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"Greening Government": Environmental Audit Committee Report

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: We are pleased to announce the publication today of the Government's response to the Environmental Audit Committee Report on "Greening Government". We have been able to take on board and respond positively to many of the committee's recommendations. We congratulate the Environmental Audit Committee on taking a broad and constructive approach in its "Greening Government" report, and welcome its intention to keep the issues it raises under review.

This response promises early action in a number of important areas. The terms of reference of ENV (the Cabinet Committee on the Environment) have been amended to make explicit that its remit includes co-ordination of sustainable development issues. Green Ministers will report regularly to ENV committee and will prepare an annual report on their activities for publication; the first published report will be next summer. Sir Richard Wilson will be reissuing the Guide to Cabinet Committee Business, reminding departments to consider any significant environmental costs and benefits of proposals in papers for Cabinet Committees, seeking DETR's views as appropriate. We shall be reviewing this system at the end of 1999; we want to be sure that it is delivering the changes that we are determined will be made. Where possible departments will consult on and make available their environmental appraisals. By the end of this Parliament we want each department to have begun introducing an environmental management system where deemed efficient and cost-effective and to have collected a set of examples of good practice in greening policies and operations. Whenever government create a new body we shall consider the case for incorporating sustainable development into its remit; and we have asked Green Ministers to consider and report to the Cabinet Committee on the Environment on how far sustainable development can be incorporated into the remit of all existing departments and NDPBs.

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Fire Safety

Lord Howie of Troon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they propose to publish the collated responses to the consultation paper on proposed amendments to Approved Document B: Fire Safety, prepared by the Fire Research Establishment or whether it will be available to the general public in some other way.[HL3685]

Lord Whitty: A list of all those who responded has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses advising that copies of all response letters are available from the DETR library. I do not propose to make public the collation of these comments prepared for my department by the Fire Research Establishment. This collation is intended to be used as a basis for discussion at the Building Regulations Advisory Committee working party meetings where the consultation comments are considered.

Retail Developments: Government Policy

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the recent judgment of Mr. Justice Dyson in the High Court affects their declared policy regarding planning approval for major new retail developments.

Lord Whitty: The Government do not comment on the construction of court judgments.

The Government's policy is set out in our Response to the House of Commons Environment Committee Report on Shopping Centres [Cmnd 3729]. This reaffirmed our commitment to the policy set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 6 (PPG6): Town Centres and Retail Developments.

Car Park Safety

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of a partial collapse of a multi-storey car park in Wolverhampton and the safety barriers at a car park in Canterbury, they will:

    (a) consider the introduction of a compulsory structural inspection regime for car parks similar to the annual inspection and detailed five-year checks for highway bridges;

    (b) publish the instructions given to owners and operators of multi-storey car parks concerning examination for structural integrity; and

    (c) implement the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Structural Safety concerning car park safety.[HL3756]

Lord Whitty: Partial collapse of the Wolverhampton car park and failure of the safety barriers at the Canterbury car park are being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive. The department intends to await the final outcome of these investigations and that of the

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examination of the regulatory framework, including Building Regulations and the HSE legislation, before considering introduction of any compulsory structural inspection regime for car parks. Inspections of car parks should be carried out by the owners as a part of their maintenance responsibilities.

There are no instructions given to owners and operators of multi-storey car parks concerning examination for structural integrity.

The department has given careful consideration to the views expressed in the Eleventh Report of the Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) on safety of car parks. However, the recommendations in this report are primarily addressed to the owners and operators of existing car parks. Officials of my department are considering whether there is any need to reinforce these within the regulatory framework.

Chile: Defence Orders from UK

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Government of Chile have cancelled any defence orders from the United Kingdom; and whether this will cause job losses within the United Kingdom defence manufacturing industry.[HL3776]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): We are not aware of any defence orders from the UK which have recently been cancelled by the Government of Chile.

Radiocommunication Services: Cross-border Interference

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose, at the United Nations General Assembly, that a convention to prevent jamming of trans-frontier television be drafted, including a mechanism for enforcement, and that in the meanwhile the General Assembly should commission a report on interference with transmissions and the technological means of detecting the origin of jamming signals.[HL3672]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Cross-border interference to radiocommunication services is a matter for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialised agency of the United Nations. The constitution of the ITU contains a provision which states that: "All stations, whatever their purposes, must be established and operated in such a manner as not to cause harmful interference to the radio services or communications of other Members . . . which operate in accordance with the provisions of the Radio Regulations". The International Radio Regulations, which are produced by the ITU and have treaty status, contain formal procedures for the elimination of harmful interference on an administration-to-administration basis and these procedures have very recently been amended

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to include cases of deliberate harmful interference. To aid the process of establishing the source of harmful interference to satellite networks, the ITU's 1997 World Radiocommunication Conference proposed the establishment of a global satellite monitoring network, although it is too early to say whether this will be implemented effectively.

Kosovo Albanian Children: Entry to UK for Medical Treatment

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have received about the grant of entry clearance to a number of Kosovo Albanian children to enable them to come to the United Kingdom for medical treatment, accompanied by their close relatives.[HL3897]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has received representations from Ms Sally Becker of Operation Angel about a total of 91 applications referred to the Home Office by the British Embassy in Tirana, a third of which are in respect of children needing medical treatment. The applications fell to be considered under the Immigration Rules relating to persons seeking to enter the United Kingdom as visitors for private medical treatment, or simply as visitors. Under these rules my right honourable friend has to be satisfied, among other requirements, that there is satisfactory evidence about the medical condition and its treatment, that the person will be able to maintain and accommodate himself and any dependants without recourse to public funds and that the person intends to leave the United Kingdom at the end of the period of the treatment or visit. In the absence of satisfactory evidence from Operation Angel or any other source, my right honourable friend was not satisfied that these requirements were met in any of the applications.

He considered whether there were grounds for treating the applications on a discretionary basis outside the Immigration Rules but concluded that it would not be appropriate to do so. In reaching this decision, my right honourable friend took account of the fact that Ms Becker had not taken government advice and guidance on how to bring such an evacuation within the recognised official procedures; she had not demonstrated the option of local treatment through the international agencies; and had not made a proper case on medical grounds. He was also aware that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has in place a humanitarian strategy for former Yugoslavia (including Kosovo) and Albania, and will be sending a mission there this week. Furthermore, in the absence of adequate guarantees of funding from Operation Angel, my right honourable friend had to take account of the likely cost to the taxpayer in the almost certain event of recourse to public funds, which for a group of this size would be of the order of £400,000 a year. My right honourable friend accordingly decided to

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refuse the applications. Ms Becker was notified of this decision by the British Embassy in Tirana on Friday 13 November.

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