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Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement concerning the future of the monks, nuns and priests at present in the Hong Kong refugee camps once repatriated.
Mr. Maude [holding answer 14 December 1989] : No monks, nuns or priests have been screened out as non-refugees. Any who arrived in Hong Kong before 16 June 1988, when screening was introduced, would have been granted refugee status and will be eligible for resettlement in the West. Among those still awaiting screening, the Hong Kong authorities have identified six nuns and four monks, all of them Buddhists, but no priests. When they are screened, such people would have a good claim to refugee status if they can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution on religious grounds. If they are found to merit refugee status, they will then be removed to a refugee camp to await resettlement.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what studies are being undertaken by the transport and road research laboratory into ethanol and methanol fuels for large-scale private and commercial road vehicle use.
Mr. Atkins : The energy technology support unit published a report "An assessment of bioethanol as a transport fuel in the UK" in 1988 (ETSU Report R-44). Copies will be placed in the Library. The transport and road research laboratory's vehicles and environment division keeps in touch with the work going on worldwide on alternative fuels.
Mr. Foulkes : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what valuations of land and buildings at Prestwick airport, including land not needed for airport development, have been made since 1979 ; and what were the figures received ;
(2) what valuations of the land at Prestwick airport not required for airport operations were carried out by his Department, by the British Airports Authority, or by or on behalf of his or their advisers prior to privatisation ; and what were the figures received ;
(3) what was the valuation of Prestwick airport, including land not required for airport operations, when last valued by the British Airports Authority prior to privatisation ;
(4) when the land at Prestwick airport, including land not required for airport operations, was last valued for his Department ; and what was the valuation received.
Mr. McLoughlin : The following gross current cost valuations of land and buildings have been provided by BAA plc, based on the published accounts of Prestwick Airport Limited, which was first incorporated on 6 January 1986.
Year ended |£ thousand March --------------------------------- 1987 |27,552 1988 |28,556 1989 |32,974
The prospectus offering shares in BAA plc for sale noted that non- operational land and buildings at the seven BAA airports were valued at 1 April 1986 by Debenham, Tewson and Chinnock at £91 million. No separate figure was given for Prestwick airport. The prospectus gave a figure of £1,400 million for fixed assets at all of the BAA airports at 31 March 1987, but again did not separately identify a figure for land at Prestwick.
The Department has no readily available record of any earlier figures.
Mr. Atkins : The London borough of Lambeth will receive transport supplementary grant of £154,000 in 1990-91 towards its contribution to Londonwide urban traffic control systems and for unspecified minor works on roads of more than local importance.
Mr. McLoughlin : Supplementary credit approvals totalling £59 million will be available for public airport companies and local authority airports for 1990-91. These borrowing approvals, together with other resources which public airport companies expect at this stage to invest, will
Column 582assist the airports concerned to provide facilities which they estimate could cost some £117 million in 1990- 91. I have today agreed to supplementary credit approvals totalling £46 million at this stage. The major projects concerned include the continuation of work on terminal 2 at Manchester airport and of infrastructure for the Eurohub terminal at Birmingham airport. Formal supplementary credit approvals will be issued as soon as part IV of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 comes into effect.
Mr. Atkins [holding answer 8 January 1990] : The Department takes the needs of cyclists into account when planning new trunk roads and improving existing ones. Close attention is paid to the design of junctions and other locations where cyclists are known to be at greatest risk, and we try to enhance the safety and convenience of routes for cyclists. We encourage local highway authorities, which are responsible for the roads on which most cycling takes place, to do the same. We shall continue to promote safer cycling mainly through the publication of technical advice and guidance based on our research and application studies.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action he is taking to ensure that local authorities are able to plan for cyclists within their tranportation plans ; and if he will ensure that such initiatives are properly resourced.
Mr. Atkins [holding answer 8 January 1990] : Decisions on allocating resources for cycling and the appropriate level of provision are for individual highway authorities to take. The current circular to local authorities on transport policies and programme submissions for 1990-91 encourages them to provide facilities which benefit cyclists. Such schemes will be considered for transport supplementary grant when they are integral to highway or traffic management schemes which are large enough to qualify for grant in their own right.
The Department makes available technical advice mainly in the form of publications which are available from our regional offices (free traffic advisory leaflets) and Her Majesty's Stationery Office (local transport notes). Copies are placed in the Library.
Column 583Mr. Atkins [holding answer 8 January 1990] : We aim to reduce road casualties, including car accidents, by a third by the year 2000. Copies of the second annual progress report "Road Casualty Reduction" are in the Library. Action covers roads, vehicles and drivers. Key features are bypasses, low-cost local safety schemes, traffic calming in residential areas, better signing and lighting, improved vehicle safety standards, effective driver training and testing and a developing framework of road traffic law and enforcement measures to foster sensible driving behaviour.
Mr. Atkins [holding answer 8 January 1990] : I am not aware of any specific research on this topic. The Department's database on accidents involving injuries to car occupants indicates that the ratio of two or three-door cars to four or five-door cars involved in fatal accidents follows closely their respective ratios in the car population. The following table illustrates this for the year ending 31 December 1988.
per cent. |2/3 |4/5 |Estates |Doors |Doors ------------------------------------------------------------- Total GB population (cars in 1988) |37.8 |53.7 |8.5 Fatal Accidents |38.9 |53.4 |7.7
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what impact his proposals for road improvement will have on inner-city congestion ; and what consultation he has had with local authorities about his planned road building programme.
Mr. Atkins [holding answer 8 January 1990] : The schemes in the Government's trunk road programme are designed to deal selectively with forecast levels of demand and congestion mostly on the inter-urban network, where recent traffic growth has been highest. Inner-city roads are by and large the responsibility of local highway authorities, with which the Department maintains regular contacts. Schemes in the trunk road programme will benefit inner-city areas by relieving traffic congestion and making them more attractive places for people to live and work.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received from the Council for the Protection of Rural England, Friends of the Earth, the Ramblers Association, Transport 2000, the Youth Hostels Association, the Environment Council, Greenpeace, the Royal Society for Nature Conservation and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature on his proposals ; and what action he is taking.
Mr. Atkins [holding answer 8 January 1990] : We have received copies of the publication "Roads to Ruin" from these organisations. Some have separately written to me. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the Secretary of State's response to "Roads to Ruin".
Mr. Atkins [holding answer 8 January 1990] : In 1988, a total of 322,305 persons were killed or injured in accidents on British roads. This total includes 63,491 persons seriously injured and 5,052 persons killed.
In the same year, a total of 10,963 persons were killed or injured in accidents on British railways. This total includes 596 persons who sustained major injuries and 97 persons killed.
Mr. Latham : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will make a statement on any action which he has taken to improve safety on the A52 trunk road bypassing Bottesford, Leicestershire, since the site meeting attended by representatives of his Department on 17 May ; and whether he will list the action taken in response to each of the paragraphs of the departmental minute of proceedings sent to the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton on 7 August.
Mr. Atkins [holding answer 8 January 1990] : The Department is continuing to monitor the situation. Additional signs and road markings have been provided and arrangements are in hand for "soft verge" signs and for enhancing the daytime visibility of road markings on the concrete surface. I shall write to my hon. Friend.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his reply of 21 December 1989, Official Report, column 364, if he will state by what means his Department ensures the careful programming and traffic management arrangements of works on its own roads.
Mr. Atkins [holding answer 8 January 1990] : The Department oversees works carried out by its agents and seeks to ensure co-ordination in the timing and method of works. It issues departmental standards and guidance to agents on the safe design and method of carrying out works.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his reply of 21 December 1989, Official Report, column 363, if he will list those various organisations, other than highway authorities and the main public utilities, empowered to carry out excavation in the public highway.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his reply of 21 December 1989, Official Report, column 364, how his Department encourages highway authorities to promote co-operation between organisations having statutory rights to excavate roads.
Column 585Mr. Atkins [holding answer 8 January 1990] : The Department has encouraged the formation of local liaison groups between highway authorities and utilities. It has been discussing with the Association of London Borough Engineers and Surveyors the formation of a London joint utilities group. It chaired the group which last year produced a written understanding between highway authorities and utilities in London docklands on the timing and co-ordination of works.
Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his reply of 19 December, Official Report, column 126, if he will give the length of time the vacant posts in Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution have remained vacant, details of all posts on the establishment created within the past 12 months and the breakdown of field work inspection staff and support staff ; what information he has on the salary scales applicable in private industry and Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution for similar levels of work.
Mr. Trippier : When HMIP was established there were 66 vacancies. Since then the staff complement has been increased by 37 posts, 13 announced in December 1988, three in January 1989 and 21 with effect from 2 October 1989. Allowing for the transfer in 1988 of 11 posts to a policy division there are currently 41 vacancies and recruitment competitions are being conducted to fill them. HMIP has 85 field inspectors supported by 29 administrative staff. The biennial remuneration survey of the Royal Society of Chemistry, carried out in January 1988, gave the income for the upper quartile of about £17,000 for members of the society at comparable levels to recruitment grade pollution inspectors. The current recruitment competition for pollution inspectors offers salaries ranging from £18,485 to £24,075, up to £2,835 higher in London.
Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he intends to introduce to ensure effective enforcement of the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989 including regulations.
Mr. Trippier : The salary structure for professional staff in Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution has been reviewed recently, and this has resulted in the substantial salary increases being offered in the current recruitment drive for pollution inspectors. The position will be kept under review.
Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what system has been agreed for the frequency of inspection of works subject to Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution control ; and if he will publish the programme for inspection.
Column 586annually according to management's assessment of regulation requirements and priorities. Details of HMIP's inspection programme for 1989-90 are set out in the Department's management information system return (MINIS 10), which is available in the Library of the House.
Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to publish and when is the closing date for the public consultation exercise for the regulations to be introduced under the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989.
Mr. Trippier : The enforcement of the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989 will be a matter for the waste regulation authorities. Regulations to implement the provisions of the Act will be laid as soon as possible after consultation with interested parties.
Mrs. Gorman : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what scientific evidence will be used to formulate proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions following the Environment Council meeting of 28 November.
Mr. Trippier : A comprehensive assessment of the scientific evidence for climatic change and its possible impacts is being undertaken by the working groups of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. The IPCC will report later this year and its work will be considered at the second world climate conference in November 1990.
Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the number of purpose-built disabled persons' bungalows owned by (a) local authorities and (b) housing associations ; what plans he has to increase resources available for this work ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Chope : Local authorities report the number of their dwellings that have been specially designed or adapted for use by the disabled and those owned by housing associations, in their annual housing investment programme returns (HIP1). These returns do not distinguish bungalows from other dwelling types. Preliminary estimates for April 1989 of the number of local authority wheelchair and other dwellings for the disabled appear in columns A2c1 and A2d1, respectively, of "1989 HIP1--Regional Grossing" ; the small number of dwellings owned by the local authorities outside their areas are shown at columns A2c6 and A2d6. Corresponding estimates of the numbers of housing association wheelchair and other dwellings for the disabled appear in columns A2c2 and A2d2. A copy of the document is in the Library. We have established a statutory and financial framework to enable housing associations and the private sector to increase their provision for those in housing need, including the disabled. The Government announced last November that total provision for gross capital expenditure by the Housing Corporation will double over the next three years, rising from £818 million this year to £1,736 million in 1992-93. Detailed allocations of funds to individual types of schemes are the responsibility of the corporation.
Column 587We are continuing to promote appropriate design standards for new housing and, with the special needs of the disabled in mind, have quite recently agreed with the Housing Corporation that all new housing association schemes should conform to basic "mobility" standards.
Mr. Roger King : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the outcome of consultation on the discussion paper on the environmental labelling of consumer products.
Mr. Chris Patten : Yes. My Department received over 90 responses to the discussion paper from a wide range of interested parties and individuals. A list of responses received has been placed in the Library of the House. Copies of individual responses may be received through the Library. We are grateful to all concerned for offering their views.
Consultation has shown that there is overwhelming support for an official eco-labelling scheme operating on a European Communitywide basis which is simple, flexible, transparent and commands public respect. I was pleased that the Environment Council supported this proposal at its meeting on 19 September. We intend to work closely with the European Commission and with our European partners to maintain the momentum of this initiative, taking account of the views of interested groups in this country.
A very clear majority of consultees supported our proposal that participation by companies in a scheme should be voluntary, but concern was expressed about the adequacy of controls over the making of environmental claims more generally. Policy on the latter is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. On his behalf, I can confirm that we shall be considering these representations further, looking at the possibility both of a code of practice on environmental claims and of amending the provisions of the Trade Descriptions Act. The Department of Trade and Industry will be issuing a consultation letter for this purpose shortly.
Some useful comments were received on the approach which should be adopted in selecting product groups covered by the scheme. We agree with the view expressed by a number of respondents that the aim should be to get a scheme up and running as quickly as possible, and that it should focus on products with a significant environmental impact or where consumers most clearly need the guidance which an eco-label is intended to provide. We intend to look at the selection of product categories in line with these considerations.
Respondents were divided on questions of what product categories should be included in a scheme. We remain of the view that food and drink should be excluded, both because there are already extensive controls on misleading and false food descriptions, and because of the need to give a scheme a tight initial focus. We agree with the view often expressed by respondents, that it would be confusing to label packaging separately from products, but we consider that it should be possible for the assessment of a product's eligibility for an eco-label to take account of packaging considerations. We are committed to establishing a scheme that is both credible and workable. These objectives are especially relevant to the assessment process which must underlie the
Column 588award of an eco-label. Consultation has shown that confining that assessment to the direct environmental impact of a product during use and disposal would not be regarded as credible. We accept, therefore, that the assessment should be based on the setting of criteria reflecting the key characteristics of a product's environmental impact from cradle to grave. We also believe that the pass mark required to receive an official label should be set towards the top end of what technology permits, so as to give producers a real incentive to improve their environmental performance, but not so high as to distort the market or impose disproportionate costs on business. The aim must be to work with the grain of market forces, not against it.
There was some support among respondents for a graded approach to eco- labelling, under which progressively higher standards of improvement in a product's environmental impact could be recognised, for example, by awarding one or more stars. We consider that such an approach could complicate the process of assessment unacceptably, and that it would not have the same clear attraction for the market as a more straightforward pass/fail system.
Responses were divided on the timing of the award of an eco-label. We consider that manufacturers will need the certainty of a finite minimum period, after which the award of the label should be subject to review. We recognise, however, that the length of that period may well need to differ between product categories, depending not least on differing expectations of technological advance.
Consultation showed wide support for a strong national element in the development and implementation of a European Community scheme, and for arrangements which would involve interested groups on a continuing basis. We consider that these must be features of the organisation of a scheme.
It will clearly be necessary for agreement to be reached at the European level on the product categories to be selected, on the criteria to be used for their assessment, and on the standards to be set. It will be no less important to create national arrangements which ensure that opinion in each member state on these issues is properly represented at Community level. The practical operation of the scheme should also be nationally based through the determination at the national level of applications from companies for their products to be awarded an eco-label on the basis of the categories, criteria and standards agreed on a European basis. The award of a label to a particular product in one member state would be valid across the Community. We remain of the view that an organisation appropriate to these objectives would involve a single panel at the Community level advised by a series of national panels. We shall want to ensure that the organisation involves a minimum of bureacuracy and provides an effective response to the needs of consumers and producers. We re-emphasise our view that the scheme in operation should aim to be self-financing.
The consultation process has enabled us to take a view on the main issues that need to be addressed in getting an eco-labelling scheme under way. A lot more work needs to be done on the detail of a scheme, however. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I therefore propose to set up a small advisory group, to be composed of individuals with experience and knowledge relevant to the subject, to provide advice on the further
Column 589development of the scheme. I shall make a further announcement shortly about the membership of the group.
Mr. Frank Cook : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps have been taken to apply the best available technology to minimise and eliminate any pollution caused by radioactive discharges from nuclear industries, including reprocessing plants, into the marine environment.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory [holding answer 20 December 1989] : Radioactive waste may be discharged from nuclear installations only if an authorisation has been issued under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 jointly by Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Such authorisations are issued only after careful assessment of the environmental impact of the proposed disposals to ensure that doses to the public are below the maximum permissible limits as recommended by the International Committee on Radiological Protection. All authorisations impose a requirement on operators to minimise discharges and to carry out a programme of monitoring including the marine environment where appropriate. All such premises are subject to scrutiny by inspectors to ensure compliance with the terms of the authorisations.
Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will list all actions taken by his Department since 1979 to encourage the inclusion of energy conservation policies in structure plans ;
(2) whether his Department requires discussion of energy conservation policies to be included in structure plans ; (3) whether his Department requires discussion of energy conservation measures within the explanatory memoranda attached to structure plans.
Mr. Michael Spicer [holding answer 8 January 1990] : The memorandum attached to DOE circular 22/84 consolidated earlier advice on plan preparation, and remains the main source of guidance to local planning authorities on the content of structure plans. County planning authorities are required to have regard to current national and regional policies and to set out in the explanatory memorandum the relationship between these and the development and land use policies for the area (para 4.7). The explanatory memorandum accompanying structure plan proposals should include an indication of assumptions made about the resources likely to be available for carrying out the policies amd proposals formulated. It should "have particular regard to the conservation of resources such as land and energy"
Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) which counties (a) do and (b) do not include explicit discussion of energy conservation in the explanatory memoranda attached to their structure plans ;
(2) which counties (a) do and (b) do not include explicit energy conservation policies in their structure plans.
Mr. Chope [holding answer 8 January 1990] : Access to Downing street is controlled under police common law powers which allow them to take reasonable steps to preserve the peace and prevent threats to it.
The present barriers at the Whitehall entrance to Downing street which the demountable gate will replace have been in place since 1982.
Mr. Chope [holding answer 8 January 1990] : The purpose of the new demountable gateway is to enhance the security of Downing street. It is not the Government's practice to comment on such security measures.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment which authority gave planning permission for the erection of railings at the Whitehall end of Downing street ; what notice was given to interested parties ; and whether any objections were received.
Mr. Chope [holding answer 8 January 1990] : Normal procedures under DOE circular 18/84 were followed, including consultation with English Heritage and the Royal Fine Art Commission. Proposals were submitted to Westminster city council in May 1989 ; amended in September following consultations, and approved by letter dated 4 October.
Mr. William Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will ascertain whether the Gwent district auditor has carried out an investigation into how many fees for (a) firearm certificates and (b) shotgun certificates have been paid in respect of renewals from 1 January until the latest available date ; (2) if he will call for a report from the chief constable of Gwent as to whether his officers issue a receipt for each shotgun or firearm taken into the possession of the police ;
(3) if he will call for a report from the chief constable of Gwent into the contents and accuracy of his letter, reference HJ/DJD, dated 7 December, regarding the
Column 591whereabouts of the shotgun mentioned in the letter, which was signed by Helen Jordan, Office Manager, Firearms Administration ; (4) if he will call for a report from the chief constable of Gwent as to how many (a) fees have been reimbursed, (b) photographs returned, and (c) applications for renewals of (i) firearm and (ii) shotgun certificates there have been between 1 January and the latest available date ;
(5) if he will call for a report from the chief constable of Gwent as to whether he has indicated to the holders of (a) firearms certificates and (b) shotgun certificates a minimum period before the expiry of their certificates in which they should apply for (i) the renewal and (ii) the normal period taken to process such a renewal application.
Mr. William Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will place in the Library a copy of the application for a shotgun certificate as issued by the Staffordshire constabulary.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : Applications for the grant or renewal of a shotgun certificate may be made only in the form prescribed under the Firearms Rules 1989, a copy of which is in the Library. I understand from the chief constable of Staffordshire that the form issued by his force in addition to that prescribed by the rules has accordingly been withdrawn from use.
Mr. William Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he has taken to investigate with the British Standards Institute the specifications for a standard for (a) firearms, (b) shotgun and (c) ammunition enclosure for use in domestic premises for the storage of (i) sporting firearms, (ii) sporting shotguns and (iii) ammunition.