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Child Abuse

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what has been the average cost of suspension of (a) a case worker and (b) a teacher investigated for child abuse in the last three years. [149429]

Mr. Hutton: I have been asked to reply.

Decisions as to whether an employee is to be suspended, and consideration of the costs of suspension, are matters for employers to consider when faced with allegations of serious misconduct that may necessitate management inquiries. Employers are not required to provide the Government with analysis of the costs of any suspensions of employees. As such, there is no information held centrally about the average costs of suspensions involving social services caseworkers or teachers who are the subject of investigations following allegations of child abuse.



Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received on the subject of pollution from the use of fireworks over the last Christmas and New Year period; and if he will make a statement. [148168]

Mr. Hill: I am not aware of any such representations. I have had a letter from a Member concerning noise from fireworks over the holiday period.

Levels of air pollution measured by the national monitoring network remained low throughout this time in most parts of England. There were two occasions when levels of particles (PM 1 0 ) at roadsides were recorded as moderate--on 23 December in central London and on 30 December in Bury in Greater Manchester. These incidents are most likely to have been caused by motor vehicle emissions during stable atmospheric dispersion conditions. Any contribution to the levels of those pollutants from the ignition of fireworks are likely to have been small. The Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland sets objectives for the main air pollutants. The objective for particles allows for the 24-hour mean to be exceeded no more than 35 times a year. In part, this is to provide for annual

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events such as bonfire night and other festivals where fire and fireworks form part of the celebration. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment announced that we shall consult on proposals for a new objective for particles later this year.


Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to investigate flue gas emissions from crematoria to ensure they meet the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act 1990; and if he will make a statement. [148304]

Mr. Hill: Emissions of various pollutants are already regulated and monitored by local authorities under Part I of the 1990 Act.

In addition, we have been working with the Federation of British Cremation Authorities since 1999 on the issue of mercury emissions from crematoria. We have commissioned monitoring of mercury in the vicinity of a crematorium in the West Midlands and we know that the federation has recently arranged for mercury monitoring to be undertaken at a number of crematoria. Once we have the necessary information on which to base a decision, we will decide whether to include a limit for mercury emissions from existing crematoria in statutory guidance on the Best Available Techniques Not Entailing Excessive Cost.

European Maritime Safety Agency

Mr. Charles Kennedy: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what his Department's policy is concerning the proposed establishment of a European Maritime Safety Agency, with specific reference to the issue of tanker traffic in the Minch; and if he will make a statement. [149428]

Mr. Hill: We support the stated aims of the EMSA to the extent that it could provide a source of technical expertise to review the operation of existing maritime safety directives and scrutinise the case for any additional regulation. We consider that, to the extent that it improves performance across the Community, it could contribute to enhancing safety and reducing pollution risks. However, we do have concerns about the risk of Commission centralism, and take the view that member states would have to have effective control of the Agency.

The EMSA would not replace members states' national maritime agencies, which would continue to exercise their existing responsibilities. For the UK, the relevant national agency is the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

There has been an internationally agreed recommendation on navigation in place for the Minch since November 1993, by which all laden tanks over 10,000 gross tonnage are requested not to pass east of the Outer Hebrides, through the Little Minch and North Minch, except because of stress of weather or any other case of "force majeure". Responsibility for implementing this recommendation rests with the MCA.

The current position in respect of traffic through the Minch is that although there has been apparent increase in the number of vessels, based upon the year-on-year increase in reports received by Stornoway Coastguard

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Station, Coastguard personnel believe that the actual number of vessels shows no significant change. The apparent increase continues to be attributed to vessels that have previously been unaware of the reporting scheme but are now actively participating.

However, the number of laden tankers over 10,000 gross tonnage using the Minch route remains low and only 18 were recorded during 2000. In the majority of these cases, the reason given by the vessel's master and accepted by the MCA was forecast adverse weather in the deep-water route to the west of the Outer Hebrides. Where there appears to be no justification for using the Minch, MCA contacts the vessel's operators for an explanation.

On occasions where large laden tankers do use the Minch, the Minch Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) endeavours to escort such laden tankers to minimise any risk involved. At present, the ETV is on station in the Minch during the winter months only (October-March), but, with effect from October 2001, there will be ETV cover all year round.

With the phased introduction of automatic identification systems (AIS) under the revision of Chapter V of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, all tankers on international voyages must have such equipment fitted not later than the first annual safety equipment survey after 1 July 2003, unless they are scheduled to be scrapped within two years of the implementation date. This requirement should further enhance the level of reporting in this particular area.

Park Homes Working Party

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will publish the Government's response to the recommendations of the Park Homes Working Party; and if he will make a statement. [149750]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: We have consulted on, and are considering, the recommendations of the Park Homes Working Party. We will give our response to the recommendations in due course.

National Air Traffic Services

Mr. McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what assessment he has made of the governmental inquiry into Mr. Douglas Andrew's role in the privatisation of New Zealand's steel industry in respect of the involvement of Mr. Andrew of the Civil Aviation Authority in advising the Government on the future of the National Air Traffic Services; [149597]

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Mr. Robert Ainsworth: Before reappointing Mr. Andrew in April 2000, the Government satisfied themselves as to his track record as a member of the Civil Aviation Authority. They saw, and continue to see, no reason to make further inquiries about Mr. Andrew's career prior to joining the CAA.

Mr. Andrew's meetings with the bidders for the role of strategic partner in the public-private partnership for National Air Traffic Services were to enable the bidders to discuss questions about the future economic regulatory process.

The working groups run by my Department, to which I referred in my earlier answer, were integral to the provision of advice to Ministers on the public-private partnership, and it would not be appropriate to publish the minutes.

Ms Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what consideration he is giving to selecting a strategic partner for the PPP for NATS on the basis of not-for-commercial- profit. [149848]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: Bids for the NATS PPP were received by the Government on 31 January 2001 from the three consortiums who were invited to submit offers in November 2000. These are NIMBUS, NOVARES and The Airline Group. These three bids are currently being assessed against the evaluation criteria provided to them in November 2000 and against the Government objectives for this PPP. The evaluation criteria and the Government objectives do not preclude any bid from being on the basis of not-for-commercial-profit.

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