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Waste Packaging Regulations

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the new user's guide to the Producer Responsibility Obligation (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997 will be published. [160636]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: We have almost completed the revised edition and hope to publish it shortly.


Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what time scale he has established for the preparation and completion of the report of the consultant appointed to advise Ministers on the application for the Sellafield MOX Plant Authorisation; and if he will place a copy of the consultant's report in the Library. [159778]

Mr. Meacher: I announced on 23 April that the Department had appointed Arthur D. Little Ltd. as independent consultants to evaluate BNFL's economic case for operating the Sellafield MOX plant, and that they would report in around seven weeks from that date. A copy of their report will be offered to the Library, excluding only any commercially sensitive information whose publication we judge could cause significant damage to commercial interests.

World Summit on Sustainable Development

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to assist the preparations for the Rio+10 conference; what contributions he intends to make at the conference; and if he will make a statement. [159779]

Mr. Meacher: The United Kingdom has been one of the first countries to offer concrete support to South Africa to assist in the preparations for Rio+10--now known as the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). This will take place in Johannesburg in September 2002. In his speech at Chatham House on 6 March the Prime Minister reiterated his intention to attend the Summit, the first Head of Government to make such a commitment. The Department for International Development will provide £1.5 million in support of the Summit, most of which will be used to assist the Government of South Africa in their preparations. The Government are also seconding experienced officials to South Africa and to the UN secretariat to strengthen their teams. The Deputy Prime Minister discussed these matters with the South African Environment Minister Mohammed Valli Moosa on 20 April in New York, during the Ninth Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

The Government, and the devolved Administrations, are or will be supporting a number of preparatory meetings in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has put strong emphasis on the involvement of civil society, especially business and NGOs, in all aspects of the Summit. The agenda for the Summit has yet to be agreed. It will be prepared through regional prepcom meetings in the UN later this year, including a UN Economic

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Commission for Europe meeting in Geneva on 24-25 September. The Government are working closely with European partners to prepare an EU interim position, and supports the proposals set out in the Commission's Communication of 6 February. As the agenda is developed we shall formulate our views on how best to contribute to the conference itself.

FV Gaul

Mr. Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will provide a breakdown of the costs incurred to date in connection with the loss of the FV Gaul. [160731]

Mr. Prescott: The costs incurred to date in connection with the loss of the FV Gaul amount to about £1 million.

The original formal investigation held in 1974 cost £20,000 and the research conducted last year by Mr. Roger Clarke, acting as a consultant for the Department, which included the search for bodies of the crew in Northern Russia, cost £50,000. The total spent on the Marine Accident Investigation Branch's survey of the wreck conducted in 1998 cost nearly £700,000.

The discovery of new and important evidence by the MAIB led to the formal investigation being reopened on 16 April 1999. Since then over £300,000 has been paid to the firm of solicitors representing the families of the crew, the Max Gold Partnership, of which nearly £240,000 has been paid as legal fees. The families of the skipper and mate are separately represented by Birnberg Pierce & Partners and a bill for £85,000 has recently been submitted to the Department of which some £57,000 is for legal fees.

Farm Vehicles (Traffic Calming)

Mr. Horam: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will require the Transport Research Laboratory to conduct research into the effect of traffic calming measures on (a) tractors and (b) other farming vehicles and direct local authorities to put schemes affecting roads used by tractors on hold; and if he will update traffic advisory leaflet 7/96 to compel local authorities to consult agricultural interests. [160496]

Mr. Hill: I have no proposals at present to carry out research into the effects of traffic calming measures on agricultural machinery using public roads. The Highways (Road Humps) Regulations 1999 require local highway authorities to consult with organisations or persons using the highway to which a road hump proposal relates. The Highways (Traffic Calming) Regulations 1999 require the local highway authority to consult, as the highway authority thinks fit, with persons or organisations who use the highway or are likely to be affected by the traffic calming works. My Department has, in relevant Traffic Advisory Leaflets published since 1999, included a reminder of the need to consult with users of agricultural equipment.

Yellow School Bus Pilots

Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list

8 May 2001 : Column: 40W

those organisations that have applied to set up a yellow school bus pilot scheme; and when he expects each pilot scheme to start. [160295]

Mr. Hill: We understand that FirstGroup plc is in discussion with a number of local authorities and other organisations about setting up yellow school bus pilot schemes. It will be for FirstGroup and individual local authorities and organisations to decide when each pilot scheme should start.

Regional Development Agencies

Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many people are employed (a) full-time and (b) part-time in each regional development agency. [160296]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The most recent figures for staff employed in each Regional Development Agency are as follows:

Name of AgencyFull-time staffPart-time staff
One North East2158
North West Development Agency2099
Yorkshire Forward19421
East Midlands Development Agency1278
Advantage West Midlands1621
East of England Development Agency891
South East England Development Agency1216
South West Regional Development Agency18511

Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the annual (a) running cost and (b) forecast running cost is for each regional development agency. [160298]

Ms Armstrong: The Regional Development Agencies' running cost budgets for 2001-02 were announced in my answer to my hon. Friend, the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Healey) on 9 March 2001, Official Report, columns 366-67W. My answer included a table setting out the total budget for 2001-02, of which the following is an extract:


One North East10,103
North West DA14,044
Yorkshire Forward9,989
East Midlands DA7,488
Advantage West Midlands8,793
East of England DA5,836
South East of England DA6,643
South West RDA9,099
London DA9,470

Aircraft Noise

Mr. Andy King: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to carry out a new study to update the Aircraft Noise Index Study of 1985. [160726]

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Mr. Robert Ainsworth: My Department is to carry out a major study to reassess attitudes to aircraft noise. This new study underlines the Government's commitment to underpin our policy on aircraft noise by substantial research that commands the widest possible confidence.

Our current understanding of the relationship between annoyance and aircraft noise over 24 hours is based primarily on research that was carried out in the 1980s, in particular the Aircraft Noise Index Study published in 1985. That was based on the largest survey yet carried out of public attitudes to aircraft noise and eventually led the Government of the day to adopt the Leq (equivalent continuous noise) index for daytime noise contours.

The conclusions have been broadly confirmed by other studies here and abroad, and we have no reason to doubt their validity. But in the light of our commitment to develop a new air transport policy, of changes to traffic patterns since then, and the general reduction in noise levels of individual aircraft, it is now timely to commission a fresh study.

We want the aviation industry to meet the external costs it imposes. This new study will give us more information on the value people give to relief from noise, and to focus our policies from a broader range of evidence.

In deciding to commission this further research, I have considered the findings of three recent Government- sponsored studies on sleep disturbance, and the advice of independent experts. I am grateful to those who sat on the steering and technical working groups for their help in shaping those studies. I have concluded that a new full-scale objective sleep study would be unlikely to add significantly to our understanding; and that the way forward is through concentrating instead on further research into subjective responses to annoyance by night and by day.

I am placing copies of the three reports (Adverse Effects of Night-Time Aircraft Noise, Aircraft Noise and Sleep-UK Trial Methodology Study, and Perceptions of Aircraft Noise Sleep and Health) in the House Library. These have been published by the former Department of Operational Research and Analysis (DORA) of National Air Traffic Services Ltd., and by the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research Consultancy Services and Department of Social Statistics at the University of Southampton, respectively. Further information on Government sponsored research into aircraft noise and sleep will shortly be available on the Aviation section of my Department's website.

Invitations to tender for the new study will be issued shortly. We shall ensure that both environmental and aviation interests can contribute to the oversight of the project. It will last three years, with pilot results planned to be available next year to feed into our White Paper on air transport.

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