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Lord Donoughue: On 1 July 1999 we announced that the Countryside Access Scheme was closed to new applications. This pilot agri-environment scheme provided public access to set aside land. Public access to farmland will continue to be available under the Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas schemes, which provide more comprehensive incentives for farmers to provide access.
All existing CAS agreements will continue until the end of their five-year terms. At the expiry of their agreements, farmers will be offered the opportunity to apply for agreements under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Those which provide good quality opportunities for public access will be offered agreements.
Lord Donoughue: The Environment Agency's March 1999 progress report identified that mapping of the flood plain for every watercourse in England and Wales was taking place to a consistent standard. The maps will show the flood plains for all watercourses with a catchment area of greater than 50km 2 whether or not these are designated as "main rivers". The maps will
Lord Donoughue: Officials in MAFF, DETR and the Environment Agency have agreed that Circular 30/92 on Development and Flood Risk should be reviewed. Proposals have yet to be developed but it is anticipated that a consultation draft will be available before the end of this year.
Meanwhile, the Environment Agency has introduced mechanisms to monitor decisions made by local planning authorities where the agency has objected to planning applications on the grounds that the proposed development would increase flood risks. The results will be reported to the Ministry, DETR and Regional Flood Defence Committees. The agency has also introduced additional internal guidance to help staff in providing a consistent approach when commenting on planning applications.
Lord Donoughue: The Environment Agency work in developing a standard approach for archiving information on extreme floods remains on target for completion in September 1999. The approach comprises two elements, a standard flood event questionnaire to assemble data and a computerised storage archive and retrieval system to handle the data.
Lord Donoughue: As part of its general supervisory duty for all matters relating to flood defence, the Environment Agency, in partnership with local authorities and internal drainage boards, is in the process of identifying "critical" ordinary watercourses. These are watercourses which, while not classified as "main river", have the potential to put large numbers of people and property at risk from flooding.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): HMS "Triumph" will be upgraded to carry Tomahawk land attack missiles in autumn 1999, followed by HMS "Trafalgar" and HMS "Spartan" next year. Longer term plans are that the full fleet of 10 nuclear powered submarines will be upgraded to carry TLAM by 2008.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): Birmingham Health Authority is addressing the city's high levels of perinatal mortality through research into the causes and through investment in key interventions, as set out in the Authority's Health Improvement Programme. Research is being concentrated on factors where there is already evidence of adverse effect on perinatal mortality, particularly poverty, ethnic and cultural factors, smoking behaviour and nutrition.
The Institute of Public Health at Birmingham University is investigating psycho-social factors relating to prematurity, and interventions which will be effective in addressing those factors. Neither that review, nor the analyses undertaken by the West Midlands Perinatal Audit Unit, have examined fluoridation, since attention is being focused on known risk factors applicable to Birmingham rather than on speculative investigation.
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