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Gas Installation

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received on extending the CORGI registration scheme to cover non-gas work carried out in conjunction with work on gas appliances; and if he will make a statement. [142638]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 18 December 2000]: The Health and Safety Commission has received a number of representations on this issue in response to its Discussion Document "Gas safety review: Options for change" and an associated shorter document "Key issues for consumers". These are summarised in the Commission's report on the outcome of the Review: "Proposals for Change", a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

Non-gas work includes plumbing and electrical work not directly connected to gas safety, carried out by installers in conjunction with gas work on a combustion appliance. Only a minority of respondents to the Discussion Document expressed support for the extension of the CORGI registration scheme to cover such work. The great majority (53 out of 77, or over two-thirds) were not in favour of extending the scheme in this way. The same question raised in the associated consumer document elicited a similar balance of responses.

The 'non-gas' activities of installers are already subject to the general requirements of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 and associated regulations. The Commission has accepted the view that the increased prescriptive burden that an extension of the CORGI registration scheme would represent would be difficult to justify in safety terms. However, the Commission will ensure that the general health and safety requirements are duly emphasised in its Approved Code of Practice on "Standards of training in safe gas installation", which it plans to update in the light of the Review findings.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with other Government departments on ways of improving protection for consumers dealing with gas installation businesses; and if he will make a statement. [142639]

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Mr. Meacher [holding answer 18 December 2000]: I am currently considering, in conjunction with colleagues at the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Health, the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales, the recommendations set out in the Health and Safety Commission's recent report "Fundamental Review of the Gas Safety Regime: Proposals for Change".

My preliminary view is that the report's recommendations include useful measures for making further improvements to the safety regime for the installation and use of gas. I am discussing the recommendations with my colleagues in Government along with more radical proposals in certain areas. The Government will issue a statement in the new year on implementation.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received on the desirability of introducing a scheme for the formal recording of gas equipment sales; and if he will make a statement. [142588]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 18 December 2000]: The Health and Safety Commission has received a number of representations on this issue, in response to its discussion document "Gas safety review: Options for change". These are summarised in the Commission's report on the outcome of the Review, "Proposals for Change". A copy has been placed in the Library.

In response to a question on possible controls over do-it-yourself installation, the option of requiring retailers to record sales of gas equipment was supported by 26 respondents to the main Discussion Document, with 34 against; that of subsequent inspection by a central body was supported by 20, with 33 against. The parallel question in the associated shorter discussion document aimed at consumers elicited 36 in favour and 26 against such control. The main reservations expressed were over the possible compliance burden, bureaucracy and doubtful effectiveness of this approach.

A similar question was asked in relation to further action directed towards non-registered installers. Responses here were equally divided, with 14 in favour and the same number against. Several supporting this option did so in view of its potential deterrent effect on non-registered installers. Those against had concerns about the cost, bureaucracy and doubtful effectiveness of this approach.

The case for such action will be re-examined when additional data from improved accident reporting arrangements, to be introduced as part of the implementation of the Review findings, are available.

Non-departmental Public Bodies

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what directions overriding a note of dissent by an accounting officer have been given by the boards of non-departmental public bodies within his Department's remit since May 1997; and if he will place details of such directions in the Library. [143540]

Ms Beverley Hughes: There have been no such directions.

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Planning Applications

Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) which of the applications objected to by the Environment Agency in 1999-2000 were (a) approved, (b) rejected and (c) called in for review; [143637]

Mr. Raynsford: The Environment Agency's Report on high-level target 12--Development in areas at risk of flooding covers the period from October 1999 to March 2000. It lists 403 applications and identifies those where the local planning authority decision was in line with or contrary to Agency advice and those not yet determined. It also lists 22 appeals but does not contain information on applications called in for review. I have placed the report in the Library of the House.

High Hedges

Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress has been made in drafting legislation to tackle high hedges; and if he will make a statement. [143635]

Mr. Prescott: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) on 15 December 2000, Official Report, column 290W.

Antarctica

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what recent information has been received by his Department concerning changes in air temperature, precipitation and ice cover in Antarctica; and if he will make a statement. [143412]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 20 December 2000]: Meteorological information for Antarctica is provided to the UK Government by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The Antarctic Peninsula region has experienced a significant rise in temperature of more than 2oC in the last 50 years and in the frequency of precipitation events resulting in a reduction in both ice shelves and perennial snow cover. Other areas, such as the South Pole, show significant cooling, but changes in ice cover over the remainder of Antarctica are not known. There is no significant trend in sea ice area over the last 27 years of high quality records. A report on the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, commissioned by my Department, shows that expert opinion is divided on the likelihood and cause of any collapse of this ice sheet, although the majority consider it to be unlikely. Such a collapse has been considered to be a possible consequence of global warming. The report concluded that there is a very low risk of collapse in the next three centuries, however, this issue remains a key matter for research at BAS.

Incineration (Dogs)

Sir Richard Body: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if a person with a permit from a local authority to (a) use his

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premises as a knackers yard and (b) to incinerate specified risk material requires a waste management licence to incinerate dogs. [143846]

Mr. Meacher: Yes, subject to the following considerations.

The incineration of waste is classified as a waste disposal operation under the amended Framework Directive on waste. This means that any person operating an incinerator is required to hold a permit--as defined in paragraph 1 of Schedule 4 to the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 (as amended). A waste management licence, issued under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, is a permit for these purposes and would usually be required where the incinerator is designed to burn waste at a rate of 50 kgs per hour or less. An exemption from licensing may apply where the conditions set out in regulation 17 and paragraph 29 of Schedule 3 to the 1994 Regulations are fulfilled.

An authorisation under Part I of the 1990 Act is required for incinerators designed to burn waste at more than 50 kgs per hour.


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