Mr. Atkins : The independent noise review working party established by my Department in 1990 considered noise pollution in all its forms and we have subsequently implemented over half its recommendations. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 strengthened the statutory nuisance legislation which is available for local authorities to control noise from domestic, industrial and commercial premises. These powers have been further extended by the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 to control noise from vehicles, machinery and equipment in the street. My Department has, jointly with the Home Office, issued specific guidance on how best to use statutory powers to control all forms of noisy parties and issues general advice about how to pursue noise complaints.
Separating noisy activities from those most likely to be affected by them can be achieved by a variety of formal and informal mechanisms. We hope shortly to publish a planning policy guidance note which will describe how the planning system can be used to minimise the adverse impact of noise, for example on residential development. We also continue to liaise with, and support, professional and other bodies which are keen to develop and publish their own codes of practice for minimising noise. Codes currently in preparation include guidance on clay pigeon shooting and stock car racing.
There is much concern about the rising number of complaints about neighbour noise and we are keeping under review the effectiveness of legal and informal remedies. We believe that mediation services have an important role to play in resolving such disputes in a more cost-effective and appropriate way. My Department has funded two pilot studies in order to give local authorities a clearer picture of the benefits of establishing such services.
Mr. Battle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to set up a body to approve inspections under the powers given to him in regulation 4 of the Building (Approved Inspections etc.) Regulations 1985.
Mr. Baldry : The Government's proposals were set out in a consultation paper "Guidelines for the Approval of Inspectors" dated 29 October 1993. A copy has been placed in the Library. The way forward in the light of the responses to this consultation is still being considered.
Ms Estelle Morris : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what were the factors which produced an increase in the daily rates charged by the planning inspectorate of his Department in September 1991 ; and what were the mechanisms for its approval ;
(2) for what reason an increase to five days' writing time per day of sitting was imposed by his planning inspectorate for its attendance at the 1991-92 public inquiry into the Birmingham unitary development plan ; and what account was taken in deciding on the increase in writing time of the formal request for the report to be concise ;
(3) what was the cause of the delay of the report of his planning inspectorate at the public inquiry into the Birmingham UDP ; (4) if he will make it his policy for fees charged by the planning inspectorate to local authorities to be limited to three writing days per sitting day.
Mr. Baldry : The provision of information on development plan inquiries is the responsibility of the planning inspectorate. I have asked the inspectorate's chief executive, Mr. Stephen Crow, to write to the hon. Member.
Letter from H. S. Crow to Ms Estelle Morris, dated 20 April 1994 :
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions about the public inquiry into the Birmingham Unitary Development Plan.
It may be helpful if I explain that the public inquiry into objections to the Birmingham Unitary Development Plan sat for 35 days between 19 November 1991 and 14 February 1992. The Inspector spent 5 additional days in carrying out post-inquiry site visits. The Inspector's report was despatched to Birmingham City Council on 6 October 1992, and took 112 working days to complete.
Normally Inspectors are able to complete their inquiry reports within a time period of three reporting days per sitting/site visit day, hence the 3 : 1 guideline used by the Planning Inspectorate. The Inspectorate did not impose an increase to "five days writing time per day of sitting" for the Inspector to complete his report on the inquiry he was appointed to hold. The Inspector, aided by an assistant Inspector because of the size of the task, completed his report in a ratio of 2.8 reporting days to sitting/site visit days. The ratio of reporting days to inquiry sitting days was only 3.2. I would not agree that the Inspector's report was unduly delayed. I understand that, although Birmingham City Council had asked for the report to be made available by the end of June 1992, no undertaking was given that this would be achieved. The inquiry was a complex one, and in the circumstances I consider the Inspector and assistant Inspector did well to complete their report in the timescale achieved, and indeed they did so within the normal guideline of 3 reporting days per sitting/site visit day. In any case though I would stress that this is only a guideline, and can be affected by many unpredictable factors which are mostly outside the Inspector's control.
The Inspector's report was written in the concise form now generally adopted, summarising objectors' cases and the Council's response. This approach was instrumental in helping the Inspector's to produce the report in the short time noted above.
You also asked about the increase in the daily fees charged for Inspectors taking plan inquiries, effective from September 1991. This increase, the final stage in a series of phased increases designed to effect recovery of the full costs of supplying Inspectors for development plan inquiries, was approved by the Minister then responsible for planning matters and advised to all local planning authorities engaged in development plan inquiries. This charge applied to the time spent by Inspectors on preparation work, inquiry sitting days, travelling time, site visits and report writing. It is the Secretary of State's continuing policy that fees charged by the Inspectorate for the services of Inspectors to take
Column 589development plan inquiries should reflect the full cost of the service provided to local authorities. The fees are subject to regular review.
Mr. Bates : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to allow local planning authorities to set their own fee levels for planning applications ; and whether these fee levels will be subject to market testing.
Mr. Baldry : I refer to the answer my hon.Friend the Minister for Local Government and Planning gave to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant) on 17 December 1993, Official Report, column 1102-03.
As market testing applies only to central Government activities, it would not be appropriate in this context. There will, however, be safeguards to ensure that local authority fees for planning applications are kept at a reasonable level.
Mr. Atkins : My right hon. Friend will be attending the second session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in May and looks forward to playing a full role in a productive outcome. It is for the Commission to report its outcome to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. We have no plans at present to make a separate announcement.
Mr. Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received in response to the consultation paper, "Access to Local Authority and Housing Association Tenancies" ; and when he proposes to publish his own response to them.
Sir George Young : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 12 April to the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), Official Report, column 132. We hope to announce the Government's conclusions during the summer.
Mr. Gummer : I have today appointed Professor Graham Ashworth as chairman of the new public environment initiative which was announced in the United Kingdom "Strategy for Sustainable Development", published in January. The aim of the initiative, to be known as "Going for Green", will be to increase people's awareness of the part their personal choices can play in delivering sustainable development, and to enlist their support and commitment in the coming years.
Mr. Cann : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, when a domestic property is rebanded for council tax purposes on sale and repurchase, what date the rebanding is backdated to and when this date will be reviewed.
Mr. Curry [holding answer 19 April 1994] : Under the Council Tax (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) Regulations 1993, an alteration to the valuation list made to correct an inaccuracy in the list on the day it was compiled--that is, 1 April 1993--however the inaccuracy may have come to light, has effect from that day. An alteration made to correct a subsequent inaccuracy has effect from the day on which the list became inaccurate. An alteration following a material increase in the value of a dwelling since the list was compiled, for example as a result of home improvement, has effect from the date the dwelling is next sold.
My right hon. Friend now proposes to amend these arrangements so that in future any increases in bandings to correct inaccuracies in the original list will come into effect only from the day the list is altered. Decreases would, however, continue to take effect from 1 April 1993. Further details will be announced shortly.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the projects approved under, and the regional distribution of, expenditure incurred within the industrial units scheme since its inception.
The Department offered grants totalling £4.07 million to institutions which were successful in the support for industrial units scheme competition. The institutions were listed in the DTI press notice of 11 June 1992 and I am sending a copy to the hon. Member. I am unable to disclose details of the individual grants for reasons of confidentiality.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what percentage of the population were eligible for (a) civil and (b) criminal legal aid in (i) 1964-65, (ii) 1979-80, (iii) 1992-93, (iv) 1993-94 and (v) 1994-95.
Year |Per cent. ------------------------------ 1979-80 |77 1992-93 |53 1993-94 |48 1994-95 |47
There is no upper financial limit for criminal legal aid. Anyone whose financial resources are such that he or she requires assistance in meeting the costs which may be incurred is eligible, subject to the interests of justice test and the payment of a contribution where appropriate.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many representations he has received from (a) hon. Members, (b) peers, (c) other individuals and (d) organisations about the current state of the legal aid system and legal aid eligibility ; and what proportion such representations bear to the total number of representations on all subjects.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The information is not available in the form requested. From 1 April 1993 to 31 March 1994, my Department received around 990 letters from hon. Members about all aspects of the legal aid scheme. This is 16 per cent. of correspondence with Members. Over the same period the Department received about 1,000 letters from individuals and organisations about legal aid, about 9 per cent. of all correspondence with the public. These figures do not include representations from major interest groups or from peers, which are not separately logged.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the names of the consultants appointed to the Legal Aid Board's research project into the delivery of legal services.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what research his Department has conducted into the impact on access to justice made by the changes to legal aid eligibility and to the green form scheme in April 1993.
Mr. John M. Taylor : We are continuing to monitor the changes, which appear to have had broadly the effect anticipated. The Legal Aid Board will be conducting research into cases where offers of contributory legal aid are made by the board but are not taken up by the applicants and my Department is monitoring the incidence in the courts of unrepresented litigants in civil cases.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has either to abolish or to privatise the functions of the court funds office ; and what research his Department has done into the impact of such reforms on injured minors and the mentally ill.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The court funds office will be part of the Public Trust Office when it is established as an executive agency in the second half of 1994. At the Lord Chancellor's request, work is being carried out currently to examine whether the functions of the court funds office are necessary and to assess the impact of any changes.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many complaints have been received and what amount of compensation for errors and delays has been paid out by county courts in (a) London and (b) the rest of England and Wales for each month since the implementation of the courts charter.
Mr. John M. Taylor : From the introduction of the courts charter in January 1993 until the end of March 1994 there have been 1,802 complaints about county courts in London and 5,399 about those in the rest of England and Wales. In the same period the amount of compensation paid out for errors and delays in the county courts was £146,800.68 for those in London and £226,928.61 for those in the rest of England and Wales.
It is not possible to provide the information requested on a monthly basis except at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to implement the recommendation by Lord Justice Steyn, chair of the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee on legal education and conduct, that prospective solicitors and barristers should undertake an initial joint vocational course ; and how many representations he has received, and from whom, concerning Lord Justice Steyn's recommendation.
Mr. John M. Taylor : No recommendation about joint vocational training for barristers and solicitors has been made by Lord Justice Steyn or the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee on legal education and conduct. The Lord Chancellor and I await the results of the advisory committee's review into legal education, which will be completed in September 1995, with interest.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the percentage of students taking (a) the legal practice course/Law Society finals and (b) Bar finals who were in receipt of (i) full assistance and (ii) partial assistance from their local education authority for the payment of the course fees for each of the last 10 years.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The Lord Chancellor's Department does not collect these figures. However, from information provided by the Council of Legal Education and the College of Law, it appears that the position is as follows :
Council of Legal Education<1> Year |Full fees|Part fees |per cent.|per cent. ---------------------------------------- 1989-90 |47 |20 1990-91 |46 |16 1991-92 |29 |19 1992-93 |14 |26 1993-94 |6 |14 <1> The current vocational course replaced the old style Bar finals course in the academic year 1989-90.
College of Law<1> Percentage of fees paid by local authorities<2> Year |Per cent. ------------------------------ 1989-90 |64 1990-91 |57 1991-92 |35 1992-93 |23 1993-94 |9 <1> The Law Society only has information on students at the College of Law and not those studying for the vocational stage at other institutions. The College of Law provides approximately 65 per cent. of all places on the legal practice course. <2> Information was not available on the breakdown between payment of full and partial fees, only on the total percentage of fees payable by local education authorities.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what research his Department has undertaken into the impact on (a) women and (b) members of the ethnic minorities of the non-availability of mandatory grants for the fees for the requisite vocational courses for those wishing to become barristers or solicitors ; and if he will publish this research.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what research his Department has done into the correlation between the non-availability of mandatory grants for the fees for the requisite vocational courses for prospective lawyers and the level of representation of women and members of the ethnic minorities among (a) Queen's Counsel and (b) the judiciary.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what percentage of defendants (a) in custody and (b) on bail are not dealt with in the target times set out in the Courts Charter ; what number of defendants (i) in custody and (ii) on bail this affects on average each month ; how many defendants in custody have to wait more than (1) three months, (2) six months and (3) 12 months before trial ; and what percentages of defendants in custody these numbers represent.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The available information covering the year 1993 is shown in the table. Statistics on the number of defendants in custody waiting more than 12 months before trial at the Crown court and the distribution of waiting times at magistrates courts are not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Committals for trial to the Crown court: defendants whose waiting time for trial exceeded certain periods in 1993 Defendants exceeding waiting time Type of remand and |Percentage |Average number waiting time |per month ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- In custody: 8 weeks |51 |906 12 weeks |33 |575 26 weeks |11 |196 On bail 16 weeks |36 |1,950 Notes: 1. The data are provisional. 2 The Courts Charter waiting time guidelines are eight weeks for defendants in custody and 16 weeks for defendants on bail.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the number and the names of all the courts and caller offices which he has determined to close in the last five years.
Mr. John M. Taylor : In the five-year period from April 1989 to March 1994 my Department has closed 22 county courts or caller offices and five Crown court centres. I set out a full list of their names in the table.
Court closures for the five year period April 1989--March 1994 County courts
Crown court centres
Closed prior to opening of Central London County Court.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what changes he is planning to make to the formula by which funds are allocated to local magistrates courts committees in order to make better provision for special spending needs in some areas ; and what representations he has received concerning the current formula from (a) magistrates courts committees and (b) other individuals or organisations.
Mr. John M. Taylor : A review of the current formula is being conducted by a small working group comprising Lord Chancellor's Department officials and representatives from the magistrates courts service. Their provisional findings are expected by the summer to allow sufficient time for consultation with all interested parties before any revised formula is used to allocate grant for the 1995-96 financial year. A number of views about the present