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Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his reply on the Sellafield MOX plant, 18 January 2001, Official Report, column 296W, if he will place in the Library a copy of the revised economic case for the MOX plant prepared by BNFL. 
Mr. Meacher: My Department and the Department of Health have today published a consultation paper inviting public comments on BNFL's proposals for operating the Sellafield MOX plant. This includes a copy of BNFL's latest evaluation of the economic case for the plant.
The DETR and MAFF invited public comments on the company's plans in 1999 and the further consideration of the case needed to take into account the consequences of the data falsification incident at BNFL's MOX demonstration facility. BNFL have now submitted a revised economic case and it is right to give people a further opportunity to comment.
Independent consultants are also being appointed as a parallel procedure to evaluate the economic case put forward by BNFL. The consultation will last eight weeks and consultants will report in around 10 weeks. The consultees will not therefore see the consultants' report but the consultants will take account of the responses to the consultation exercise in reporting back to the Departments.
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When the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Secretary of State for Health have considered all relevant information, including the consultant's report and the responses today's consultation, they will then decide whether the MOX manufacture, which it is proposed should be carried out at the Sellafield MOX plant, is justified.
Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what impact the construction of the Ribble Link between the Lancaster Canal and the River Ribble will have on radiation levels in the Ribble estuary. 
Mr. Meacher: Plans for the construction of the Ribble Link have included environmental assessments of the potential impact on radioactivity levels in the estuary and associated areas. These assessments indicate that the impact on the river and the estuary will be very low. The estimated increases in the levels of radioactivity are 3 per cent. and 0.2 per cent. respectively. The assessments also indicate that the radiation dose impact of the work to members of the public will be insignificant. The dose to those most likely to be affected--Ribble netsmen and consumers of local fish--is calculated to be less than 2 microSieverts a year. This is 2 per cent. of the relevant public dose limit from man-made sources of 1,000 microSieverts. (The average dose from background radiation is 2,200 microSieverts a year.) The estimated dose levels are below the levels of regulatory concern set in the relevant legislation.
The Environment Agency will continue to undertake its own independent environmental radioactivity monitoring programme of the River Ribble and the estuary area and will publish the results in its annual report.
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My Department has no plans for legislation with regard to non-military wrecks. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence issued a consultation document on 14 February 2001 concerning the enactment of the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. A copy of the consultation document is in the Libraries of the House.
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list (a) each category of grant and (b) the amount of each grant paid by his Department to each London borough in (i) 1997-98, (ii) 1998-1999, (iii) 1999-2000 and (iv) 2000-01; and what the projected figure is for 2001-02. 
Ms Armstrong: The data requested by my hon. Friend are not readily available and will take some time to compile. I will therefore write to my hon. Friend with the information and place a copy of the letter in the Libraries of the House.
Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will estimate the cost of renationalising the rail network and train operating companies. 
Mr. Hill: It is not possible to produce an accurate estimate of the cost of renationalising the rail network and train companies. However, Railtrack's market capitalisation, based on its current share price, is some £4 billion. The cost of renationalising Railtrack would be significantly more than that because, for example, all Railtrack's spending would be a charge to public expenditure.
Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what arrangements are in place for the supervision of housing associations in relation to severance payments to staff; and if he will make a statement in respect of the Liver Housing Association in Liverpool. 
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: The Housing Act 1996 prohibits registered social landlords from making payments or providing benefits to their staff which are non-contractual without the consent of the Housing Corporation.
Liver Housing Association has been the subject of a statutory inquiry by the Housing Corporation. The inquiry was prompted by Liver's plan to make severance payments to three senior directors worth over £1.7 million as part of a proposed merger with Grosvenor Housing Association. The Corporation's inquiry found that certain members of Liver's Board had been responsible for mismanagement in handling the construction of redundancy, retirement and severance policies and in the
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application of those policies to the three directors. The Corporation has used its powers to make three new appointments to strengthen Liver's Board. The proposed merger between Liver and Grosvenor will require the approval of the Corporation.
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with British Waterways about the level of charges for hire boat licences they will impose this year on operators affected by canal closures. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 23 March 2001]: Decisions on the level of charges for hire boat licences are an operational matter for British Waterways. They recognise that canal closures have presented difficulties for waterway businesses and have agreed to defer the date for payments of hire boat licences from 1 April 2001 to 1 June 2001. This arrangement applies to both those who pay by instalments and those who pay in a single payment.
I refer the hon. Member to my statement to the House on 20 March 2001, Official Report, columns 191-210, when I reported on the work of the Rural Taskforce. We are developing a package of measures to alleviate the immediate financial hardship of small businesses in rural areas which have been hit by the sudden drop in visitors and other knock-on effects of foot and mouth disease. The taskforce will continue its work and we will want to consider any further Government response in light of the latest developments.
Mr. Hill: The Government are committed to tripling the number of cycling trips from a 2000 base by 2010 and quadrupling them from a 1996 base by 2012. £8.4 billion of Government funding has been provided to local authorities in the recent local transport settlement. This will help to promote sustainable transport measures, including cycling. The cycling strategies included in the authorities' local transport plans should identify gaps in the local cycle network and result in improvements to the cycling infrastructure. Initial monitoring suggests that the strategies will result in considerable additional provision for cycling.
We are also actively marketing the main message of the National Cycling Strategy. Early outcomes are the launch of an NCS website and production of a promotional video. We are also currently running a series of cycling seminars throughout England aimed at local authorities, major employers and health and education practitioners.
Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what estimate he has made of the annual tonnages of methane discharged into the atmosphere from abandoned coal mines in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Meacher: In 1994, the Watt Committee on Energy estimated that the net flow of methane from abandoned coal mines was likely to be negligible. Recognising the great uncertainties involved, and the extent of mine closures, my Department has sponsored a study of information currently available with a view to including this source in the UK greenhouse gas inventory. This indicates that emissions from abandoned coal mines constitute a declining source and could currently be in the range 20,000 to 300,000 tonnes of methane per year, or between 0.05 per cent. and 0.8 per cent. of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. We do not have separate estimates fro England and Wales.
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