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Telephony Masts

Mrs. Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many outstanding planning applications there are in England and Wales for base station masts for mobile telephony; how many are in (a) areas of outstanding natural beauty, (b) national parks and (c) national forests; and how many applications have been given consent in the last (1) three months and (2) six months. [142728]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The Department does not hold such information.

Mrs. Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received from health and other academic experts about the distance between (a) settlements and (b) dwellings and the location of a base station mast for mobile telephony. [142563]

Ms Beverley Hughes: In response to public concern about the possibility of health effects from mobile phone base stations, the Government set up the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (chaired by Sir William Stewart). The Group considered health effects from the use of mobile phones, base stations and transmitters. In carrying out the review, the Group gathered a wide range of views and a call for evidence was placed in the national daily newspapers and the scientific press. A comprehensive review of relevant research was carried out as part of the review and this helped to inform the Group's conclusions and recommendations. The Group published its report on mobile phones and health on 11 May 2000.

The Group's report, which took into account evidence from health and other academic experts, recommended the establishment of clearly defined physical exclusion zones around base station antennas, which delineate areas within which exposure guidelines may be exceeded. Operators have a duty under the Health and Safety legislation to ensure that their work activities, which includes the

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operation of their apparatus, do not present a risk to employees and the general public. The Health and Safety Executive would therefore expect operators to have measures in place to prevent access by members of the public to areas where they might exceed exposure guidelines. The report did not recommend the introduction of a minimum distance between masts and settlements or dwellings.

Mrs. Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on planning and safety guidelines for the siting of base station masts for mobile telephony. [142568]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Telecommunications operators have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 and the Management of the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to ensure that so far as is reasonably practicable, their work activities--which would include the installation and operation of their equipment--do not expose people to risks to their health and safety.

The Government's statutory adviser, the National Radiological Protection Board, has published guidelines on limiting exposure to electromagnetic radiation. All mobile phone transmission equipment should meet these guidelines. Following publication of the Stewart report on mobile phones and health in May 2000, the Government accepted that, as a precautionary measure, the emissions from mobile phone base stations should meet the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines for public exposure as expressed in the EU Council Recommendation of 12 July 1999 on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300GHz). Most base stations already meet the ICNIRP guidelines and all new base stations will do so.

Health considerations and public concern can in principle be material considerations in determining applications for planning permission and prior approval. Whether such matters are material in a particular case is ultimately a matter for the courts. It is for the decision-maker (usually the local planning authority) to determine what weight to attach to such considerations in any particular case. However, it is the Government's view that if a proposed development meets the ICNIRP guidelines it should not be necessary for an authority, in processing an application, to consider health effects further.

Railways

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects commuter rail services in the London area to return to the timetables in operation before the Hatfield crash. [142697]

Mr. Hill: The industry is working hard to achieve a steady improvement in rail services across all parts of the country. Railtrack estimate that nationally by the end of January 85 per cent. of journeys will be back to normal, with a tail end of work through to Easter by when all services should be fully back to normal. The Rail Recovery Action Group, chaired by the Minister for Transport, has been formed to help to get services back to normal as soon as possible.

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Heathrow

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the decision was taken to hold an inquiry into the fifth terminal at Heathrow Airport. [142703]

Ms Beverley Hughes: On 15 March 1993, when the main application for the development of a fifth terminal complex and associated facilities was called in by the Secretary of State for the Environment for joint decision by the then Secretaries of State for Environment and Transport. Related applications were similarly called in on various dates between 20 May 1993 and 5 May 1998 for consideration by the Terminal 5 public inquiry.

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what has been the cost to date of the inquiry into the Fifth Terminal at Heathrow Airport; [142706]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and its Agencies has spent approximately £11.8 million on the Terminal 5 (T5) Inquiry to date. The total costs of the T5 Inquiry to all participants is estimated at over £83 million of which the private sector is estimated to have spent some £64 million with the rest borne by central and local government.

Waste Disposal

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what percentage of landfill waste has been diverted to unlicensed sites in the last 12 months; and what action the Government are taking to address this. [142526]

Mr. Mullin: Data on the percentage of waste diverted from licensed landfill sites and disposed of unlawfully are not held centrally. However, the issue is the subject of a research report which the Government commissioned--"The Effects of Landfill Tax--Reduced Disposal of Inert Waste to Landfill." A copy of the report has been placed in the Library of the House.

The action being taken by the Government on unlawful waste disposal was set out most recently in our response to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee's Report on the Environment Agency (Cm 4832--paragraphs 55-60).

Unlicensed Vehicles

Mr. Stephen Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the average cost was for a prosecution brought against the owners of unlicensed vehicles in each of the last three years. [142542]

Mr. Hill: The average cost for a prosecution against VED offenders in 1997-98 and 1998-99 was £30 per case. This was recalculated in 1999-2000 and is now estimated to be £45. Costs are always sought by DVLA in all court cases.

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Mr. Stephen Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action his Department is taking to improve the arrangements for receiving revenue lost as a result of road vehicles not displaying road tax licences. [142543]

Mr. Hill: DVLA will take action against VED evaders in increasing numbers. In addition to offering out of court settlements and prosecutions the Agency will induce increasing numbers of evaders to relicense voluntarily through publicity campaigns.

Recent initiatives include the introduction of a scheme to wheelclamp and impound unlicensed vehicles. Over the past three years the scheme has encouraged over 325,000 motorists voluntarily to relicense bringing in some £38 million in additional revenue.

Motorists are now required to notify DVLA if their vehicle is taken off the road unlicensed under the statutory off road notification scheme. Dispensing with a 'do nothing' option when a vehicle licence expires dissuades evasion and also helps to create a more accurate vehicle record.

DVLA is shortly to trial the use of digital camera technology to detect and deter VED evaders, and a nationwide roll out of automatic number plate readers is planned for the early summer of 2001. In addition, the Agency is working closely with police forces to make use of police cameras in the same way.

Mr. Stephen Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many people were sent notification of intended prosecution for failure to display a road vehicle tax disc; and how much revenue was recovered as a result, in each of the last three years. [142541]

Mr. Hill: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency takes enforcement action against vehicle keepers for VED evasion. Most are offered the opportunity to pay an out of court settlement (OCS) while more serious cases, and those who fail to pay an OCS, result in prosecution. Figures for the past three years, including total revenue collected from all enforcement action, are as follows:

OCSProsecutionTotal Revenue (£ million)
1997-1998268,163233,03672
1998-1999218,786256,33279
1999-2000209,678239,29186

Mr. Stephen Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what estimate he has made of the number of unlicensed vehicles being used on UK roads; and what estimate he has made of the revenue lost as a result in the current financial year. [142540]

Mr. Hill: A roadside survey conducted by departmental statisticians in June 1999 estimated that 1.5 million vehicles were evading vehicle duty (VED) in GB. The level of evasion was calculated at 3.9 per cent. of revenue due, equivalent to a loss of £183 million in the current financial year. The 1999 survey indicated a drop in the VED evasion level for the first time and represents a saving of £17 million a year from the previous estimate of 4.1 per cent.

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