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7 Dec 1998 : Column WA69

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to bring into force Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 as regards ministerial statements of compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights made under Section 19.[HL69]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I refer the noble Lord to the reply I gave on 25 November (WA 1-2).

Alternatives to Prison

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they plan to respond to the third report of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee of Session 1997-98 into Alternatives to Prison Sentences. (HC486)[HL214]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: This is a useful and constructive report, and the Government's detailed response to it is being published today.

The report makes a large number of observations and recommendations. It says that community sentences can and should be rigorous and that, if they are to be credible, they must be enforced stringently. The Government endorse that view, as our response indicates. The report also welcomes many of the measures which the Government have already taken to extend the range and flexibility of community sentences and to ensure that intervention takes place at an earlier stage, especially when dealing with juvenile crime.

Rwandan Refugees: Congolese Conscription

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What conclusions they have drawn from the illegal conscription of Rwandan Hutu refugees by the Congolese army from camps under the authority of the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees; whether they have provided assistance to these camps; and whether they have made any representations on this issue to the United Nations.[HL20]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We are concerned about recent reports that a number of Rwandan Hutus have left refugee camps in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) to join the fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have raised this matter with UNHCR, who say they do not have any evidence of conscription. Some reports suggest that the refugees are forcing the administrators of the camps to let them leave. UNHCR condemns any recruitment of refugees and asylum seekers for military action and has called on states hosting asylum seekers and refugees to take all necessary measures to prevent activities which could

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further destabilise the region or undermine the humanitarian and civilian nature of the camps. On 19 November, the Security Council adopted a resolution underlining the unacceptability of using refugees to achieve military purposes. The European Union has allocated 500,000 ecu for humanitarian projects to be implemented through UNHCR in the Republic of Congo.

EU Enlargement

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on European Union enlargement negotiations; and what entry dates they anticipate for new members of the European Union.[HL46]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government remain committed to continuing progress towards EU enlargement. Substantive accession negotiations were opened on 10 November with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia in seven chapters of the acquis. We hope the Vienna European Council will stress the importance of further progress in the negotiations between now and the Cologne European Council in June. Vienna will also consider the Commission's reports on the candidates' preparations for eventual accession. We are broadly supportive of the Commission's conclusions that, while much progress has been made, none of the less-advanced applicants is yet ready to start negotiations.

The speed of progress towards accession depends on the candidates' individual circumstances. Some of the candidates are aiming for 2002. The UK has not set formal target dates. But we are working hard for rapid progress, and to avoid any artificial delays.

Housing Development on Brownfield Sites

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether local authorities have been specifically asked to favour housing development on brownfield sites; and, if so, whether they are satisfied that such a policy is being implemented.[HL109]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): PPG3 (Planning Policy Guidance for Housing) requires local planning authorities to make the best possible use of previously developed land for housing. The policy document, Planning for the Communities of the Future, which was published last February, reiterated this policy and set a national target that 60 per cent. of additional housing should be built on previously developed sites over the next 10 years. This target is to be underpinned by targets set regionally by local authorities and will be revisited once the regional targets have each been agreed. A National Land Use Database is being set up, the first

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priority of which is to establish exactly how much previously developed land exists which can be recycled. PPG3 is under revision and the new draft, which will be circulated for consultation early next year, will include further guidance on development of housing on previously-used land.

LT Bus Services: Management Costs

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the cost of London Transport's management of the franchised bus operations.[HL6]

Lord Whitty: In 1997-98 administration costs, which comprise planning and development, procurement and operating services, amounted to some £18 million. Operational support, which includes functions such as revenue protection, and the provision and maintenance of shelters, accounted for a further £14 million.

London Buses: Performance Statistics

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the performance statistics for London buses by route or areas for the last three years.[HL5]

Lord Whitty: This is a matter for London Transport. We understand they prepare a route analysis of quality of service indicators which they make available to local authorities and to the London Regional Passengers Committee. We are obtaining information from London Transport and I shall write further to my noble friend.

London Buses: Service Performance

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who is responsible for monitoring the performance of London buses.[HL4]

Lord Whitty: London Transport Buses, the bus division of London Transport, is responsible for monitoring the service performance. Summary reports are made to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to indicate overall performance against targets set by the Secretary of State.

Road and Transport Projects: Policy

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take in future to ensure that public disquiet about the impact on the countryside of projects such as the Newbury bypass is adequately addressed.[HL101]

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Lord Whitty: We want a countryside in which the environment is properly protected and conserved. Following the Comprehensive Spending Review, spending on DETR's countryside and wildlife programmes is set to rise from £128 million this year to £174 million in 2001-2002. We recently announced our intention to set out our vision for rural England in a rural White Paper.

As explained in our White Paper, A New Deal for Transport--Better for Everyone, there is now a strong presumption against new or expanded transport infrastructure which would adversely affect significant environmentally sensitive areas or sites.

In our report of the Roads Review, A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England, we announced that major road infrastructure projects will only be taken forward when, after rigorous appraisal against our criteria of environmental impact, safety, economy, accessibility and integration, they emerge as the best or only way of achieving our objective at an acceptable cost. We have developed a new approach to appraisal to ensure that environmental, economic and social factors are properly examined and evaluated in a clear and consistent way.

Leaded Petrol: Withdrawal

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether information is being provided to owners of older vehicles that will be affected by the withdrawal of leaded petrol from sale from 1 January 2000.[HL213]

Lord Whitty: The withdrawal of leaded petrol is part of a European strategy to reduce pollution from road traffic and the air we breathe.

I am nevertheless aware of the concerns of many owners of older vehicles about the practical implications of the ban and information is being made available, at outlets such as MOT stations, garages and forecourts and other locations, which will address the sorts of questions which motorists have been raising. Information may also be found on the department's website at

The general message for those who use leaded petrol is that they will have several options available to ensure that they can continue to use their car after 1 January 2000.

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