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Countryside Access Scheme

Lord Morris of Castle Morris asked Her Majesty's Government:

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.

Flood Forecasting and Prevention

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

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

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include some river tributaries not previously mapped by the Agency. The Agency's Easter Floods Action Plan requires such maps to be produced for local authorities by September 1999.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any progress has been made in strengthening the system of objecting to inappropriate development in flood risk areas.[HL3428]

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.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the development of a standard approach for archiving information on extreme floods is still on target.[HL3429]

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.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What strategy they have for dealing with floods caused by tributaries outside the Environment Agency remit which flow into rivers and streams within the Environment Agency's remit; and in particular how any such strategy has been implemented in and around Rugby.[HL3430]

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.

In common with other local authorities, Rugby Borough Council has been asked by the Agency to

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indicate known flooding problems in the Borough and also to identify and assess the condition of significant flood defences on ordinary watercourses. This information will be used to determine existing standards of service as well as helping to define future strategies with the council.

Tomahawk Missiles: Submarine Upgrading

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to upgrade submarines, in addition to HMS "Splendid", to carry Tomahawk missiles.[HL3616]

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.

Birmingham: Perinatal Mortality

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the evidence of high perinatal mortality in Birmingham reported in Why do Birmingham Babies Die? by the West Midlands Perinatal Audit Service, whether the epidemiological analysis commissioned from this service and the further systematic review of the causes of prematurity and still births commissioned from the Institute of Public Health, will examine the fluoridation of the local water supply among other possible causes.[HL3447]

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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