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Ports Directive

Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what representations he has received from United Kingdom ports on the proposed EU Directive on ports services; [142840]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 15 December 2000]: The European Commission has not yet published its proposals for a Directive on access to port services, but officials have been keeping in touch with the Commission's thinking, and we understand that proposals may be launched early in the new year. Once these are public, we shall consult widely on them, aiming to take account of the full range of views on the possible impact, including port and terminal operators, port service providers, port users and customers, trade unions and other interests. There will also be opportunities for discussions with other member states. There are likely to be a number of important issues that will need to be addressed. Representations have been received from the UK Major Ports Group and we are also aware of the views of the British Ports Association and a number of port and terminal operators. Our general policy is to support the broad principles of liberalisation and competition in the provision of port services, subject to appropriate safeguards and standards.

Legacy plc

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what due diligence inquiries have been undertaken into the financial supporters of Legacy plc. [143272]

Ms Armstrong: Inquiries were made by the competition team, as is normal practice in a matter of this nature. The competition team has advised on bids and bidders throughout the process and will continue to advise while negotiations carry on with Legacy plc.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) when Treasury Holdings acquired a financial interest in Legacy plc; and what that financial interest is; [143271]

Ms Armstrong: The precise details are commercially confidential. However, Treasury Holdings' involvement in the Legacy plc bid has been known for some time.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what guarantees have been (a) sought from and (b) given by Legacy plc regarding the retention of the Millennium Dome structure for a minimum period of time. [143274]

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Ms Armstrong: Details of negotiations with Legacy plc are commercially confidential. However, the rules of competition require that the Dome structure is retained for a minimum of 15 years.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the involvement is of BT, 3Com, Sun Microsystems and NTL in relation to Legacy plc's bid for the Millennium Dome. [143273]

Ms Armstrong: Such information is commercially confidential while negotiations with Legacy plc continue.

Homes Bill

Mr. Dawson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the provisions contained in Part I of the Homes Bill relate to park homes. [143313]

Mr. Mullin: Possible changes to the provisions on the sale of park homes are being considered separately following the report of the Park Homes Working Party, published earlier this year. We have consulted on, and are considering, the Working Party's recommendations.

Structural Funding (Merseyside)

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions which projects put forward for Objective 1 funding in the Merseyside programme are being re-assessed in relation to the rulings made by the European Commission concerning state aid. [143175]

Ms Beverley Hughes: None of the projects presently receiving funding from the 1994-99 Structural Funds Objective 1 programme on Merseyside have been re-assessed because of state-aid issues. The Merseyside Structural Funds Programme Secretariat is currently appraising applications for funding under the 2000-06 Objective 1 programme. It is a condition for the receipt of grant that all projects accepted for funding must comply with the European Commission State Aid rules and the appraisal process will take this into account for all applications.

Private Rented Sector

Ms Glenda Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will give additional powers to local authorities to enable them to more fully investigate complaints from private rented sector tenants about harassment and unlawful eviction by landlords. [143311]

Mr. Mullin: Local authorities already have powers under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 to investigate and prosecute complaints of harassment and illegal eviction.

My Department has recently published a research report on harassment and unlawful eviction, and accompanying best practice guidance for local authorities on dealing with harassment and illegal eviction, including advice on overcoming barriers to effective action.

We have discussed the position with representatives of Tenancy Relations Officers, but have no current plans to change the law.

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Ms Glenda Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will publish a national register of actions taken by local authorities against the harassment and illegal eviction of private rented sector tenants. [143312]

Mr. Mullin: We have no plans to publish such a register.

Gas Installation (Safety)

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many prosecutions have been initiated by the Health and Safety Executive in each of the past five years under the Gas Safety (Installation in Use) Regulations 1998. [142641]

Mr. Meacher: The Gas Safety (Installation and Use Regulations) 1998 replaced the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994. The number of informations laid in each of the last five years under these regulations is as follows:


The 1999-2000 figures are provisional. Finalised figures for prosecutions in 1999-2000 will be available during April 2001.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to protect the public from the dangers arising from do-it-yourself gas fitting work; and if he will make a statement. [142640]

Mr. Meacher: By law only a competent person can carry out gas fitting work. The Government, the Health and Safety Commission and the Health and Safety Executive undertake various awareness-raising and publicity activities to make the public aware of this. The Executive's leaflets and its Gas Safety Advice Line explain that do-it-yourself work can be dangerous and is likely to be illegal. Retailers have been contacted to encourage them to remind purchasers of gas fittings about the importance of using only competent, registered installers for gas fitting work.

The Commission addressed this question in its recent Gas Safety Review. Its review report proposes increased publicity to discourage do-it-yourself gas work, more encouragement to retailers to provide 'point of sale' safety advice to consumers and encouragement to equipment manufacturers to include warnings in product literature.

While the Commission has concluded in its Review that there is insufficient hard evidence from incident data at present to justify the introduction of a legal ban, it has proposed that the Executive should introduce improved arrangements for the reporting of incidents and the identification of accident causation, including do-it- yourself activity, so that the scale of the potential problem can be more accurately assessed. It is envisaged that the legal position will be reviewed again when this information has become available.

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Aircraft Noise Limits

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he has reached a decision on the outcome of the 1997 to 1999 consultation on his proposals to reduce the noise limits for aircraft departing from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted and to improve monitoring of efficiency; and if he will make a statement. [143599]

Mr. Mullin: On 24 November 1997 the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions published a new consultation paper proposing lower noise limits and improved monitoring arrangements. This consultation followed the Court Order of 16 April 1997, made after challenges by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to the 1996 decision on this subject. The Order, made with the consent of the parties, enabled interim arrangements to be put in place until the outcome of the new consultation. The November 1997 paper was also challenged by IATA but the association withdrew its application for leave to apply for judicial review when the Department undertook to publish a supplementary consultation paper. That was done on 26 March 1999. All the proposals were unchanged. They were:

Comments were invited on any aspect of the proposals and on the details covered in the supplementary paper. The closing date for responses was 4 June 1999. Taking account of the information and comments we received, we have decided to implement the proposals, with two modifications:

Also, for technical reasons, for the purpose of the tailwind allowance I have decided to use wind data from an alternative source to that described in the consultation

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paper. I am satisfied that it is appropriate to use data from the on-airfield anemometers and wind vanes in the formula for the tailwind allowance proposed in the consultation paper (i.e. without making it necessary to adjust the formula).

The reduction of 3 dB in the daytime limit represents a halving of noise energy but only a small reduction in loudness. This is a long accepted scientific fact; it is not disputed in the responses. The cumulative effect of even small improvements should be of benefit to many local residents, particularly those living under the departure routes from about 6.5 km from start of roll out to about 15 km. These small improvements will occur whenever an aircraft flies overhead that has changed its procedures (or adopted other measures) to meet the new noise limits.

Some major airlines consider they will incur disproportionate costs to achieve these small benefits; conversely, many of the local authorities and other groups representing those living around the airports consider there should be greater noise reductions, to give greater benefits. I am satisfied that the requirements announced today are reasonable, having regard to what is operationally achievable (as explained in the consultation paper), to the costs that may be incurred by some airlines, the benefits that will accrue to many local residents, as I have already indicated, and the disbenefits that will be caused to others, particularly the far smaller number of people living very close to the end of a runway. Operators of heavily laden services bound for Asia-Pacific destinations that are scheduled to take off in the late evening, which would have particular difficulty in meeting the new night-time noise limit if delayed beyond 2300 hours, should be able to plan their operations with greater certainty in the light of our decision not to apply the toughest limit until 2330. I should emphasise that I do not want to encourage late departures. On the contrary, I trust operators of these services will continue to do their best to minimise delays: that will be of benefit both to their customers and to local people.

The full decision, and the reasons for it, are set out in the document 'Noise limits for aircraft departing from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports: decision of December 2000' copies of which have been placed in the House Library.

Copies of all the responses, excepting details for which the author has requested confidentiality, are available for inspection by prior appointment at the DETR Library and Information Centre, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6DF.

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