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Abandoned Mine Workings

Mrs. Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what resources, capital and revenue have been allocated to the National Rivers Authority, in the current year and in the next three years' projections specifically for clean up operations of ferruginous discharges from abandoned mine workings.      [24907]

Mr. Atkins: The National Rivers Authority receives an annual block allocation of resources to cover the gap between income and expenditure on its functions other than


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flood defence. Subject to ministerial guidance on priorities the amount used to cover clean-up of ferruginous discharges from abandoned mines is a matter for the NRA. The NRA's corporate plan has made provision for £2 million expenditure for clean -up of ferruginous discharges from abandoned mines in 1995 96 and envisages provision of a similar amount in the three following years.

Mrs. Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the projects, both proposed and in operation, relating to discharges from abandoned mine workings, for which the National Rivers Authority has applied for resources.      [24908]

Mr. Atkins: The National Rivers Authority receives an annual block allocation of resources to cover the gap between income and expenditure on its functions other than flood defence. Subject to ministerial guidance on priorities, the use of these resources is a matter for the NRA. Except in the case of Wheal Jane, the NRA has not applied for resources for individual mine-water projects.

Wading Birds, Cardiff Bay

Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consultations he has had with the European Union environment directorate concerning compliance with the undertaking given to create alternative bird reserves to mitigate the loss of wading birds' habitat in Cardiff bay.      [25281]

Sir Paul Beresford: The European Commission was consulted about a review of the options for suitable sites for mitigating measures. The Commission is being kept informed of progress.

Majority Shareholdings

Mr. Byers: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list those companies in which the holder of his office is a majority shareholder which (a) are currently in existence and (b) have been wound up in the past five years.      [25718]

Sir Paul Beresford: None.

National Parks

Mr. Peter Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State how he intends to respond to the concerns of those who live and work in the national parks that their views should be properly represented in the management of these special areas.      [25745]

Mr. Atkins: I am well aware of the concerns expressed during the Bill's passage that local people should have greater involvement in the running of the parks and management of parks affairs. We have already made a number of amendments to the Bill to strengthen the part which local people should play in the parks' affairs. These have generally been welcomed, but we have been giving further thought to the membership of the NPAs, so as to ensure that the interests of park residents are properly represented on the new authorities. Under the proposals, a third category of membership would be added to the current provisions of the Bill, which allow for two thirds of the members of the new authorities to be appointed by the local authorities--county, district and metropolitan district councils--with land in the parks and one third by the Secretary of State. The new category would be allocated to parishes which lie wholly or partly within the parks.


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It is proposed that the new authorities would be constituted along the following lines:

i) one half of the members plus 1 to be appointed by local authorities with land in the parks; and

ii) the remainder to be appointed by the Secretary of State, of whom one half of his members minus 1 would be drawn from the relevant parishes.

Parish members would be drawn from parishes wholly or partly in the parks, and would be serving parish councillors or, where there is no parish council, chairmen of parish meetings.

Nominations to the Secretary of State for parish members would be sought from any or all of the following: the National Association of Local Councils, groupings of parishes within the parks or individual parishes. Nominations could also come from other sources, including individuals with an interest in park affairs.

Parish members would be appointed by the Secretary of State, after consulting the Countryside Commission, as is already the case for his direct appointments, and would be subject to the same provisions as set out in the Bill as regards, for example, attendance, disqualification from holding office, members' interests, allowances, as apply to local authority and other members appointed by the Secretary of State. I have placed a copy of the letter which I have sent to local authorities in the Libraries of the Houses. These proposals apply to the English national parks. Because of commitments which have already been made in respect of the membership of the national park board being established under the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, and the circular letters already issued for consultations about establishing Welsh NPAs, the Secretary of State for Wales is proposing to leave unchanged the provisions for membership of the NPAs as they apply in Wales.

Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the chairmanship of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee.      [25767]

Mr. Gummer: Together with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales, I have today appointed Sir Gordon Beveridge to succeed Sir John Knill as chairman of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee, when his appointment ends on 31 May. Sir Gordon's appointment is for a three-year term ending on 31 May 1998.

I have written to Sir John Knill to thank him for the excellent work he has done for the Committee over a period of nearly 10 years, for more than seven of which he has been chairman.

Sewage Sludge

Mr. Sumberg: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made on the Government's response to the recommendations from the review on the current rules on sewage sludge use in agriculture; and if he will make a statement.      [25746]

Mr. Atkins: Environment and Agriculture Ministers have considered the two reports from the review which examined the soil fertility aspects and the food safety and relevant animal health aspects. We are reassured by their general conclusions on the level of protection afforded by the current rules on sewage sludge use in agriculture.


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Following consultation with appropriate bodies, we have decided to reduce the advisory limit for zinc in the code of practice on sludge use in agriculture. We shall review the limit again when results from recently commissioned, long-term research become available. We have also decided to reduce the advisory limit for cadmium where sewage sludge is applied to grass managed in rotation or grown for conservation. In addition, research will be undertaken to address the review's recommendation on dropping the pH banding for metal limits. The water industry has been successful in effectively controlling direct and identifiable metal inputs to sewers, and achieving reductions in metal concentrations in sewage sludge. Trade effluent charges based on the polluter pays principle should lead to continuing improvements in sludge quality. In addition, we expect further reductions in cadmium and mercury concentrations in sewage sludge as we continue implementation of integrated pollution control.

As recommended, we are also considering the need for controls on heavy metals from other waste materials and products, including animal manures, to protect soil fertility. Results from a study investigating metal inputs to agricultural soils from all sources will shortly be available.

The decisions we have taken will enable sewage sludge to continue to beneficially recycled to agriculture land, while ensuring that soil microbial processes and human, animal plant health are not put at risk from potentially toxic elements which may be present in sludge.

British Gas Sites

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the sites formerly owned by British Gas where (a) discussions regarding grant aid have occurred, (b) grant aid has been formally applied for and (c) grant aid has been approved in order to redevelop the sites giving, in each case, the amount of aid involved and including grant aid from (i) his Department and (ii) urban development corporations and other publicly funded bodies.      [24599]

Sir Paul Beresford: Information on the former ownership of sites which have been subject to applications for grant is not readily available. In many cases, the previous landowner is unknown. I will, however, write to the hon. Gentleman with such further information as we can gather.

NATIONAL HERITAGE

Public Library Review

Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage when he expects to publish the findings of the public library review and the study of the possibilities for contracting out in public libraries; what proposals he has to consult with local authorities and the Library Association; and if he will make a statement.      [24407]


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Mr. Sproat: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement about the public library review that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made on Tuesday 16 May, Official Report , columns 150-51 . The separate contracting out study was completed and received by my Department after the Aslib report and we are looking carefully at its findings. We expect to make a further statement in due course.

DEFENCE

Gulf War Syndrome

Mr. McMaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his current policy in respect of the recognition of Gulf war syndrome; and if he will make a statement.      [24125]

Mr. Soames: No evidence has emerged to support the existence of a medical condition peculiar to those who served in the Gulf which would justify recognition of the term Gulf war syndrome. We will, however, continue to investigate all those with Gulf-related health concerns and all allegations, both scientific and anecdotal, which bear on this issue.

Former Service Personnel

Mr. McMaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he last met representatives of the Royal British Legion to discuss the establishment of a Ministry for Veterans Affairs as a sub-department of MOD; and if he will make a statement.      [24072]

Mr. Soames: Following a meeting last November between the Minister of State for Social Security, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence and representatives of the Royal British Legion, it was agreed that many matters relating to the welfare of former service personnel fall within the scope of the Department of Social Security. That Department is now taking the lead on these issues.

Plutonium

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will obtain a copy of the United States Department of Energy's plutonium working group report on environmental safety and health vulnerabilities associated with the department's plutonium storage published in November 1994; and if he will evaluate its relevance for the situation at sites and facilities operated by the Atomic Weapons Establishment and British Nuclear Fuels plc on behalf of his Department.      [24294]

Mr. Soames: My Department's study of the report is currently in progress. The UK's position is, however, different from that of the US in that our holding of fissile materials is broadly in balance with national needs at any given time and is, in the main, embodied in manufactured warheads. The question of managing a substantial reserve stockpile does not, therefore, arise.

Western European Union

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals were put by the United Kingdom to the meeting of Western European Union Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers in Lisbon on 15 May.      [25292]


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Mr. Soames: The WEU Ministerial Council met to consider a number of issues, including the contribution that we expect the WEU to make to the 1996 intergovernmental conference to review the provisions of the Maastricht treaty, and the internal development of the WEU itself to provide it with new decision-making and planning mechanisms and structures. The WEU Council also met associate partners to review progress on a study of the new security conditions in Europe. The UK has made a significant contribution to the debate on all these topics, both at the ministerial meeting and in the preceding months. In particular, we have made proposals for the development of the WEU as the defence arm of the European Union, which were set out in the "Memorandum on the UK's approach to the treatment of European defence issues at the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference", a copy of which is in the Library of the House. WEU Ministers welcomed the UK's contribution in this regard, as noted in the Lisbon declaration, a copy of which will be placed in the Library of the House shortly. The UK has also worked with Italy to develop proposals for a WEU task force for humanitarian missions, which Ministers endorsed at Lisbon.

Russia

Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the recent evaluation of the current military threat posed by Russia made by the Chief of the Defence Staff.      [25264]

Mr. Soames: Although Russia currently poses no direct military threat to the United Kingdom, it retains immense military forces, both conventional and nuclear; the progress of reform, which we all hope will succeed, will remain an important determinant of our security and defence policies.

Crown Housing Trust

Mr. Jamieson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 24 January, Official Report, column 192, what amount of performance-related bonus was received by the chief executive of the Crown Housing Trust on the anniversary of his appointment.      [25178]

Mr. Soames: The chief executive (designate) of the Crown Housing Trust received a total of £19,900 in performance bonus for his service, which was terminated on 31 March 1995.

Empty Dwellings

Mr. Jamieson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what action his Department has taken to reserve all empty MOD dwellings that have been standing empty for six months or more and negotiate their disposal by lease or sale to local authorities of housing associations.      [25175]

Mr. Soames: The majority of my Department's empty dwellings are not surplus to requirements but are undergoing or awaiting major maintenance work, already allotted to service families due to move in shortly, or form part of the management margin needed to ensure that accommodation is available for entitled service families. Those properties which are surplus are, wherever possible, offered for sale to service personnel through the services' discount scheme to enable them to purchase a home of


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their own. Surplus properties not suitable for this scheme are normally offered in the first instance to housing associations or local authorities before being offered for sale on the open market. In addition, we are planning an enhanced programme of leasing to housing associations or local authorities of properties which are temporarily surplus to requirements but which will be needed again in the long term.

Mr. Hall: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many MOD homes in Cheshire are empty; and how many of these homes have been empty for more than six months.      [25177]

Mr. Soames: As at 31 March, my Department owned 107 empty houses in Cheshire, of which 26 had been empty for more than six months. Many of the vacant properties were either undergoing or awaiting major maintenance work, already allotted to service families due to move in shortly or formed part of the management margin needed to ensure that accommodation is available for entitled service families. Twenty-eight of the 107 empty properties were in the process of being sold.

US Air Bases

Mr. Hall: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the UK American air base sites that have been declared surplus to requirement and sold between April 1991 and April 1995; and the total income generated.      [25180]

Mr. Soames: The only American air base site that has been declared surplus to requirement and sold between April 1991 and April 1995 is RAF Chessington, Surrey. The income generated from this sale is commercial in- confidence between my Department and the purchaser.

Surplus RAF Sites

Mr. Hall: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the RAF sites that have been declared surplus to requirement and sold between April 1991 and April 1995; and the total income generated.      [25179]

Mr. Soames: The RAF sites which were declared surplus to requirement and sold between April 1991 and April 1995 are: RAF Chessington, Surrey, formerly UK American air base

RAF Barnwood, Gloucestershire

RAF Collaton Cross, Deveon

RAF Mountbatten, Devon

RAF Bawdsey, Suffolk

RAF Ely, Cambridgeshire

RAF Greatworth, Northamptonshire

RAF Northcoates, Lincolnshire

RAF Orfordness, Suffolk

RAF Jurby Head, Isle of Man

RAF Bishopscourt, Northern Ireland

The total income generated from these sales was £18,988,689.

Bovington

Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people are employed at Bovington and Lulworth broken down by types of employee; and whether they live on or off site.      [25587]

Mr. Soames: There are at present 686 military personnel, about 400 civilian staff and 205 contractors employed at Bovington. Nearly all the military live on


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site; and nearly all the civilians live off site. This does not include trainees who come to Bovington for courses, who number around 3,500 a year.

Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost of building sufficient facilities for the 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment at Bovington on land abutting Stanley barracks, by comparison to splitting the regiment between Bovington and Lulworth; and what studies have been carried out to look at these two options.      [25585]

Mr. Soames: The two options were both examined in the study of the comparative costs of future locations of the 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment. This work showed that the cost of building facilities at Bovington alone would be about £7 million higher than the costs of splitting the regiment. Moreover, building extra facilities on a green field site at Bovington would disrupt training activity.

Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will give a breakdown of the living accommodation at Bovington and Lulworth including the number of vacancies; how much of the accommodation is occupied by people on courses; what other accommodation the MOD owns within a 20-mile radius; and what are the vacancies.      [25588]

Mr. Soames: At Stanley barracks, Bovington there are 550 bed spaces, 336 of which are for trainees. At present, there are 150 vacancies, although these vary from week to week depending on course loading.

At Allenby barracks, Bovington there are 567 bed spaces, all of which are occupied.

At Lulworth, there are 465 bed spaces. There are currently 142 vacancies, but these also vary depending on course loading. Within a 20-mile radius of Bovington and Lulworth my Department owns three sites; West Moors petroleum training school which has 30 spare bed spaces and Blandford school of signals which has 121 spare bed spaces. The number of spare bed spaces at both sites depends on course loading and will often reduce to nil. In addition to the above two sites there is a hutted and tented training camp at Wyke Regis. This camp does not possess permanent living accommodation.

Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what training activities are carried out at Bovington camp in areas designated on the Bovington and Lulworth Ordnance Survey map as (a) S1, (b) W1 and (c) W2; how many days per year these activities are carried out; and what is the area of each of these sites.      [25584]

Mr. Soames: The activities are as follows:

(a) Recruit driver training, Territorial Army training, and infantry tactics; about 100 days a year; 180 acres.

(b) Engineer training--bridging and digging, driver training, infantry tactics; 280 days a year; 165 acres.

(c) Driving circuit used for low level infantry training and the armoured trials and development unit; about 100 days a year; 140 acres.

Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will name the consultants who were employed to advise on the location of the 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment; what were their terms of reference; if these included calculating the cost of locating the whole of the regiment at Bovington; and if he will publish their report.      [25586]


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Mr. Soames: The consultants were Sawyer Architects of Winchester. Their terms of reference which are set out, required them to consider and comment on the option of locating the 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment in the Bovington area, taking into account a number of factors.

Terms of Reference

(1) All the land and buildings associated with Stanley barracks, Bovington and areas available for development at Lulworth camp for satisfying the statement of requirement. The married quarters are not to be considered as part of the study. Any shortfall in existing buildings is to be costed as a new build, and any shortfall of land is to be addressed with a statement on how this shortfall can be overcome.

(2) The study is to comment on the adequacy of existing, and future requirements for land, buildings and facilities for single living, eating, sleeping, recreation, administration offices, training and working accommodation and the storage, servicing, maintenance and operation of vehicles and equipment.

(3) Identify in conjunction with the Defence Land Agent any known or anticipated environmental constraints, planning constraints including any historical listings.

(4) As a desk study examine information available on ground conditions, ground water table which may have a bearing on the options.

(5) Any proposed new builds, modernisations, extensions of maintenance projects in planning/design or construction.

(6) For each option give estimated costs of the annual maintenance for the option as a whole as well as any anticipated major maintenance items, and the year in which you estimated they will occur, over a 60-year period.

(7) Identify with the client representative the security needs for both the active and passive ie fences, lighting, perimeter intruder defence systems, close circuit television and security of buildings.

(8) The report should identify, consider and make a brief statement on the implications of the feasibility, planning, costing, phasing and execution of the works with the current or proposed occupants in occupation during the construction of any works identified within the options.

A number of options were investigated including the cost of locating the whole regiment at Bovington. The consultants' report contains much information that is commercial in-confidence, and will not therefore be published. The conclusions of their report, along with other relevant factors, will, however, be made clear by the Ministry of Defence when a final decision on the future location of the 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment is made.

Nuclear-powered Submarines

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 17 May to the hon. Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks), Official Report , column 229 , what new nuclear safety practices have been introduced; what improvements need to be made to the Devonport facilities; how much these changes will cost and when they will be completed; how many nuclear-powered submarines will be refitted at Rosyth; when a final decision will be announced; and if he will make a statement.      [25694]

Mr. Freeman: It is Government policy that naval nuclear reactors are operated with at least as high a regard for safety standards as any other nuclear facility in the UK. Civil practice now requires a wide variety of both manmade and naturally occurring environmental hazards to be considered in the safety assessment of nuclear plant including earthquakes, extremes of wind and temperature


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on the environmental side, and aircraft crash, blast and dropped loads on the manmade side. In line with the developments in civil practice, additional assessment techniques have been used in this process including probabilistic risk and statistical analysis techniques.

We are at present assessing the extent of the improvements required to existing nuclear docking facilities at Devonport. Until the assessment is complete, it would be premature to speculate on cost or time scale. We expect that the assessment will complete during this summer. Decisions will be announced shortly thereafter.

Regarding docking facilities for nuclear-powered submarines, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to hon. Member for Cornwall, South-East on 17 May, Official Report, column 229.

Devonport Dockyard

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what geological surveys have been carried out at the Devonport dockyard; when these surveys were carried out; what were the problems identified by the surveys; and how much money it will cost to rectify these problems.      [25695]

Mr. Freeman: Site investigations, including borehole surveys, and desk studies have been carried out to verify that the nature of the underlying geology is suitable to support the development of nuclear submarine refitting facilities at Devonport dockyard. The site surveys were carried out in 1993, with laboratory testing and desk study work completed predominantly during 1994. The surveys confirmed that the site is underlain by competent rock which will form a suitable foundation for the proposed nuclear installations. No significant geological problems have been encountered on site to date.

Accidental Shootings

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State of Defence how many accidental shootings have occurred in the armed forces in each of the last 10 years; how many of these have resulted in compensation payments to those involved; what was the total amount of these payments; and how many of those accidentally shot in the last 10 years left the armed forces as a result of the shooting.      [25566]

Mr. Soames: In the time available about 20 cases have been identified, in which compensation has been paid to Army personnel following injuries, in some cases minor injuries, resulting from accidental shooting. The total compensation paid in these cases so far is about £250,000; this includes interim payments. Since 1987, service personnel have had the same legal rights as civilians to seek compensation for injuries at work: any dispute over my Department's liability to pay compensation, or on the amount payable, can be taken to the civil courts.

Old Sarum Airfield

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence who was the successful bidder for the freehold of Old Sarum airfield.      [25677]

Mr. Soames: The successful bidder for the freehold of Old Sarum airfield was Megastream Ltd., trading as the Old Sarum flying club.


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