq crisis. The UK would not as a matter of course plan to carry out such operations.

Service Personnel: Hearing Test Procedures

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: The procedures to be followed after a hearing test are laid down in single Service instructions. When an individual passes a test, only further routine tests at the specified intervals are required. However, when an individual demonstrates specified deterioration compared with earlier tests, referral to an otorhinolaryngology consultant is required. Depending on the level of hearing loss, individuals may be subject to downgrading and restrictions on their employability to protect them from further risk. In some, more severe, cases discharge may be necessary.

Landmine Elimination

Lord Gordon of Strathblane asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: We have, on a number of occasions, underlined our commitment to doing as much as possible to achieve this objective. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence wrote to colleagues on 27 January, setting out our plans to destroy all of the Army's operational stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines by 1 January 2000--well ahead of the deadline set by the Ottawa Convention. A copy of his letter is in the Library of the House. We now plan also to destroy the HB 876 anti-personnel submunition of the RAF's JP233 Airfield Denial Weapon by the same date.

The MoD is also addressing the problem of the millions of mines that are the legacy of conflicts around the world. We have made good progress in

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implementing the five point action plan on humanitarian demining we announced in October last year. In particular, the Mine Information and Training Centre at Minley is now fully operational. We continue to look for ways to do more; the recent gifting of 10 demining tractors to the HALO Trust is one example of our commitment in this area.

Scotland: Per Capita Spending

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For every £100 spent by the Government on each person resident in England, how much was spent on each person resident in Scotland for each of the years from 1979 to date on each of the following heads: the National Health Service, social work, education, arts, sport, housing, local government, rate support grant, planning, the countryside, trunk roads, agricultural support, tourism, the police and fire services, and courts and administration of the criminal and civil law.[HL1994]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The information requested cannot be provided without incurring a disproportionate cost. Similar information to that requested is already available in past and present Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses, the most recent version published in April 1998 (Cm 3901). Table 7.2 shows an index of identifiable general government expenditure per head in Scotland, where the UK equals 100, by broad programme category. Further information on sub-programme spending is available in the departmental reports of the Scottish Office and the relevant Whitehall department.

Forth Road Bridge: Vehicle Numbers

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many vehicles passed over the Forth Road Bridge for each year since 1979 to date: and what was the percentage increase for each year.[HL1995]

Lord Sewel: The information requested is set out in the table below.

YearAnnual total number of vehicles(1) (in thousands)Annual increase as a percentage of the previous year


(1) Annual Report by the General Manager of the Forth Road Bridge Joint Board.

(2) The 1997 figure shows traffic flow for northbound traffic only. (One-way tolling was established on the bridge in September 1997).

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Council Tax Debt Collection Procedures

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will change the way in which non-domestic rate debt is enforced following the recent changes to council tax debt collection procedures.[HL2156]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions (Baroness Hayman): Many of those who responded to our consultation exercise on council tax debt collection expressed the view that similar changes should be made to the non-domestic rating regime. We have decided that, where appropriate, the non-domestic collection and enforcement regulations should be brought into line with those for council tax. We have published a consultation paper, Changes to the enforcement and levying of distress for non-domestic rate debts, setting out our proposals.

It is important that local authorities pursue unpaid business rates rigorously. At the same time, the system needs to operate as fairly as possible for ratepayers. Debtors need to be aware what the procedures are and why they are being pursued for payment. The changes we are proposing will make the system clearer and more effective.

A copy of the consultation document has been placed in the Library of the House.

Motorway Hard Shoulders: Sweeping

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many times the Highways Agency have (a) been contracted to sweep and (b) swept the hard shoulder of each motorway in the United Kingdom in each of the five years and in the current year.[HL2076]

Baroness Hayman: I have asked the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency to write to my noble friend.

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Letter to Viscount Simon from the Director of Network and Customer Services of the Highways Agency, Mr. P. Nutt, dated 8 June 1998.

The Minister for Roads, Lady Hayman, has asked the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency to reply to your recent parliamentary questions about the sweeping of motorway hard shoulders. I am writing on his behalf.

The Highways Agency is only responsible for the trunk roads and motorways in England. The requirements for sweeping and cleaning of roads (including motorway hard shoulders) are dictated by the Environmental Protection Act 1990: Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse. The code defines standards of cleanliness and requires that an area be returned to a set cleanliness standard within a specified time of it falling to a lower standard. It does not require roads to be cleaned at regular frequencies.

In England, the Highways Agency contracts with maintaining agents and contractors for the routine maintenance of motorways, including the sweeping and cleaning of motorway hard shoulders. Information from regular safety inspections and safety patrols on our motorways is used to programme sweeping and cleaning, as need dictates. The aim is to achieve the overall cleanliness standard set in the code and to target "black spot" locations which result from factors such as debris from vehicles or wind blown litter.

I regret that, as sweeping of hard shoulders is on an "as needs" basis, information on how many times the hard shoulder of each motorway in England has been swept in each of the past five years, and even in the current year, could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Waste Management: Consultation Paper

Baroness Amos asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they have made in developing a new waste strategy for England and Wales.[HL2174]

Baroness Hayman: We promised earlier this year that we would begin the process of preparing a new national waste strategy with a wide ranging public consultation. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister for the Environment will be launching tomorrow, at the Institute of Waste Management Centenary Conference in Torbay, a consultation paper: Less Waste: More Value, which sets out the key principles underlying our approach, and seeks views on how to improve the way our society deals with its waste.

The consultation exercise will last through the summer. We will be looking for views from a wide range of people and organisations, and want to provoke a wide debate on the options open to us and the best way to take management into the 21st century. The consultation period will end on 25 September, after which we will carefully study all the views presented to us and start drafting the new waste strategy.

Copies will be available tomorrow morning in the Library of the House.

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