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Written Answers

Monday, 14th December 1998.

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981: Guidance to Procurators Fiscal

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

    Whether they have issued any guidance to procurators fiscal on prosecutions under Part II of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; and, if so, when such guidance was issued; and whether they will publish it.[HL186]

The Lord Advocate (Lord Hardie): Guidance has been issued to procurators fiscal on prosecutions under Part II of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. That guidance was issued in April 1985.

Guidance issued to procurators fiscal is generally confidential. I have no plans to publish the guidance.

Medical Profession: Self-regulation

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are taking to support the continuing initiatives of the British Medical Association, the General Medical Council and the Royal Medical Colleges to improve the self-regulation of the medical profession.[HL145]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The Government have made it clear in their consultation document A First Class Service--Quality in the new NHS that they wish to work in partnership with the medical profession, the National Health Service and patient interests in rebuilding public confidence in the quality of care provided in the NHS. The document, copies of which are available in the Library, welcomed the work already done by the profession and regulatory bodies.

We have already started discussions on how the process of making the law responsive to the changing needs of the professions can be made and we will be discussing the proposals for revalidation, which are being considered by the General Medical Council, in the new year.

Investment in Culture

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish their conclusions on the matters raised in the consultation paper published by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport A New Approach to Investment in Culture of 24 July.[HL306]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The consultation paper which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport issued in July contained a number of proposals for change in sectors for which his department is responsible. At the same time my right honourable friend was able to announce an extra £290 million for those sectors over the next three years. Today my right honourable friend is publishing the conclusions he has reached in the light of the consultation, together with the detailed allocation of funding to sponsored bodies.

Some of the main conclusions from the document are: a new watchdog to monitor and improve standards of efficiency and financial management and promote quality across all our sectors; streamlining of national bodies in the arts and crafts, the built heritage, film and museums and libraries to improve the delivery of services across these sectors; a more effective, slimmer national strategic body for tourism in England; a new national body to champion architecture; a stronger voice for culture in the English regions, and a DCMS presence in all government offices; new three-year funding agreements with DCMS's sponsored bodies, placing clear responsibilities on those bodies to deliver our objectives against demanding targets.

Copies of the document A New Cultural Framework have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

English Partnerships: Inner Thames Marshes

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the role of English Partnerships in the proposed development in the inner Thames marshes site of special scientific interest at Havering Riverside (Rainham Marsh).[HL193]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Havering riverside site is entirely in the ownership of the London Borough of Havering. The site is considered to be of strategic importance to employment generation within the Thames gateway area and is included within the unitary development plan prepared in 1993. English Partnerships is one of the partner organisations examining options for its possible development. The agency has provided funding to carry out site investigations, including an environmental assessment of the site. It has also funded an investment demand study for the site.

Following the London Borough of Havering's initial outline planning application for development in January 1997, English Partnerships submitted a further identical application in November 1997 in an attempt to deal with the issue of securing benefits for the development through a Section 106 agreement. The agency has no legal interest in the land.

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English Partnerships: Sustainable Development

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What actions English Partnerships have taken to contribute towards the United Kingdom sustainable development strategy and the biodiversity action plan as referred to in the document English Partnerships--Improving our Environment.[HL194]

Lord Whitty: The UK Strategy for Sustainable Development, as published in 1994, identifies the key role of English Partnerships in the reclamation and re-use of vacant and derelict land which can help to reduce the pressure to build on greenfield sites and the agency's statutory guidance states that, in carrying out its activities, it should pay full regard to the Government's overall sustainable development strategy.

The agency has developed policies and published good practice guides promoting good quality design, using innovative and sustainable methods and has been a vocal proponent of mixed use development, through its Making Places handbook. Some examples of action and involvement from English Partnerships in this area include: undertaking the redevelopment of a significant area of the Greenwich peninsula, to re-use a previously contaminated site incorporating many innovative sustainable techniques in developing the mixed use Millennium Village, the first of a number of such planned developments; working as a major partner in the English Environment Fund, which seeks to maximise, through an environmental trust mechanism, the re-use of landfill tax receipts for environmental projects; taking forward business plans for the comprehensive regeneration of its 2,206-hectare portfolio of former British Coal sites across England, with a further package of sites in the pipeline; supporting the work of the Urban Task Force in developing a national land use database of brownfield sites which will inform the beneficial re-use of brownfield sites, particularly in connection with the siting of future housing; working with my own department, the private sector and others to establish a network of remediation test sites under the research programme CLAIRE (Contaminated Land in Real Environments).

English Partnerships is also finalising new internal guidance on its overall policy in connection with environmental matters, including on development proposals affecting SSSIs.

English Partnerships: Contaminated Land and Nature Conservation

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What powers English Partnerships have to pay for the cleaning up of contaminated land in order that it can be used for nature conservation.[HL195]

Lord Whitty: The powers of English Partnerships in the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 are all directed at its main

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statutory objective of securing the regeneration of land in England which is contaminated, derelict, and vacant, unused or likely to become so. In pursuit of this objective the agency can acquire, hold, manage, reclaim, improve and dispose of land, plant machinery, equipment and other property; give financial assistance to other persons (including for use on environmental improvements); and generally do anything necessary or expedient for the purposes of its objects or for purposes incidental to those purposes.

Rail Passenger Service Franchisees

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they intend to take to ensure that current rail passenger service franchisees will be compelled to fulfil their investment obligations right up to the end of the franchise.[HL210]

Lord Whitty: The franchise agreements generally require investments and enhancements to be delivered according to stipulated timescales. These are enforced by the Franchising Director. The Government have also said that the performance of the incumbent franchisees will be taken into account before any new contracts are entered into. Operators will therefore have an incentive to continue to develop their businesses throughout the term of their franchises.

Rail Passenger's Charter: Compensation

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask the rail regulator to lower the threshold at which compensation is paid to annual and periodic season ticket holders, so that, for any passenger service that arrives at its destination more than 30 minutes after the published timetable time, season ticket holders will be reimbursed in full for that specific journey.[HL209]

Lord Whitty: Passenger's Charter arrangements are safeguarded in franchise agreements, and this is therefore a matter for the Franchising Director. At the time of franchising, operators were required to offer, as a minimum, the same compensation arrangements as British Rail. Those provided for compensation for season ticket holders in the form of a discount on renewal if average performance over a year fell below a stated level. The Franchising Director has the opportunity to renegotiate franchise commitments from time to time and will be looking for improvements in Passenger's Charter terms as he does so. One operator, Chiltern Railway, already offers compensation on terms similar to those proposed by the noble Lord.

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